10
Feb
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Smartphone cameras have quickly taken over as the primary point-and-shoot for many people, and while they offer up a quick way to take a shot, their use is still fairly limited. If you're looking to get more out of your smartphone's camera, then these add-on lenses may be just what the doctor ordered.

What Are They?

They're small lenses that bring three commonly used mods to your smartphone camera: wide angle/macro, fisheye, and telephoto. They're very simple to use, but I'll warn you upfront - they do require a bit of modification to your phone in order to work. What sort of mod, you ask?

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That sort. It's a simple self-adhering metal ring that goes around your phone's camera. Once the ring is mounted on your phone, the lenses attach to it magnetically. At first glance, the metal ring is a bit of an eyesore, but after a bit of time you get used to looking at it. If you decide that you just can't stand it, however, it pulls off clean. Unfortunately, once you remove it, it loses most of its adhesive, so it's simply not practical to put it back on. Each lens comes with two rings, though, so you're not completely out of luck if you change your mind.

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Price: $50 for the set, or you can buy them individually for $20-$25 a piece. A larger kit is also offered for $80, but it includes a couple of iPhone-only accessories.

Where to buy: Why, Photojojo, of course!

The Bottom Line: If you're looking for a new way to spice up pictures with your phone's camera, these lenses are a quick and easy way to do it. You're not going to get DSLR quality shots out of them, but they're sure fun to use for the aspiring mobile photographer.

Okay, enough chatter. Let's get to the good stuff.

All of these images were taken with the stock camera on the Galaxy Nexus and haven't been modified (aside from watermarks and a bit of resizing).

Wide Angle/Macro Lens

Of the three, this one is probably the coolest. It's actually two different lenses combined into one; the full lens is wide angle, but if you unscrew the top half, the bottom becomes an incredibly nice macro lens.

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Left: Wide Angle; Right: Macro

Given its dual-use nature, this one is probably my favorite of the bunch - that doesn't mean its perfect though. Take a look at the images below, and then I'll discuss what I like/dislike about this particular lens.

Wide Angle

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While the images look pretty good, the outside edges are distorted, which bugs me. It's not a deal breaker by any means, because you can actually use this distortion to play up the focal point -- take the pine cone for example. Everything around it is slightly out of focus, so the eye is immediately drawn to the center of the image.

On landscapes, it does a pretty decent job. It does enable you you to capture more of the scenery than the stock camera, and it does that quite well.

Macro

I love macro shots. In fact, this is the second time I've reviewed an add-on macro lens, and this one is just as good as the first. I don't really have anything to add, so I'll let the images do the talking.

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Fisheye

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If you would've asked me a month ago what I thought about fisheye, I would probably replied with something like "gag." After spending some time getting familiar with this fisheye lens, though, I've gained a new appreciation for what it takes to get a good fisheye shot.

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As you can see, this lens warps the shot and cuts out the corners. While the black corners bother me (mostly because it's nearly impossible to get the lens perfectly centered, so the corners lack symmetry), it's still tolerable.

Telephoto

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This one is a simple 2x zoom. Since it's a separate lens and not a digital zoom, it doesn't degrade the quality of the photo whatsoever.

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Left: Stock; Right: Telephoto

As you can see, the telephoto lens suffers from the same problem that the fisheye lens has: black borders. It's a little less excusable with this lens, though - with the fisheye lens, clear definition is created; with the telephoto lens, however, it's a blurred line that just looks bad. The Photojojo website actually somewhat addresses this issue:

Since these lenses are actually adapters you'll see part of the lens (or vignetting) around your photos. Nothing a bit of cropping can't fix! Plus, we think it looks kinda cool and secret agent-y.

So, basically, either crop it out or deal with it. That's a bit frustrating, but is it a deal breaker? I don't really think so.

Conclusion

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Honestly, if you can handle the metal ring and just love taking pictures with your phone (or like pushing the limits of what a phone's camera is capable of), then this kit is right up your alley. If you're just a casual smartphone photographer, these lenses are perfect for you too.

There is one caveat, however: they don't work well with certain cases. Some cases don't leave a large enough opening around the camera, preventing the lens from attaching to the phone.

So, all things considered, are they worth fifty bucks? Heck yeah they're worth fifty bucks. They're fun to use, and, despite their shortcomings, will make your photos vastly better than the stock camera alone.

On a related note, if you're interested in Android photography, then I recommend checking out the Android photographers' group on Google+, as well as Photojojo's mobile photography (phoneography) Tumblr.

Buy

Ready to pick 'em up? Check it.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • mastermind26

    Oooh!

    I definitely like the 2-fer.
    Looks like I'm in for 1 set. :)

  • hyperbolic

    Looks good but I will wait for a price drop

  • Tiggerbits

    Got a set about 1-2 weeks ago and I love them! using them with my Galaxy Nexus GSM, However mine look a bit different to yours, they look a little better made and i dont suffer from the vignetting on the Telephoto lens!

    Still all good and well worth £40!

    • Josh Flowers

      site?
      i realize this is 10 months later but who knows--maybe you'll respond :)

  • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio Roy Blumenthal

    Big question... Smartphones that have compasses... Won't these magnets mess with the compass magnets/electromagnets?

    • Tiggerbits

      just tested out my compass and it still works fine.

      • http://royblumenthal.com/portfolio Roy Blumenthal

        Awesome! (And thanks for the super-fast response!)

  • Bazar6

    Is there any noticeable decrease of quality in the pictures, using any of the attachments, since the camera is basically looking through an additional lens (or two in the case of the wide-angle)?

    I think OEMs need to start making their sensors better instead of bigger. But if these lenses don't degrade the quality too much, then this is a step in the right direction (away from the digital zoom lol).

    • Eric

      There will be. Unless the lens system was designed to work together, there will always be some degradation. However, at this size, only the macro shots seemed noticeably worse. Macro's tough to do in an add on, and there was a lot less color fringing than expected. Overall, they all seem good for web posting at the least.

  • Jim l

    Love the fish eye.

  • LesU

    On the Galaxy Nexus... Does the metal ring on the camera protrude a lot? Is it enough to catch on a seam in a pocket?

    • Cameron Summerson

      Surprisingly, no. I've been using these lenses for a few weeks and not once have I had the ring catch on anything.

  • Alex
  • http://www.daftgadgets.com/cellphone-camera-lenses.html Phone Camera Lenses

    The fisheye camera lens is the craziest, but it makes it seem like its a reflection from a rain drop

  • J.T.

    will it work for the droid bionic?

  • Ciaroth

    Will this lense work for the Samsung galaxy SIII the lense on the outer part of the phone is a square?

    • Alma

      I was thinking the same thing. I didn't know if the self-adhering metal ring would stick properly.