Photojojo phone lenses give your iPhone a new set of eyes

I've been a fan of Photojojo for a while. The site sells all sorts of fun and useful camera gear and gifts, things like an SLR Bokeh kit or a inexpensive point-and-shoot tilt-shift digital camera. When they offered to let TUAW try out a set of three phone lenses that give iPhone shooters a choice of different widths of field, I jumped on the chance. Here's how Photojojo's little lenses work on your iPhone for fun photography.

There are three lenses available -- one is a 2X telephoto, one is a 180° field-of-view fisheye lens, and the last is a wide angle/macro lens that helps to take those group photos and close-ups of bugs. The fisheye sells for US$25, the two other lenses for $20 each, or you can get the entire set for just $49.

Now we all know that our iPhones don't have a little bayonet mount for lenses, so how do these lenses actually mount on your iPhone? Easy -- there's a minuscule metal ring with sticky backing that you put around the rear camera lens on the iPhone (or iPad). Here's where a problem arises. If you have an iPhone 4, the ring gets glued right over the flash! That's not an issue for me since I rarely take flash photos, but for many people that could be a deal killer. On the plus side, the ring is thin enough that I was able to continue using my Mophie Juice Pack Air case, although I have to remove the top of the case to take photos. There are two of those magnetic rings included with each lens, as well as a pair of tiny lens caps to keep both ends of the lenses clean when not in use.

Now the moment of truth! Braving an oncoming storm, I grabbed the iPhone 4 and lenses for a photo session. These photos aren't great, as the rain started coming down the moment I stepped out the door, but they'll give you an idea of what each of the lenses accomplishes. First, let's look at a picture of my boring back yard with the standard iPhone 4 camera:

Next, I grabbed the fisheye lens. As you can see, there's a very wide field of view (180°) but a lot of distortion. I think this would be incredibly fun when shooting video with the iPhone 4:

Stepping back a bit from the distortion of the fisheye lens, I put the wide angle lens onto the iPhone 4 mount:

You can see that the wooden post on the left side of the photo above is distorted a bit, but that you can see a lot more of the back yard than is visible in the "normal" photo. There's also a small amount of vignetting visible in the corners of the image, which of course could be cropped out using one of the many photo editing apps for iOS. Finally, I put the 2X telephoto lens onto the iPhone 4:

Notice that the field of view is smaller, and that the cottonwood tree at the left appears to be much larger than it is in the other images.

If you screw off the top of the wide angle lens, it becomes a macro lens that lets you focus quite closely:

When viewed at the full resolution of the iPhone 4 image, this picture was incredible, with every tiny scratch on Jefferson's face clearly visible.

As you can see, these inexpensive lenses don't rival the picture clarity that you'd get with a true DSLR lens, but you're paying less for all of them than a DSLR lens cap would probably cost you. And your iPhone 4 is not a single-lens reflex camera; it's a point and shoot with a fixed focus and rolling shutter. A $49 set of lenses is not going to turn your iPhone into a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III DSLR. But if you want to do more than take snaps with your iPhone 4, the Photojojo lenses are a fun way to experiment without spending too much money.