Phocus adds ergonomics and DSLR lens compatibility to iPhone photography
By Chris Wood
July 18, 2012
An updated version of the OWLE Bubo, the Phocus is a versatile photography accessory for the iPhone 4/4S. Essentially, it's a heavy-duty case designed to optimize the iPhone's photographic capabilities. It provides users with up to three lens choices, as well as the option to purchase an adapter that allows for the use of standard DSLR lenses.
The camera enhancing accessory is available to purchase in kits with two or three lenses. The cheaper kit consists of a wide angle lens and a removable macro lens, while the three-lens option provides an additional 2x portrait telephoto lens. Both of the provided lenses are compatible with standard 49 mm filters and the case has three separate screw mounts for tripod attachment (center, right and top), making it easy to get steady photos and video. There is also a cold shoe on the top of the device, allowing for the attachment of lights or microphones.
The Phocus marks a significant improvement in design over its OWLE Bubo predecessor. Whereas the older product was made from aluminum and weighed just over a pound, the Phocus is constructed from a much lighter composite material, making it more comfortable to hold for long periods of time. There's also been a significant design overhaul, with the new product exhibiting a design much more akin to a standard point and shoot camera. It offers a sizeable grip on the right hand side, allowing the user to hold the device in one hand, completely freeing the second to deal with the touch controls.
The accessory also provides for the use of standard DSLR lenses, though this does require the purchase of an expensive adapter. The two- and three-lens variations of the product retail at US$99.95 and $134.95 respectively, while the DSLR lens adapter will set you back $219.95.
When it comes to using SLR lenses with the iPhone, the Phocus isn't the only option. The iPhone SLR Mount from Photojojo is essentially a phone case that acts as an adapter for Nikon F-mount or Canon EF-mount lenses. However, it doesn't offer the simple photographic enhancement of the Phocus's stock lenses or its stability.
There are several other disadvantages to the SLR-lens-only accessory: images appear upside down on the device's screen due to the absence of a mirror, and the lack of a supersonic dust reduction system means that it's up to you to keep the focusing screen clean. These issues will also be present when using the Phocus with SLR lenses, but you won't have the flipped image issue with the stock lenses as they don't require a mirror.
Photojojo's offering comes in at $249, just $70.90 less than the Phocus complete with DSLR adapter. There's also a number of other products that enhance the iPhone's shooting capabilities at a more wallet-friendly price, such as the Eye Scope which gives the device an 8x optical zoom.
Additionally, there's the imminent arrival of the iPhone 5 to consider. Rumors strongly suggest that the latest version of Apple's leading smartphone will have a larger form factor than the current model, creating potential compatibility issues with the Phocus.