Best iPhone Lens of 2021
The Black Eye Pro Cinema Wide G4 performed above average in every test, handling every task we tossed its way, and it's priced well next to its competitors. This iPhone lens is quite sharp in the middle of the frame and holds its own in the corners of the image, though there is some slight distortion and loss of quality, which is typical of these lenses. It comes with a microfiber cloth pouch and a protective metal lens cap, which are items that come standard with most of the competition. This cap protects the lens when you're not actively shooting photos, but if you happen to be wearing gloves, it can be a little difficult to remove.
The lens could sometimes throw out a flare in backlit situation, but overall nothing terrible. Our biggest gripe relates to the alignment — the cutout on the mouth is just a bit smaller than the lens on our iPhone XR. This is likely what causes the distortion issue. Lastly, we should mention that though you definitely can use this lens with a case on, for its best performance, it's much better use over a naked iPhone.
The Moment Tele 58mm lens is the best telephoto lens that we tested. It makes it look like you are 2x closer than with a bare iPhone lens. This magnification shoots great portraits, but with the right composition, it also excels at shooting landscapes. This lens had the highest overall test scores of any lens in the category, with top marks in both center sharpness and color rendition. The telephoto effect is a dramatic change from the stock lens and can be paired with the telephoto lens that some iPhones have. All Moment iPhone lenses require Moment cases, so that will limit your case options, but we find their cases to be attractive. A notable advantage of using a case is that installation becomes amazingly convenient, and achieving perfect alignment every time is simple. Since it's made from metal, we have faith that this lens can withstand some bumps and scrapes.
We have a few issues with this lens, the most prominent one being how it handled flare. We would not suggest using the Moment Tele 58mm while shooting towards the sun. The few times we did, there was very evident flare in our images. Lack of corner sharpness was another issue that bothered our photographers. Some people may like to use that as a creative tool, but it can also limit its versatility. Speaking of versatility, we personally found that we didn't use this lens as much as some of the wide-angle lenses, but that can vary by personal preference.
The Anazalea is the widest lens we tested that wasn't a fisheye. Like some of the other two-lens combos, the wide-angle lens of this pair screws onto the macro lens, making the package small, convenient, and versatile. Where this lens shines is in how it handles backlit situations, second only to the Moment 18mm Wide-Angle. Another feature of that we like is the multiple carrying options; it comes with a hard-shelled case as well as a soft, microfiber bag and a lens cleaning cloth.
The macro lens body is shallow in profile, which at first seems like a great feature, and at times it is. But the drawback to that is there is not much surface area to grip the macro lens. This can be an issue if the lens gets overtightened — it can be hard to remove the wide-angle lens from the macro lens. The macro lens does not have the highest magnification, which, again, isn't a negative feature but needs to be considered when deciding which one to choose.
An anamorphic lens creates a wider aspect ratio without cropping in on the image. It accomplishes this by squeezing the image with a different shape of the glass — anamorphic refers to that shape. Other than the aspect ratio, the most notable visual trait of these lenses is a very distinct, long, and thin flare. All this is very appealing to high-end filmmakers, and that's where these lenses are typically employed. When many people see a photo or video shot with one, they will say, "it looks so cinematic." The images below compare the unedited image (left) and the "de-squeezed" (right).
The Moment Anamorphic 1.33 is our favorite anamorphic ("cinematic") lens. The 1.33 in the name refers to the amount you need to de-squeeze the image to make it look normal. This lens is sharp, with minimal distortion and compelling colors (bordering on a little warm). By design, it also has a very distinct flare, so our team took no points away for that trait. Like other Moment lenses we tested, you need to use one of their cases since it shares the same "M Mount", which makes installing the glass straightforward.
There is a lot to consider if you are trying to justify the hefty price tag. The first is just how difficult it is to use. The squeezed image needs to be "de-squeezed," which requires either Moment's app or another third-party application. If you want to change from a horizontal to a vertical orientation, you need a tool to loosen the set screw and counter-turn the lens. But when it comes to results, this lens produces great images and leaves very little to criticize. If you are looking for a lens like this, we recommend it highly.
