Yes, the iPhone takes great pictures, but the best iPhone lenses can take your photos to the next level by letting you get even closer to the action, or capture more of it. Most of the best iPhone lens kits include a macro, a wide-angle, fisheye, or telephoto lens, and can be swapped out with ease.
While many of the best camera phones already have wide-angle and telephoto lenses built in, you can still use most of these add-on lenses. So, for example, you can take the iPhone 12 Pro's 2x telephoto and make it a 4x telephoto. And we've yet to see an iPhone that comes with a fisheye or macro lens built in.
Better yet, many of the best iPhone lens kits will also work with some of the more popular Android phones, either through phone-specific cases or universal adapters.
What are the best iPhone lens kits?
After testing dozens of models across several price ranges, we think that Moment makes the best iPhone lens kits. These lenses are well built, produce some of the highest-quality images, and were easy to use. They're pricey, but the image quality you get from Moment's lenses is simply the best around.
Currently, Moment sells two fisheye lenses, a wide-angle lens, a telephoto lens, and a macro lens. The company also make an anamorphic lens for those who want to use their iPhone to shoot cinema-like videos. Individually, lenses cost around $95, but are often bundled with other accessories. Apart from the image quality, Moment's bayonet-style mounting system makes it easy to attach and remove lenses from your smartphone, so you're not stuck fiddling with an attachment and miss your shot.
In addition to lenses, Moment also makes a variety of cases in a wide range of styles, and for a wide variety of smartphones, including the iPhone 7 and up, the Galaxy S9+ and up, and most Google Pixel phones.
Moment announced new cases for the iPhone 12 Pro cases with Magsafe. Available for the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and Pro Max, these cases—all of which cost $49—come in a variety of colors and finishes. The company also announced several Magsafe mounts, including those for cars, tripods, and accessories such as lights and microphones. While everything is available for preorder, they won't ship until March 2021.
The best iPhone lenses you can buy today
While expensive — each of its lenses costs between $90 to $100 — we think that Moment makes the best iPhone lenses overall. Based on our tests with competing premium iPhone lens kits, the images from Moment's lenses are some of the best we've seen from any smartphone camera lens attachment.
Moment makes a lens for just about every occasion: telephoto, wide angle, macro, anamorphic, and fisheye. And, the company makes cases for a wide range of smartphones, including the including the iPhone 7 and up, the Galaxy S9+ and up, and Google's Pixel phones. Cases come in a variety of colors and finishes, and also include slim models and ones with extra batteries.
In addition, Moment also sells a range of filters, including neutral density and circular polarizers; while they don't work in conjunction with its lens kits, you can use the filters with your smartphone's cameras.
Read our full Moment iPhone lens review.
In the age of neverending Zoom calls, a lot of people are using their iPhones as a webcam. Olloclip's Super-wide essential lens lets those on your call see a lot more, which can be useful when giving presentations remotely.
This kit includes a universal lens clip, which will work not just with iPhones, but Samsung and Google Pixel smartphones as well. It uses Olloclip's super-simple lens mounting system, so if you decide to purchase additional lenses, you can use them as well. Best of all, the clip lets you use the lenses with all of the iPhone's cameras — both front and back.
In our premium telephoto iPhone lens shootout of Moment vs. Sandmarc vs. Shiftcam vs. Olloclip, Shiftcam's came out on top for its value, ease of use, and performance. We liked the build of its lenses, as well as Shiftcam's system for mounting the lenses to our iPhone; you attach the lens to a plastic tab, which slides in and out of Shiftcam's smartphone case. With this case, you can also use Shiftcam's Multilens system, which is a series of 3, 5, or 6 lenses (depending on the model) built into a single tab. While not as good as Shiftcam's ProLens series, it lets you switch between multiple lenses very quickly.
One caveat is that Shiftcam only makes lens cases for iPhones (iPhone 7 and up); if you have an Android phone, you'll have to use Shiftcam's $25 ProLens Universal mount.
Read our full Shiftcam 2.0 ProLens review
After testing several models, the Moment anamorphic lens came out on top as the best iPhone lens for filmmakers. It can be oriented so you can hold your phone in either landscape or portrait mode, and, because it's locked in place, can't easily be jarred out of place. And, it helps you take some excellent video.
However, the Moment Anamorphic lens is a little more expensive than the competitors: It sells for $149 but also requires that you purchase a case, which adds between $30 and $40 to the cost. The Sandmarc Anamorphic lens costs $10 more at $159 but includes the case. The Kase Anamorphic lens costs $134 and comes with the universal clip, making it the best value of the three.
