Understanding the capabilities and nuances of your cell phone camera lens can be tough, but it’s necessary for growth as a photographer. There’s too much technical jargon and not enough clear language though in the majority of explanations of our cell phone camera lenses.

So, do you know, is your phone’s camera lens best suited for:

  • Portraits or landscapes?
  • Close-ups or shots from a distance?
  • Action shots or pretty pictures?

Once you add clip-on lenses to the mix, things get more confusing.

Cell Phone Camera Lens

Enlight App

There are lots of different kinds of lenses, and each seemingly serves a very different purpose. You need to know what to buy based on your mobile photography style. And, even more importantly, why that lens is so crucial.

We’ll:

  1. Tell you what to use each type of phone camera lens for
  2. Explain how the lens works
  3. Provide information on potential problems you’ll face when using each lens
  4. Recommend one of each style of cell phone camera lens for you

Types of Phone Lenses

Cell Phone Camera Lens

AndroidPIT

When it comes to developing an understanding of the basics of the cell phone camera lenses, it’s crucial to know the difference between lenses designed for photography and those intended for videography.

If you’re looking to purchase some of the top clip-on lenses for cell phone photography, we’ve broken them down before in a more thorough list. If, on the other hand, you’re a videographer in search of new gear, we’ve done a short write up on the basics of the field in the videography lenses portion of this post.

Photography and your Cell Phone Camera Lens

Cell Phone Camera Lens

9to5Mac

These lenses, as one might guess, are ideal for shooting still photos.

Before we get into what each cell phone camera lens does, perhaps it’s best to understand the how behind the process of taking a photo and how each different lens affects the process. This way, you’ll better understand the benefits of adding additional clip-on lenses to your arsenal.

When you press the button to take a photo on your DSLR, a sensor opens to allow light into the camera. There is a manual setting within a camera that adjusts how much light is let in, how much the sensor opens, and for how the long the sensor remains open among other things.

With your smartphone, the same mechanics are happening, just digitally.

So, the vital thing to understand is how the clip-on lens affects what these manual settings create in the digital file.

Each lens is perfect for specific situations and less than ideal for others, so keep in mind what you like to shoot while reading. In each section, there will be a discussion of the best subjects for each cell phone camera lens.

Wide Angle Phone Lens

shot on wide angle lens

Andy Feliciotti

Ideal for: Legendary landscapes, capturing cityscapes, and certain kinds of portrait photography

Are you looking to fit more into your photos while being able to shoot almost anything?

Whether you want to shoot massive landscapes or a cramped and cluttered corner office with immaculate clarity, a wide angle lens is for you.

The whole idea behind this style of lens is to decrease the aperture to increase the depth of field of the image. When this decrease in opening and increase in depth of field occurs, the image ‘pops.’

The effect that the wide angle creates is an emphasized and crisp foreground, and a pushed back and out of focus background, or why the image ‘pops.’

The ‘pop’ is an optical illusion resulting from the lens. This photography trick is experimental and utilized typically in landscape photography. The image above is an example of the effect.

How it works

While people tend to believe that the increase in depth of field brings more of the image into focus, this is a myth. The lens only makes the image feel larger and draws the eye through the photo differently.

One way to take advantage of the way it draws your eyes is in cityscapes. The movement of the eyes, in this case, results from the angular nature of buildings. The abundance of leading lines present in the buildings, street signs, and other urban objects draw the eye through the photo. Regardless of which lens we use this would be the case, but the wide angle lens accentuates the lines more than other lenses would.

Try to also create converging verticals by shooting a variety of different angles. Converging verticals will make the subjects of your photos appear either taller and longer, or shorter and squatter. By changing your vantage point of tall objects like buildings or mountains, you can experiment with converging verticals pretty easily. The objects in question are made to appear spatially different than they are.

You can do portraiture with a wide angle lens as long as the vantage point is correct. In traditional portrait photography, the subject commands attention within the photo. When doing portrait photography with a wide angle lens, however, the person seeps into the background of the image. While the subject is still the highlight of the image, it is both less in focus and not as centered.

Potential Problems

There are specific issues with distortion and chromatic aberration when it comes to wide angle lens. These problems result in minor discoloring around the fringes of your photos. A little editing, however, can solve any issues.