The Xenvo Pro Lens Kit is really, really big (more on that later). In terms of installation, it is effortless to put on your iPhone, fitting right over the stock lens without a case on. Its color rendition and sharpness are excellent, and it eats up backlit situations commendably compared to some of the other lenses that we tested. The Xenvo Pro is an integrated two-lens system, meaning the wide-angle lens screws onto the macro lens. This integration makes it easy to transition from macro to wide-angle. Its macro lens is not as powerful as others that we tested, but this is not necessarily a critique. We found that it was still able to magnify most things we wanted to photograph, but it is good to recognize this difference.
It is tough to overstate how big this lens is. The case for these iPhone lenses requires a 3.4" x 4.7" x 2.5" pocket. For you photo nerds out there, it has a 52mm filter thread, meaning you can go to any photography shop and buy filters or a lens cap for it. We would have liked to see increased image quality on the corners of the frame, given the amount of glass that this lens has. Even with these drawbacks, we were impressed with the performance of these two lenses overall.
The overall image quality of the Moment Wide 18mm Lens is excellent. Center sharpness, color rendition, and vignetting are all handled well, but where this model really shines is in backlit situations. We found that it's a step ahead of any other glass we tested in how it deals with flare, coming remarkably close to how the native iPhone lens behaves in most situations. There was one situation we found that resulted in a slightly undesirable flare, but it proved difficult to reproduce. This lens performed admirably in every other situation with flare. Like the different Moment lenses that we tested, we found installing this lens to the required case incredibly quick and easy.
On the downside, this model underwhelms in edge sharpness. That beautiful image quality falls off quickly towards the perimeter of the frame, softening and distorting noticeably when compared to the bare iPhone lens or even the other high-performing auxiliary lenses. This model is also expensive and requires a proprietary Moment case that adds extra cost. We did find the phone cases to be a little bulky, but they look and feel good.
The Bitplay Premium HD Telephoto is one of the two mid-length telephoto lenses we tested. We found this perspective produced eye-catching images that are really distinct from the standard phone lens. It made good images in every situation we put it in, producing decent image quality and pleasing colors, all with minimal distortion. This lens is a solid performer on all fronts.
Like the Moment lenses we tested, this one requires a compatible case. The lens threads into the case, which is the most secure mounting system we tested, but it can be a little finicky to mount at times. This case features a small grip on the bottom right corner to help grip the phone when shooting horizontally. It also features a small lanyard connection point for the more clumsy among us. When it comes to the image quality of the lens, we did notice some degradation towards the edge of the frame.
The CoPedvic Phone Camera Lens Kit comes with four lenses, lens hood, mini tripod, and phone holder, all in a large protective carrying case. Those four lenses are a 22x telephoto lens, a macro lens, a wide-angle lens, and a fisheye. This assortment of lenses will be useful for those who always like to be prepared. The standout lens for image quality is the macro lens, which was by far the best of the kit. The most visually exciting is the super-telephoto lens, which gives a perspective you cannot usually achieve without using a more substantial camera system. That lens has its flaws for sure — the distortion and sharpness are reduced — but when used creatively, it can produce compelling images. The CoPedvic mounting system is among the most adjustable of any we tested but requires a little time to install on the phone. Once installed, it's easy to switch from lens to lens.
The wide-angle lens showed average performance in the center of the frame but fell off dramatically as you move to the edges. We would not use this lens much because of this issue. By far, the worst performing lens of the group is the fisheye, rating among the worst in every category in terms of image quality. It's there if you need it, but the images it produces are borderline cringe-worthy. There were a few times we were installing the super-telephoto lens and found an obstruction in the image of the lens, coming out with a black blur in the corner of the frame. It didn't appear every time, but more times than not. Neither cleaning the lens nor readjusting it on the phone ever solved the problem for us.
The Ailun 3-in-1 Clip-On is an excellent option for those who are unsure if auxiliary lenses are something they need. For a surprisingly low price, you can discover if they're something that piques your interest. Given the price point, the lenses did respectably well. The standout here is the macro lens, which surpassed some of its more expensive competitors with average to above-average performance in every metric.
