Mobile photographers itching to expand their view beyond the fixed lens of the iPhone can find an assortment of attachments that vary in quality and price. And like their camera and lens forefathers, a high-quality lens generally comes with a high price.
There have always been exceptions to that rule and in the case of mobile photography lenses, the tech accessories company Aukey stands out as the best of the budget lenses for iPhone.
Aukey recently released the PL-A8 Ora lens kit for the iPhone 7, which features two impressive looking chunks of glass, a 170-degree wide-angle lens and a 3X telephoto, both of which mount to an aluminum frame that snaps across the front of the phone.
The iPhone and other quality smartphones have caused the consumer camera industry to tank while millions of people easily snap and share their photos in an instant with unprecedented ease.
The cameras inside get better with each generation of smartphone, however, the form factor complicates adding a lens with the same simplicity as a DSLR. Cases do not allow the back element of the lens attachment to get close enough to the built-in lens. This requires a user to use lenses without a protective case, the optics mounted with either a clip or a top-edge bracket. However, some lens companies make a case that both protects and serves as a lens mount.
The brand identified by most mobile shooters to be the best is Moment, however, one lens, a mounting case, wrist strap and lens cap, each sold separately, can set you back $150 or more. The Moment lenses, though, offer an edge-to-edge sharpness not found with most brands and the cases have a shutter button, allowing for better iPhone shooting experience.
Aukey’s Ora lens kit for iPhone 7 runs just $54.99, a price that buys two lenses and the mount. (Aukey is working on accessories to fit the iPhone 7 Plus and future models that feature a two-lens camera).
I do not have an iPhone 7 so I can’t offer an informed endorsement. However, with my iPhone 6s, I’ve used Aukey’s Optic Pro Wide-Angle Lens with mounting case and found the pictures to be surprisingly sharp, especially for a lens that retails for under $25.
The Ora lens kit bracket is similar to one by ExoLens as part of its partnerships with legendary lens maker Zeiss. The ExoLens bracket is more angular in appearance. A kit that features the ExoLens bracket and a Zeiss wide-angle lens retails a nickel shy of $200.
Like the ExoLens bracket, the Aukey bracket has a soft rubber insert so that the aluminum mount does not scratch your iPhone 7. The track also includes a standard screw mount for small tripods.
Each lens is housed in an aluminum alloy barrel and the multi-element coated glass promises sharp pictures with minimal lens flare and distortion.