Editor’s note: This article was originally published on November 11, 2016, and was updated on August 14, 2017 with up-to-date pricing information.
The iPhone has a very good camera, but you can get more out of it by using an add-on lens. They can increase the amount of zoom, or they provide an effect that gives your photo more impact.
Many companies sell a set of lenses as part of a system. That system can include a wide-angle lens, a telephoto lens, and a fish-eye lens. Each system has it own way of attaching lenses to your iPhone. The lenses reviewed here work with the iPhone SE, 6s, and 6s Plus, as well as any other iPhone that has a camera bump like those iPhones, such as the iPhone 6. (We haven’t tested them with the iPhone 7, but we a separate review roundup in the works for iPhone 7 lenses.)
In this roundup, we gathered several iPhone lens systems, put tested them with an iPhone 6s, and reviewed and rated each one. You’ll find our top picks below if you need to make a buying decision right away. Click on the product links in the summary boxes to read the full reviews, and be sure to read on to learn how we tested and to get our impressions of the market.
Best overall: ExoLens with Optics by Zeiss
The ExoLens Zeiss lenses offer the best possible image quality with the least amount of equipment and fuss. While the lenses may seem pricey, they deliver.
Photos taken with these lens displayed colors that are perfectly in phase, crisp details, and no distortion.
The ExoLens Zeiss lenses use an aluminum bracket that fits over the iPhone, and you screw on the interchangeable lenses to the bracket. The frame has a hot-shoe mount and a tripod boss for attaching a standard tripod screw.
The ExoLens Zeiss Wide-Angle Lens Kit for the 6 Plus/6s Plus costs $199.95. It includes a wide-angle lens (18mm equivalent), a bracket, a protective aluminum lens hood, and a lens cap. You can also pick up the ExoLens Zeiss Telephoto 2.0x lens for $199.95 (lens only) in the Apple store. (We also like the ExoLens Zeiss Macro lens, but it is no longer for sale.)
Best price/performance: Hitcase Snap
The Hitcase Snap costs $50 and includes a iPhone case fitted with a TrueLux Wide Lens, a selfie stick, a tripod mount, a lens cap, and a keychain lens holder. The TrueLux Superwide Lens ($35) and the TrueLux Macro Lens 3x ($25) can be purchased separately.
The wide-angle lens, which seems to be about an 18mm equivalent, is of medium quality. It’s remarkably free of chromatic aberration, with colors appearing consistent out to the edges. Photos have a high amount of blurriness outside of a broad central circle of focus.
The macro lens produces images that are less blurry around the edges, and the blurriness is also less noticeable. I don’t recommend the super-wide lens, which captures neither the scope of a full fisheye, nor the realism of a wide-angle.
The lenses rotate and snap satisfyingly into place in the case, and are easy enough to remove, but can’t be jarred out of place or unscrewed accidentally.
Low-price leader: Olloclip 4-In-1
The 4-In-1 ($80 MSRP, same price on Amazon) has both a 10x and 15x macro lens permanently built into a clip, and screw-on fisheye and wide-angle lens. If you want to take a lot of close-close shots, it’s actually fairly stellar, especially when cropped square.
The wide-angle lens has a lot of distortion, and there’s surprisingly modest aberration around the edges. Again, cropping square removes many defects.
The fisheye lens uniquely works with both the rear-facing iSight and front-facing FaceTime cameras on an iPhone. It can be useful in capturing an otherwise impossible group shot.
The macro magnification labels appear on the outer fisheye and wide-angle lens rings, so if you unscrew both, you’re left testing to figure out which macro lens is which. The macro lens are fixed in place such that it’s extremely difficult to clean them.
If you want a compact, versatile solution for images you upload to social media and Instagram, especially of super-close shots of plants, insects, and human artifacts, the Olloclip 4-In-1 fits the bill.
To get all the details on our iPhone lens testing, click on a link below.
All of our iPhone lens reviews
What else have we’ve reviewed? See the list below and click on the product name to get more info. We’ll update this list and roundup on a regular basis, so bookmark this article and come back to see what’s new.
Deluxe Universal 5in1 Camera Lens Kit
Universal Smart Phone Camera Lens Kit
author of dozens of books. His most recent include Take Control of Your M-Series Mac
, Take Control of Securing Your Mac
, Take Control of Zoom
, and Six Centuries of Type and Printing
. In his spare time, he makes Tiny Type Museums
. He’s a senior contributor to Macworld
, where he writes Mac 911.