Smartphone Lenses: Why Are They Needed and How to Choose Them?

Smartphone Lenses

We live in a time when smartphones are endowed with great cameras. Its sensor is no worse than those matrices that are built into compact and even mirrorless cameras. Usually only the lens spoils the picture. For obvious reasons, it has a tiny size, which does not benefit the picture. Yes, and you cannot change the optics, which is why the viewing angle is always fixed by one value. But now you can buy smartphone lenses for your photography requirements. What they are for and how to choose them correctly – today’s article will try to answer these questions.

An Excursion into History

The first mobile phones were not equipped with any kind of camera. But what can I say, they didn’t even have the simplest calculator or stopwatch. But gradually the functionality of mobile phones developed. Also, their creators experimented with components. Sharp was born in 2000 with model J-SH04. This phone is the first to have a built-in camera. Its resolution was only 0.1 megapixel, and therefore many people did not understand for a very long time why a mobile phone needed a camera at all.

Smartphone Without Camera
Smartphone Without Camera

However, gradually, an increasing number of mobile phones began to be supplied with this component, while the resolution grew – gradually from 0.3 megapixel it reached to 20 Megapixel. Now on store shelves you will not find a single smartphone without a built-in camera. In fact, such copies are produced, but extremely rarely, and with a circulation limited to literally a hundred thousand pieces.

The development of built-in cameras is hampered by the size of modern smartphones. The fact is that manufacturers strive to reduce the thickness of the device as much as possible. For example, this figure for the Samsung Galaxy S7 is only 7.7 mm. Do I need to say that it is impossible to integrate a large matrix into such a device?

After all, it would require much more space between the lens and sensor. That is why the optical part in modern smartphones is very small. Although the manufacturers of flagships can be praised – their optical unit is created even from tiny, but still real glass lenses, usually in the amount of six or seven pieces. But even the flagships are not able to offer a very wide viewing angle and high-quality macro photography.

External Lens Design

If you want to get closer to the owners of SLR and system cameras, then be sure to purchase external lenses for your smartphone. They are also called lenses, although this is not entirely correct.

Smartphone Lenses
Smartphone Lenses

Any lens is an accessory that includes several glasses, attached to a portable device with a special clip. The main task of the lenses is to change the focal length that is used by the camera built into the smartphone. Therefore, the angle of view is changing. The most common types of lenses are:

  • Wide-Angle - when a little more objects fit into the frame than with standard shooting;
  • "Fisheye" (fish-eye) - even more objects are placed in the frame, but the picture becomes rounded, as if you are looking through a peephole;
  • Close-Up lenses, lenses for macro photography - help to photograph a very small object in every detail.

The design of all these lenses is approximately the same. And don't confuse such accessories with full-fledged smartphone lenses from Sony, which were launched in 2013. The products of the Japanese company are actually real cameras, which simply lack an LCD display and a viewfinder. Such devices use their own matrix, and the smartphone is used only for cropping.

Please note: the main characteristic of any smartphone lens is the magnification factor. If this parameter is more than one, then the accessory will really enlarge the picture ("zoom in"). If the parameter is less than one, then the image will “move away”.

Wide Angle Lenses

These accessories have a fairly wide viewing angle - up to 130 degrees. Most often, this almost does not introduce geometric distortions into the frame, when the object appears to be convex or concave. These lenses are used for photographing natural and urban landscapes. In theory, they can be used for portraits as well, but the result without using a lens may still be better.


The so-called “fisheye” has a maximum viewing angle - sometimes this parameter reaches 180 degrees. Subjects in the center of the frame appear bulging with this lens. The distance in the picture cannot be determined, since all objects appear equally distant. Black areas may be visible in the corners of the frame - noticeable vignetting appears. And sometimes the photo is completely round.

Macro Lenses for Smartphones

Such an accessory is needed for those who photograph miniature objects. For example, using a macro lens, you can capture a coin - you can even see the mint seal and all the microcracks. But if macro lenses for a camera have a long focal length, making it possible to shoot from a far, a smartphone with such a lens will have to be brought as close to the subject as possible. This will prevent you from taking pictures of insects - they will have time to get scared and hide. Also, claims can arise about the quality of photos - a clear image is observed only strictly in the center, while the edges of the picture will be blurred.

You may also like to read: Review and Test of iPro Lens For iPhone

What to Choose?

We advise you not to waste your money on cheap lenses sold in Chinese online stores. They often include very poor glass, which is why you will have to forget about a good aperture ratio. If the product is of high quality, then this will have almost no effect on the characteristics of the camera built into the smartphone. If you have previously taken good pictures in the dark, then with a lens the result will be slightly worse. But the best lenses for smartphones cost a lot of money - be prepared for that. In particular, Xenvo and BSY Digital produce good lenses.

Smartphone Lenses by BSY Digital
Smartphone Lenses by BSY Digital

If you like to experiment, then buy yourself a set of lenses for your smartphone. It usually includes accessories for all of the above types of shooting. And it will come out cheaper than buying one lens of each type.

Most often, these accessories are universal. But there are those that are designed for a strictly specific smartphone model. Be sure to pay attention to this fact before buying.