The iPhone’s camera has long been one of its best and most popular features – in fact, it took just a few short years following the launch of the original iPhone to become the most commonly used ‘camera’ by Flickr users.
However, for all its impressive technical features the iPhone’s greatest strength remains its ubiquity. It’s the camera that’s always with you, always there ready to be whipped out of a bag or pocket to grab that once in a lifetime shot, or, if it’s your thing, that selfie with an f-list celebrity.
It’s certainly not a bad camera – in fact it’s very good… for a smartphone. But there’s lots of room for improvement. Whether it’s a lens to allow you to grab wider-angle or close-up shots, or one to zoom in closer to your subject, there are several options available. Likewise, if you want to be able to mount your iPhone on a stand or tripod to keep it steady, or even a case to allow you to mount a light, or if you want to shoot video, an external microphone.
In choosing accessories for your iPhone’s camera, there are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly, anything you add to your iPhone is going to make it less portable and less convenient to carry around. So, the easier your chosen accessory is to fit and remove the better. Bonus points if it has its own case. Secondly, while more expensive doesn’t always mean better, it’s very true when it comes to lenses. You can buy additional lenses for your iPhone for significantly less money than the ones we feature here, but the quality of the glass used and the quality of the finish is unlikely to be on a par with more expensive models. Finally, given the additional bulk they add, if accessories can do double duty, say as a grip and a stand, then they’ll earn their keep more often than those that only have a single use.
Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite iPhone camera accessories. Most are designed for stills photography, though work just as well for video. The Iographer and Fly X3-Plus, however, are built with video very much in mind.
1. Joby Phone Photographer Kit
Joby is chiefly known for its Gorillapod tripods, which allow cameras to stand on a flat surface or be ‘strapped’ to tree branches, table legs, and lamposts. The Phone Photographer Kit consists of three parts. The first is the GripTight GorillaPod Hybrid XL, a combo phone grip and standard GorillaPod. The second element is a suction cup and adjustable arm, while the third is a mini GorillaPod with magnetic feet. Together, they’ll allow you to steady your iPhone just about anywhere in order to take a shot or shoot video. If that’s overkill for your needs, you can buy any one of the three elements individually. Or you can build your own kit from other Joby accessories such as its flash mount or GripTight Mount.
2. Moment Wide, Macro, or Tele Lens
Moment’s lenses aren’t the cheapest around, but they are well-made, and, as you can see from the examples on Moment’s website, the results are very impressive. Moment has been making lenses for moving images for quarter of a century, so it knows a thing or two about glass.
The lenses, whether it’s the 2x tele, the macro, or the wide-angle, add significant bulk to your iPhone, but for a very good reason. More glass means a sharper image with no distortion and minimal chromatic aberration. In addition to the lens, you’ll need a Moment mounting plate to fit the lens, either directly to your iPhone or onto a case. Moment has a list of cases on its website that it has tested with its lenses. It also makes its own cases.
$99 per lens is a significant outlay, but if you want the best possible image from your iPhone and an additional lens, they’re a great choice.
3. Shoulderpod S1
One of the biggest issues with using an iPhone as a camera is holding it steady. It’s slim, rectangular chassis just isn’t designed for holding as a camera. The Shoulderpod S1 aims to fix that. Comprising three parts – a grip, a handle, and a wrist strap, the S1 can be used in a number of ways. The grip has a threaded tripod mount, so you can screw your iPhone onto any standard tripod. Screw the handle into the grip and attach the wrist strap and you have a very solid handle with which to hold your iPhone while you shoot. With only the grip attached, you can stand the grip on its end and have the iPhone sitting straight up in landscape mode, or turn it round, slide the grip down and lean the iPhone back in portrait mode.
The spring-loaded grip has rubber pads to protect the iPhone and a thumbscrew to make adjusting it easy. At less than $35 it’s a good all-rounder and easy to chuck in any bag.
4. Studioneat Glif
The Glif costs around the same as the S1. It’s less versatile, but more compact and can be attached to a key ring. Like the S1, it grips the iPhone and can then screw into a standard tripod mount. There’s no handle or wrist strap, but the Glif has a couple of clever tricks up its sleeve. It can be used as a kickstand in landscape or portrait mode, by attaching one end of the grip to either a long edge or a short edge and using the other end go the Glif as a brace against a flat surface.
The Glif comes with a hex key, instead of a thumbscrew, and also has a detachable keyring attachment.
5. Olloclip 4-in-1 lens
For around the same price as a Moment lens, you can have four lenses in this Olloclip 4-in-1 system. There’s a fisheye, a wide-angle lens, a 10x mac, and a 15x macro.
The lenses attach to a clever, z-shaped mount which slots onto the top of the iPhone. The mount can hold two lenses at a time and you can switch between them by flipping the mount over and slotting it back onto the phone. To use the other two lenses, just unscrew the currently attached lens and screw on the one you want.
The Olloclip 4-in-1 comes in multiple color options and even has a loop so you can attach it to a pendant and wear it around your neck.
6. CamKix Camera Lens Kit
If getting your hands on as much kit for as little money as possible is your goal, the CamKix Camera Lens Kit can’t be beaten. The Kit comprises a huge 8x telephoto lens, a fisheye lens, a 2 in 1 macro and wide angle lens, a tripod, a tripod mount, a hard case, a cleaning cloth and a velvet bag. And if you buy from Amazon, you get it all for less than $30.
If that long list makes you think that corners have been cut somewhere, sadly, you’d be right. While there’s plenty of accessories in the kit, their quality is questionable. Images from each of the lenses are just about sharp in the centre but soften terribly around the edges, creating a vignette effect on every image, whether you want it or not.
If all you want is to have some fun trying out different lenses and aren’t too worried about getting the best possible images, this lens kit is good value. Otherwise, you might want to look elsewhere.
7. Iographer case
The Iographer case is a housing for your iPhone that has two functions. The first is to make it easier to hold while you shoot photos or video, by adding large handles on either side of the case.
The second function is to provide a platform for adding accessories. The Iographer has two threaded mounts on one edge to allow you to attach a light and an external microphone. On the opposite edge there’s a mother thread to allow you to attach a tripod. And there’s another tripod mount on one short edge so you can put the iPhone on a tripod in portrait mode. Thanks to the adaptors Iographer sells for Canon and Nikon lenses, you can even add those lenses to the case and shoot with them on your iPhone.
8. Fly-X3 Plus
One for the purists and those serious about photography and video, the Fly-X3 Plus is a handheld gimbal with built-in motor and gyroscope that keeps your iPhone level and steady while you hold it. Designed primarily for video, where you need to move the iPhone, say for tracking shots, the Fly-X3 Plus puts an end to shaky shots and blurred images, albeit at a significant price.