While the current crop of high-end smartphones and action cameras are taking better photos than ever before, sometimes they still need help to really capture the moment.
Wide-angle and optical zoom are the two most-requested features, but what about underwater shots, or those “half and half” pictures that have been all the rage lately? Good news: by adding a small extra lens into the mix, you can get all that and more.
There are dozens of cheap and cheerful add-on lenses out there, but this is a case of getting what you pay for. Low-cost usually equals low quality – it’s worth spending a little extra to ensure great images.
These five add-on lenses all take excellent shots, and aren’t difficult to use. Even better, with one exception, they’re not iPhone-specific. Owners of other devices, rejoice!
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iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and others
Moment has been turning out a small range of high-quality phone lenses for quite a while now, and the current version of its Wide lens is no exception.
The 18mm wide angle lets you get far more of that sweeping vista into your photo than usual, making for extra jealousy from your friends at home when you upload it to Facebook. Image quality is very good, although you may need to crop the corners slightly to remove slight vignetting (dark edges).
Moment takes an unusual approach to attaching its lenses, opting for a semi-permanent metal backing plate that sticks to the phone, rather than the usual assortment of clips. The plate comes off when you run a hair dryer over it, and allows for a more secure fit, lets you use your existing (thin) phone case, and offers compatibility with a wider range of devices.
If you don’t like the idea of sticking something to your phone, you can buy a specialized case for your particular model, which also adds a dedicated... shutter button.
Either way, when it comes time to attach the lens, you simply line it up with the gap in the mounting bracket, and twist it 90 degrees.
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Moment Tele Lens
iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and others
Arguably even more useful than a wide-angle lens, the Moment Tele gives you double the distance instead of double the width.
When you can’t get close enough to whatever you’re shooting, optical zoom like this is definitely the way to go. Anyone who’s ever used digital zoom on a phone camera knows how bad the results are.
There’s none of that with the Tele – images are crisp and bright. Like any zoom, though, wind and shaky hands are a problem. It’s worth packing a small phone tripod if you plan to use the lens regularly.
The Tele uses the same backing plate as the Wide, with the same pros and cons.
03 of 05
Ever wondered how people get those great “half above the water, half below the water” action shots? The answer is simple: an action camera like a GoPro, coupled with a special lens like the Split Photo Dome.
The Split isn’t the only option out there for getting these type of images, but it’s an affordable and well-designed one. It comes with a floaty carbon handheld grip to make it easier to use, and is waterproof to 20m (65 feet). Even if you go lower, though, a separate housing keeps the camera dry to double that distance.
Compatible with the Hero 3, 3+ and 4 models, the Split Photo Dome is an easy way for existing GoPro owners to get more interesting photos and video on their next water-based vacation.
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Optrix 6 Pro
If you don’t own a GoPro but still want to get better snaps in and around the water, one of the (very few) options out there comes from a company called Optrix. Available for iPhone 5 and 6 models, the kit combines a drop- and waterproof case with a range of different lenses for maximum versatility.
The Optrix 6/6s Pro includes the case and standard, wide-angle, telephoto and macro lenses, and there’s a similar (and slightly cheaper) kit for the iPhone 5, 5s and SE.
It’s waterproof to 33ft, which lets you shoot while snorkeling, sailing or paddleboarding without worrying about drowning your phone.
Retail price is around $150 for the iPhone 5 pro kit, or $170 for the iPhone 6 version, but you’ll pay less on Amazon. If you don’t need all the lenses, you can save a few dollars with the basic kit.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Ztylus Metal Series Camera Kit
iPhone, Samsung Galaxy
Taking a different approach, the Ztylus Metal camera kits combine a hard plastic case with a futuristic-looking flip-out lens kit.
The circular Revolver housing holds wide-angle, macro, fisheye and circular polarizing lenses, which clip out and over the existing camera. When the kit isn’t attached, the backing plate includes a handy kickstand.
The kit is available for the various models of Samsung Galaxy S7, iPhone 5, 6 and SE, and the iPhone 7 version is under development. You’ll pay around $100 on Amazon, a little more on the company’s site.
For pro customers, the company offers a few other interesting options that use the same case mounting system.
The Z-Prime kit includes telephoto and super-wide-angle lenses, and includes cool features like a magnetic lens cap and small lens carrier that clips to belts and bag straps.
There’s also an LED ring light that can be used on or off the case, to illuminate low-light shots, and you can even attach your GoPro to the case... with a special attachment, to treat it more like a normal handheld camera.
If you’re looking for a flexible, quality lens kit for your phone, with plenty of options for even seasoned photographers, the Ztylus is where it’s at.