While Apple's smartphone camera is consistently one of the best, a smartphone lenses, which fits over you phone's lens, can expand the types of photos you shoot or videos you capture. These iPhone kits include lenses that let you get close-up details (macro), some that capture a 180-degree field of view (fisheye) and some that deliver expansive landscapes or scenes (wide-angle). There are even some telephoto lenses. The best investment you can make is a kit that provides the flexibility of multiple lenses along with strong image quality.
If you're looking for the sharpest photos you can get from a set of add-on lenses, our pick goes to Moment's lenses, which can be used alone, or in tandem with its cases for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 6 (and now the iPhone 8 and Phone X too). They're pricey, but the image quality you get from Moment's lenses is simply the best around.
For people who want something a bit more affordable, Olloclip's Lens Kits are where it's at. There are multiple systems to choose from including the standard three lens Core Set, the Active Set which includes an ultra-wide angle and 2x telephoto lenses or the Macro Pro Lens Set which features lenses with 7x, 14x and 21x magnification.
Latest News and Updates (March 2018)
- Moment is coming out with a Filmmaker collection, which includes an anamorphic lens ($149), a lens filter adapter ($39), an iPhoneX Battery Case ($99), and a gimbal counterweight ($39). The new lens, which will work with iPhone, Pixel, and Galaxy / Note phones, has a 2:40:1 aspect ratio, which will give videos shot with a smartphone a cinematic look. An update to Moment's camera app will "de-squeeze" the video. The lens filter adapter, which fits over all of Moment's lenses, will let you attach any 62mm filter. Preorders for all of these accessories are now available on Kickstarter, and product will ship in June.
- ShiftCam announced the second generation of its iPhone lens cases. The ShiftCam 2.0 6-in-1 case features a 2X telephoto, 20X macro, 10X macro, 120º wide angle, 180º degree fisheye, and front facing wide angle lens all built into a single case. Additionally, ShiftCam teased its ProLens 2.0 line, which also features macro, fisheye, wide angle, and telephoto lenses, which are of higher quality, and look to challenge Moment's lenses. ShiftCam's cases and lenses are compatible with the iPhone X, iPhone 7/8, and iPhone 7/8 Plus. Pricing and availability has not been revealed yet.
- Hitcase has redesigned its TrueLux lens system for iPhones so that there's no vignetting and low chromatic aberration. The SuperWide lens ($39.99) has a 148-degree field of view in photo mode, and 121 degrees (diagonal) in video mode; the Wide ($34.99) has a 11-degree FOV in photo mode and 83.6 degrees in video mode; and the Macro lens ($34.99) offers a 3X magnification and a 12-22mm working distance.
iPhone Lens Tips and Advice: What to Know Before You Buy
For the most part, smartphones lens accessories do an admirable job of allowing you to shoot photos that mimic some of the qualities you'll find in high-end camera that accepts interchangeable lenses. But it's important to remember, the expensive lenses you'd use with an SLR or mirrorless camera are pricey for a reason. In other words, you'll want to dial back your expectations when buying one of these smartphone lenses.
Here are four things to remember about most smartphone lens accessories, and where they come up short in comparison to high-end cameras.:
At best, image quality remains the same: Since these lenses, in almost all cases, are attached by placing them over the rear-facing lens on your phone, the quality, at best, remains the same. In other words, the sensor and lenses combo isn't improved. In some cases, with say a telephoto lens, the sharpness in the center may display modest improvement; however, it's in the corners of the photo where sharpness really needs to be tested. With these lenses, the sharpness almost always falls dramatically in the corners. Most of these lenses will also introduce a host of other problems, such as distortion, chromatic aberration (producing conspicuous purple outlines around subjects), and light falloff (where the center is much brighter than the images at the edges of a photo). Most high-quality interchangeable lenses made for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are designed to significantly limit distortion, aberrations, and other optical defects. The DxO One is the one exception since it attaching differently to your smartphone.
Telephoto lenses produce worse images and video than wide angle: No matter what telephoto lens you attach to your phone, it will produce blurrier photos and more jittery video footage than any wide angle or fisheye. That's because telephoto lenses are highly susceptible to handshake and vibration. It's also because smartphones lack the powerful optical and mechanical image-stabilization systems built into DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and the interchangeable lenses you use with those systems.
Lower quality flash photos: Some smartphone lenses block a smartphone's flash, which further limits your ability to capture decent photos in low light.This is rarely an issue with an interchangeable-lens camera.
Awkward designs and other limitations: Since these lenses need to fit snugly over your smartphone's lens, you'll need to remove the camera's case, or be forced to use a case that's only compatible with the lens. Additionally, once you attach the lens, it prominently sticks out from the phone, ruining its sleek design. Good luck slipping that into your back pocket! Lastly, these lenses lack the sophisticated apertures and other hardware you'll find on interchangeable lenses, which allow you produce truly professional looking images.
Three Accessories for your iPhone Lens Kit
While a lens kit can extend the type of images and video you shoot on your iPhone, you can take that quality even further. How? Check out the following accessories, which can help improve the type of photos and videos you capture.
External flash: It’s difficult to produce a good photo or decent video if you’re shooting in very dim light. So, pick up an external flash unit, like the iBower Smartphone LED Video Light, ($39.95), which you charge up via a USB port. It’s great for improving photos and video.
Tripod: In low light, a tripod can be invaluable if you’re using a standalone digital camera. It’s even more important with a phone, since the lens and sensor aren’t as capable as what you get on a digital camera. Plus, if you’re using a telephoto accessory lens, a tripod lets you steady your iPhone and avoid any movements that might cause your photo to blur or video footage to look jittery. Consider a portable tripod like the JOBY GripTight GorillaPod Stand, ($29.95), which fits small smartphones including the iPhone 6, iPhone 7, and iPhone 8.
Battery packs: You might have the latest and greatest smartphone as well as a great lens kit, lighting unit, and other extra accessories, but if your phone is out of power, you’re finished for the day. A battery pack or power bank lets you charge up your phone, and get back shooting again. Some popular models are battery packs from Mophie, Anker, and Jackery.
How We Test iPhone Lens Kits
We took a variety of iPhone lens kits and mounted an iPhone to a tripod to reduce camera shake and keep a consistent field of view. We took multiple control shots using the stock iPhone camera, and a series of shots using all of the non-macro lenses from each of the kits. We then choose the best shot from each lens and the control to use as comparisons.
For macro testing we used a crisp $2 bill to obtain a super-flat yet detailed subject. Sample images for both the stock iPhone camera and macro lenses were captured by getting as close to the bill as possible while still allowing for the camera to focus.
In both outdoor and macro testing there are differences in color, due to the changing position of the sun or hand positions needed to hold the phone during macro shots.
We judged photos based on factors like sharpness, color accuracy, image distortion and overall quality. We also took ease of use, price, build quality and even fun into account to determine the rating for the lenses and kits as a whole.
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