Ever came across an external phone camera lens? They are generally inexpensive, easy to use, and can provide additional features. But, are they worth it? Let's find out!
What is an External Phone Camera Lens?
In case you never heard about it, an external phone camera lens is a lens that you can externally attach to your phone. Why?
Well, you know how most phones nowadays come with multiple sensors. Telephoto, wide-angle, depth-sensors, etc.
External lenses are basically just that. Except, they've got the ability to push the boundaries of what a phone can achieve.
For example, most telephoto lenses that are pre-installed on phones achieve what? A 2X or 5X zoom? It's not uncommon for external telephoto lenses to actually reach a 20X zoom or even more.
And let us not forget about the macro potential. Phones generally suck when it comes to macro photography. After all, their tiny sensors can't achieve much on their own and size is a big issue when portability is concerned.
Other than that, there is also the potential of using features that your device didn't originally support. Maybe your phone doesn't happen to have a telephoto or a wide-angel lens and adding an inexpensive external solution is an easy way to solve this.
That being said, just how well does an external phone camera lens perform in the real world? Is it worth it? Let's check it out!
So, to summarize, an external phone camera lens can add additional features to your camera for a rather small price. But, how well does that work in practice? Well, we bought a kit to test it out. So, let's do it!
This shot was captured using a macro lens which was attached on a $150 phone. The kit itself was about 20 bucks. So, this makes for a total of $170.
And you've got to admit that while in the world of photography this is nothing insane, it's still very impressive for a $170 device. In fact, we've never seen a flagship that can take such close-ups. And do keep in mind that no editing has been made here. All the background blur is natural.
Again, the reason that smartphones can't naturally capture such shots on their own is due to the fact that such lenses are rather big and that makes it impossible to attach one internally on a phone. At least that's at the date of writing this article cause technology is always advancing.
One more macro shot. And it may be hard to notice, but both of the above pictures are almost microscopic. We could barely make out the details of those little flowers with the naked eye.
Overall, the results are more than impressive and bring new possibilities to smartphone photography.
External Phone Camera Lens: Pros And Cons
Now that we've seen a couple of examples, let's start looking at the pros and cons.
Starting with the pros:
- Lots of potential for adding new features that your phone may not include out of the box: Macro, telephoto, wide-angle, fish-eye, etc
- Almost makes it possible for phones to act like "real" cameras. You get the potential of adding and removing lenses at will depending on what you need
- Cheap. You can find some great options out there for 10 to 20 bucks which is nothing compared to what you get in return
And moving on to the cons:
- Extreme blurriness. As you probably already noticed, taking clear shots with external lenses is a bit tough
- Focus points and color balance are weird. That's probably due to the fact that our software isn't really made for zooming over extreme distances or taking macro shots and the lens itself is partly at fault as well. Even shooting at manual mode was a bit tough
- Stabilizing is freaking tough. Using a telephoto lens or a macro lens at extreme numbers means that the slightest deviation will completely ruin your shot. Again, phone cameras aren't meant to be used for this kind of thing. This is generally a job for DSLRs.
We'd say that if you can't afford to buy and/or carry and actual camera with you, then the pros definitely far override the cons. But, if you can afford to take a camera with you, then chances are that you are only wasting your time.
After all, phones aren't ready to completely replace cameras just yet.
Where Can I Get One?
If you want to give this a try for yourself, there are lots of places online where you can buy an external phone camera lens. In most cases, though, Amazon is your friend.
And if you are living out of the US, then you'll probably want to check out other counterparts of Amazon like .co.uk, de, ge, in, etc. Ebay is generally our last resort for such things because the review system is almost non-existent.
At this point, you may get confused with what each lens does. So, long story short:
- Telephoto: Zooms in the distance without sacrificing image quality (optical zoom)
- Macro: Zooms on a macro level for taking close-up shots
- Wide-angle: Just like the name implies, this one allows you to capture shots with a wider field of view
- Fish-eye: Sort of makes everything look wrapped and round - if that makes sense
- Color filters: Generally make everything look blue, red, or green; depending on the filter that you are using
- CPL filter: Reduces light reflections/glare (Good for places where there's lots of light reflection like rivers or beaches)
- Star filter: Makes all light sources look a bit more glittery and glowish (More natural than using software)
- Kaleidoscope: Basically gives your camera LSD
So, when everything is said done, is an external phone camera lens worth it? Well, as per usual, it depends on who you ask.
If you absolutely want certain features for your phone's camera without having to get a brand new phone, then such a thing would surely be helpful. Also for those who want to take extreme macro shots since that's not possible with our current phone camera tech just yet.
Extreme zoom-ins are also something that you can only do with attachments right now. And while the P30 Pro is a step closer to achieving that dream, it still has a rough time competing with the 20X zoom that external lenses offer (Even though they tend to look a bit blurry).
On the other hand, if your phone already offers the basic lenses and you don't care about things like Macro photography, CPL filters, or anything like that, then there really is no reason to get an external lens. In the end, it all comes down to you!
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