Wide angle lenses also tend to be more expensive than other types of lenses. While this is the case, it’s worth remembering that they’re much more adaptable and useful to a variety of situations. A telephoto or fisheye lens, on the other hand, is not.

What We Recommend

Moment - Wide Lens for iPhone, Pixel, Samsung Galaxy and OnePlus Camera Phones
  • The Moment M-series 18mm Wide Lens works with iPhone, Pixel, Galaxy and OnePlus Phones. Compatible with the new Iphone11 (cases coming to Amazon soon). This product includes a lens, lens cap, and microfiber bag.
  • This product REQUIRES you to purchase a Moment Photo Case OR Battery Photo Case to attach the lens to your phone. Mounts over either lens on dual lens phones enabling nearly limitless creativity.
  • This Moment Wide lens captures 2x more picture with a multi-element glass design that provides edge to edge clarity. The most advanced lens we’ve ever made, the Wide18mm Lens captures smartphone photos and videos that are beautiful, crisp, and straight, with no fisheye distortion.
  • Moment makes the highest quality attachment lenses on the market. Made with aerospace grade metal and the same hand-polished glass used for high-end 4K film lenses.
  • We backup our products with a lifetime warranty, great customer service and a 100% satisfaction guarantee with free shipping and returns. Ask us how to get set up with a Moment gear guide.

Telephoto Phone Lens

shot on telephoto lens

Photography Stack Exchange

Ideal for: Wild animal photography, sports photography

A telephoto lens is a correct choice when the subject is far away – necessary either for convenience or safety. Mostly, if you need help magnifying the content in your frame and you don’t want to zoom (you must be doing your reading!) then a telephoto lens is what you need.

The subjects of your photos will appear closer to the camera then they are, which is why the telephoto lens is perfect for both sports and wildlife photographers.

It is, however, essential to note that this is not a zoom lens.

Typically, a lens is considered “telephoto” if it has a focal length of 60mm or longer.

How it works

So, the effect created by the telephoto lens is one in which the subject is in focus, but the background is blurred.

In short, the longer the lens and the wider the aperture, the more of this effect you get. All telephoto lenses will have a focal length near or higher than 60mm, while the better ones will tend to have one greater than 70 mm.

While this rule of thumb works to an extent, it’s essential to keep in mind that the telephoto effect has more to do with how close to your subject you are than the focal length of the lens. Having a telephoto lens with an above average focal length will only help you so much.

One neat trick to improve the visual relationship between a subject and its environment is by creating the illusion of less space between the two.

To explain, this kind of compression effect is similar to how our brains see object-to-background relationships. For example, when mountain ranges appear to be sitting practically right on top of a cityscape.

While telephoto lenses are ideal for capturing landscapes, sports, and wildlife experiment with portrait photography too. With the same effect mentioned above in regards to the mountain and cityscape, a telephoto lens can also help facial features appear more proportional at different focal lengths.

Potential Problems

Yes, telephoto lenses are useful in a variety of situations, but there are still some issues to keep in mind.

For one, stabilization is extra necessary with a telephoto lens. To combat stabilization problems try a wide aperture and shallow depth of field in addition to a smartphone tripod. You do have a smartphone tripod, right?

This tip is best for darker situations.

