Schneider have had an enviable reputation pretty much since their inception in 1913 in the unpronounceable town of Bad Kreuznach. The Componon enlarging lenses, and Super-Angulon and Apo-Symmar objectives are staples in the large-format stills world. The Cine-Xenars and Xenon FF-Primes are fantastic in their respective markets. Schneider lenses are expensive, beautifully made, and target users for whom “good enough” just isn’t good enough.
So Schneider’s decision to make a range of add-on lenses for the iPhone seemed odd, to say the least. But then Bentley choose to use the iPhone 5, equipped with Schneider’s iPro Lenses, to shoot their 2014 commercials, so maybe the decision wasn’t so odd after all.
Schneider recently started to ship the new cases for iPhone 6/6 Plus, at the time of writing there was no information as to whether they would work with the new iPhone 6s. The new case was made in conjunction with Element Case.
The iPhone slips into the top of the rugged case. The case itself is made of high density plastic with a grippy, rubberised finish. The sides both have 1/4” tripod bushes which makes the case a bit bulky, though you really only notice with the already quite giant iPhone 6 Plus. One caveat, the tripod bushes are open ended, so if you screw a very long thread into them you’ll hit the phone.
The case is perfectly practical to use every day, with great feeling buttons for power and volume, and a rubber sealing strip for the Lightning and headphone connectors. It’s reasonably stylish, in a macho sort of way, and there is even a lanyard attachment – ideal for Japanese teenagers to attach all those dangly totems they love so much.
Around the phone’s lens is the bayonet fitting for Schneider’s system. There are five lenses available:
Fisheye: 16mm focal length (35mm equivalent) when shooting video, 12mm for stills.
Super Wide: 19mm video, 14mm stills
Wide: 27mm video, 19mm stills
Telephoto: 84mm video, 60mm stills
Macro: Reduces the iPhone’s minimum focus from 2.5” to 1” and provides an effective magnification of 2.5x.
For reference, the ‘bare’ iPhone lens has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 42mm for video and 30mm for stills.
The lenses are available separately, but there is a kit consisting of the case, three lenses (Macro, Super Wide and Telephoto) and a groovy handle that attaches to a separate bush on the case, and which also serves to store the lenses.
The focal length of the lenses in the kit is really useful – though personally I would quickly add the standard Wide as well.
In probably the weirdest performance tests I’ve ever done, Schneider’s iPro lenses performed very well. There was no detectable drop in resolution between the base iPhone lens and addition of the Telephoto, though the Super Wide softened the image very slightly – dropping the MTF by about 10% in the centre of the image.
The lenses appear to be lightly coated, and they certainly control flare pretty well. When they do flare there is little contrast veiling (the Super Wide is, unsurprisingly, the worst offender) and the small number of elements produces flare artefacts much like vintage glass.
I am the last person in the world to condone the use of smartphones for the filming of anything for broadcast. Nevertheless, on the basis that the best camera is always the one you have with you, Schneider’s iPro system in incredibly good. I would keep the kit with me at all times. At a shade under £190 for the ‘Trio’ kit of case and three lenses, it’s much more expensive than the clip-on iPhone lenses out there, but it’s cheap for the image and build quality, and the groovy case and handle design.