The world of the best lenses for iPhone and Android phones is an ever-changing one. New products come and go all the time, and there’s a fair amount of cheap stuff on the market that you ideally want to avoid. However, if you can be discerning, a good clip-on phone lens can be an incredible way of improving your smartphone photography.
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The fact of the matter is that smartphones have limitations, and they are physical. It simply isn't really impossible to include complex optics inside an object with the dimensions we expect of a smartphone. The multi-camera arrays of some phones go some way to rectifying, but they are always going to hit a wall, and this is especially true if you've sensibly plumped for one of the best budget camera phones. That’s why clip-on lenses can be such a good solution.
There are loads of different types of lenses for smartphones. Shop around and you can find telephotos, macros, anamorphics, ultra-wide-angles, fisheyes and more – sometimes all together in a handy pack! Which ones you pick up will depend on what you want to do. If you’re shooting portraits, a telephoto is a good choice. Architecture and landscapes? Try a wide angle. Video? The anamorphic lens might be just what you need.
There has been a lot of change in the world of smartphone lenses. One big shock of the last year is that Olloclip – previously one of the market leaders – has decided to take an indefinite hiatus in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and may not return to manufacturing phone lenses. This makes Moment pretty much the biggest name in phone lenses by default – and you’ll see them well represented on our list.
We’ve aimed to include a broad selection of lenses here, from reputable manufacturers, so you can shop with confidence. There are lenses for all different budgets, so let’s get started!
If there’s one thing phone cameras are more or less universally known for, it’s providing an extremely wide-angle view. So, one of the most immediately transformative things you can do for your phone photography is get hold of a telephoto lens. The Moment Tele lens is a superb choice – as long as you remember to pick up the required case to go with it, though this isn’t a bad investment as it’ll give you access to the whole Moment ecosystem. More on this below.
The Moment tele lens is constructed from high-end glass and really does an exceptional job of giving you a different perspective from the same old phone camera. It’s a little on the pricey side for a phone lens, but compared to an actual telephoto lens… we’d say go for it!
If you're filmmaking with your phone, an anamorphic lens is the perfect inexpensive addition to give your footage that classy cinematic look. We really rate the Moment Anamorphic lens, which works with most recent iPhones or Android phones, as long as you have the right adapter. Locking securely in place, the anamorphic 1.33x lens produces images of impressive quality and is an ideal companion for any smartphone filmmaker.
This two-in-one kit from Xenvo will work with the vast majority of smartphones, fitting snugly over cases to provide a quick and easy bolster to your image-making. The lenses included are a macro and a wide-angle; the macro is excellent, making smartphone close-up photography an impressive reality. The wide-angle is decent enough, though some users have noticed slightly smudging in the corners. Still, it’s a useful kit, and with an LED light included to add further versatility to your close-up work, this is a great way for a user on a budget to kick their smartphone photography up a notch.
Like all Moment lenses, including the anamorphic mentioned above, this wide-angle requires a Moment M-Series case to fit onto an iPhone or Android device. Delivering impressive edge-to-edge clarity and quality, this 18mm optic is as good choice for everyday filmmaking and photography. It doesn't add too much weight to your phone and keeps the profile fairly slim. According to Moment, it's also made with the same high-grade polished glass that goes into high-end 4K film lenses. We can certainly attest that this shines through in the quality of the final image!
This lens works in the same way as the Moment wide and anamorphic lenses, but gives a much wider view. In fact, it gives a 50° wider field of view than the ultrawide lens on the iPhone 11. It gives the coverage of a traditional 14mm fisheye lens - filling the frame with a distorted image that can be used to create dramatic effects, but is also good for taking pictures in tight spaces. The ultra-wide 170° will appeal to those who need to shoot interiors or architecture – or want portraits with a cartoon-like appearance.
If you like the sound of an anamorphic lens but the Moment option on this list was a little too expensive for you, consider the Apexel version instead. Made with high-quality cinema-grade glass, it produces a wonderfully cinematic image with minimal distortion, and can also give a shot some beautiful bokeh in defocused areas. The clip-on system is broadly compatible and should work with most smartphones, as long as they're not thicker than 14mm or thinner than 7mm. Some users of Huawei phones have reported issues with the clips, so it may be worth having a google with your type of smartphone to see if other users have had an easy time getting it to work. If they have, this is a great-value anamorphic lens.
If you like telephoto shooting, this is the last word in terms of reach. The Apexel 36x telephoto transforms your phone into a powerful long-distance shooter, and comes with a useful mini-tripod to ensure you can keep your shots stable.
It also has a remote shutter for capturing images at a distance; less useful when working with such a long lens, but it hardly hurts to have it, and the overall price of the kit is still pleasingly low.
It's not the highest-quality lens, with some users complaining of a little vignetting in images, but for the price and the uniqueness, it can't be beat.
Where most universal lens kits fit to phones with large clips, this solution from Nelomo employs a rubber-ended screw.
This means the lens mount can clamp to phones measuring between 7mm and 10mm thick, which caters for most recent handsets including the iPhone 8 and X, the Samsung Galaxy S9, and the Google Pixel 3.
The kit comes with three lenses, including a wide 230-degree fisheye, a ‘super wide angle’ lens, and a macro lens which offers the equivalent of a 15X zoom. There’s also a microfibre cleaning cloth and bag, plus a protective carry case and hook for clipping it to your backpack.
The only drawback here is how the lens mount might not clamp around your phone if it’s already wearing a thick case, given the 10mm thickness limit.
Perhaps the ultimate kit for any smartphone photographer, this bundle includes macro, 2x telephoto, fisheye, super-wide and ‘ultra-wide’ lenses, which cover most circumstances.
The protective carry case also includes Olloclip’s universal clip system for fitting lenses to almost any recent smartphone, and a grip mount for securing holding your smartphone while shooting landscape video.
This kit can also be purchased with dedicated lens mounts designed for the iPhone X, XS, XS Max, XR, and the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8 and 8 Plus.
It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for the complete package this could well be it.
This three-lens kit represents excellent value for money, as under £10. For that you get a fisheye lens, macro lens and wide-angle lens.
Conveniently, the lenses screw over the top of each other, making it quick and easy to switch between one and the other.
You’ll want to make sure you keep these lenses clean and scratch-free though, as when using the wind lens you’ll actually be shooting through both that and the macro lens underneath.
The kit comes with a carry pouch and the clip mechanism means the lens mount should fit most smartphones and tablets.
You could even fit it to the webcam above the screen of your laptop if you’re ever feeling creative during a Skype chat.
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