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So you want to take a good photo on your vacation, but you don’t want to invest in a professional DSLR, or lug around a cumbersome camera with multiple lenses. “Can’t I just use my phone,” I hear you mumble. Well, you can!
With a few small additions to your phone, you can take your travel photographs to the next level. We tested five of the best, affordable lens adaptors on the market to see how they stacked up.
Something to note when using all of these external lenses on an iPhone is that they cover up the microphone, which means if you are recording audio you will get a muffled, distorted sound. If that’s important, you’ll want to use a separate audio device that will send the audio to the bottom of the phone.
And a common issue with all the lenses with external clips is making sure the lens fits completely over the camera’s built-in lens to ensure no black marks are created around the edge of the frame. With all the dual lenses we tested, you had to stay especially steady when using the macro, as it’s so zoomed in, it is easy to take blurry photos (the macro does not focus until it is incredibly close to the subject).
The Design: This reversible double lens comes with a 0.45x 120° wide angle plus a 15x macro and clips on to the phone. Unlike some competitors, this one is compatible with both Android and iPhone. A lens clip, carrying pouch and cleaning cloth is also included in the hard case, which is perfect for keeping everything neat and organized in your carry-on.
My Experience: This was the first dual lens we tested, so it took a moment for me to realize where the second lens was. In order to fit on the clip, the wide angle lens must be screwed into the macro lens, which then goes into the clip. This is a common design for these types of lenses. To use the macro, just take off the wide angle. The clip feels sturdy on the phone, like it won’t slip off. You have to look through the lens to get the clip completely centered and in the right position, which is not the easiest in cold weather, with gloves on or when you have to take a photo in a hurry. Take the time to get the lens set perfectly over the camera lens, to avoid black edges around your photo. We were primarily looking at different wide angle lenses, but having the macro included in the kit, which shoots with lovely depth of field, certainly added bonus points.
Best For: Someone who is looking for multiple lenses at an affordable price point, and does not want to change their phone case. For the price, this is great option. The duality of having the macro and wide angle on one lens so you are not purchasing (and carrying around) extra equipment is crucial for the wallet and for keeping things streamline when traveling. Even with the distortion around the edges, the quality didn’t differ so noticeably from the more expensive options.
Don’t Use: If you are meticulous about the quality, as it does drop around the edges and it seems to make the the image slightly darker.
The Verdict: 8/10
The Design: The Xenvo kit felt the most like opening a mini photography kit, with a package that included both wide-angle (.45x) and macro (15x) lenses, a small rechargeable LED clip-on light, a clip, USB cable, cleaning cloth, front and back caps, a lanyard and a strong carrying case. The lens and clip felt sturdy and well constructed.
My Experience: The LED light was a happy surprise. Perhaps this will help me master the art of the selfie, TBD. The power lasts for about an hour (just long enough to take one useable selfie in my experience) and can be charged using the USB cable. For the purpose of this review, the light was not needed however, nor was the macro lens. I did notice, however, this one has quite a shallow depth of field. The wide-angle, however has minimal distortion around the edges and creates crisp landscapes and group photos. It claims the wide angle shows 45% more of a frame. I think that’s a stretch, but it definitely got some extra buildings in the shot.
Best For: People who love accessories, group shots or travelers who plan on taking a lot of selfies.
Don’t Buy: If you are looking for something cheaper, as the AUKEY is a similar product with a slightly more affordable price point.
The Design: Inside the box there’s a dual wide (.6x) and macro (15x) lens, the universal clip, cleaning cloth, a soft bag for the lens and front and back caps. The universal clip means that you can even attach other DSLR lenses with a 37mm thread onto your phone. The multicoated lens helps minimize glare, reflection and ghosting. This lens is the biggest and heaviest of the bunch, but the build quality actually feels like it could be lens on a DSLR camera, complete with a 58mm lens hood.
My Experience: The lens smoothly attaches to the clip, and it feels very substantial when you are attaching the clip to your phone. This lens fits better when the case is off completely, however, which creates a completely flat surface and eliminates distortion.
Best For: People who want a budget option, but still want the look and feel of a (compact) DLSR lens. This was the cheapest lens in this bunch.
Don’t Use: If you are worried about size — as this one is larger than the rest of the selection — or perfect quality around the edges of your photographs.
The Design: This kit included a phone case (very important feature, as some of these lens kits require you to buy a case separately), lens and lens cap, as well as a clip, bag and cleaning cloth. The lens feels heavy and substantial, with solid glass. The lens screws onto the included case, or you can use the external clip, like some of the other products. This would be helpful if you want to pull the lens on and off quickly, or if you are just particularly loyal to your own case. The Sandmarc case itself is thin, minimal and unobtrusive and I prefer the design of the lens screwing onto the case, as it feels more secure then the external clips, which, when knocked, can move out of place easily. The lens will stay in place over the camera, eliminating the chance of black marks on your photos. If you are using the front-facing camera when taking a selfie, you will have to use the external clip.
My Experience: This lens allows for 2x more field of view for photos and videos, and it seemed to make photos true to life, with little fish-eyeing or distortion. This would be good for landscapes, tight spaces or if you are a vlogger, as it really creates a lot of distance from the face without having to use a selfie stick, or requiring a very long arm. Sandmarc has a case and lens for many versions of the iPhone, so you know that you are definitely getting the right fit for your phone.
Best for: Someone who is looking for a premium product and would rather spend the extra dollars for quality. Or someone who prefers the security and ease of a lens that screws directly into the case.
Don’t Use: If you are on a budget, or if you want multiple lenses in one kit, such as wide and macro like many of the other products, as Sandmarc sells each lens individually.
Buy: Sandmarc.com, $90
The Design: This kit features an 18mm wide lens made from aerospace-grade metal and cinema-quality glass, which has a decent amount of weight to it, a twist-and-lock lens mount, lens cap and microfiber bag. This lens is only compatible with a Moment case, which needs to be bought separately, bringing the price up to $130 — the most expensive of this particular selection of lenses. The lens locks easily onto the case, and feels more secure than those that use external clips.
My Experience: I was a little peeved that I had to purchase a case separately in order to use the lens, and the case itself was bulky and difficult to pull on and off. Once on the phone, it held the lens securely and in place. Color-wise, the Moment lens was the most vibrant of the bunch, and I liked the feel of it (it was smaller than some of the others). However, people who mainly keep their phones in their pockets may have an issue with having the lens always attached to the case. I personally like that design more than the external clip, but I can see how that would be problematic for the phone-in-pocket people of this world. In terms of quality, I didn’t notice a great difference between this one and the cheaper options, especially when you add in the cost of the case. And unlike other, cheaper options, this comes as single wide angle, rather then the dual wide plus macro.
Best For: Someone with money to burn or if you particularly like the design of the Moment lens.
Don’t Use: If you want to save money and get something of equal quality.
Buy: ShopMoment.com, $100 lens and $30 case
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