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Phone lenses are interesting, and so are dolly sliders. So we went ahead and spent $100 on this Photojojo Lens Kit featuring five different smartphone lenses, and an additional $95 on the Mobislyder portable camera dolly.

At the end of this review, we’ll be giving both the lens kit and Mobislyder dolly away to one lucky reader.

There Are Far Cheaper Options

The first thing you should know about the smartphone lens kit is that there are much, much cheaper ways to get some glass for your smartphone. These are to be found mainly on sites like DX and Aliexpress. Here’s a quick sampler:

A magnetic fisheye lens on DX that looks virtually identical to the fisheye lens in the kit below and goes for all of $8.20, international shipping included.

fisheye

A 3-in-1 kit featuring a wide lens, a macro lens, and a 180-degree fisheye lens. This one’s from Aliexpress, and will set you back a whopping $5.59 including shipping.

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Finally, if you really want to go wild, there’s a three-lens clip-based kit that retails for a whopping $19 — shipping included, of course.

clip

Given these prices, you can see that spending $99 for five lenses is… well, I’ll let you insert your own adjective here. But are they worth it? Let’s find out.

How This Is Going to Go

A snap-on phone lens isn’t something you can test at home or at the office. These lenses are meant to be carried around, snapped onto your phone, capturing the world as you see it. So I took them out on a nice little hiking trail. This allowed me to test everything about them: How easy they are to clip on and off, what it’s like to carry them, and most important, what sort of photos you get.

Below you’ll find a section for each lens with a gallery of photos I took using that lens. I will be comparing Photojojo’s descriptions of the lenses with my own impressions, and you’ll be able to judge for yourself using the photos.

Mounting the Lenses and Using Them In The Wild

phone-with-lens1

All lenses attach to your phone using a magnetic ring with adhesive backing. You stick the ring around your phone’s camera, let it sit for around 24 hours, and then you’re good to go. Just put a lens against the ring, and it snaps powerfully and securely. You may have to align the lens a little bit so that the phone’s lens is dead center, but that is easy to do just by peering into it.

phone-with-lens

To carry the lens around while you’re not using it, you can snap it onto a provided disc. The thin metal disc adheres magnetically to the lens, and has a little string loop you can attach to your keyring. I wouldn’t advise doing so, however. Although the magnetic connection is firm enough, but it is all too easy to accidentally nudge it off the disc and drop it. I would advise putting it in your pocket.

Finally, while Photojojo claims that the lenses work with most phone cases, they didn’t work with either of the two cases I tested them with: The lens just wouldn’t fit through the hole in the case. That meant that to use them, I had to carry my phone around on the trail effectively unprotected.

Polarizer Filter Lens

filter

What Photojojo says: The magical lens you never knew you so badly needed. It’s like a pair of fancy sunglasses for your phone!

  • Reduces glare by blocking lightwaves at specific angles
  • It’s just like the polarizing filters pro photographers have used for years
  • Blocks reflected light to make windows and water more see-through
  • Makes colors brighter and more saturated

What I observed: I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it. Of all fives lenses, this one felt the most useless. The gallery below includes a pair of “with and without” photos of a leaf, and I do see a difference in the shade of green shown in the image — but honestly, I need to be looking for it to notice it. In all other respects, I didn’t feel this filter really does anything for my photos at all.

The Gallery

Control-click to open in a new tab (OS X: Command-click)

Fisheye 180

fisheye180

What Photojojo says: This lens provides a real deal hemispherical view that makes everyone look like they’re living in a bubble.

  • Our classic Fisheye Lens takes in 180 degrees
  • Like rolling a panoramic shot into a snowball!
  • Give your photos and videos that distinctly fishy look.. with none of the fishy smell!

What I observed: This is a fun one. Unlike the filter, photos taken with a 180-degree fisheye lens are instantly recognizable, and it is not an effect you can fake with software filters (or at least, not convincingly). You get more of the scene into your frame, and the images are just fun to look at. Like any “in your face” special effect, fisheye is easy to overdo — but using it sensibly would be up to you.

The 180-degree fisheye is also great for selfies. I’m not so big on selfies generally, but these are addictively fun. Maybe it’s because they’re not so zoomed in, or because the lens captures so much of what’s around me — whatever it is, this is one of the very few lenses that could convince me to snap a selfie.

The Gallery

Control-click to open in a new tab (OS X: Command-click)

Super-Fisheye 235

superfisheye

What Photojojo says: Woooooah! The fishiest fisheye around takes in the entire scene in front of you (and a bit of the sides too).

  • Get a 235 degree view of the world around you
  • The most extreme effect in our lens collection
  • Gather up the whole family for a mega group shot
  • Square photos are square. The super fisheye takes round photos!

