Everyone’s taking pictures with their iPhone or other smart phone, including you. Come on, admit it! Here’s what you need to make those pictures better.
Additional research by Russell Hart
Updated July 2014
With the recent introduction of the iPhone 5s and 5c, Apple's smartphone continues to be the most successful mobile device in history. And, along with other brand smartphones, the iPhone has supplanted stand-alone digital cameras for many consumers.
We’re still amazed that iPhone users are willing to give up the zoom lens, which seemed part and parcel of point-and-shoot photography. Photographers taking pictures with the iPhone now have to do their zooming with their own two feet—but that’s something we’ve been advocating all along!
All that said, it’s the iPhone’s very limitations as a camera that have spawned so many photographic accessories for it. Since iPhone photography is ubiquitous and clearly here to stay, we offer the following selection of useful and ingenious devices, all of which are available at the Adorama iPhone Toolshed, that will help you get better pictures with your cell phone.
(Note: iPhone-dedicated accessories are being introduced every day—as soon as new ones come accross our desk, we'll add the best of the batch to this round-up, so bookmark this page!)
CLOSELY ATTACHED: Sony DSC-QX10/QX100 Smartphone Attachable Lens-Style Cameras
The Sony DSC-QX10 and QX100 are self-contained cameras with no viewfinder. The lens zooms in and out; there's a port for a MicroSD card for storage, a built-in microphone, and a shutter release. But they also have Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communication). They clip onto any iPhone or Android smartphone, and communicate with them wirelessly via an app. The phone's touchscreen becomes the camera's LCD monitor and control center. You can turn the cell phone upside down if you'd rather use the shutter release right-handed, or use it as is with the shutter release available for lefties!
With the lens-sensor attached to your smart phone, the combination looks and acts just like a stand-alone digital compact camera, but lets you take advantage of thousands of photo apps, image editing programs, and image sharing capabilities that have endeared so many photographers, from snapshooters to pros, to smartphones. The QX10 has a snapshooter-quality sensor and 10x zoom range, while the more pro-oriented QX100 has a larger 20MP 1-inch sensor with a 10-3600 ISO range a 1080p/60fps HD video capture, and a 5x optical zoom. Learn more about them here.
POLARIZING INFLUENCE: Schneider B+W Smart-Pro Polarizer Filter for iPhone and Smartphones
Made by one of the top suppliers of filters and lenses, the B+W is a circular polarizing filter that can be mounted on all current iPhones and iPads as well as other smartphones and tablet PCs. The filter system is "clicked" onto a small magnetic ring that is first fitted around the lens on the smartphone or tablet. The filter can then be attached and aligned quickly and easily as required. It works on all small camera lenses witha maximum diameter of 8 millimeters.
The B+W Smart-Pro polarizing filter eliminates reflections and provides saturated and intense colors as well as an improved contrast ratio. This effect can neither be created subsequently using software nor can an app simulate it. The filter is ideal for all those who want to disassociate themselves from the world of standard Hipstamatic and Instagram photography. Comes with a Smart-Pro Circular Polarizer and Magnetic rings for attaching to phone or tablet also icluded is a Carrying case with key chain ring so you're always sure to have it with you.
The B+W SMart Pro Polarizing Filter comes with a set of magnetic rings for attaching to your smartphone or tablet and a carrying case with key chain ring.
FLEXIBLE SUPPORT: Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand
The GripTight GorillaPod Stand from JOBY, is an adaptable, all-terrain tripod that supports almost any smartphone, with or without a protective case. Designed with flexible, wrappable joints and grippy rubber feet, this stand allows you tosecure your smartphone to objects, stabilize your camera on uneven surfaces and position the screen for the best perspective. This iPhone support lets you get a grip on your smartphone, shoot time-lapse photos on your iPhone® or comfortably watch a video on your Samsung® Galaxy S III-it's possible to take your artistry anywhere with the help of your adaptable GripTight GorillaPod Stand!
This simple device goes a long way toward solving the camera-shake problem that you always have to one extent or another when using a touch screen on a lightweight phone unit.
FEEL THE POWER: Wagan Tech 2558-5 Solar e Charger with Built-in Li-ion Battery For iPhone
One of the issues with mobile devices is that they tend to run out of juice very quickly. The Wagan Tech Solar e is a solar-powered charger that lets you find power from ol' sol. The built-in Li-ion battery fully recharges in 5-8 hours via sun via monochrystaline solar cells. This charger recharges a battery in 2-3 hours via AC adapter. An indicator light shows when the unit is ready to deliver power, and when battery is charged. It is roughly the size of a cell phone so it is quite portable.
MAKE A SPLASH: The Joy Factory BubbleShield for Large Smartphones, 5 Pack
Water is the enemy of the iPhone; water damage may not be a warranty-protected problem, so you need to be extremely careful not to get it wet. While you probably shouldn't go snorkling with this, the Joy Factory BubbleSield is designed to turn your very water-sensitive iPhone and other smart phone into a splashproof device that you can use without fear in the rain, by the pool or at the beach. According to Joy Factory, the BubbleShield is IPX5-rated waterproof protection: will protect against spills, water jets, and brief submersion.
A COMPLETE COMPACT PACKAGE: Manfrotto KLYP Black Bumper Complete Kit for iPhone 5/5s with Set of 3 lenses and LED Light with Tripod Mount
If you're looking for serious options that will allow you to easily switch between lenses and improve lighting, consider the Manfrotto KLYP Complete Kit, which is fitted for the iPhone 5 and 5s. The kit includes a protective bumper, fitted to accept the 3 included lenses (Fisheye, Portrait 1.5X & Wide Angle), and an LED light that can be mounted on a tripod or to the bumper. Everything you need to dramatically improve your iPhoneography is all in one place.