The macro lens occasionally got stuck on the mount, at times requiring pliers to get it off, which made switching to the fisheye very frustrating. However, it did fit over the XR's native lens perfectly, making it very easy to install quickly. The price tag is reflected in the quality of the optics — we noticed a considerable change to the image as the lens rotated.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our photography team has a combined 25 years of experience behind the lens of a camera. Our lead tester, Jason Peters, has spent years testing cameras and lenses, both for himself and other professional photographers. We tested these lenses in four distinct metrics and kept them in our pockets to shoot them on a casual basis for over 50 hours of use.
Analysis and Test Results
It is important to note that most of these "iPhone lenses" are marketed as compatible with other phone manufacturers and models. However, we tested every lens on an iPhone XR. Also, keep in mind that Apple has put a lot of time, effort, and money into making the camera on their phones as good as it can be. It's important to acknowledge that adding a lens to your phone will always reduce the image quality. We noticed a loss of image quality in every lens we tested. But it does grant more creative freedom, and the lenses being made these days are incredibly useful. To score perfectly, the lens had to be as good as the iPhone's lens was in the test.
Below is a summary of our test findings and how each iPhone lens performed in side-by-side tests.
Our landscape testing looks at four aspects of image quality: sharpness, detail, image distortions, and color rendition. We conducted this testing in a real-world environment, sitting on top of a rocky outcrop during winter in the beautifully rugged terrain of Lake Tahoe. We tested these lenses head-to-head, using the bare iPhone lens as a control. We shot this test at sunset, so between every lens, we shot a "bare" iPhone photo to more accurately judge color. Here are our favorite lenses for landscapes.
At the top of the pack is the Black Eye Pro Cinema. This lens is wide enough to handle what we need while being sharp across the whole frame and producing minimal distortion. The drawback here is that colors are not true to the bare iPhone lens, shifting slightly warmer. That's an easy fix in any editing app, so it's something we are willing to overlook when a lens performs this well in other aspects.
In second place is the Moment Anamorphic Lens. This lens surprised us through the whole testing process with how versatile it is for different shooting scenarios, and once again, it landed in the top four here. There is some barrel distortion that shows up when you are photographing straight lines, but in real-world applications, that distortion becomes harder to identify, and the sharpness and colors look great.
The Moment Wide 18mm placed third in this metric. We started to see some distortion and ghosting in the edges of the frame (look towards the bush), and the sharpness takes a slight hit across the whole frame and slightly more in the corners. That said, the 18mm lens does a great job and is also one of the widest lenses in this top four.
Another top performer was the Xenvo Pro Lens Kit - Wide Angle, which was right on the heels of the Moment Wide 18mm. This lens may be big, but it performs well in the center of the frame. It shows its weakness in the corners of the frame, where the sharpness is reduced considerably and distortion very apparent.
Here are all the images side by side.
We took all seven macro lenses from our testing into our studio, photographing Lolinda, a 3D printed piggy bank, to see which would come out on top. To determine their scores, we looked at some standard image quality metrics, sharpness, color, vignetting, and distortion. None of those things take into account the macro effect, so we added one more metric, reproduction rate, or more commonly known as the magnification of the image.
We found that the CoPedvic had the best macro lens in our testing. Its magnification rate stands out among the competition, and its image quality is among the best of the macro lenses.
Coming in a few points behind was the Ailun's macro lens. The magnification on this lens is close to that of the CoPedvic, but its image quality falls a little behind.
In third place is the macro lens from the Xenvo Pro Lens Kit. This one is interesting because its magnification is noticeably worse than the two we just listed, but its image quality is a step ahead of the rest. The question you need to ask yourself is, how small are your subjects? If they aren't too small — say, the size of Lolinda (2.5") — then this may be the macro lens for you.
Below are all the photos side-by-side, shot as close as each lens would allow.
Here we tested lenses with a traditional "portrait" focal length. Those iPhone lenses were the Bitplay First Edition HD Tele, Moment Tele 58mm Lens, and Moment Anamorphic Lens. That is not to say you cannot make amazing portraits with other lenses that were tested. In this metric, we were looking for how the lens compression portrayed the face and how it rendered skin tones. Like other metrics, which one you buy should depend on what you're looking for.