After testing a number of inexpensive options, the best iPhone lens kit for those on a budget is the Xenvo Pro 2-in-1 system. The Xenvo 2-in-1 combination lens combines a Super Wide lens and a 15X Macro lens, and attaches to your camera using a universal clip, which can be used on any number of smartphones.
The lens is encased in a relatively nice aluminum housing, and comes in a little semi-hard case with a round, rechargeable clip-on light with three different brightness settings. Both lenses are decently sharp in the middle of the photo, however get softer towards the edges. Taking a photo of a patterned chair revealed the threads of fabric looping together in each color.
While the Xenvo produces acceptable images, it’s no match for the more expensive lens systems that we have reviewed from Moment, Sandmarc or OlloClip. During our testing, we found that if the phone is not held still, the amount of detail in the photo was certainly lacking. Still, for $39, it is not a very risky investment if you are just getting into iPhoneography and want a better wide angle and macro lens combo.
The Ztylus M6 Revolver includes a case for the iPhone X (models for older iPhone models are also available). In the middle of the case is a circular that the M6’s lenses attach to magnetically. The actual lenses, six in all, are contained in a circular puck, about 1.5 inches in diameter. Depending on the size of your hands, it may get in the way of getting a secure grip on the phone since it takes up a good portion of the back of the case.
Images taken using the M6 Revolver’s telephoto lens were good, and because it was magnetically attached to the case, made it much less susceptible to bumping or misalignment than traditional clip-on lenses.
In addition to the telephoto lens, the M6 has a second telephoto, a wide angle, macro, super macro, and fisheye lens. And, because all are contained in the puck, they’re much easier to carry them around than clip-on lenses, and stay protected when not in use.
The M6 Revolver is available with one of up to 15 different cases, from a simple wood grain or carbon fiber to colorful patterns and Asian-inspired designs with dragons to quirky designs with cats and fish. Quality is certainly not the same as more expensive lenses from Moment, Sandmarc or Olloclip but should be good enough for most people.
If you're holding on to an older iPhone, you can still find compatible lens kits at a good price. Our favorite option for those who don't want to spend too much is Olloclip's Core Lens Set. This kit includes a fisheye lens, 15x Macro, and a super-wide lens for about $60. This kit also includes an easy-to-use reversible clip system so you can use the cameras on both the front and back of the iPhone.
If you're looking for even more options, you can purchase additional lenses from Olloclip for between $40 and $60. Another kit to consider is the Olloclip Active Lens Set ($70), which includes a 2x telephoto lens and an ultra-wide lens.
The only major downsides to Olloclip's lens kits are that the clip won't fit over most iPhone cases and that not all of Olloclip's lenses can be used with the iPhone's secondary zoom camera.
Read our full Olloclip Core Lens Set review
Using two lenses, the Insta360 Nano S lets you take 360-degree videos and photos, whether this accessory is attached to your iPhone or not. It can record videos up to 4K in resolution, and photos up to 6272 x 3136 pixels.
The Insta360 Nano S measures 4.3 inches in length, is 1.3 inches wide, and 0.8 inches at its thinnest point; the camera bubbles out at one end where its two lenses are located. You can use the Nano S as a standalone device, but when you connect it to your iPhone, you can also stream to Facebook and quickly post your shots online. However, doing so requires you to hold your iPhone upside-down, which is a little awkward.
The Insta360 Nano S has an 800 mAh battery, so it won't drain your phone, and a microSD card slot (up to 128GB) means you won't use you your phone's storage, too.
How to choose the best iPhone lens for you
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, and most smartphones lack effective image stabilization. Our advice would be to get a tripod if you plan on shooting with a telephoto lens.
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.
How we test iPhone lenses
When we test iPhone lenses, the first thing that we naturally look at is how well they perform. Cheaper lenses — those made from plastic, for example — will cause the photos you take to have blemishes, such as chromatic aberrations (purple fringes around objects) and blurriness. This is most evident with fisheye and wide angle lenses, where objects towards the edges will be much blurrier than those towards the center.
We also evaluate iPhone lenses in terms of ease of use: How easy are they to attach and remove from your smartphone? If it takes longer than a second, you could miss that shot you wanted to get. We also look at the price, as not everyone has $100 to spend just on a single lens; often, you can find models that cost less, but deliver nearly the same quality. Lenses also get bonus points if they work with more than just iPhones, too. Why can't Android owners have some fun, too?