The image quality on smartphone cameras has developed so high that even professional photographers take pictures with their smartphones, because it is always at hand. Obvious limitations in camera phone photography – lack of manual controls and a fixed lens – simply have to be overcome through creativity. There are, however, some useful accessories that can help anyone take new kind of images on a smartphone, such as clip-on lenses.
We accidentally discovered a macro lens kit for camera phones at an electronics store. The price was low enough (10 euros) to justify trying it out even if it proved to be a useless piece of plastics. After testing the two lenses included in the kit, our conclusion is that the low-cost clip-on lenses are useful and definitely good value for the money. Image quality suffers a little, but the fun factor is so high that it justifies the slight loss in quality.
The lens kit we happened to find includes a macro lens and a fisheye lens. Protective caps for both lenses, a tiny pouch, and the clip comprise the kit.
No instructions whatsoever on how the kit was designed to be used were included in the package. It took awhile to figure out how the lenses were attached to the clip. The macro lens is directly screwed on to the clip. The fish eye lens is attached to a collar, and the collar is screwed on to the clip.
Once the clip-on lens has been placed on top of the camera phone lens, snapping close-up pictures can begin. The clip-on lens must be carefully positioned at the center of the phone lens. The macro lens fits on any camera phone or tablet. The only problem can be if the phone or tablet lens is so close to the edge that the clip may not stay put. On the Apple iPad, the camera lens is at the edge, but the clip-on lens manages to hold its grip.
It is as simple as that. A whole new world opens up to a smartphone photographer who can now get really close to subjects. The macro lens in our kit is handy for photographing many types of subjects. The fisheye lens is a fun way to shoot video and take photos of pets and, of course, selfies.
Pets tend to be difficult to photograph: they move when they should be still and they come too close to the camera. The fisheye lens solves the problem of close-up photos for pets and for selfies.
The image quality slightly degrades when an additional lens is added on top of the existing camera phone lens. The image sensor also needs more light: some images taken on a clip-on lens are not as bright as without it. Blurriness around the edges can be quite strong, but since the whole idea of macro photography is to get close to specific subject, it doesn’t matter that much.
All and all, we are happy on our small investment in the macro lens kit. The only thing we worry is how to carry the lenses with us without losing them.
Here are a few side-by-side comparison pictures. The image on the left was taken with the macro or fisheye lens, and the image on the right without additional lens. Photos were taken so that the camera phone was on the same position for both shots.