So you want to up your Instagram game without investing a buck load of money in a professional DSLR camera? You think that clip-on smartphone lenses might just do the trick. But are they really worth getting?
Over the weekend, whilst walking around town, I spotted some camera lenses designed for a smartphone in a local shop. At first I didn’t really think too much about it – but it dawned on me that they could be incredibly useful, especially if I wanted to get into more landscape iPhone photography.
So I got them.
At £9.99 for a pack of three different lenses, the cost wasn’t too bad.
I was a little dubious at first, inspecting them through the packet, as they looked a little too plastic for my liking.
But, surprisingly, once out the packet, I realised that they were definitely not plastic, and satisfyingly weighty for the price paid.
The pack also included a handy little bag to keep the lenses in, and two caps to keep them from getting scratches. All in all, it seemed worth the purchase so far, and all really nice quality.
Impressed, I snapped the the case off my phone, screwed the fisheye lens into the clip, and popped onto edge of my phone… and was promptly disappointed.
Unfortunately, as the lens protrudes away from the iPhone’s camera, you can see the black, circular outline of the lens itself. This isn’t too much of an issue if you like this as a stylistic choice, but personally I’d like the fisheye-effect without having an ugly, black line circling the edges of my pictures.
If you’re like me and hate this effect, you can position the lens to have the camera as central as possible to minimise the amount that the edges of the lens are visible. You can also get away with choosing the square photo option in camera mode if you have an iPhone, but this limits you if you’re uploading to Instagram (mainly because with a full picture you can crop/angle your picture to look exactly as you want before uploading, which you can’t do if it’s already formatted to upload straight to Instagram). You could also be crop the black circle out of your picture after you’ve taken it.
The fisheye lens also suffers from glare if there’s too much sunlight, creating a white ring around the picture of you have it at an angle, or it is particularly sunny, which can potentially ruin a picture – especially if this isn’t the effect you want.
Otherwise, it doesn’t blur as I’ve heard some other fisheye lenses made by other brands do, and gives a nice, crisp photo.
The second lens I tried, a wide angle one, suffers from exactly the same issue as the fish-eye, and although the black rim is somewhat less visible, it is still noticeable. Again, this can be cropped out if desired.
Apart from that, it does the job, giving the camera a nice enough wide angle shot that would be perfect for landscape pictures.
At this point, I wasn’t too hopeful for the last lens, a macro. Yet, when I popped it on, it didn’t have either issue the other two did. It actually took some really nice photos, with no noticeable imperfections, and I’m excited to see what kinds of photos I can take using it.
So, is it worth getting a set of clip-on lenses for your smartphone?
If you’re simply dipping in and out of iPhone photography, using it to up your Instagram game, then grabbing a cheap, novelty lens kit like this one is a great place to start. In all honesty, most of these kits are rather hit-and-miss with when it comes to the wide angle and fisheye lens, but the macro lenses are definitely worth grabbing.
If you’re really serious about getting into iPhone photography, getting lenses you can use with your iPhone is something to consider. However, if you want to be certain of the quality of the pictures you’re taking – especially if you’re after a fisheye or wide angle lens – you’re going to have to hunt around for much better quality lenses. It’s also worth taking into consideration that you’re going to have to spend a little more to get ones that could produce photos of a professional standard.
Do you use lenses for your smartphone photography? Did you go with a cheaper alternative, or invested a bit more? Let me know in the comments!