The smartphone is one of the most popular cameras of our time. It’s small, always with you, packed with features, and rapidly improving in quality. It’s a whole new wave of photography, and one that’s super exciting.
However, it can be, well… a bit boring after a while.
The trouble with a smartphone is that you get one focal length, and that’s it. It can be a fun creative challenge, don’t get me wrong. But one of the joys of photography is using different lenses to capture different perspectives.
Enter the world of smartphone lenses – something I never thought I’d be interested in, until I saw the Moment lenses. High quality, beautiful design, and with three different options (wide, telephoto and macro), suddenly there was a whole new world of smartphone photography to explore. So we did just that, and here’s what we discovered.
What They Are
Moment lenses are super high quality lenses for smartphones. They are made with cinema quality glass, and have multiple lens elements for a better image. The team at Moment has created this design in an attempt to produce a result that is clear, edge to edge, with high contrast, no distortion and minimal chromatic aberration. They have 25 years of lens making experience, so this is all to say that these things are serious.
In fact, when we opened the box, it kind of felt like unwrapping a precious jewel! Super beautiful, sleek, and with nice big glass giving it some heft – these are not toys, they’re tools.
There are three lenses, the wide (which is 2x wider than the standard lens on the smartphone), the telephoto (which is 2x longer) and the macro, which is a 25mm closeup lens that gives you 10X magnification. Each comes with a little microfiber bag to store it in.
The way they attach is with a thin, stainless steel mounting plate that you affix onto your phone. It attaches with a non-permanent adhesive, so you aren’t stuck with it (pun intended). Once on, the lenses twist onto the mounting plate with a teeny tiny bayonet mount. So your phone is always ready to have a lens popped on. The mounting plate can be used with or without a case.
The lenses can be used with any phone app, but there’s also a Moment app that gives you options to separately select focus and exposure points, manually focus, add grid lines, shoot in uncompressed TIFF, and more. If you’re using the macro lens, the app is especially helpful for manual focus!
The attachment system for these lenses is a bit nerve wracking, to be honest. When you go to put on the lens, it feels like you’re going to scratch your phone. But with careful alignment, that doesn’t happen. And while it takes a while to get the hang of putting it on, eventually you do get a feel for it.
Now as I mentioned, the metal plate is designed to be used with a case. They have a full list of compatible cases here, and I highly recommend you check it out before purchasing, to ensure your case will work. Unfortunately the additional thickness of the plate under our Apple brand silicone cases caused the corner of the case to break and split open (on both an iPhone 6s and 6s+). Not awesome. While the Apple cases are listed as compatible (with the 6 noted as “tight fit”), the folks at Moment warn that they aren’t 100% consistently sized, so there’s no guarantee. If you use the Apple silicone case, just know that it might crack.
While that was a bummer, it was the only major downside to these lenses. Because boy, do they make smartphone photography FUN.
Let’s take a peek at some of the results.
(Note: The following photos were taken with the iPhone 6s or 6s+, and all are straight out of camera, with no post-processing.)
This was by far our favourite lens. It really gives you that giddy, “Let’s shoot EVERYTHING!” feeling you probably had when you first got into photography. You instantly see the world in a new way.
The macro lens comes with a diffuser hood that helps soften the light around what you’re shooting, which is quite handy. However, when the hood is on, it does limit how close you can get to the subject. You basically put the hood against the object, and then shoot. Which is nice and easy! But if you want to get closer (because you will), you can take the hood off, and have more freedom.
We found this lens to be really sharp, with great color, and produced stunning photos that you’d have a hard time believing came from a smartphone.
Our second favourite lens, the wide angle really opens up the scene. It is 2x wider than the standard lens, and would be fantastic for landscapes. Great color, and impressive sharpness. It does seem a teeny bit softer at the edges of the frame, but not dramatically so.
I wanted to like this lens, because I thought it would be great for shooting more portraits with my iPhone (longer focal lengths are more flattering for portraits). But it actually was my least favourite. It seemed to have trouble focusing at times, especially in low light, and is a bit softer at the edges. I want to do more testing with it, to see if it needs better conditions for it to shine.
Finally, here’s a comparison of the wide, standard iPhone, and telephoto focal lengths, to give you an idea of how they differ in the amount of the scene they capture. These shots were all taken from the same position.
These lenses are FUN. Lots of fun. And you can have a full set in the palm of your hand. If it wasn’t for the plate breaking my case, I’d have these on me at all times. If you’re serious about smartphone photography, definitely take a look at these, and get a case that works with them. If you’re just wanting to play around, I’d highly recommend the macro, because boy is it a blast!
• Size: these are absolutely tiny compared to their DSLR counterparts, making them way easier to carry around
• Quality: the macro and wide angle lenses really impressed us with the sharpness and contrast. The telephoto seemed a bit soft at the edges, but overall it’s clear these are made of very high quality glass.
• Variety: between these three lenses, and the standard, you’ve got a ton of variety to work with!
• Mounting system doesn’t work with all cases, so you might need to get a new case if you want to use these.
• Price ($99/each) makes them a little high if you’re just experimenting, but given their build quality, it makes sense.