When I originally planned the Philippine tour that I did back in 2014. I was dead set on using the iPhone 6 to document the whole trip. Then after a couple of weeks of using the iPhone, I was taking decent photos but I was not satisfied with the quality. It felt like I was taking the same kinds of photos again and again.
I did try to purchase some phone lenses from a Mac store before, they were not really that cheap as one would cost around 800-1300 PHP and I bought 2. I played around with them for a couple of days but then I realized, what I got was of poor quality and the lens felt more like a gimmick than an actual product to get decent photos. Fast forward to today, smartphone cameras are getting better and better, to the point that it’s hard to determine (on social media) what is taken with a smartphone and what is not. But they seem to have a distinct look because the pretty much offer the same field of view.
Although I did mention that I primarily used smartphone lenses for photos before… now I use them mainly for taking videos. So my review will be focused more on its video use rather than photography.
The lenses really look professional, they are made out of some kind of aluminum and the glass is big and hefty. I like it’s minimal but clear markings and the phone mounts look sturdy. In short, it doesn’t look cheap… because they are not. We will get to that later.
Optical performance is decent but not overly amazing, it is a big step up from the cheap little ones that you see online. But it is not something that could rival lenses from an entry-level DSLR. The quality is enough for social media or for small prints.
For me, this is where it really shines. Smartphone video has a certain look to it largely because they pretty much have the exact same field of view. With using KASE you have a wide angle lens to give your story a sense of place, the normal lens on your phone for a medium or pov shot, the zoom lens for talking heads or to get close to a subject, and last but not the least the macro lens for an almost abstract tight b-roll. The best thing about it… all of these storytelling tools can fit in your pocket.
How about the quality of video when using these lenses? I’m not a video professional by any means, but after shooting a couple of events using these lenses. I would have to say that if your end output will be for the web or for social media consumption then the quality of video that this produces is enough.
Wide Angle Lens
The center is sharp however there is the tendency of the corners to become soft. I have to be honest this has a bit of distortion but clearly not enough to ruin an image.
It lets you get really close, however, I much prefer the V1 over the V2 because it has this matte plastic lens extension that protects the lens and at the same time reminds you of the minimum focusing distance. (So as to not get too close) I wonder why they removed it on the V2.
This is probably my favourite. It gets you closer to the action, adds a little bit of bokeh in the background and it does not have any visible form of vignetting.
This is the lens that I probably use the least. The only reason I pull it out is get a large group of people in frame. I’m not a big fan of the “GoPro” look. It does produce an interesting image but it also has a tendency to produce light flares.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. This is by no means cheap, there is currently a Version 1 and a Version 2 of this lens, the latter being the more expensive. But from what the seller told me the difference is really just cosmetic in terms of performance they are pretty much identical.
The price for version 1 is 8,990.00 php while version 2 is 11,990.00 php. Yes, I know what you are thinking… it is expensive. However, if you look at their other counterparts such as the Moment, Sirui and Moondog they are a bit cheaper. Since at this price point you are getting 4 lenses that would probably cover all your mobile shooting needs. Just to give you an idea when it comes to serious mobile phone lenses, a set of Moment lenses with the same focal lengths would cost you around 20,000 php excluding shipping.
So is it affordable? Yes and no. “Yes” if you are getting the V1, “No” if you are getting the v2. If you want to take mobile photography and videography seriously then go for the V1 since optically they are supposed to be the same.
However I just found out that they have discontinued selling the V1. They replaced it with the fashion series that includes only 3 lenses .6x wide angle (18mm equivalent), .33x Fisheye (10mm equivalent) and a 15x macro. I can’t say anything about these fashion lenses as I have not tested it. So right now your only option is this or the V2.
Here is a video below that I shoot for the Chris Birch event. All ground shots were taken using the Kase lens smartphone lenses.
Visit their Facebook page here Kase Lens PH.