Smartphones are great as every day, go-anywhere cameras, but their lenses can be a bit limiting. However, accessory lenses can extend their range.
The problem with using an accessory lens, however, is that smartphone manufacturers don’t factor this into the design. So there’s no convenient means of mounting a lens directly onto a smartphone, you have to use some sort of case or clip.
As a result, you need to ensure that you have the right case and clip to suit your phone.
Sandmarc’s iPhone Fisheye Lens is available with a case and clip for a range of iPhones. I tested the one for the iPhone 7 with a clip.
It turns the iPhone’s lens into a much wider optic with an effective focal length of around 10mm in 35mm film terms.
- Effective focal length – 10mm
- Magnification – 0.2X
- Construction – Multi-coated glass
- Weight- 55 g
- Height – 23mm
- Diameter – 38mm
Build and Handling
You can tell a lot about a smartphone lens from its weight and it’s good news on that front. The Sandmarc iPhone Fisheye Lens is a hefty little critter. That’s because it’s made from glass. None of your cheap plastic lenses here, thank you very much.
The lens barrel is made from metal, which also contributes to the high-quality feel.
Sandmarc supplies a plush drawstring bag to contain the lens, but there are also front and rear lens caps. Naturally, the rear cap has to be removed to enable the lens to be mounted onto the clip or case.
I find the Fisheye Lens thread very good, it screws smoothly and easily onto the supplied clip. Once it’s attached, the clip can be popped onto your phone over the camera lens like a clothes peg. The clip is shaped so that it slips into location pretty reasonably accurately. You can usually tell without looking when it’s in the right place. However, if your phone is in a case, you may have to remove it before you can use the clip.
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The rear section of the clip has a rubberised pad which does a good job of keeping the clip and lens in place on your phone.
I expected the clip to reach over the phone so it sits neatly across the entire width. However, it’s actually a bit short so it has to stick up at an angle and can be swivelled around. This seems quite strange, but on the bright side, it adds a moveable grip when you’re taking a photograph.
Using the Sandmarc Fisheye Lens on the iPhone 7 generally results in high-quality images. Detail levels are good, not significantly reduced below that produced without the lens.
Towards the edges of the image, however, you may see some chromatic aberration – coloured fringing – along very high contrast edges. In some cases, this is visible at normal viewing sizes, but generally, these aberrations are controlled well.
With such a wide lens, flare is going to be an issue if the sun is in the image or near the edges of the frame. But the Sandmarc Fisheye lens isn’t overly susceptible, the multi-coating on the glass works well.
With such a wide angle of view, you need to keep an eye on the edges of the frame. It’s easy for your toes or hands to slip into the image – depending upon how you’re holding the phone.
A few of my images have a slim dark edge in the top right corner (in landscape format) which must be the result of the lens not being perfectly aligned. This isn’t easy to spot on the phone screen in very bright sunshine. That aside, vignetting (corner darkening) doesn’t appear to be a problem.
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I was supplied the Fisheye Lens with just the clip mount. As I prefer to protect my phone in a case, this meant I had to slip my phone out of the case to use the Lens. I’d prefer to use the case mount if it were available.
That said, the clip is easy to use and can be popped quickly onto an iPhone.
Thanks to the multicoated glass elements, the Lens produces high-quality results. There’s more chromatic aberration than you get without the Lens, but it’s controlled well for such a wide lens.
In most instances, the clip sits in the correct position on the iPhone camera, but it can be unseated slightly and this can result in a slither of it appearing in a corner of the image.
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