What We Recommend

Phone Camera Lens,11 in 1 Cell Phone Lens Kit for iPhone and Android, 0.36X Wide Angle Lens+198°Fisheye Lens+20X Macro Lens+Zoom Telephoto Lens+CPL+Kaleidoscope Lens+Starburst Lens+4 Color Filter Lens
  • 【Upgraded 11 IN 1 Phone Camera Lens Kit】 Erligpowht New Upgraded cell phone lens kits includes 0.36X(120°) Wide Angle Lens+198°Fisheye Lens + 20X Macro Lens + Zoom Telephoto Lens + CPL + Kaleidoscope Lens + Starburst Lens + 4 Color Lens(Filter Red, Filter Blue, Filter Green and Filter Orange). Meet your daily photography demands, taking various HD professional pictures.
  • 【Separate Wide Angle Lens & Fisheye Lens】 Not like other’s wide angle and macro lens need to be screw one into another for shooting, Erligpowht 0.36X Wide Angle and 20X Macro Lens adopted the newest design which can be used separately, and the shooting distance for Macro lens is 1.18-3.54 inch(much better than others).Provide much more convenience and wonderful effect in taking stunning photos of people, pets, travel scenery, landscapes, architecture, selfies, etc.
  • 【Enhanced Cell Phone Lens with 4 Color Filter Lens】 Wide-angle Lens for capturing a broader scene; Macro Lenses for providing intense up-close detail of subjects, fisheye lenses for a fun, circular view of the world; CPL lens filter out scattered light, reduce reflection, Kaleidoscope lens shows an overlapping vision. Starburst Lens shows a starlight effect. What's better is 4 color filter lens( RED, ORANGE, BLUE, GREEN) can make various miraculous effect.
  • 【Widely Compatible & Easy Clip-on Phone Lens】With travel case included, it is portable, removable and solid universal clip-on design. Perfect smart phone lens kit for iPhone X, iPhone 8 8 Plus iPhone 7 7 Plus, iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, iPhone 6, 6 Plus, iPhone 5S, SE, Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S7,S7 Edge, HTC, Sony, LG G6, G5 and many other smart phones in the market.
  • 【Reliable Warranty and 24 Hours Customer Service】Every phone camera lens is designed with industrial grade aluminum along with premium optic lenses. Erligpowht Provide 30 days money back, 18 months warranty and lifetime customer service. If you are unsatisfied with your purchase for any reason, contact us freely and we will offer proper solution for you at the first time

Fisheye Phone Lens

shot on fisheye lens

Wallpaper Cave

Ideal for: artistic pursuits, extreme sports, and landscapes

Sometimes we call a fisheye lens an ultra or super wide lens. For our purposes, however, we’re just going to call it a fisheye lens.

There are two kinds of fisheye lenses: a circular and a full-frame. While there are similarities between the two varieties of lenses, one is more useful than the other.

How it works

The image you’ll get from a fisheye lens is highly distorted. The effect gives your shots a dynamic and abstract feel.

These lenses were popular in the nineties for music videos and the like, but today they’re used for other styles of photography too. Namely, these include vast panoramas of landscapes and the sky, as well as for shooting close-up subjects such as crowds, interiors, and architecture.

While it seems like the fisheye lens is as useful as a wide angle, this is not the case.

The full-frame fisheye lens is more useful than the circular. It still has a 180-degree field of view along its diagonal. The horizontal and vertical sides of the image are less than 180-degrees (typically around 150 degrees horizontal and 100 degrees vertical).

These degree numbers create a fisheye effect. In the full-frame, this essentially means that there is a less dramatic effect. There are no black edges in the image, so the full-frames are more practical.

The circular fisheye lens, on the other hand, has a 180-degree view in all directions. The 180-degree view in all directions results in a circular image, with the edges of the frame being black. The fisheye, in this case, has more extreme effects and tends to be used for more artistic shots.

Potential Problems

As you might expect because of how the fisheye lens warps the image, there is a litany of potential problems.

For example, a curvilinear effect is unavoidable when using a fisheye lens. It is when the subject of the photo tends to bulge, and straight lines appear curved. While this is the intended effect of the lens, in some cases it occurs more or less than desired. Experimentation is necessary to combat this problem.

Another potential issue stems from the immense apparent depth of field. The depth of field problem means that your shots will appear sharply focused from front to back. Or, that the whole image is in focus.

To keep your image looking professional, your background should be uncluttered so as not to draw attention away from the subject.

