Since iPhone cameras have become so good, lots of brands have gone to the effort of creating lenses for iPhones that quite honestly, just aren't that good. The ShiftCam lenses for iPhone however, not only feel good quality but they drastically change the type of images you can shoot with your iPhone camera.
To make the lenses accessible for all iPhone shooters, ShiftCam has created two different types of lens mounts. There is a phone-specific lens mount that comes can fit the iPhone 11 up to the iPhone 13 series or you can invest in a universal lens mount that slides over the top of your phone.
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Out of the six lenses, the 75mm macro and the 10X macro were the most fun to use as they were able to capture images you could only dream about taking on a phone. Obviously, it's not exactly like using a macro lens on a camera, but for anyone who's thinking about investing in a full macro setup, it could be a good place to start.
The 230-degree Fisheye ProLens also completely changes the look of images you can get out of your phone camera but is perhaps slightly less usable than the other lenses while the 60mm telephoto was great for shooting portraits.
The ShiftCam Macro ProLens Kit provides two macro lenses - both are pretty impressive but the 10x macro really shone through. It has a focusing distance of around 2-3cm so you do have to get close to your subject, but the outcome is being able to create images with details the human eye can't see. Paired with a bright light and you’ve got yourself a workable macro set up at a pretty low cost.
If you’re planning on shooting bugs or insects, you might be better off with the 75mm Long Range Macro lens as its focusing distance is more like 10-12cm. You can still achieve sharp images with a shallow depth of field and a beautiful focus drop-off, but it means you don’t need to disturb any creepy crawlies you might want to take photos of.
Included in the ShiftCam Videography ProLens Kit is the 60mm Telephoto and the 1.33x anamorphic lens for cinematic shooting. Despite being included in the video lens bundle, the 60mm telephoto is a great addition to a portrait shooter's mobile kit. It has a shallow depth field that enables you to take sharp portrait with a blurred background, it's small, well built and is the cheapest of all the lenses.
The 1.33x anamorphic lens takes a little getting used to and you'll need to understand a bit about aspect ratios to get the most out of it. Unlike the other lenses it is a square lens with a rotating mount so that you shoot in a 21:9 widescreen ratio. It also creates that signature anamorphic lens flare that gives footage a professional feel to it.
Included in the Photography Bundle is the same 60mm telephoto as you get in the Video Bundle and an 18mm wide-angle lens perfect for shooting landscapes, architecture and interiors.
Each lens is small enough that you can fit them both in your pocket at the same time, or you can carry them around in the purpose-made lens case which is included in the bundle. Shooting with these two lenses alongside your standard iPhone camera really enhances the range of high-quality images you can take just using your phone.
Build and handling
Each lens feels like is built well and made of good quality material. The lens cases are metal and come with a magnetic lens cap that makes it really quick to start shooting and protect the lens when you've finished.
The fisheye lens doesn't come with a lens hood due to the dome of the glass but it does have a carry case you can safely store it in.
The lenses seem pretty reactive in terms of focussing speed although the macro lenses will take some getting used to as you really do have to be aware of their focusing distances.
The 230-degree fisheye also has such a wide field of view that you really had to be careful how you hold your phone to make sure your fingertips aren't in the shot. Because of this, you had to think much more about how to compose your shot and where you wanted the central focus to be just in case you had to drop it slightly in post to remove unwanted elements.
Even though we only got to tests the less at The Photography Show, we were able to test them on a pretty wide range of subjects considering we were inside an exhibition hall.
The sample images that we got from the 75mm and 10X macro make it hard to believe they're taken on a phone camera. The detail and sharpness of the areas in focus are really impressive while the out-of-focus areas with bokeh is smooth and silky.
We were lucky enough to find a model at the show who was happy to stand in and let us take some portraits. What was even luckier, is that we managed to find a backdrop, perfectly positioned under a skylight so that the natural light coming from it almost looked like a studio flash. Using the 60mm lens we took a few snaps in portrait mode and a few snaps in normal shooting mode.
Portrait mode is great, but the images we got from just shooting in the normal mode looked much more professional and with a little bit of post-processing, it's hard to tell they weren't shot on a mirrorless camera or a DSLR.
The 230-degree fisheye was perhaps the hardest lens to find something to shoot that really showed what it's capable of. It would be ideal for shooting sports, a big crowd at a gig, or even a warped landscape shot, but we had to make do with what we could find at the exhibition hall. To see how much distortion it gave an image, we used the straight lines of colored backdrops, the ceiling and bookcases to demonstrate the curvature of the lines in images using the lens and it's fair to say - they get pretty bendy!
All in all, the lenses handle very well and are built to be sturdy with metal bodies and magnetic lens caps. The only downside is the magnets aren't that strong so you could easily lose a lens cap if you're not careful when putting it in your pocket and as they're not universal, you'd have to order another one direct from ShiftCam.
Other than the 1.33x anamorphic lens, these lenses aren't new to the market. However, it's been the first time we've been able to get our hands on them and compared to other phone camera lenses, they're a pretty desirable addition to a mobile photography kit.
If you travel a lot and love photography but don't want to invest in a big camera or lenses, these could well be the solution you need to up your photography and video game.
The lenses can either be bought individually or in bundles as listed above which means you really only have to spend money on the lenses you're going to find useful. The lens mount adapter sits snuggly under most phone cases so you don't need to invest in an additional case if you don't want to (although ShiftCam does make quite a smart-looking case if you did want to buy one). The lenses can also be used alongside ShiftCam's latest product, the Pro Grip which adds a grip to your phone that makes it feel more like a DSLR.
These phone camera lenses aren't going to replace DSLR and mirrorless style cameras anytime soon but are an option worth thinking about if you know space is going to be limited and you don't want to carry any extra weight.
Scroll down to see some more sample images: