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Today’s smartphones are pretty amazing. Many of them have capabilities that rival DSLR cameras and they can even shoot in the same RAW formats. While your pictures might already be pretty amazing it’s time to take your camera photography to the next level. Smartphone Camera lenses aren’t new, they’ve been around for several years now, yet few people have invested in them. These cheap accessories are portable and perfect for taking even more amazing pictures using nothing more than your cell phone. In fact, these are the best way to get pro-level pictures even if your smartphone camera isn’t perfect. There’s a world of different lenses to choose from ranging from bargain optics to high dollar mounts for DSLR quality. You need to look at lenses if you feel that it’s time to take your smartphone photography to the next level.
When it comes to smartphone lenses they are not much different than a DSLR lens, just in miniature. You can get zoom lenses, fisheye, wide angles and more. The real question is what they do in addition to your camera lens. Your phone already has a lens mounted on it which allows the camera to “see”. Depending on the type of phone you have this may involve several pieces of glass that move and rotate until they create a focused image. There are pros and cons to using your smartphone instead of a DSLR though. With the option of having extra lenses, like a fisheye, you’re getting the capability to get more interesting pictures while having a camera that has an incredibly fast algorithm and settling time. Much faster than most traditional cameras. Essentially, what those extra lenses do is give you the flexibility of a DSLR coupled with the speed of a smartphone.
Most smartphone lenses start as a thin piece of metal that mounts directly onto the lens of your phone, though others require a specific mount that is stuck on and can’t be removed. Make sure you know which one you’re dealing with as you may not be able to swap between companies if one has a mount and the other doesn’t.
Our Favorite Smartphone Camera Lense kits
2 Users Free
Camrah Lens Kit
3 in 1
What is a Fisheye/Macro/Wide Angle Lens?
From a technical perspective, fisheye lenses are fascinating. To the lay person, it simply means getting those pictures that look like the middle is bubbled out or distorted. Fisheye lenses shouldn’t be confused with wide-angle lenses but they often do the same job. A wide angle lens allows the camera to “see” more of what is in front of it. Our eyes, for example, act like wide angle lenses since we can see almost 180 degrees. The main difference is that a circular fish-eye creates a round image within each picture frame which is exactly 180 degrees all around. A full-frame fisheye or wide angle will create a diagonal angle of 180 degrees but will have smaller horizontal and vertical angles (only 147 degrees).
To understand fisheye’s from a technical perspective you need to know the basics of how a lens works. Lenses are essentially pieces of shaped glass that bend light rays so that when a subject is viewed through the lens the image is distorted. They typically have a focal length of between 8 and 16mm but for mini imagers such as those found in a smartphone they’re usually between 1-2mm instead. A macro lens is very similar to both
-MPOW Supreme Fisheye 3-in-1
What you’re getting here is a bonus because you’ve got three separate lenses here. The fisheye, macro, and wide-angle combo mean that you’re getting a three for one. The easy clip attachment means you don’t have to worry about sticking anything to your phone and being forced to use only this brand. It also fits over most cases which is very convenient and the rubber nubs protect your phone where it attaches so there’s no risk of scratches. The lenses are nice and sturdy with metal rings and clear markings to note which is which. The macro is a 10x which is a pretty decent magnification. The fisheye is a true 180 degree and doesn’t leave a large black circle around the outside so your image appears more like a wide angle than a full-frame fisheye (which may be a pro or con depending on your preference). They’re quite easy to attach, and can be swapped out within seconds. They work well with android and apple devices.
Another great reason to opt for the MPOW is price, comparable options are up to $300! Each lens also comes with its own cover which is ideal for protecting them and carrying them.
That macro lens attaches to the wide angle lens, it’s easy to forget that it’s on there and then wonder why your pictures aren’t coming out right. The clip for the lenses looks a little silly and it is made of fairly flimsy plastic so you need to be careful not to break it. The rubber ball on the screen side does obscure some of the screen which, depending on your phone model, will depend what buttons are obscured.
As you’re sliding the plastic clip on and off you have to be careful to make sure the lens is perfectly centered to the lens of the camera or you’ll get distortion and that dreaded vignetting/black shadowed edges. The fisheye has significant vignetting even with careful positioning, and while this can be removed in post-processing it will annoy those who want everything right in camera. The same is true of the wide angle as there is some distortion but it’s not terrible.