VARIETY SHOW: USBfever Lens Kit Fisheye + Wide Angle (+Macro) + 2X + 9X + 12X Telephoto Lens Combo for iPhone 5
For under $100, the USBfever offers a total of 5 lens variations as well as a plastic casing and a mini tripod. The resulting images cover a very wide range from fisheye and macro photography through 12x telephoto. A tripod is recommended for the telephoto attachments for better image quality, but given the cost this is a fun way to put a little visual flexibility into your photographic palette. A tripod ring is built into the case. We recommend keeping the case on at all times; you simply screw the appropriate lens on as you need it.
SCOPE IT OUT: iScope Adapter for iPhone 5 Spotting Scopes and Binoculars
The iScope Adapter for iPhone 5 allows the viewer to see a full view of what you would see in your scope. The iScope can be used on spotting scopes, scopes and crossbow scopes. It's a great tool for recording video or stills of wildlife or the cosmos.
SHARP SHOOTING: Schneider Optics iPro Lens System (for iPhone 4/4S)
If you're still using an iPhone 4 or 4s, there are plenty of add-on optics are available to expand the limited abilities of your iPhone’s built-in lens—from stick-on special-effects lenses that produce fun but fuzzy results to telephotos that turn an entirely pocketable device into an ungainly contraption. None can compare, for sheer sharpness, to Schneider’s iPro lens system for the iPhone 4 and 4S. Schneider is the Cadillac of real-camera lenses (or maybe the Beamer, given its German origins), so it stands to reason that its interchangeable iPhone lenses would be first-rate.
The lenses are a four-element wide-angle—very useful, given the iPhone lens’s relatively narrow angle of view; and a three-element fisheye, which produces a bulging, distorted rendition of the subject that’s lots of fun. The wide-angle converts the iPhone lens’s normal 35mm-equivalent focal length of about 30mm to an ultrawide 19mm. (For video, a not-so-wide 42mm becomes a wider 26mm.) The fisheye, which allows the iPhone to cover a 165-degree angle of view, is the equivalent of 12mm. (For video the angle of view is about 120 degrees, or 16mm.)
The lenses attach to a bayonet-style mount in an opening in the molded-plastic iPro case. The case clicks firmly onto your iPhone with the help of a handle that can be attached to its top or bottom; the handle then serves as a shooting grip or a tripod adapter. (It has a threaded 1/4-20 socket on the bottom.) The lenses can be stowed inside the handle for safe, compact transportation. Schneider’s iPro system will set you back as much as, if not more than, a new-contract iPhone. But then, the same premium applies to Schneider lenses for SLRs!
GET OUT AND GO: Aryca Chest Mount Harness
Don't miss a shot during your favorite extreme sports, capture the action easily with the Aryca Chest Mount Harness. This mount allows you to use your iPhone as a POV camera, capturing everything hands-free. Pair it with the Aryca Wave Waterproof case and use it for jet skiing, para sailing, water skiing and more!
TOP TIPS: iPhone Photography and Video For Dummies
One of those familiar yellow-and-black guides to everything you ever wanted to know about anything, this volume starts with the premise that the best camera is the one you have with you—an idea that set off the explosion of iPhone photography. It covers many of the issues addressed by the products in this roundup, including the need for proper stabilization of the iPhone when you’re using it for photography or video, and how to overcome some of the other technical and creative limitations of this ever-ready photographic device.
Topics include fixing your iPhone pictures’ color and contrast; getting the most from iPhone video; and even using HDR imaging technique to deal with extreme lighting situations. And of course the book singles out some of the best iPhone apps. That’s a tough job given the thousands now out there. Fodder for endless revised editions?
GET A HANDLE: Grip and Shoot Bluetooth Smart Grip for iPhone 5/5s & 4s
A steady grip is as important to getting sharp, smooth picture quality as a good lens, precise autofocus, or image stabilization. Yet it can be hard to get a steady grip on a device as small and lightweight as the iPhone. This new Grip & Shoot Bluetooth grip is a pistol-style handle for your iPhone, allowing you to shoot one-handed stills and video with far more stability than even two hands would give you on a naked iPhone.
The Smart Grip handle connects via Bluetooth Smart and allows you to easily zoom your iPhone camera via the + and - buttons. Detached from the iPhone the Smart Grip will continue to work as a remote up to 100ft away. The software features an open API, so you can control other apps via the grip.
FULL 360: Kogeto Dot
Immersive video from an iPhone? The Kogeto Dot shoots it. This remarkable device sits atop your iPhone’s lens, where a tiny catadioptric mirror lets you capture a 360-degree field of view. You need to hold the iPhone horizontally to keep your scene upright—and if you don’t want to be in its field of view, you’ll have to keep it above your head!
No stitching is needed for viewing; you download the Dot’s Looker app to play back the video on your iPhone, which lets you use finger swipes to move through the scene. To view the video on your computer you upload it to the Kogeto website (or Facebook), and use your mouse or trackpad to navigate through the video. Then, of course, you invite friends and family to check it out. Visit kogeto.com for examples of Dot videos.
We stock an extensive selection of tripods, adapters and mounts over at the iPhone Toolshed.