Should I Buy It? iPhone Camera Lenses

Should I Buy It? iPhone Camera Lenses

Let’s face it: the world of filmmaking is filled with a ton of gear people are selling to make money (and some of it brings in big bucks). A lot of it is stuff you really don’t need. But the pieces of gear you do need are really good.

This series, Should I Buy It?, will focus on what’s good, what I think is worth buying, and the stuff you should avoid.

The first topic I’m going to cover is whether you should buy additional lenses for your iPhone camera.

The Lowdown on iPhone Lenses

Camera lenses that attach to your iPhone enhance the photographic capabilities of the internal camera installed in your phone. The most common iPhone lenses available online are fisheye, wide-angle, and macro lenses.

Depending on your needs and the quality of the gear, external lenses can be great for taking higher-quality photos on your iPhone. But while lenses like this might be good for photography, they’re not necessarily for videographers.

Why External iPhone Lenses Aren’t Made for Video

The biggest flaw with these external lenses is that they’re not truly acting as a lens, because you’re not replacing your phone lens with a new one. You’re actually just adding to your existing lens. Even the highest-end “iPhone lens” is really just an iPhone lens adapter.

As with all adapters, there will be imperfections in your videos if everything doesn’t line up perfectly. If the lens breaks, shifts, etc., video is much less forgiving than photography.

The best thing about using your iPhone to film video is the ease of use and accessibility of the device itself. External lenses make your phone more clunky and complicated, both in the process of using the lens, as well as using the phone itself.

To use an external iPhone lens for video, you have to be able to make adjustments on the fly that are very difficult to do with such a small lens. The lenses are versatile, but it takes a lot of getting used to before you can successfully manipulate something that small during the shooting process. As a general rule, even the nicest iPhone lens is too clumsy to adjust in real time to get a better shot.

What’s more, external lenses prevent you from utilizing your phone’s front-facing camera because they’re not made for selfies. This is problematic for videographers and other entrepreneurs who, like me, use our phones to film ourselves.

To make things even more complicated, external lenses prevent you from using the touch screen features on your iPhone. The screen is, by far, one of the best parts of an iPhone, especially for video. I constantly use my phone to adjust exposure, lighting, lens and screen settings, etc. You have to have those features for shooting video because you’re dealing with more variables that force you to manually adjust settings via your screen.

The Bottom Line

If you decide to purchase external iPhone lenses for your repertoire, they really need to be justified. Look at what each lens does, then ask yourself if you would ever really use them for video (because you probably won’t…especially if they over-complicate your process).

If you absolutely want to spend the money to try out one or more of these lenses for video, go for it…but it’s probably not worth it. Even the best of the best of these external lenses isn’t going to serve you as a videographer (and by the time you shell out money for lenses and spend all that time learning to adjust them on the fly, you might as well buy a better camera).

On the other hand, if you’re going to try a lens like this on your iPhone for photography, you’ll probably have a little bit better luck. For photos, the cheaper, the better…just don’t spend a lot of money. Higher- and lower-end lenses tend to do the same thing. There’s not much difference.

An external iPhone lens is just not something you’ll need all the time, and the lens that came with your iPhone is pretty versatile on its own.

What do you think? Have you ever tried using an external lens? I’d love to hear how it worked for you. Drop a comment below and let me know!

  • Cynthia Wolf

    Well, I decided not to get any lenses for my phone because I take most of my still shots with my high end nikon camera with great lens. I just started using my phone to shoot video and wondered about using the phone lenses …now you have answered that for me, so I won’t be buying. Thanks!
    Passing this recent purchase if you want to check it out:
    I bought a small (approx 3×5) continuous LED light that I put on a 2nd tripod while doing video. Lots of little lights, very bright. It’s a ComiRay mini multi functional LED video light. It lasts about 5 minutes before needing a re charge, purchased on Amazon, about $25, comes with a clip that screws onto tripod. Comes with 3 plastic filters covers, clear, warm and a bluish one. Great, easy to set up if you don’t have budget for the tripod style studio lights. Better than the LED that plugs into phone in case I want to use a clip in mic on the phone. Thanks for all of your great info, Wes!