Add-on lenses for smartphones put to the test

August 14, 2012 9:47:42 AM PDT
More and more people are using their smartphone as an everyday camera, but there are drawbacks. Smartphones don't take very good close-ups or wide-angle shots, that's changing though. There are some accessories that make smartphone pictures better than ever.

New add-on lenses aim to change the quality of smartphone photos. Consumer Reports tested to see if these new lenses make pictures more perfect.

David Livshin is a professional photographer, but for quick shots, he's using his iPhone more and more.

"I find the opportunity to be unobtrusive sort of wins out over having to lug the cameras around," said professional photographer-David Livshin.

But the iPhone camera, like most smartphones, doesn't have an optical zoom.

"Smartphones only have a digital zoom that loses pixels as it zooms in. That reduces image quality," said Terry Sullivan of Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports tested two new brands of add-on lenses for smartphones. The Olloclip costs $70 and it's a three-in-one lens for the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Consumer Reports also tested add-on lenses from Photojojo that work with both iPhones and several Android phones. The lenses cost about $20 each. To use them, you attach a ring on your phone with adhesive. The lens attaches to the ring magnetically.

"We found the ring sometimes came off the phone when we removed a lens," said Sullivan.

Consumer Reports found a drawback with both brands - the lenses cover the phones' flash. But in good light, testers found both the Olloclip and the Photojojo lenses can take some beautiful pictures.

"The close-up shots and video of flowers in particular were stunning," said Sullivan.

The upshot, Consumer Reports says these lenses can definitely expand a smartphone camera's capability.

Be aware the Photojojo only works on phones where the lens is flush with the phone. If the camera lens protrudes, the add-on lens won't attach properly.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2011. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

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