What We Recommend

Phone Camera Fisheye Lens, MIGOOZI Professional 238 Degree Super Fisheye Lens 7.5mm 4K HD 0.2X Full Frame Wide Angle Lens for iPhone X, 8, 8Plus, Samsung Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, Note 8, More Smartphones
  • This is a solid clip-on detachable 4K HD Fisheye Lens for mobile phones . It can help largely expand the field of view and enable you capture the entire scenery or a whole football ground into one picture.
  • New optic fisheye lens with spectacular 238 degrees angle of view offers you full frame photo without any dark circle, allows you to enjoy unique fish-eye world with wider scene & makes every shot both dramatic and panoramic.
  • 4K HD 238 Degree Fisheye Lens: Upgrade your smartphone camera lens with an expanded 238 Degree field of view. The effect of the fisheye lens is full frame, the high curvature of the lens brings a strong visual effect, the show is a curved world, can make scenes like the space station as curved, so imaginative and courageous photographer to see the world from another angle.
  • We adopted the new ultra wide angle technology and the lens is made of alloy and multi-element coated glass to minimize ghosting, reflections, lens flare, and other artifacts.
  • Wide Compatibility: This Phone Lens is portable, removable and has solid clip-on design that attaches to almost all smartphones including iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 7, 7 Plus, iPhone 6 6S, 6 Plus 6S Plus, Samsung Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, Galaxy Note 8,iPad Air 2, Air, 4, 3HTC, Sony, LG G6, G5,Huawei, Oneplus and more smartphones.

Macro Phone Lens

shot on macro lens

Lens Rentals

Ideal for: smartphone macro photography, close-ups, and some portraits

Macro photography is such a different style of photography that we’ve done a whole guide on it.

Because you take photos of such a small subject in macro photography, the magnification of the item is the primary purpose of the lens. Without getting into too much detail, there is a term that’s important to macro photography. The magnification ratio tells you how the image projected on the camera’s sensor compares with the subject’s actual size.

To explain, a lens with a 1:2 ratio can project an image on its sensor up to half the size of the subject while a lens with a 5:1 ratio can project an image five times the size of the object.

It’s worth keeping in mind that the depth of field is minimal at close range.

How it works

This cell phone camera lens magnifies the subject, but how does it do it?

Essentially the phone lens is just convex. To be convex means that instead of being curved outwards, a macro lens is instead curved inwards. The same technology is used in magnifying glasses and has been around for centuries. The significant advances in regards to convex lenses occur in magnification power.

One photography tip implemented by macro photographers is focus stacking. Focus stacking is a technique that allows you to combine multiple photographs using different focus distances. The goal is to produce a single image with more of a subject in focus.

The focus of the image is of the utmost importance in macro photography.

On the topic of focus, “flat field” focus is another important subject in the field. It is used to compensate for the curved focus plane – or to make sure that the edges of the frame are all in the same focus as the center.

Detectable curvature should, as a result, become eradicated. Note that “flat field” focus is only for flat things, not for 3D objects like insects, reptiles, or flowers.

Potential Problems

So, to succeed with macro photography, you should go ahead and invest in a tripod, gimbal or handheld and some light source. Natural light is ideal, but because of the narrow aperture used in macro photography, the camera may struggle to get enough light.

When shooting, it’s imperative also to remember that there will be more contrast. An increase in contrast does mean that the lens can better fix similar tonal values and locate boundaries between small areas of different luminances.

Remember, you may be magnifying your subject, but you’re also magnifying your mistakes! As a result, be wary of the contrast, lighting, and stabilization throughout your shot.

What We Recommend

Moment - Macro Lens for iPhone, Pixel, Samsung Galaxy and OnePlus Camera Phones
  • The Moment M-series Macro Lens works with iPhone, Pixel, Galaxy and OnePlus Phones. Compatible with the new Iphone11 (cases coming to Amazon soon). This product includes a lens, lens cap, and microfiber bag.
  • This product REQUIRES you to purchase a Moment Photo Case OR Battery Photo Case to attach the lens to your phone. Mounts over either lens on dual lens phones enabling nearly limitless creativity.
  • The Moment M-series Macro lens captures life sized images of the smallest objects at the highest quality. It’s removable light diffuser enables images without shadows while providing the perfect one-inch working distance. Its multi-element glass design provides edge to edge clarity.
  • Moment makes the highest quality attachment lenses on the market. Made with aerospace grade metal and the same hand-polished glass used for high-end 4K film lenses.
  • We backup our products with a lifetime warranty, great customer service and a 100% satisfaction guarantee with free shipping and returns. Ask us how to get set up with a Moment gear guide.

Videography and your Cell Phone Camera Lens

Cell Phone Camera Lens

Moment

We’ll admit that we’re not as experienced when it comes to videography. At the same time, we’re always eager to learn and expand our knowledge when it comes to anything with a lens (not a lense though because that’s something different).

