Snap With Style: A Review of the Ztylus Smartphone Case/Camera System

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I have a confession to make— though I’m no professional, I like taking photos at concerts, iPhone out, arms raised above the crowd. So I was thrilled when I found out that I would get to test drive the Ztylus, a new smart phone camera system with a 4-in-1 lens attachment: fisheye, wide angle, macro and circular polarizer (CPL filter). The Ztylus Camera System recently won the Best In Show Award at the CE Week Exhibits and Conferences, NY’s largest technology show, and after a week with the device, I can understand why– with powerful technology and such excitement to capture, it’s irresistible.

The Ztylus comes with two key parts, a phone case (available in black or a lovely watermelon red) and a revolving lens attachment, which mounts to the case. When the lens attachment is on, you can revolve through three lenses that pop out and affix over your phone’s camera lens. A removable cover acts as both a handy kickstand and less bulky placeholder when the lenses are removed. Though the instructions aren’t exactly intuitive, they’re well explained in a diagram with accompanying pictures, and I was up and running within a couple of minutes. Though the lens attachment feels fragile at first, it has proved to be quite sturdy over repeated uses and time spent rattling around in my purse (a nifty little cloth bag helps protect it from scratches when not in use).

Once installed, you’re ready for the fun. The revolving attachment houses three lenses, with four functions: fisheye, wide angle/macro and a circular polarizer. The fisheye lens is a lot of fun, but perhaps more of a novelty addition. With it, my roommates and I had a blast taking pictures of our food and pretending we were stars in a ’90s music video. The lens which works as both wide angle and 10X macro was the one I derived the most frequent and successful use from, as it worked in tandem with my iPhone 6 camera’s strengths to enhance minuscule details in macro, and capture far beyond the normal field of vision with the wide angle. The circular polarizer (or CPL filter), which “cuts glare and reflections, allowing deep, natural colors to show through,” seemed a bit over my head as an amateur, so I had a photographer friend explain how to use it to avoid sun and spotlight glare.

I took the Ztylus to a seated concert, and was pleased at the way the wide angle allowed me to capture the entire stage, but because it can’t enhance the iPhone’s zoom and focus, the Ztylus won’t help much with picture clarity if you aren’t right in front of the band. The frenetic movement of most live shows makes the iPhone imperfect for concert photography, as its strength lies in capturing still objects and landscapes, and the Ztylus can’t do much to mitigate that difficulty. That being said, the Ztylus is lightweight and easy to snap on, and a definite improvement on my phone’s capabilities. It made a neophyte like me feel slightly more professional than bothersome, and I relished in the inquisitive looks people threw my way.

It’s worth mentioning that, lenses aside, this is an incredibly sturdy and protective case. Pulling my headphones out of my pocket, my phone came with them, slamming to the ground, face down. Not a scratch! I’m very impressed that the Ztylus case does a better job at protecting an iPhone than other products on the market made solely for the purpose. It shows that the makers are committed to the entire experience of using their product, all the more reason why I’ve happily swapped out my old phone case for this one, with no intention to switch, no matter how often the opportunity arises to use the lenses.

Bottom line? The Ztylus looks great, isn’t hard to use and is a lot of fun. Though it isn’t without kinks, it’s an exciting new development in iPhone technology, and with the holiday season upon us, it would make a great gift for an aspiring photographer, that friend who thinks he already is a photographer, or even a cool kid who’s picking up an interest in photography. Heck, while you’re at it, you should probably buy one for yourself too. I’ll see you in the front of the next big show, Ztyluses raised.

– Emily Gawlak

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