The Definitive Guide to iPhone Photography Accessories.
Your iPhone is designed to be the perfect phone cam, no accessories required. But…
There are some great accessories that can really unbridle your creativity and make shooting easier. So here’s the definitive collection of iPhone photography tools. (Every option available is not covered, just the ones I’ve found to be the best quality or most useful.)
Your iPhone has three lenses. Do you really need more? If you want to do macro or true telephoto you do. But buying lenses for your iPhone is a rabbit hole. Make sure you choose your first lens wisely and stick with one brand of lenses, since cases and mounts are involved. You don’t want to have to buy multiple cases every time you get a new iPhone and then have to change them constantly to use a different lens.
Moment has been the unrivaled leader in iPhone lenses, but Tom’s Guide recently did an legit review that shows Sandmarc and ShiftCam lenses catching up. But as a whole, the Moment line is still the most solid for the serious iPhoneographer (?).
The Moment 58mm M-Series, Sandmarc Telephoto Lens Edition and ShiftCam 2.0 Telephoto ProLens are similar in build quality and focal length. These put your subject twice as close and are most useful over the built-in tele. This will give you a view of about 110mm⇔ on a DSLR. They’e excellent for portraiture.
The tele issue. On iPhones with a built-in tele lens, the Camera app may not be using the tele lens in the 2x mode. When light is dim or there’s risk of camera shake, the iPhone defaults to the wide lens and does a 2x digital zoom. When you attach a tele on top of the built-in tele all you photos are likely to just be big gray blobs. Fortunately many killer 3rd-party camera apps let you always use the built-in tele. These include Moment Pro, Manual, Halide, Obscura 2 and PureShot.
- The Moment Wide M-Series is one of the most beautiful lenses ever created. Built with negligible barrel distortion (bowed lines), this lens has beautiful keystoning (where lines on the edges lean in) and takes crisp images. It’s excellent for landscape and architectural photography with an 18mm⇔ view when placed over the iPhone’s built-in Wide lens. I also have a deeper review of this lens here.
- The Moment Fisheye, a beautifully-smooth, 170º fisheye lens that was designed to leave no awkward curved black edges on your photos.
Moment Macro M-series gives you 10x of truly sharp magnification with a 25mm⇔ lens that focuses down to .7" This lens is excellent for duplicating 35mm slides
- Note that all lenses mentioned require a case or universal mount to use with your iphone.*
The folks at PhoneSkope make an awkward-looking adapter to attach binoculars, monoculars, field scopes and telescopes to your iPhone. Scope mounts are a whole other rabbit hole, but I’ll note that if you don’t have a really good optical scope ($200+) to attach to your phone, you’ll be disappointed with the results.
More filter options are becoming available for the iPhone and For the attachable lenses. Sandmarc, Polar Filters, Moment and Moondog Labs all have neutral density and circular polarizing filters and mounts. The most useful filter is a Circular Polarizer for removing reflections, saturating colors and deepening the sky. This effect is hard to duplicate in editing.
To anchor your camera firmly to a tripod, you’ll need a mount that holds the camera. Fortunately there are scads of good ones available.
- For cool factor alone the Manfrotto TwistGrip is my fave. It’s all-metal design folds flat in your pocket, stands on its own and has a cold shoe on top for attaching a light or a mic. Tip: Squeeze the top and bottom from the back of the bracket before tightening for proper locking. Manfrotto also makes a bracket and handle you can add for shooting video.
- Studio Neat’s Glif is small, sturdy and has an quick-lock, as well as three tripod mounts (top, bottom, side) for attaching gizmos, like a light or a microphone for video.
- Shoulderpod G1 is the bulkiest of the batch, but also lightweight and stands on its own.
All the above mounts let you attach any iPhone model securely to a standard 1/4"x20 tripod screw.
Tripods, monopods, etc.
All conventional tripods can be used with the iPhone and the above mounts, so I won’t get into the zillions available. Here are a few I’ve found really useful.
- The Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod is inexpensive, sturdy and very easy to extend and collapse. The pistol-grip head is the easiest to operate of any tripod available.
- The Sirui T-005KX Travel Tripod is a pro-grade, full-size tripod, great for the studio as well. It’s big advantage is that folds up to a foot long and weighs a little over 2 lbs, so it’s an excellent hiking tripod that tucks in the bottom of a day pack.
- The Ultra-Pod is a table-top tripod that’s incredibly versatile. You can use it legs closed with the attached Velcro strap to attach to a pole when there’s nothing horizontal nearby.
- The Velbron Ultra Stick Super-8 Monopod is a sturdy monopod that locks quickly and collapses to 10 inches. Note that it doesn’t have a tilting head, but if you want to add one, the Giottos Mini Ball Head is small, cheap and sturdy.
- Woods Power Grip Camera Mount lets you attach your iPhone to the inside of your windshield or to any glass surface. It’s useful for blur shots in the car with long exposure apps like Night Mode on the new iPhones of for long exposures in apps like Bluristic and Moment Pro
The built-in flash is really useful since it’s always with you, but there are more serious pocketable lighting options.
- An inch and a half square, Lume Cube pumps out 1500 Lumens: 100-watt bulb⇔. It has 10 power settings and diffusers available, but the tiny LED is so bright you may need to bounce it to avoid blinding subjects. A kit with a housing is available as are diffusers, grids and filters for more serious photography. They can be used in multiple as constant lights or as flashes with the Lume Cube app.
- Selfie ring lights that clip to your phone are cheap and useful as a fill lighting when taking portraits.
When shooting remotely, I use gear that’s as compact as possible, but with lenses, brackets, a monopod, etc, a bag becomes really handy. I prefer ones that can swing around front as opposed to backpacks that need to be removed to open.
- The Tom Bihn Side Effect is a pricey waistpack, but is the right size for easy carry and will last forever. It can be worn with a strap over your shoulder, but I use mine with the optional waistpack belt. It can be turned around front and it’s like having a drawer full of accessories right there.
- The Patagonia Atom Sling 8L is a one-strap small day pack with ample room for photo gear, including the monopod mentioned above, iPad Pro 9.7 inch and lunch. Swing it around front and easily access your gear.
Get the definitive book for mastering your iPhone camera: The Crap-Free Guide to iPhone Photography at iTunes