Review: Lenses Spruce Up Smartphone Photography
These days, smartphones are quite impressive, especially their cameras. It’s not uncommon to find an 8-megapixel camera crammed into an already slimmed-down cell phone. Plus, they’re convenient, always in your pocket.
Shooting the dinosaur toy with the telephoto lens. Image: Alice Truong
For photographers, though, there are certain limitations. Want to zoom? You’re out of luck because your camera only has digital, not optical, zoom. The more you zoom in, the grainier the photo because the pixels are enlarged. So don’t get fooled when you see a camera with 300x digital zoom because that means absolutely nothing unless you’re really into grainy photos.
Shooting with the fisheye. Image: Alice Truong
To combine the convenience of smartphone photography with more sophisticated equipment, Photojojo has an impressive store with many solutions, each piece carefully curated from around the world. They’re the same folks that brought you the iPhone SLR mount, allowing your small phone to support huge lenses and all their great effects.
Shooting with the macro lens. Image: Alice Truong
One of the newest additions to the store is the 2x telephoto lens, which joins a line of phone lenses: a 0.68x wide macro lens and a fisheye lens. I took each for a run, and overall, they’re a fun way to spruce up images without editing or applying filters.
Each of the lenses affix to the camera with a magnetic ring, which has adhesive on one side to stick to the phone. The magnet is strong enough to keep the lens in place while taking photos. When the lens is not in use, you protect it with two covers, one of which is magnetic and is attached to a loop of string — I’m guessing to make it even more convenient for you to carry around. It’s nifty, but I wouldn’t necessarily attach it to my keys. The strings are flimsy, and one of them broke while I was testing, so I just stuck the tiny lens in my pocket instead.
Photojojo shipped my kit with a small dinosaur toy, which was my main subject for shooting. I found all the lenses to be very sharp, but if I were to forego one, it’d be the newest addition, the telephoto lens. It just lacked the wow factor the other two had. It’s also far easier to walk closer to the subject than to affix a lens, which at times my iPhone camera had trouble focusing with. (Though at one point, when I was at a press event, I thought it would’ve been handy to have the lens if I needed photos. But something more heavy duty would be appropriate if I did indeed need photos for publication.)
To be fair, and unfortunately for the other two lenses, the first one I tested was the fisheye. While I’ve always wanted a fisheye, I never found myself willing to shell out $600 for what some view as largely gimmicky. But this completely solves that issue. This fisheye lens is $25 — hardly a splurge but with all the fun. On my 35mm prime lens, I’ve always found it difficult to take one photo that gives you a sense of what my apartment looked like. That was immediately solved with the fisheye.
I was fond of the wide-angle macro lens. It was incredibly sharp and captured a lot of details. The only issue I had was the slight vignetting on the edge of the photo, probably due to the fact I affixed the magnetic ring on top of my iPhone case, creating more distance from camera to lens. I figured it was a thin enough case where it wouldn’t be a big issue. For the sake of convenience, I didn’t want to have to remove the case each time I wanted to use the lens. Plus, I didn’t want to get glue directly on my phone.
Overall though, thumbs up to these lenses. Even if I thought the telephoto was unnecessary, it’s a better deal to buy all three. A complete set costs $49, compared with $65 to buy each individually ($20 for the telephoto and macro, $25 for the fisheye).
Happy shooting, and if you stumble across these lenses, let me know your thoughts and reactions.