Few devices have been as disruptive to photography as smartphones, where improved optics and image sensors have allowed users to treat them like everyday point-and-shoot devices. The rising popularity of art filters and social media apps to edit and share those images has made photography an everyday activity for many, rather than a hobby or profession.
That’s why it’s no real surprise that the accessory aftermarket is brimming with concepts and products that aim to enhance the results even more. Whether it’s a lens attachment to change how a phone snaps photos, or a stand or case to shoot from a different vantage point, this group of options is all about doing more.
The olloclip changes its style to accommodate both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus by using a form factor that slides on from above. The new 4-in-1 design also works on both the rear and front-facing cameras at the same time for the iPhone 6 (not the 6 Plus), making it possible to shoot higher quality photos and selfies. All four lenses are the same as the previous model, with 10x and 15x macro (18mm and 12mm focal lengths, respectively), along with fisheye and wide angle. Olloclip includes three wearable pendants (black, sky blue and neon green), plus a lanyard and keychain in the box to make it easier to carry around.
The version for the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5 is a very different design that anchors onto the top and side to stay in place. Unlike the iPhone model, it only works with the rear camera.
There is a free olloclip app for iOS (not Android), but the lenses will work with any photography app. SRPs: 4-in-1 for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, $79.99; 4-in-1 for Samsung Galaxy S5, $69.99. olloclip.com
Known for its lens attachments for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, Lensbaby has brought its concept of a “sweet spot” depth of field to iOS and Android devices with the LM-10. Measuring 1.5 inches long and weighing 0.7 ounce, the lens attaches to the phone using a stainless steel ring with an adhesive back. Lensbaby’s free app for both platforms works in tandem with the lens to sharpen focus in one set area and blur the rest. Users only need to tap the area they want to focus on and the app increasingly blurs the rest of the image to create the unique effect. The app also includes settings for exposure, metering, filters and video.
Because there are magnets on both sides of the lens, other magnetic lenses are potentially compatible. Lensbaby says those made by Photojojo qualify, but there may be others that aren’t officially noted. $69.95. lensbaby.com
Turning a smartphone into an old-school Polaroid camera is exactly what start-up Prynt is attempting to do when it launches on Kickstarter in early 2015. The product itself is a smartphone case that doubles as a photo printer. The phone slides in and plugs right into a microUSB or Lightning connector nestled inside. This design cue means there is no need to pair with the phone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. That direct connection should eventually be able to print out a 2×3 photo in under 30 seconds.
At the moment, the case only supports smartphones that are over 4 inches in screen size, and the final design is expected to hold 10–30 sheets of paper. There are plans to make a version that will work with phablets that are more in the 6-inch range.
A smartphone lens attachment that turns standard photos and video into 3D, the Kúla Bebe creates the stereoscopic effect by snapping two offset images using a set of mirrors on either side. The images are then viewable as regular anaglyphs for typical red and cyan glasses, basic ones for cross-eyed viewing or in formats suitable for watching on 3D TVs. Sampling those images or videos on the phone itself will be made possible by an accompanying app and a screen attachment that’s called the CinemaBox.
Available on Kickstarter in early 2015, Kúla will be launching a generic model to fit most smartphones and is looking to also include specific iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models. $34.99. kula3d.com
A compact tripod specifically designed for the iPhone, the 1.2-ounce Stance is made of zinc alloy construction for durability. It has rubberized feet at the bottom of the legs, including a bottle opener crafted into one of them. The Stance keeps the phone upright by plugging into the Lightning connector, and it helps prop it up for landscape shooting or viewing when the legs are folded flat. The Lightning-based mount means the Stance can’t be used with any other device, including older iPhones from the iPhone 4S and prior.
The legs do not extend in length, but they can adjust to a limited degree in height based on the angle they’re placed in. The ball joint attached to the connector also frees up the option to pivot the phone on an angle. $29.95. kenu.com
This smartphone optics adapter is designed to connect a smartphone directly to an optical device, like binoculars, telescopes, microscopes—but not rifle scopes. The design mechanism uses no added elements, meaning there’s nothing to glue or install on either end to get it to work. The adapter’s clamp centers on its own, rather than manually, and doesn’t require realignment for different optics within the range of a 20–58mm outer eyepiece diameter.
The exposed bottom makes it easy to keep the phone connected to a power source for longer shooting, if needed. It isn’t large enough to manage phablets, so popular handsets like the iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Google Nexus 6 are among those that aren’t compatible. $69.99. carson.com
Rather than having a POV action camera mount for one specific device, the Velocity Clip has been designed to work with just about all of them. This includes both standard sizes and larger phablets. Clamping the phone on either side in landscape mode, there is a standard clip at the bottom that can work with some other third-party mounts. There are also various other proprietary mounts in which to use it, some with different designs to keep the phone in place.
Options include a bike mount, chest mount, head and helmet mount, monopod mount, suction cup mount and adhesive mounts. Only two mounts—the bike and chest—are available as respective bundles with the Clip, whereas the others are sold separately. Starting at $39.95. velocityclip.com
Joby’s original GripTight mount was meant to fit smartphones that were smaller in stature, but the company now has an XL version that can handle the larger dimensions of phablet smartphones. It can screw into any standard tripod or Joby’s own GorillaPod tripods. It requires little setup in the field, particularly since it uses a spring-loaded clamp system that keeps the phone in place with little effort. Users who have cases on their phones also needn’t worry about taking them off.
Fairly portable in its construction, the mount’s legs do fold in for easier storage in a bag or jacket pocket. Joby suggests that it can be fastened to a lanyard or keychain as alternative storage options. $19.95. joby.com
Muku Shuttr Remote
Shooting photos from a comfortable distance, especially in low light or at night, is to be made easier with this remote. Muku is also marketing this as a way to take wider angle selfies. Pairing with a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, the remote works with the most popular smartphones and tablets, but it should also be agnostic enough to work with more affordable devices. It’s not clear if the experience in using it is the same with all photography apps, however.
Small and lightweight, it can easily be carried around on a keychain or in a pocket. It also comes in either black or white, matching the most widely used colors for smartphones and tablets. $39.99. mukulabs.com
With 40 LED lights diffused through a white panel, the Nova acts as a wireless flash or external light source paired with an iPhone via Bluetooth. There are three preset distinct lighting modes to choose from that focus on shadows, warmth and bright light, but an advanced mode offers manual control over the intensity and color temperature.
Shaped like a credit card, the Nova isn’t quite as thin, but it can still be slotted away in a wallet. Battery life is rated at 150 flashes per charge, and a standard microUSB is good enough to fill it up again. $59. photojojo.com