Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Telephoto and wide-angle iPhone lenses

Taking photographs with your iPhone is a great way to keep things simple. Most people never seem to be without their cellphone and getting an 8-megapixel camera is a great bonus.  Carrying a bulky DSLR (digital-single-lens-reflex) camera everywhere you go is just too much work for most of us.

But, with all this convenience, you’re missing an important piece of the photo equation: a wide angle or optical telephoto lens. You can resort to trickery, using apps and software to create the look, but by adding a real fisheye or wide-angle effect you’re going to need an add-on lens. Also, using the camera’s digital zoom to crop and zoom into the image is only going to decrease quality.

As you might imagine, there’s no shortage of options at every price point. You can even find a case and adapter to use on your Nikon and Canon lens with your phone. This one is a little pricey for me at $249. While it would be nice to have the option to use professional style lens with my iPhone 4S, it just seems easier to go the conventional route and use them with the regular DSLR camera body.

Also, I tried to keep my search in the under $100 category because most of these gadgets end up in a drawer somewhere eventually.

First, I tried the olloclip, priced at $69, the fisheye, wide-angle, and macro adapter which started as KickStarter project. It’s a nifty little device which really expands the range of your iPhone.

It just slips over the corner of the iPhone with the camera lens. The lens changes from wide-angle to fish-eye in the simplest fashion by the orientation of the olloclip. When you remove the wide-angle, it turns into a macro lens. It also works seamlessly with other photo apps like Hipstamatic, Retro camera or Instagram.

The one casualty of attaching the lens process was that my screen protector just popped off the iPhone as I slid the olloclip onto the corner of my phone. Be careful here, it’s a tight fit, so pay attention when you slide it on. It’s also slightly inconvenient if you use a case with your phone. It will need to be removed each time your use the olloclip.

The quality of the optics seemed great in my test for lens prices well under $100. Of course, it’s not going to compete with your Leica Summicron lens or Nikon glass, but you don’t need to take out  a loan to buy it.

It’s a nice addition by giving you a super wide look at the world when most of the iPhone photographs have that normal 50 mm lens look. It comes with a lens cap and a carrying bag.

Of course, it’s one more thing to carry around and keep track of with all your other items.

Next, I tried the  8X Telephoto Lens. This camera lens comes in a beautifully packaged box that would make Apple proud. The lens would be equivalent to about a 400mm lens on your DSRL.

It also included a small tripod and adapter to attach to it. It comes with a handy little back pack to keep lens and caps together.

The lens doesn’t zoom, it’s a fixed focal length. One thing I can say is that it’s an attention-getter. Every time I tried it out in public, people would come up to me and ask about it.

I did have a few problems like vignetting on the top-right corner. This seemed to be a problem in some of the reviews I had checked out. Mine seemed to be worse than others.

It was also very tough to focus the lens and frame the photographs in the bright sunlight.

It certainly was an improvement over using the camera’s digital zoom or cropping the photo later but I’m not sure it’s worth the convenience. In order to use the lens, you need to use the case included to attach the screw mount lens. I’m not a big fan of changing cases for each operation. Again, it’s more about convenience.

It was tough to hand hold using the 8X, which I tried using with the video. If you’re using it indoors or in a low-light situation, hold the camera very steady or it may produce some shaky results, so be sure to use the tripod.

The price of the lens varied on the Internet. I found it priced from around $12 to $50 depending on the packaging, vendors and included attachments. I bought mine for $28, which seemed about right for the quality of the glass and it did include a tripod.

These olloclip and 8X Telephone lenses seemed like a nice value for the price. Since organization isn’t my best skill, I’m not ready to carry these extra photo contraptions with me all the time. I have a hard enough time keeping track of my iPhone and car keys.

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Read more reviews and photography tips by Robert Lachman


  1. April 7, 2012, 4:40 pm

    I was looking into purchasing the fisheye lens, so I'm excited to see this video.

    By: ireneism
  2. April 8, 2012, 8:56 am

    re: "carrying a bulky DSLR …" and "it's a lot smaller"

    I find the iPhone itself bulky and awkward to carry, which is why I don't own one. I use my digital camera as a camera and my cell phone as a phone. Seems that people are misled by the so-called convenience of an iPhone and don't realize the inferior quality of the photos it takes, or it just doesn't matter.

    By: guest
  3. April 12, 2012, 4:52 pm

    I've taken some very good shots with my iPhone and also bought the Olloclip. My iPhone is not bulky or awkward.

    By: Stephen
  4. April 9, 2012, 10:09 am

    Test for the LA Times

    By: makomakofoto@earthl
  5. April 9, 2012, 10:43 am

    I want the wide angle lens. I've seen images taken with this and it looks awesome!

    By: Someone
  6. April 30, 2014, 7:34 pm

    Have a nice look to me at here about the Iphone 5. That is really very difference between others smartphone and updated. I hope such kind of phone is really batter others any smartphone. is able to gives me some high quality mobile accessorize with guaranty responsible price.

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