Most of the technology when it comes to cell phone camera lens for both photography and videography, however, is similar. So, the learning curve isn’t too steep.

If you’re a videographer, then be prepared for more content suited for you coming soon.

How it works:

The focal length is critical when it comes to videography lenses. A lower focal length number leads to a wider angle of view. To capture more of the scene, utilize this smaller focal length. A lens with a longer focal length will bring the viewer closer to the action with more space compression in the image.

So, the focal length is one of the most critical factors in the appearance of your image. But, there are some misconceptions about it. The most noteworthy misunderstanding, for instance, is between “listed focal length” and “effective focal length.”

The former is as it sounds – the listing on the lens itself.  The “effective focal length,” on the other hand, is the more important number and is not going to be listed on the lens for you.

Sensors which are smaller than full frame come with a crop factor that will change some aspects of your photo. Consequently, the crop factor will increase the “effective focal length” of your lens.

Different kinds of lenses:

In addition to focal lengths, there is also prime versus zoom lenses to consider when it comes to videography.

Prime lenses have one fixed focal length while zooms can be used to cover a broader range of focal lengths.

The latter tends to be more expensive and comes in two varieties – internal zooming and external zooming. External zooming lenses exist in abundance and are more affordable. Internal zooming lenses are a better choice when adding accessories such as matte boxes. These lenses tend to be more challenging to find and are more expensive.

Prime lenses will often have a faster or broader maximum aperture than zoom lenses.

For a better understanding of the difference between prime and zoom lenses, check out the video below. While they’re talking exclusively about DSLR and photography, the differences in the lenses that you can see also apply to videography.

So, you heard them talk about aperture at length (which is perhaps more critical in videography than photography!) or the opening in the lens that allows light to enter the camera.

A multi-bladed iris controls the size of this opening. The iris also influences the appearance of bokeh — or blur— in your image. More blades lead to a more circular opening, producing smoother, more pleasing bokeh in the defocused areas of the picture.

Potential Problems

There are numerous things to consider when it comes to videography lenses. Namely, these potential problems include low lighting performance, selective focusing, high-speed zoom, sensor size, and autofocus ability.

By reading the product reviews – both good and poor ones – you can begin to establish which lenses perform well in these problem areas versus which do not.

What We Recommend

Moment - Anamorphic Lens for iPhone, Pixel, Samsung Galaxy and OnePlus Camera Phones
  • The Moment M-series Anamorphic Lens works with iPhone, Pixel, Galaxy and OnePlus Phones. Compatible with the new Iphone11 (cases coming to Amazon soon). This product includes a lens, lens cap, microfiber bag and a hex tool.
  • This product REQUIRES you to purchase a Moment Photo Case OR Battery Photo Case to attach the lens to your phone. Mounts over either lens on dual lens phones enabling nearly limitless creativity.
  • The anamorphic lens is the holy grail of filmmaking. Sweet horizontal flares and that wide screen, letterboxes look. It’s 1.33x design brings the organic look and character of 2:40:1. it’s like shooting a wider focal length in the horizontal direction and a longer focal length in the vertical. Works with the Moment Pro Camera App to de-squeeze the image when shoot video and photos.
  • Moment makes the highest quality attachment lenses on the market. Made with aerospace grade metal and the same hand-polished glass used for high-end 4K film lenses.
  • We backup our products with a lifetime warranty, great customer service and a 100% satisfaction guarantee with free shipping and returns. Ask us how to get set up with a Moment gear guide.

What to remember about your cell phone camera lens

Wikipedia

You can use some of these lenses can for multiple purposes; it doesn’t mean they should be.

By this, we mean that yes, you can take video with a clip-on phone lens, but is it best for your mobile photography?

No. Well, certainly experiment with different shots using all your lenses. But, if you’re hoping to be more legitimate, then purchase the correct equipment.

Be cognizant though of why you’re buying. Some types of lenses are very niche (i.e., fisheye for video) and unless you’re looking for a particular thing, you should lean towards a more useful option like a wide angle lens.

So, your knowledge of your phone camera lens must now be better than it was at the start of this guide. You have a better understanding of every cell phone camera lens, so find the lens that is most useful for you and your mobile photography journey.

Last update on 2019-11-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API