The photographic capabilities of the iPhone have come a long way since the 2-megapixel camera found inside the original model. But, there are times when the onboard camera system might seem restrictive if your creative ambitions are outside the limitations put in place. As a response, there are plenty of third-party accessories that claim to unlock the iPhone’s photographic potential.
Some of the most capable accessories are external lenses, made specifically to provide iPhones with the lens flexibility that is common with DSLR and mirrorless cameras, whether it’s a wide-angle, telephoto, or macro lens. To help you narrow down your search for what lenses might best fit your needs, we rounded up four of the best iPhone camera lenses.
The Moment Anamorphic lens is one of the most interesting lenses that’s ever been made for a phone. It is a true anamorphic optic, widening the high-definition 16:9 aspect ratio to the cinematic standard of 2.40:1 without cropping away any pixels. It’s a look synonymous with Hollywood, usually achievable only through expensive cinema cameras with bulky lenses. But the Moment Anamorphic is both affordable and compact, using the same case and twist mount system as the company’s other lenses.
Launched in August 2013, Moment has quickly made a name for itself as one of the best third-party lens manufacturers for iOS devices. Proof of this lies in the fact that Apple now sells Moment lenses inside its stores. Moment has a slew of lens offerings going back to the iPhone 4, with lenses ranging from macro to telephoto. The lenses themselves are made of glass optical elements and are housed inside a metal frame. This increases image quality and provides a durable piece of equipment that can probably take more of a beating than your phone, itself.
While the anamorphic lens stands out, there’s probably a great Moment lens for whatever type of mobile photography you dabble in, including a wide (18mm), telephoto (58mm), macro, and an extreme fisheye called the Superfish. There’s even an adapter to use DSLR filters on a smartphone.
Bitplay HD Wide Angle
Bitplay makes a range of add-on lenses, but the HD Wide Angle (EF 18mm) is perhaps our favorite. It’s a wide-angle adapter lens that opens up more field of view over your phone’s built-in lens, but without the usual sacrifice to sharpness. It also manages to keep straight lines straight, avoiding the common pitfall of wide-angle lenses to produce barrel distortion. It’s not as cheap as the company’s other wide-angle, but the results were noticeably better.
Bitplay’s ecosystem is about more than just lenses. It makes shooting with an iPhone feel more like working with a real camera. One of the best features of working with the Bitplay system is the case, which includes an ergonomic grip and shutter button. As we wrote in our Bitplay 7 review, “The case takes all the positives of smartphone photography (convenience, simplicity, immediate sharing) and wraps them in a body that’s designed for actual photography.”
The pieces to the Bitplay systems are sold a la carte or as a set for the iPhone 8, iPhone X, and the iPhone XS/XS Max/XR devices. The lenses, which are offered in standard and premium versions, come in a range of prices. Like other lenses on the market, a few of the Bitplay lenses feature a two-in-one design so you can get two uses out of a single lens.
In addition to lenses, the Bitplay lineup includes a circular polarizer filter. Not usually seen on smaller cameras, this photo filter is designed to cut through reflections and highlights, perfect for when you need to shoot through glass.
Olloclip Essential Lens Kit
Olloclip is the company that popularized external lenses. The accessory maker has been around since the iPhone 4 and had arguably the most ubiquitous add-on optics for the iPhone until Moment came along. Even now, it holds its own, thanks to its compact design and more manageable price.
While Olloclip was originally designed to fit a specific smartphone model, the latest option, the Connect X multi-device clip works with multiple models, which is ideal if you want to continue using the lenses on whatever phone you upgrade to next. Clips to accommodate specific smartphone models are also still available, however, if you prefer.
The company now has three different lens lines for different budgets, including the Pro line for pixel peepers willing to spend whatever it takes. The lens range includes everything from macro and wide-angle to telephoto. The Olloclip Essential Lens kit is a happy medium between high-end lenses and spending a fortune. The set includes an ultra-wide angle, a fish-eye, and a macro lens with a clip for under $100.
Black Eye Pro Cinema Wide G4
Black Eye may not be as well known as Moment and Olloclip, but the company’s Pro series wide angle is an excellent middle ground between cheap lenses with lots of distortion and lenses with three-figure price points. Selling for about $90, the Cinema Wide G4 offers an excellent, wider view without getting into fisheye-like distortion.
Black Eye lenses are also easy to use — the mount isn’t much different from chip bag clip that works with multiple smartphone models and may even work with some cases, provided they’re not too thick. Unlike lenses mounted on a case, however, the clip design can cover part of the screen.
If you’re looking for more than a wide angle, Black Eye also has a fisheye and portrait telephoto in the same G4 Pro series. Those lenses are also $90 each, or you can pick up all three for $250. And while we haven’t tested the company’s cheaper options, mobile photographers on a minimum budget can pick up the company’s basic fisheye, wide and macro lens set for only $35 for all three optics.
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