The description is a little bit misleading, you’re not really getting three lenses here, more like two with an additional filter. The macro filter and lens can be a struggle to focus with. Most smartphone cameras aren’t intended for macro use and can struggle to actually get a good picture that doesn’t have serious chromatic aberration. It also needs to be used less than an inch from the subject which makes it extremely limited to use and needs to be in very bright light to get a decent picture.
Probably the biggest con is that there are no instructions, and while there are several unpacking videos on YouTube, you’re essentially on your own. These are definitely comparable quality for someone who wants to take their images to the next level and maybe include some editing.
-Camkix Universal Fisheye 3-in-1
This is a similar kit to the MPOW, you’re also getting three lenses of which one is only the screw on part to another. This also comes with a convenient little carrying case but the lenses also have individual plastic covers for extra protection which are a real bonus as it also stops small particles of dust getting into the lenses. The black clip is much less noticeable than the white of the MPOW, you can also get different colors of lenses and clips depending on what style you decide to buy. Note: the clip is not always the same color and it depends on which one you buy. The aluminum body is light and the threads are well milled. These lenses screw into the clip, unlike the MPOW which does mean it takes longer to change lenses but they’re also less likely to come loose from the clip.
The clip is very stiff and it doesn’t look very professional, it looks more like a clothes peg than a clip for a lens. While this does have a plastic grommet to protect where the clip touches the screen it doesn’t have one where the lens sits which means you could scratch up your case if you’re not careful.
The macro and fisheye lenses are reversed from normal, meaning the macro lens goes on the bottom and can often be fiddly to remove when you’re trying to balance two lenses and the clip to unscrew it. This also means that you’re screwing two lenses in different directions to get them on tightly which is finicky. Lots of people note that they’ve struggled to remove the macro lens because it becomes stuck or because it’s hard to screw them both at the same time. There’s also a slight rattle between the two where they don’t fit together 100% perfectly. The quality of these lenses is quite poor, especially in comparison to some similar products. The wide angle has a significant black ring around the outside from the clip as does the fisheye, this is dependent on the phone model as to how significant. The macro lens has to be even closer than the MPOW to work, frustratingly close in fact. The digital zoom on your camera is the only way to get decently close with this macro lens on.
Considering that the lowest price on the Camkix is more expensive than the MPOW you’re not getting a lot of bonus other than lens caps for what seems to be poorer picture quality. These are more for the casual photographer who just wants to play around and isn’t worried about editing or post production.
-CamRah Universal Fisheye
The biggest bonus in this kit is the tripod. Not only are you getting the same lenses, you’re getting clips and everything else the other kits offer. A really important note about CamRah is that they re-released this kit this year after consumer complaints and made the wide angle lens much wider, and improved the vignetting on the fisheye. The fact that this company is willing to listen to consumers, even on such a small product is commendable.
The convenient extra clip means that you don’t have to worry about losing one while out and about and you can also swap lenses quicker by keeping them both in separate clips. Each lens comes with its own tiny lens cover but there’s also a storage bag for all of them. The octopus tripod is cute and convenient as you can wrap it around things and stand it the same as any mini tripod. Another bonus is the lifetime guarantee, something most other companies don’t offer. The construction is sturdy, and the threads on the aluminum lens chassis seem well made. The slip spring is also steel hardened which means that it’s a little stiff but also less likely to lose it’s grip over time. Macro magnification is 10x which seems to be pretty standard.
Despite upgrading the width and vignetting the lenses are still “soft” which means you may not feel your images are as focused as they could be. Despite CamRah “fixing” the vignetting, it is still there, if not as bad. This can be fixed by zooming in but you’re losing some of your width with that which seems like an oxymoron. The instructions are quite limited, there’s a small card with pictures that shows how to attach the lenses but doesn’t give any instructions for the tripod. If you plan on leaving the clip and lens attached you’ll need to watch out for scratching as even with the foam cover on top the bottom part of the lens is exposed. You’re balancing convenience with having each lens in its own clip with the risk of scratching them while not in use. If you can adjust your ISO in-camera it will make a difference with these lenses as they are quite susceptible to lighting changes.
