I've advocated utilizing your smartphone for top-notch photography for several years. I remember owning my Droid X and being blown away at the image quality it produced. Over the years, I've graduated to better smartphones and smartphone cameras, yet I continue to enjoy the idea of maximizing the phone's camera with third-party apps and mobile tripods.
Then I started using lens attachments. My world opened up even more. Literally.
SEE: How to make your product photography shine (TechRepublic)
Break away from the standard
Having lens attachments on your smartphone allows you to create even better photographs depending on the type of lens you use. That's not to say that the lenses used on today's smartphones are bad, but it can definitely be improved. The market has grown tremendously with lens attachment options over the last five to ten years. And it's totally worth it.
Not all lenses are created equal
I've worked with different lenses I've borrowed from associates or ordered off of Amazon. I learned the hard way that buying the $8 telephoto lens gave me an extended focal length on my smartphone, but it also led to pretty bad image quality. Fact is, not all lenses are created equal.
Lens material makes a huge difference when it comes to being attached to your smartphones. Just as you may have lenses for DSLRs that vary in range, the better lenses tend to have higher quality optics and glass. Smartphone lens attachments don't tend to have an adjustable aperture or focal lengths, but it does vary in the type of glass, or in some instances plastic, which is used.
If you want to step your smartphone photography game up, I highly recommend lens attachments made of thick, beautiful glass. Don't jump on the budget lens options. You'll be disappointed.
Just like with DSLRs, a handful of lens types are available to fit the needs your shoot. There are macro lenses for a close-up photograph, which offers highly detailed and magnified images. You also have wide-angle, telephoto, and fisheye lens options on the market.
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I've recently gotten my hands on some lenses from Black Eye out of Helsinki, Finland. The glass on these attachments helps produce outstanding image quality. I've enjoyed shooting macro images as well as framing up more wide-angle compositions in my landscape photography. You can easily attach these lenses by clipping it onto the phone. The only challenge I faced is properly lining up the lens on top of the phone's lens. (I've found that most clip-on lens attachments will lead to blurry or distorted images if you don't line it up properly, which makes total sense considering you're dealing with a curved piece of glass.)
When using macros lenses attachments be mindful of your smartphone's autofocus. Getting too close to your subject won't allow the camera to focus. Even if you use a third-party camera app, which allows more focus control such as the Moment app, you still must be mindful of the distance between your subject and lens. Don't worry, you'll be close enough to grab some amazing detail with your macro.
When I used the wide-angle lens from Black Eye, I was blown away by how well the distortion and glare were minimized with this attachment. Granted, the Pro Cinema G4 wide-angle lens is a LARGE lens attachment, but it produces some awesome image quality. It's a bit heavier than the standard wide angle lens, so using it with my gimbals was a challenge, but totally worth it.
SEE: Get more done with your iPhone: Tips and tricks for power users (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
With or without
Here's a comparison in the wider field of view offered from the wide-angle lens versus without it. Figure A was taken without the Black Eye wide-angle lens attached.
In Figure B the Black Eye wide-angle lens was attached.
If you're not interested in clipping a lens onto your phone, you can definitely give the Moment lens attachments a look. These lenses require you to purchase an additional phone case, which allows the lens to screw onto the case. This offers a more consistent experience with regards to getting the lens properly attached to your smartphone.
I know that some of you may say, "Ant, those lenses are expensive! There's no way I'm spending that much on a lens for a smartphone." My response to you is that I understand your sentiment. These lens attachments won't be for everyone. They're not for the person just wanting the best selfie they can get. These lenses are for the beginner content creator that's looking to take their imagery (and video) to the next level. These lenses are also for seasoned content creators looking to add another tool to their toolkit so that they have options available for pretty much any shoot at hand. In this craft, buying lenses and other gear is an investment. And in most cases, a really good investment.
Are you using lens attachments? Have you considered them? If you're not using them, why? Is it the cost or another reason. Let me know over on Twitter or Instagram with your thoughts? I'm also curious to see your images you've captured with your lens attachments.
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Ant Pruitt is an IT Support Professional with a passion for showing the non-geek how great technology can be. He writes for a variety of tech publications and hosts his own podcast. Ant is also an avid photographer and weight lifter.