We’ve seen slide-and-clip type of lenses, or the magnetic ring variety, or the one attached to a custom case, but TurtleJacket PentaEye by Turtleback has created an entirely different iPhone conversion lens category.

Turtleback is a second company based in the far east whose product I have reviewed in this blog, the other one being DCKina, and possible the only iPhone accessories company that was brave enough to produce and sell a special iPhone adapter that can mount conventional SLR Lenses! Yes, that means you can use your Canon or Nikon Lens collection (which probably left somewhere in the corner gathering dust since you took up mobile photography) with your iPhone!

I am hoping that Turtleback will allow me to review their SLR mount some time, but for today we are going to look at the TurtleJacket PentaEye f-STD iPhone conversion lens kit.

Slicker than a Magnum Revolver faster than Billy the Kid

If you have one of those lens kits that includes multiple lens in one package, you would realise that there is one thing these kits have in common, that is you need to keep swapping one lens with another when ever you want to use any of them. Would have it been great if you don’t need to do this tedious swapping? Turtleback had proposed a unique solution to this often annoying problem. Let’s see how it pans out.

Here is the basic idea, instead of having you carry all those bits and pieces of lenses in a pouch or in your pockets, how about if we fix all the those lenses on one disc and stick the disc on a rotating axle on an iPhone case? The result is as if you are carrying a Lens Revolver that let you swap lenses and shoot faster than you can say Billy the Kid!

The Turtlejacket

Let’s check out first the case, or the so-called TurtleJacket. The plastic case is, similar to the IN1 Multi-Tool case, made of two parts, the top part where you will fix the lens revolver in and the bottom part with a screw on it. Like the IN1 case you slide in your iPhone from the bottom and close it with the bottom part, tighten the screw so the two parts are locked together.

Unlike the IN1 case though, the Turtlejacket doesn’t have a soft material lining the inner side. The other side is also not rubberised, which means that it could be a bit slippery.
On the other hand, the case’s bottom part has a ‘raised’ protrusion, which feels nicely fit under my right fingers when I hold the iPhone on landscape mode. This gives me a slightly better grip when I’m taking photos.

The top part of the ‘jacket’ has 5 holes that are seemingly placed in random places, though if you look closely, one of the hole is placed right on top of the iPhone’s camera lens. This is also where you fix the disc which is joined to the jacket using a custom screw that has a spring coiling around its length. This spring is used as a resistance when you have to rotate and swap lenses. More on this later.

The case has all the openings on relevant places to accommodate the iPhone buttons and orifices.  The only thing that you might need to consider is the lightning charger plug. Since the opening on that part seems to be designed for a tight fight, other charger cable other than the original Apple or one that designed exactly like it, will struggle to fit the head in without needing the bottom part to be disassembled.

There are two more additional features that raise Turtlejacket one step higher over other standard cases.
First is the tripod mounts. The Turtlejacket case has integrated 2 standard threads to mount your iPhone onto any standard tripod, which means you can safe your money from buying an extra accessory, like the Glif for example, just to use a tripod with your iPhone.

The second feature is probably more a gimmick than a real feature, but who knows some of us might find it useful. The case has 3 strap holders available for you to use. They are positioned on 3 of the case’s 4 corners. You can loop a lanyard, a wrist or neck strap to help you carry your iPhone.

Based on these features, I think the Turtlejacket is actually a pretty good iPhone case by its own merit. If only it’s got a soft lining in the inside it would be perfect.

The Lens Revolver

The rotating aluminium disc has 5 threaded holes (Penta means 5 in Greek) matching the one that are on the case. Each hole will hold one lens. This means that you should be able to carry a maximum of 5 lenses at one time. Though considering that you still want to shoot with your iPhone native camera you will need to leave one hole free. But that will still leaves 4 holes for your assorted lenses.

When you fix the disc onto the case, each hole should line up with the matching hole on the case. The screw, together with and helped by the spring will practically hold the disc onto the case.

Now, here is the cool thing. To swap one lens with another you lift the disc up, rotate until the hole where the lens you want to use is aligned with the hole on top of the iPhone camera, and drop the disc. You are now ready to shoot with the new lens, all in only mere seconds!

You can already see the advantage of the PentaEye revolver design compared to other lens kit solutions in the market. With PentaEye you can carry 5 lenses all at once with your iPhone. And with the rotating disc mechanism you can choose any from the loaded five lenses very quickly. No more screwing/unscrewing or fumbling inside the pouch or your pocket (and miss a shot). Even the Olloclip with its ingenious clip-on design can only practically gives you 2 choice of lenses (without unscrewing to get to the second tier lens).

Once you finish shooting you can unscrew the disc from the disc on store it in the velvet Turtleback pouch that comes with the kit.

Here is another cool idea, you can actually buy the disc as well as the individual lenses separately. Which means you can create a different combination of lenses on the spare revolver and just swap one with the other at will! You can tailor each revolver to suit different type of shooting occasion. Although to be fair, Turtleback don’t have that many choice of lenses at the moment. But maybe they should start to think about this!

Aim and Shoot

You get 4 lenses with the PentaEye f-std, which is the version of PentaEye I’m actually reviewing. These lenses are as follows:

– A Macro Lens (Close Up)
– A Wideangle Lens 0.67x
– A Fisheye Lens 0.28x
– A Telephoto Lens 1.5x

All the images above were taken with the Turtleback Macro Lens.  Check out the images below for sample of photos I took using the rest of the lenses.

You can see from these exhibits that the picture quality is pretty good with minimal blurring on the edges for the fisheye lens.

The only thing I notice is that the the lens doesn’t seem to be positioned dead centre. You can see from the result of the Fisheye and the Wide Angle lenses that it seems to be skewed a bit to the left. This could only mean that the lenses are not positioned correctly in relative to the iPhone’s lens.  Either this or there is something not right inside the lens itself.  Maybe Turtleback would come back and explain this to us.

As I mentioned above, the version of PentaEye I’m reviewing is the standard version.  Turtleback also sells the Pro version which includes the Pro version of the Wide Angle and the Telephoto Lenses.  The Pro-series lenses have better optic and exhibit less vignetting and lens distortion.

The Turtleback TurtleJacket PentaEye f-STD costs $71 whereas the Pro version will set you back at $144. They are only available for iPhone 5/5s. But just in case you have an iPhone 4/4s and still want to take the advantage of Turtleback Optical delights, you can check out the individual lenses which come with the Turtle Clip add-on or the TurtleJacket Tri Eye with, yes you guess it, 3 lenses in one revolver 🙂

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