Overall this set is for someone a little more advanced. If you’re looking to get more from your camera then this kit is a good start. The tripod and extra clip are worth the difference in price, though the quality of images is probably still not quite as good as the MPOW.
-Amir Fisheye 3-in-1
Yet another kit where 3 actually means 2, the most noticeable difference with the Amir kit is that the lenses have caps on BOTH ends much like professional lenses. This means they’re much less likely to get damaged, but the tiny cap on the bottom is also very easy to lose. Don’t panic when you see a box marked Lieqi, this is what they all look like. The user manual is much more extensive and has helpful pictures. Compared to the other instruction manuals this goes into a little more depth but not by much.
The six levels of glass that the lenses have is a real treat in quality in comparison to the other lenses we’ve looked at. The added glass levels help to cut down on glare and make the image much sharper. This lens is much easier to unscrew when separating the fisheye/macro combo piece, especially compared to the Camkix. The bag also works as a lens cleaner as it’s made of the same soft material. This is also a screw in lens clip which is smaller than any of the others and less stiff. It works well over the top of most cases and does not have ANY noticeable vignetting which is huge compared to all the others. The macro lens works a little further away, around an inch in comparison.
The super wide angle is physically huge; it’s much bigger than any of the other lenses without actually giving you any difference since you’re still working with around 140 degrees. With the clip being less stiff it’s questionable how well the spring will last over time. Despite not having any vignetting the macro lens has significant chromatic aberration. The fisheye does have the “round” image distortion for most cameras where it has a black frame and a circular image, which may be what you’re looking for otherwise it’s a huge downside. The clip does have some foam protection where it touches but still partially obscures the screen on some phones.
This is a difficult one, the quality of the images produced is great, and the added lens caps are useful but the longevity of the product is a little questionable. You’re not getting any real bonuses here but your images will be better. This would be good for someone who really wants quality images and is willing to take care of their equipment.
-Camkix for Samsung Kit
By far this is the most extensive kit in this range. It really does come with everything which makes it perfect, if you want a lot of accessories. The added telephoto lens means you’ll get extra zoom capability as well as the three other lenses. The tripod is sturdy but doesn’t allow you to wrap like the CamRah octopus which is a small disadvantage for extendable legs and a much better piece of equipment. This kit has the most extensive written instructions with pictures too which are easy to follow but still require a little figuring out. It also comes with a compatible phone case specifically for the S5, though it’s not very protective and the rubberized edges are questionable if they will save your phone from a fall.
These are still the same cheap, poor quality lenses as in the 3-in-1 kit, the only bonus is the telephoto lens and this is the best of all. This is basically an extended version of the 3-in-1 kit which you’re paying almost double for. The edges are blurry and distorted and the picture quality overall is poor. The fisheye barely offers much more than the standard lens in terms of angle distortion. This is also NOT a universal kit, it will not work for the Note models or larger phones and phone cases at all! Despite the best attempt at liking the tripod, while it holds sturdy the materials are as cheap as those used on the lenses and its longevity is very questionable. One of the questionable things with this lens is that the company maintains that breakages and distortion are due to “bad batches”, so either their quality control is poor or they don’t like to fix products like CamRah did. There is also no carrying bags or lens caps included making this difficult to tote without buying something to put everything in.
This is by far a poor choice, you’re paying a lot of money without really getting anything back from it. You’re only going to get the best use if you’ve got an S5, and you’re also getting poorer quality lenses than others at a greater cost. This is really only a kit for someone who wants a lot of accessories to play with.
Which is best?
If you’re looking for quality of pictures go with the Amir or the MPOW. If you’re looking for the most aesthetic option go with the Camkix kit since you can get the lenses in different colors. The only benefit to the large Camkix set is if you really just want lots of accessories and happen to have an S5 otherwise it’s a waste. The basic Camkix set is also a bit subpar when the MPOW and CamRah are similarly priced for better glass. The MPOW has by far the best all round quality especially considering it’s on the lowest end of the price range.
As a mid-level photographer, I’d choose either the MPOW or the CamRah because image quality is most important to me and I’m not worried about extra tripods or added lens caps.