Tell me why: Use optical filters to enhance your iPhoneography

There is no shortage of accessories for the iPhone, especially when it comes to photography. In my iPhone camera bag, I have a Diffcase Lens-Mount Case, a set of the PhotoJojo, a telephoto lens, and even the special effect Jelly Lenses. But missing from my camera bag are filters, like neutral density, polarizers, and color correction.

On the iPhone, much of the work a filter does can be accomplished with apps. I’m not talking about grunge or retro filter effects, but more subtle tweaks to light and color in an image. For example, 645 Pro (App Store) gives you digital color filters and Mattebox (App Store) allows you to control white balance and exposure after you’ve taken the photo. Optical filters, however, alter the light as it enters your lens, and gives you more control to control how that light effects your image before taking the photo. Using filters on an iPhone mean you could take a photo of the moon that isn’t overexposed, minimize reflections off water or glass, or make your images appear cooler or warmer.

A startup recently launched the the 3rdi, a new iPhone lens system on Kickstarter that includes a polarizer and neutral density filters. You can also buy a circular polarizers through Gizmon and USBFever.com. But that requires another stand alone case and mount. What if there was an affordable, interchangeable filter system that would work with nearly any case? I set to find out. (Click here for some examples.)

Series V Filter adapter and ring

My first experiments used Cokin filters sandwiched in front of my iPhone or with me just holding them in front of the lens. But the filters are large, square, and need a tripod for stability. I wanted something more portable and hand-held. When I started looking for a solution, I looked to my uncles old Argus rangefinder camera for inspiration. That led me to the discovery of the Series type filters introduced by Kodak in the 1950s. These filters, identified by a Roman numeral from I to IX, consist of an adapter ring that either threads or slips over a camera lens, drop in filters, and a retaining ring. Enteco, Tiffin, and Kodak all manufactured these adapters, ranging in size from 20 mm to more than 80 mm. Some of the larger ones are still made today, but the smaller ones are hard, but not impossible, to come by. Many of these filters are for use with specific types of film, such as Kodachrome Type A. They work just as well in digital.

I’m still perfecting my mounting solution, but have successfully mounted filters to the iPhone telephoto lens and the wide-angle lens, both which work perfectly with the Diffcase. I still use my Cokin filters from time to time, and have started taking advantage of the infrared capabilities of the iPhone 4 using after market infrared filters. Now the only thing I need to do is stop experimenting and get out there and actually take some pictures. Happy hunting.

Where to find:

I’ve had my best luck finding Series filters and adapters on eBay, but I’ve also seen them for sale on Amazon. Surplushed.com is also a good source for optical filters, many of which are compatible with Series adapters.

BisMan Apps is North Dakota’s only iOS-centric blog, written and performed by Chris VandeVenter, aka dcmacnut, an iPhone-addicted photographer, Apple geek, and self-proclaimed King of the Internet. He’s kind of a big deal on Twitter. Or so he thinks.

Series V adapter mounted to a Diffcase

Mounting option 1

Series adapter on a telephoto lens

Mounting option 2

Trees and walking path in infrared

R720 infrared filter and edited with Simply B&W.

I-94 Bridge and Missouri River at sunset

Cokin orange-red filter and edited with Color Splash.

Clouds

Wratten 85C warming filter.

Cars in the rain

Cokin T2 Graduated Tabacco Filter.

Posted in The Mobile Lens Tagged with: , , , ,
3 comments on “Tell me why: Use optical filters to enhance your iPhoneography
  1. Jesse says:

    Great post, Chris. I’ve been wondering about the expanded uses of filters with the iPhone. I’ve seen the 3RDi promotional materials, but am looking forward to some ‘real world’ photos to see how their filters perform.

    I like your process, though. Just get those old school filters out!

  2. Manuel says:

    Never thought about using optical filters! Very interesting article i think im gonna check Jelly Lens out. Also its cool to see some example pictures by users and not only by the company themselfs!

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