The iPhone X, XS and XS Max all have second lenses that let you get twice as close to the action, but what if you want to get even closer? Four companies — Moment, Sandmarc, ShiftCam and Olloclip — offer premium telephoto lenses for the iPhone, but each costs at least $80. Before dropping a lot of cash on a new lens, though, it's good to know not only which one takes the best pictures, but also which is the easiest to use.
We tested all four lenses to crown a winner, and our top pick is the ShiftCam 2.0. Here's why.
iPhone Telephoto Lens Specs
|Moment Tele 58mm Lens||Olloclip Telephoto Pro Lens||Sandmarc Telephoto Lens Edition||ShiftCam 2.0 Telephoto ProLens|
|Price||$99 (lens), $23.99 (case)||$99 (lens), $29 (clip)||$99 (lens and case)||$79 (lens), $24.99 (case)|
|Mount Style||Bayonet||Clip on||Screw||Screw/slide|
|Works with||iPhone 6 and up, OnePlus 6/6T, Google Pixel and up, Galaxy Note 8, S8+ and up||iPhone SE, iPhone 7 and up, universal clip||iPhone 7 and up, universal clip||iPhone 7 and up|
|Size (inches)||1.5 (diameter) x 1.1||1.7 (diameter) x 1.2||1.6 (diameter) x 1.1||1.8 (diameter) x 1.1|
Price and What's Included
Olloclip's Telephoto Pro lens is $99. The lens is sold on its own, so you'll have to purchase an iPhone-specific clip (starting at $19, but $29 for iPhone X models). However, with the clip, you can use the lens not only with both rear iPhone cameras, but also with the front camera. The company also makes a universal clip that will work with Android phones.
Moment's lens is $99, but you also have to purchase a case, which starts at $23.99. The company sells cases for the iPhone 7 and later (an iPhone XS case is $29); Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and S8 and later; and Pixel phones. The company does not have a universal clip.
Sandmarc's telephoto lens is $99 but also comes with a case specific to your iPhone model (iPhone 7 and later). In addition, it has a universal clip-on mount, which you can turn to if you don't want to use this lens with the case. The clip also lets you use the lens with other phones.
ShiftCam’s 2.0 Telephoto ProLens is $79, but you'll need to purchase a case separately for $24.99. The company makes cases only for iPhones (iPhone 7 and later).
Winner: Sandmarc. It's the only company that includes a case with its lens, and it comes with a universal clip that works with other smartphones.
Olloclip's lens uses the company's unique Connect X system — a spring-loaded clip that makes it easy to switch between the iPhone's cameras, including the front camera. However, this lens is the bulkiest of the group. Also, it can wobble a little inside the mount; we were concerned enough with the movement that we requested a second clip from Olloclip, but we found that the wobble didn't affect the performance.
Moment's lens has a bayonet-style attachment, which made it easy to switch between the iPhone's cameras. While small, which made me concerned that it could snap off the case more easily than the other lenses, it felt very secure.
Sandmarc's lens has a nice, wide opening and can also be used with either of the iPhone's rear cameras. Unlike with the other lenses, you can screw on filters to the front of the lens. However, it has a screw mount, so it took longer to switch than the others, and it was more finicky.
ShiftCam's lenses also have screw mounts, but the lenses screw into a plastic tab that can easily be slid in and out of the iPhone case. The plastic tab feels a little flimsy, though.
Winner: Moment. This is a tough call. Moment wins this round, though, as its bayonet-style mount was easy and fast to use. Olloclip and ShiftCam's mounts were also easy to use, but they are bulkier.
To test the iPhone telephoto lenses, I took images inside the main hall of Grand Central Terminal, as well as of the clock and facade outside the station.
Inside Grand Central Terminal
Shooting inside the somewhat dark terminal produced images that were quite grainy across the board. Still, there were clear winners.
The Sandmarc, Moment and ShiftCam lenses all produced good images, but ShiftCam's lens showed the least amount of chromatic aberration around the glowing Apple logos. (This effect appeared as purpleish fringing, most noticeably around the edges of objects.)
Olloclip's lens performed the worst of the bunch, as the outer edges of its photo were more noticeably distorted and blurry than the other lenses' pictures. A company representative said that the issue could be the result of the phone moving as we took the photo, but we used the Olloclip under the same conditions as the other lenses.
Outside Grand Central
Olloclip's lens displayed the same distortion in all but the middle of the frame.
As with the indoor shot, all three lenses were quite close in their output. Looking toward the lower right, where the building meets the sky, Moment's lens had more purple fringing than ShfitCam's and Sandmarc's lenses. ShiftCam's image was just a hair bit sharper than Sandmarc's.
Overall Winner: ShiftCam 2.0
|Total Score (out of 100)||84||70||90||94|
1st Place: ShiftCam 2.0 Telephoto ProLens
After we assigned points for each round, Shiftcam 2.0 came out the winner. While it's not the lowest-priced kit (you'll spend a little over $100 on the lens and the case), we liked the ease with which we could swap out the lenses, and the quality was top-notch on the photos taken using this lens.
2nd Place: Sandmarc Telephoto Lens Edition
In second place was Sandmarc. The quality of the photos we took using its lenses was on a par with that of ShiftCam's, and it had the best price among the competition — $100 gets you not only the lens, but also a case and a universal clip. However, we weren't fans of the screw mount, as it took much longer to take the lens on and off the case than with the other lenses.
3rd Place: Moment Tele 58mm Lens
Coming in third was Moment. The photos it captured were nearly as good as ShiftCam's — you have to look close to spot the differences — and its bayonet-style mount was among the easiest to use for attaching the lens to the camera. However, the cost of the lens and the case ties Olloclip for the most expensive, but unlike with Olloclip, you can't use the lens with the front camera.
4th Place: Olloclip Telephoto Pro Lens
Olloclip came in last. One of the company's enduring legacies is its inventive clip system, which not only makes it a cinch to attach lenses to your iPhone, but also lets you use the lenses with the iPhone's front camera. Unfortunately, the quality of the photos was below that of the competition, which is ultimately the reason for getting a premium lens.
Credit: Tom's Guide