We’ve frequently discussed how great the iPhone’s camera is for documenting your life. iOS users around the globe are taking hundreds of thousands of photos on a daily basis, but sometimes when I’m snapping photos at a concert or while on a trip, I’m looking for a cooler effect than your run-of-the-mill photo.
Instagram filters are great, but they don’t change the contents of the picture like adjusting what can been seen in the frame. Many creative cases, rigs, and lenses can make your iPhone camera even more capable of taking great photos, but they all come at a cost. To show that making your iPhone pictures look “cooler” doesn’t need to cost a fortune, our friends over at Mpow sent me their MLens V1 3-in-1 lens kit, and I have to admit, it’s kind of cool.
The MPow MLens V1 (Available for $21.99 on Amazon) is a set of three clip-on lenses that rest over your smartphone camera. Device-agnostic, universal lenses are great for most devices, since there’s no need to fuss with getting a model that works with your specific iPhone model (or Android device, if you were unlucky enough to make that mistake).
The three lenses in the MLens V1 kit offer a variety of effects to improve your photography, including a 0.36X Wide-Angle, a 180º Fisheye, and a 20x Macro. Each lens comes with it’s own cap and clip, meaning there’s no scratching the glass or fiddling with unscrewing anything to get the desired effect (I’m looking at you, Olloclip).
Placing the lens is mostly painless. I was able to look through the lens of both the wide-angle and fisheye lenses to see my iPhones camera sensor and make sure I wasn’t covering anything important. Placing the macro lens was a bigger challenge because of the distortion created within the glass. This proved to be a pretty insignificant issue, since the macro doesn’t suffer from the vignette effect that’s experience in the wide-angle and fisheye.
While each lens is fairly self explanatory, they all have their unique qualities.
The wide-angle lens offers a wider field of view than many other clip on (or stick on) lenses for your smartphone. While most only increase your field of view about 30%, the lens in the MPow MLens kit expands it to nearly 60% more. This brings the image closer to that of a GoPro camera, meaning those super wide shots look that much wider.
On some smartphone cameras, you may notice a slight vignette around the corners of your shot, although this was less the case with video. This probably isn’t a deal breaker. Additionally, the barrel distortion that is created by widening the shot is less than ideal, and means the added things in frame tend to be somewhat blurry or out of focus. This is common with any filter-style lens like this, and most average consumers won’t be bothered by this, but photography buffs might be less than impressed.
The 180º Fisheye in the MLens kit is just what you’d expect out of a fisheye lens. It gives a super wide, bubble effect to anything you’re taking a picture of. This makes for some very fun, even artistic pictures, and is always my favorite to play with.
As with nearly all fisheye lenses, there is a sea of black around the edges of your photos, and there is most certainly barrel distortion around the edges. In my testing of various lenses, both of professional and consumer quality, that is the case with a fisheye lens, so it’s nothing you wouldn’t expect.
The 20x macro lens in the MPow MLens kit is crazy! The glass of the lens is surrounded by a clear plastic shield the essentially gives you the ideal distance to position the lens from the subject. This means you’re basically right on top of whatever you’re getting a close up of. The detail it is able to capture is pretty impressive, but again, there is some barrel distortion on the corners and edges of the shot, but it does work quite well if you’re copping down to a square Instagram picture of a single piece of rice at dinner.
For less than $25, the MLens kit is pretty great. There’s no special model for each device you own (or may own eventually) so it’s universal and future proof. The lenses produce decent quality images that any amateur iPhone Photographer (iPhoneographer?) could be pleased with, and they don’t take any specialized skill to master. The easy to understand “labels” on each lens, the included covers, individual clips, and carrying case are great added perks of the MPow MLens kit.
- Quality feel
- Universal fit (for most devices)
- Decent image quality
- Alignment can be challenging
- Distortion prevents these from feeling truly professional
If you find yourself taking lots of photos with your iPhone, and are looking for a way to spice things up without breaking the bank, the MPow MLens V1 Kit ($21.99 on Amazon) might be just the thing for you.