Wide angle macro with an iPad or iPhone

Posted by Paul Harcourt Davies October 2015

On and off, for the past eight months, I have been experimenting with all sorts of new things and approaches for the second edition of Wide-angle macro |the Definitive Guide that Clay Bolt and I wrote as our first eBook almost 2 years ago.


Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis) photographed at the edge of a woodland and almost but not quite eliminating the flare of the sun at the edge as it intruded into the edge of the frame…a low angle, late afternoon sun just out of winter. Orvieto, Umbria, Italy

In order to get comparative shots and evaluate different approaches I often seem to have been burdened with two photographer’s rucksacks rather than one. When, ironically, the idea was to travel light.


Stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)

More out of curiosity than anything else, I began using an iPad for wide-angle macro some eight months ago. My first results with the inbuilt lens of the device were encouraging since  the angle of view is comparatively wide and the definition surprised me since I am not a user of ‘phone cameras and hate selfies with a real venom.


Spring crocus (Crocus versus) with the edge of the iPad placed on the ground to steady it and the lens at the lower end of the device to get that worm’s eye view.


Yellow Rock Jasmine (Androsace vitallina) high above the Campo Imperatore in the Apennines (Gran Sasso region)

I had read about various add-on lenses for tablets and phones that could generate both wide-angle views and fisheye, as well as varying degrees of magnification. Thus, I purchased an Olloclip 4 in 1 lens to fit an iPad Air (there are also models to fit various iPhones and Android models). This allows a wide angle lens, fisheye and two degrees of ‘macro’ lenses. It is not the cheapest but it is neat, very well made and, most important of all, optically sharp.


This shows the coverage of the fisheye (and distortion) with a 1cm space between the 8th and 9th cm marks on a tape measure….note how the distortion decreases as you get to the centre of the field. This is where you need to put your subjects…

As the image of the tape measure shows there is distortion but near the centre, as with all such lenses it is far less than at the periphery. For those bothered by this it is easy to correct in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Some years ago I found a dead and desiccated Rhinoceros beetle near my door so I put it on a shelf above my desk with all sorts of curious objects. It came in useful for staging a few shots with an iPad and the accessory lens. The definition is impressive but I will let the images speak for themselves – with a little help from me.


This was taken with the wide angle attachment . you just clip it the other way around to get the fisheye…

The iPad was steadied with its bottom edge on the wooden tree stump…a ready made ‘tripod’ substitute.


Fisheye view but cropped just slightly to remove the circular edges of the field of view that intrude slightly.

I was very surprised by the quality of the images and the fact that they are easily usable for making modest sized prints and also for posting online. For anyone that wants to get into setting their close-up subjects in the context of the environment this is a very good place to start.


The fisheye is not a full circular fisheye lens by any means and you can see the edges where it intrudes and creates vignetting. In each case I have cropped to get the part just inside this…the maximum rectangular/ square are I could.


I don’t usually go in for dead specimen imagery but this was an experiment and the ‘static’ nature of the subject helped, to say the least. Being light and dried it did blow off once or twice from its perch… I have used a very slight degree of Smart Sharpening when I optimised the images for Web use…it is my usual treatment for all on-line images. Thus the way the body hairs are defined is not bad…

NB. The whole business of using iPads and phone cameras for environmental recording with wide-angle imagery will be covered in much greater detail in the forthcoming much revamped and sparkling edition of our wide-angle macro ebook

© Paul Harcourt Davies 2015

NB ALL text and images strictly copyright of Paul Harcourt Davies and may not be used in any way without written permission


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