Day #4 | Mobile Photography Lenses


Day #4 of the Stay Out There challenge is something of an extension to Day #2 where I published a series of mobile photography tips.

Lenses For Mobile Photography

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I’m a big fan of taking photos with my iPhone.  That might sound odd because I have a closet full of professional Canon DSLR equipment, but my phone is often the camera that’s with me and I never want to feel like I can’t take a photo of something that inspires me.

It would be rare to find a DSLR photographer  heading out to take photos with only one focal length.  You never really know what you’re going to find, so most people either use a zoom lens which gives you many focal lengths, or they carry multiple lenses.

Taken with my iPhone 6 and an Olloclip 3-In-1 Macro lens.

Did you know that you can do the same thing with your mobile phone as well?

For a while I was somewhat aware of the existence of lenses for mobile photography, but it’s only fairly recently that I’ve begun digging deeper into this niche and exploring some options.  I’ve actually found it really inspiring and it’s meant that I’ve been taking even more photos with my phone lately!

This whole 10-Day Challenge is about inspiring you to continue (or start) your photographic journey, and for some people a DSLR just isn’t a purchase option, and for others it’s just not an option to carry it all the time.  Adding some pocket-sized lenses to your iPhone is a great way to find new inspiration with your mobile photography.

Mobile Lens Options

As far as I know, there isn’t anyone making a zoom lens for mobile devices, but there are some options that have multiple lenses in one pocketable package.  There’s three main types of lenses you can get for mobile phones:

  • Macro
  • Wide-angle
  • Short telephoto

I’ve specifically mentioned “short” telephoto because most mobile telephoto focal lengths are still relatively short in comparison to those we find on DSLRs.  You’re not going to find a 200mm mobile lens, but you might find something in the 65-70mm range which is still telephoto when compared to the standard focal length of the lens that comes with your phone’s camera.  An iPhone 6 has a 29mm lens on it as standard, for example.

Within the wide-angle section, there’s a variety of options out there that offer different levels of distortion (where the image appears curved).  Some lenses deliberately have distortion, in order to offer a wider field of view, and some are engineered to try to provide the most rectilinear image that’s possible.

Macro lenses also come in a variety of options that provide varying amounts of magnification.  The higher the magnification, the closer you have to get your lens to your subject, but the larger the subject will appear in the image.

In my research of the mobile lens options, two companies rose to the top very quickly; Olloclip and Moment Lenses.


Olloclip Active Lens set ($99)

Olloclip has been around for a while and they make a ton of different lens option for iPhones, and a few for other devices as well.  Their design is pretty neat because each “lens” actually comes with more than one lens, and often 3 or 4.  The lens clips onto the top of your phone, and you flip it around depending on which lens you would like to use.  Lots of different options and combinations are available, so you can pick the set of lenses that’s going to work best for your lifestyle and photographic tastes.  When the lens isn’t in use, you can clip to an included keychain adapter which is awesome!  I just clip this right to the belt loop on my pants so I’ve always got it with me.

Olloclip Macro

A bee collecting pollen.  iPhone 6 + Olloclip 3-In-1 Macro lens

Optically speaking, by far Olloclip’s strength is their macro lenses.  The Macro 3-In-1 lens is my favourite, and produces brilliantly sharp images that I just can’t believe came from my phone!  The telephoto lenses in the Olloclip lineup aren’t at all sharp around the corners, and it gives a sort of filtered look that may or may not be to your taste. On the one hand, it draws attention to your subject if you have it close to the centre of the frame, because this is the only sharp area.  On the other hand, if you want to use it to shoot landscape images where there isn’t a single defined subject, but a whole scene, you’re going to lose details in the corners of the image which might be a distraction to your composition. Wide-angle lenses in Olloclip’s lineup also suffer a bit in the corners, and although not as soft as the telephoto lenses, they can still be used for some fun options when you want to get up close to people or objects.

olloclip telephoto lens panorama

This panorama of Abraham Lake, AB, was taken with my iPhone 6 and the Olloclip Telephoto lens from the Olloclip Active package.

Moment Lenses are a newer company who have set out to produce high quality mobile lenses that can be used on a range of devices.  Their lenses aren’t specific to one device, which is handy of you have have multiple phones, or plan to upgrade in the near future.  At the moment (no pun intended), they have an 18mm wide-angle and a 60mm telephoto lens available, though there is also a macro lens in the works.  A single lens costs $99, so the price is similar to an Olloclip, although those come with multiple lenses in one single clip.


The Moment lenses feel like a quality product when you pick them up.  Solid, and encased in a nice metal housing that looks like it’ll stand up to a good deal of usage.  In my time with these lenses, I’ve been extremely impressed with the 18mm wide-angle lens on my iPhone 6.  This is a great lens for turning your phone into an even better tool for landscape photography.  Distortion is fairly well controlled and corner sharpness exceeds that of the Olloclip lenses I’ve used.  The 60mm telephoto lens isn’t quite as impressive as the 18mm and suffers from very soft corners. It’s not quite as soft as the Olloclip telephoto lens, but it’s still noticeable on your phone’s screen before you’ve even taken the shot.  That said, I was still able to use it for some nice images as you can see.


moment lens 18mm

The 18mm Moment lens allows you to add interesting foreground objects to landscape images.

moment lens 60mm

iPhone 6 + Moment 60mm lens.  Banff National Park.

In conclusion, if you think that awesome mobile macro photos is something you want to investigate, then the Olloclip lenses should be your first port of call.  The 3-In-1 macro is just brilliant, and there are other options that combine macro lenses with wide-angles and other options if you want a range of lens types.  If you just want a good wide-angle adapter, the Moment 18mm lens is well worth money in my opinion. Telephoto lens options seem like something that optical designers are struggling with with mobile devices.  I’m not sure the technical reasons behind this but I’m sure there must be one.  The Monet 60mm is probably the best option, but it’s not that far ahead of the Olloclip.



Moment 18mm Lens + iPhone 6

ALL of these lenses are great fun, though.  You just can’t wipe the smile off my face when I pull my phone out and create a photo I like.  All the photos on this page were imported into Lightroom mobile on my iPhone, where I did all the necessary edits.  With the Creative Cloud, these edits and the photos are automatically synched back to the Lightroom catalog on my computer so it’s just a case of hitting export there, and uploading to my blog for this post. Of course, if I just want to share them on social media, I can send them there straight from Lightroom mobile.


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Dan Carr

Founder of Shutter Muse, full time photographer and creative educator. Dan lives in the Canadian Yukon, but his wanderlust often sends him in search of images all around the world to meet the needs of clients and readers alike.

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