We found the Moment Tele 58mm lens to be the best lens of the three tested. It is slightly sharper than the runner-up and achieved better color and micro-contrast, giving this lens the edge over the competition.
In second was the Bitplay First Edition HD Tele. This is the tightest lens we tested, which is an attribute we prefer for portraits. Its overall image quality is just slightly less than that of the Moment, but it's still acceptable and extremely usable. A decision between the two could easily come down to personal preference.
Lastly was the Moment Anamorphic. This lens is included in this test because although it gives a wide frame, its longer focal length makes it more appropriate than other lenses for portraits. Unfortunately, as you can see in the test below, this lens does create noticeable distortion in the corners. That makes it tricky to use for portraits without upsetting your subject and causing them to look, well, different. If you place the subject in the middle of the frame, there is minimal distortion, and the result looks good.
Here is the side-by-side comparison
For flare testing, we grabbed everything except the macro lenses and shot a forest scene directly into the sun to see how well each lens would cope with the tricky lighting. Flare occurs when a bright light source directly hits a lens, and light is reflected off the different pieces of internal glass. Most commonly, this is created when the sun shines directly into your camera.
For the benefit of full transparency, this test is inherently imperfect. As we moved around in the woods, the angle of the light changed, and tree branches blocked or allowed more light to pass through. We did everything we could to mitigate these issues, and we ultimately felt the benefits of testing flare outside the studio outweighed the drawbacks. By conducting multiple testing sessions, we are confident in our final results.
The lens that presented the least flare in our testing was the Moment Wide 18mm. In nearly every test, its performance was close to matching that of the bare iPhone XR. In our testing, this lens was clearly a cut above any other lens in our bag. If you love shooting into the sun and don't mind shelling out the cash, the Moment Wide 18mm does not disappoint.
One step down, we have another Moment lens; this time, it's the Moment Anamorphic. Yes, it has a massive horizontal flare, but that is very characteristic of all anamorphic lenses, so we don't count that against it. What we are looking at is how it rendered that "cinematic" look and any stray flare in the lens. And when we take that perspective, it's hard not to be impressed! The wide flare is neat and tight, and the additional flare balls are minimal and rendered almost as well as the 18mm from the same company.
Just on the heels of the Anamorphics is the Anazalea Wide-Angle. This underdog of the group won us over with how it handles flare. However, this inexpensive option comes with some drawbacks in image quality towards the edges of the frame.
The fourth slot goes to the most massive lens in our testing, the Xenvo Pro Lens. This lens produces flare that is notably more sloppy than the options we've talked about above. But, if you compare it to all the lenses we tested, the Xenvo does a great job!
Here's the side-by-side comparison:
Ease of Use
This metric was evaluated throughout dozens of hours of testing iPhone lenses across all the other metrics. The most significant factors for us were how easy it was to install and align the lenses and how long that process took. Secondly, was there anything special you had to do when using that particular lens? It should be noted that these tests were done with an iPhone XR, so your results may vary depending on your model.
We found the lenses that connected to a required case were the quickest, assuming that case stays on your phone. For us, that was the Moment and Bitplay systems. Of those two, we found the Moment's "M Mount" system to be the fastest to install and still plenty secure.
Bitplay uses a threaded lens mount that was also very easy to use and had the added benefit of a totally bomber connection.
Moving to clip-on lenses, we liked the options that fit over the native lens perfectly, so there was no worrying whether or not it was aligned properly. Some options were slightly too small while others were too large, and both lead to the same issue: "is it on right?". This also leads to an extra step of confirming with a test image that you've got it right. The Xenvo Pro Lens Kit and the Anazalea for iPhone Lens, Wide Angle & Macro both did incredibly well at this. The feeling of the lens aligning is quite satisfying and inspires confidence that you got it right.
In all honesty, we went into testing pretty skeptical about the quality of the images that these iPhone lenses would produce. In some cases, those concerns proved justified — some lenses were so bad we deemed them unusable. Other lenses, however, blew us away with stellar performances. With that in mind, we hope this review's side-by-side comparison will help you choose the perfect iPhone lenses for your shooting goals and budget.
— Jason Peters