Year after year, smartphone cameras have become more capable, more versatile, and more of a reason to leave your DSLR at home. But what if you could have the combination of both? The practicality of using the camera on your phone, but with the versatility of having interchangeable lenses? Now with Moment Lenses, you can!
It's no secret that I love photography. Whilst on our travels I can invariably be found down many a gloomy alleyway, well off the beaten track and moments from disaster, snapping away contently, much to Amy's annoyance! In recent years, I more often-than-not use the in-built camera on my phone (an iPhone X) leaving my Nikon full frame DSLR at home or back at base. For me, the weight and impracticality of carrying a proper camera around with me all day far outweighs the benefits. It becomes an inconvenience.
I have a Nikon D800e, a fantastic camera which I use for work, with two top of the range lenses, but that amount of gear isn't easy nor practical to carry around for long periods of time. Added to that, the value of the camera and lens combo (over £3000) and the constant worry of being dipped or losing something that I use for work, means that during our travels I generally end up leaving the camera and opt for something that I'm already carrying, my phone. But what if I could have the advantages of both?
I first heard about lenses for smartphones about six months ago, a well-targeted advert campaign from a competitor of Moment Lenses on Instagram. The company advertising was Sandmarc, another manufacturer of similar lenses to Moment - it instantly got me intrigued. A passion of mine whilst travelling is trying to capture the moment in photos, a lasting memory of my time in a place and what I saw, but I've always found the standard phone camera to be quite limiting.
For my Nikon camera I have a wide angle lens (14mm to 24mm) which I use for interior and landscape shots, and a zoom lens (24mm to 70mm) which I tend to use more for close-up and detail shots. With the camera and wide lens combo I have a massive field of view, 114 degrees from edge to edge, which is perfect for smaller spaces and allows me to get closer to large buildings. As standard my phone has the equivalent of a 28mm lens, a field of view of about 65 degrees, a massive difference compared to the camera. Cue the Moment lenses!
After extensive online research and hours of intrepid clicking, I decided to bite the bullet and order the full range of Moment lenses, along with a specific case to fit my phone. This case is required to mount all Moment lenses and is specific to your model of phone. It wasn't a cheap purchase at nearly £400 in total ($483.59 to be exact) for four lenses and a case, but I was feeling frivolous and certain I would make the most of them during our travels. This cost included the import duty to the UK, which was a fair chunk of the overall bill at nearly a hundred dollars.
If you're based in Europe you might struggle to find a local reseller of these lenses, but fear not, ordering them from Moment direct is a simple and easy process. Ordering via their website was quick and straight-forward and I was kept informed through every step of the process. It was also reassuring to have paid the import taxes up front. I've previously purchased products from the States (namely a vintage dress for Amy for Christmas) and been stung by import taxes by the courier on arrival. Order placed and delivery confirmed, the lenses duly arrived with me the following week and I couldn't wait to try them out.
I purchased four lenses in total, which at the time was the entire Moment range, a super fisheye, telephoto, wide angle and a macro lens. The company have since released a lens specifically for filmmakers, the anamorphic lens, producing sweet horizontal flares and that widescreen, letterboxed look. I don't produce much video so haven't invested in this lens yet, but I'm considering it for the future. Each lens from Moment includes a lens cap and microfibre carry bag, ideal for protecting the lenses whilst on the move and not too bulky. Any larger or more padded and the cases wouldn't be pocketable, so no complaints here.
One thing that impressed me right out of the box is the build quality of these lenses. Made from aerospace grade metal with hand-polished glass, they feel like serious business and just as well made as the lenses I’ve used with my DSLR and mirrorless camera systems. Attaching your lenses to the new case is easy-peasy. Simply locate the line on the side of the case near your phone camera, pair it with the line on the side of one of Moment lens, give the lens a twist and it'll securely clip into place. Speaking as a professional idiot, mounting a lens is practically fool-proof and can be done without even looking with a bit of practise!
Moment offers a thoughtful selection of cases to pair with their lenses, with various colour options available to suit most tastes. I opted for the standard canvas case in black, but you can also choose from a rugged leather version, a battery case or wallet case, all available in multiple styles. The battery case looks particularly interesting, but at three times the price of the standard case I just couldn't justify the cost at the time. The battery case provides enough juice to get you through a full day of handset usage and then some, which is ideal for travelers and photographers alike.
The standard photo case fits snuggly around my phone, and I've found it to be a perfect replacement for the geniune leather Apple case I used previously. The rubber exterior makes it really easy to grip and the flat back rests securely on surfaces when my phone is not in use. What I appreciate most though is that the case is perfect for everyday protection, rather than just another case to carry around for when you want to use the external lenses. All cases from Moment feature smooth, curved edges for an ergonomic grip as well as connection points to attach wrist or neck straps.
It wouldn’t matter how well the Moment case and their mounting system performed if the lenses were poor, but thankfully they aren't. I've used the lenses on two overseas trips in six different countries and have found them to be a worthwhile investment. The image quality from all four lenses is fantastic and they do not degrade the image quality at all, creating sharp images with little to no distortion across the entire frame. The build quality is great too and they have a solid weight, beautiful glass and strong metal mounts - quality photography gear that will last for years to come.
I find the wide angle lens to be the most versatile of the four lenses I have and it now generally stays permanently mounted during our travels. It has become my go-to everyday lens, capturing much more of the field of view and giving an interesting perspective of the subject. In practice, this wide angle lens roughly doubles the field of view of the standard camera on the iPhone X, with no noticable distortion, blurring or vignetting around the edges. I've found it to be ideal for landscapes, cityscapes and everyday use, really opening up the shots I can take with my phone and adding character and quirkiness.
My second favourite lens of the four is the fish-eye lens, which I generally use for shots where a wide angle lens just isn't wide enough. It's also great when I want to add some drama to an otherwise less-interesting scene! With a field of view of 170 degrees, it is more than enough to create large scale views in very small spaces. Getting used to a lens this wide does take some time, but sticking to landscapes and large interiors to start with will help you learn where this lens excels. Vignetting is nonexistent and the image quality is very clean and sharp from edge to edge. It captures a huge swath of the world with a single click of the shutter, although it does add the rounded distortion you expect from a fish-eye design to get there. In the right situation I really like this effect but it can be corrected in post-processing if desired.
The macro lens adds some serious close-up capture to my phone, allowing me to take photos of the tiniest details. The removable diffuser hood softens the light so whites aren't too blown out. Placing the hood flush up against a surface also puts the lens at the ideal point of macro focus, which is a neat feature and really helps when shooting. With this lens you have to get really close to your subject (about an inch) for it to come into focus. This proves difficult when taking photos of things that move, like insects, but this is all part of the fun when using macro lenses! This is a more niche lens, but it's great for its purpose.
Overall, I am just as excited about these lenses as I was the day I got them. They are always in my bag and they weigh almost nothing. This is great for when we haven't planned in advance and an opportunity for a good shot arises. The lenses are so small that all of them fit in my jacket pocket, meaning I don’t have to keep going back to my bag to swap lenses. Whilst on our travels, I invariably keep the wide angle lens mounted with the fish-eye and telephoto lenses in my shorts pocket. Yes, they're expensive for phone lenses, but you pay for what you get and Moment’s reputation for producing the best smartphone camera lenses is well deserved.