REVIEW – iPhones make awesome cameras because so many people already have one of them in their pocket or bag. But as good as smartphone cameras are, they can always be better right? Instead of upgrading to the latest iPhone every year, you can use add-ons like Sandmarc iPhone lenses to improve your existing iPhone camera. Let’s give them a try.
What is it?
Sandmarc offers 4 add-on lenses for iPhones that screw into a specially designed iPhone case or can be clipped over the smartphone’s lens with a special clip which is included with every lens.
What’s in the box?
- Top and bottom protective lens covers
- Lens clip
- Polishing cloth
- Drawstring storage pouch
- iPhone case with threaded Sandmarc lens mounts
If you have an iPhone 12 series phone, you can also buy Sandmarc’s optional MagSafe case which features built-in molded buttons and a metal plate that is embedded in the case to make it MagSafe compatible.
Design and features
Sandmarc sent me 4 of their lenses. They sent the Wide Angle, Telephoto, Macro, and Fisheye lenses. I also have the Sandmarc Anamorphic lens which I reviewed earlier this year.
The lenses all have a metal body with premium multi-coated glass.
Each Sandmarc iPhone lens comes with a protective top and bottom cap in addition to a drawstring pouch that you can store the lens in when it’s not being used.
The included iPhone case (for my iPhone 12 Pro Max) has cutouts for all the buttons and features an aluminum mounting plate with threaded cutouts that match up to the iPhone’s lenses. I like this case better than the Sandmarc MagSafe case because it’s thinner and easier to put on and take off because made of a more flexible material. I also like the cutouts for the existing buttons instead of the molded buttons.
The metal threads on each lens make it easy to screw into the threaded sockets in the Sandmarc case.
Only 2 of the lens openings in the Sandmarc case have threaded mounts, but with these lenses, you’ll be using the bottom threaded socket in the case.
If you already have a favorite iPhone case, never fear because, with each lens, there is a specially designed clip that you can use to position the Sandmarc lens over the iPhone lens.
The clip is spring-loaded and features a threaded socket for the lens.
Let’s take a closer look at each Sandmarc iPhone lens.
Sandmarc Telephoto 60mm lens
The Telephoto lens is the largest of the set.
The leftmost image above is the iPhone 12 Pro Max 1x, the middle image is 2.5x, and the right image is using the Sandmarc Telephoto lens. You can click the images to see the full-sized view.
Sandmarc Fisheye 10mm lens
Fisheye lenses are extremely wide angle lenses. So much so that depending on the subject, it can warp straight lines as in the edges of buildings and walls. For that reason, they are best suited for landscape photography
The image above on the left is a .5x image from my iPhone 12 Pro Max and the image on the right is with the Sandmarc Fisheye lens. As you can see, the Fisheye image is obviously warped.
The image above on the left is a 1x image from my iPhone 12 Pro Max and the image on the right is with the Sandmarc Fisheye lens. This time, the image doesn’t look quite as warped as the indoor image, but you can still see the roofline on the right side of the image is skewed.
Sandmarc Wide Angle lens
The iPhone already has a pretty decent wide angle lens but let’s see if Sandmarc’s 110° Wide Angle lens is an improvement over the stock iPhone lens.
First check out an indoor image. The left image is taken with my iPhone 12 Pro Max at 1x and the right image was taken with the Sandmarc Wide Angle lens.
The image above on the left is a 1x image from my iPhone 12 Pro Max, the middle image is using the .05x setting on the default camera app, and the image on the right is with the Sandmarc Wide Angle lens.
Sandmarc Macro 25mm lens
I’ve always been fascinated with macro photography, so of all the Sandmarc iPhone lenses, the one I was most anxious to try out was their macro lens.
Using the macro lens does take more “effort” than the other Sandmarc iPhone lenses. First of all, there’s the included lens hood that you need to attach to the front of the macro lens. This hood does not screw onto the front of the lens. Instead, there’s a soft plastic collar around the hood that you have to press over the lens. I don’t like it very much because it doesn’t seat well in my opinion.
This hood not only protects the lens itself but works as a tool to position the phone/camera a perfect distance from your subject. To take close-up shots you have to actually BE less than an inch to the subject. Otherwise, your photos will be blurry. Here are some examples.
The photo on the left was taken without the Sandmarc Macro lens. It was taken with my iPhone 12 Pro Max set to the 2.5x telephoto setting. The image on the right was taken with the Sandmarc Macro lens with the lens hood directly over and touching the table where the nickel was placed. You can see that the lighting in the 2nd shot isn’t very good and that’s one issue that you have to account for when using this lens. You need a LOT of light.
The image on the left was with the iPhone 12 Pro Max using the 1X setting. The image in the middle was with the 2.5X setting and the image on the right was with the Sandmarc Macro lens attached to the iPhone.
Another pic using the Sandmarc Macro lens. You’ll notice that there’s a very shallow depth of field so the macro lens does allow for some cool bokeh.
What I like
- Made for iPhones but can be used with other phones using the clip
- Made of quality glass
- Macro lens a major improvement
What I’d change
- Improve the fit of the macro lens hood
Of all the Sandmarc iPhone lenses, my favorite is the macro lens because I feel it provides more of a wow factor than the other lenses when used with an iPhone 12 Pro Max. That said, all of these lenses are well crafted and give your iPhone or other smartphone cameras some extra oomph that can translate into better photos.