There's an old saying among professional photographers, and one of few suitable for print: The best camera is the one you have with you.
It's a fine reminder not to get too hung up on your equipment, that being there is more important than being perfectly equipped. It's also an acknowledgement that we don't often bring out the big guns for anything but business. The five-figure lenses? The bulky high-speed camera bodies with massive battery packs? They're not tagging along on a family vacation or a weekend drive.
Instead, professionals these days shoot their happy snaps on the best camera they happen to have with them. More often than not, it's the same camera you're carrying around. For me, that camera is an iPhone 5S, and mine has a trick up its sleeve.
The is as simple in practice as it is in concept. It's an accessory lens. A little contraption made of quality glass and metal and some sturdy nylon or plastic of one variety or another holding it together. Slide one over the top of your phone and you can turn your iPhone's already wide lens a very wide angle, or a fisheye, or a close-focusing macro lens. Mount another olloclip (shown above) and you've got a 2x telephoto and a tiny, iPhone sized polarizing lens. The combination is killer for portraits and architecture, but it's even better at shooting cars.
Or motorcycles, as it turns out. I've been reviving my little dual-sport bike after months of carburetor- and battery-enforced slumber, so I took the one minute it spent outside of my garage this month to snap two photos that show the difference between the naked iPhone lens and the 2x olloclip.
The photos, taken from the same low vantage point in my remarkably filthy alley, show the tremendous difference the 2x olloclip (photo on the left) makes when you're trying to get a good snap of a vehicle on its own. The longer focal length separates the motorcycle from the background and compresses its features in an attractive way. I'd also, obviously, have to be much closer to the motorcycle without the olloclip. That's worth remembering if you're trying to capture a motorcycle or a car cornering, or drifting, or crashing. The wide lens installed on the iPhone is a great many things, but a great tool for capturing cars, it is not.
It's not a perfect solution of course. A critical look at the edges of the olloclip frame shows a dramatic decline in sharpness. Blurred and vignetted edges are an effect I'd probably be using anyway, added in with an app like Snapseed, so I can live with a little blur. More to the point though, it's an expensive gadget. The wide angle and macro lens set costs $70, and the telephoto/polarizer set costs $100.
The photos are worth it, I've decided. I like having the olloclip handy, I like the photos it helps make. I like that it's a dense little thing, though that tiny size haunts me. I've spent weeks turning out jacket pockets trying to find the bastard things. Much to my surprise and joy, both lenses have always managed to turn up again. The best sign of something good, I suppose, is missing it when you think it's gone.