What I observed: The first thing you should know is that this is a large lens. It is hemispherical and the glass seems to be of high quality. The photos you get with it are incredible, too. The fisheye is so extreme, I had to be careful of the way I hold my phone, otherwise my fingers would show up along the edges of the frame.

This is just a crazy lens. The effect is extreme — so extreme, it renders some images useless. Being bulky (for a smartphone lens) and so purpose-specific, you might not carry it around all that often. Still, the effect is very noticeable and unique if fisheye is your thing. There is a noticeable difference between the 180-degree fisheye and this 235-degree lens, as you can see below.

The Gallery

Control-click to open in a new tab (OS X: Command-click)

Telephoto 2X

telephoto

What Photojojo says: Digital zoom is a bummer. The Telephoto Lens is here to save you from perpetual pixelation.

  • Offers 2x magnification, through the power of optics
  • No pixel killing digital zoom required here
  • Get twice as close to your subject without moving or tapping
  • Photograph tigers at the zoo without sticking your phone in the cage

What I observed: Another useless lens, at least for my evaluation scenario. The Xperia Z1, which I used for this test, has a 20.7-megapixel sensor. Its default photo resolution is just 8MP — leaving plenty of room for what’s effectively lossless digital zoom. The 2X zoom was not very noticeable in the photos I took — and worse still, the lens causes an aggressive round vignetting effect around the photos, which was not an issue on the other lenses. Not a great buy.

The Gallery

Control-click to open in a new tab (OS X: Command-click)

Wide-Macro Combo Lens

widemacro

What Photojojo says: Two lenses in one! Conquer what was once too large to capture and see details once too small to see.

  • Wide Angle Lens gives .67x magnification
  • Stretch the limits of your lens for big cityscapes and XL group shots
  • Macro can focus from just .5 to 1 inch away
  • Show everyone how gross eyeballs, bugs and flowers really are

What I observed: First, a practical detail: This lens breaks apart to convert from wide to macro. Once you take it apart, the macro part stays attached to your phone, but there’s no secure way to store the wide part. It won’t snap onto the included metal plate, so you basically have to wrap it in something and stick it in your pocket. Not very convenient.

Now, in terms of use, this is one of my favorite lenses. The attached gallery shows several wide snaps that look almost like fisheye ones (not as extreme though), and then switches over to lots and lots of macro shots. That’s because taking macro shots with this lens is simply addictive. You have to get very close to your subject (unlike using a dSLR macro lens, which works from a distance). It is also very tricky to get macro shots of flowers or leaves, since they tend to move around, and even the slightest movement will mess up your shot when you are half an inch away from your subject. That said, once you do manage to capture something, the results are so worth it.

One of my favorite lenses in the kit – versatile and satisfying to use, if you are patient and don’t mind the very narrow depth of field it offers.

The Gallery

Control-click to open in a new tab (OS X: Command-click)

Bottom Line on The Lenses

Here’s a quick rundown of the lenses, then:

  • Polarizer Filter Lens: Skip it; fairly useless.
  • Fisheye 180: Get it, especially if you like the effect. Fun and unique.
  • Super-Fisheye 235: Extreme! For serious fisheye aficionados only.
  • Telephoto 2X: Another useless one, don’t get it.
  • Wide-Macro Combo Lens: Terrific, especially if you like extreme macro shots.

The Mobislyder

mobislyder

What Photojojo says: It’s just like the tracks pros use on movie sets to add movement, depth, and space to their films. With the Mobislyder, your videos will have smooth, subtle motion, a look that is straight out of Hollywood.

What I observed: The $95 Mobislyder is neat… until you try to use it – it had several issues. The first of which isn’t strictly an issue with the Mobislyder itself but with most current phone cameras: There is no way to lock focus while making a video. This means the camera will constantly try to regain focus as you are moving the slider, basically ruining the effect completely. Not the Mobislyder’s fault, but a big drawback when you’re trying to use it with a phone.

mobislyder2

On the plus side, the Mobislyder is virtually guaranteed to attach to your phone: The dolly ships with a small articulating arm that carries an adjustable padded gripper. You can change the size of the gripper so it wraps tightly around your phone, similar to the way many universal phone car mounts work. My Xperia Z1 stretched the gripper to capacity, but it did fit. Unless you’re using a phablet device (such as the previously-reviewed Galaxy Note 3 Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9000 Review and Giveaway Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9000 Review and Giveaway Samsung released the third generation of the Galaxy Note in October, updating the phablet with a larger screen and improved hardware. Read More ), your phone will fit.

The Mobislyder also ships with a number of other attachment accessories, including a small screw that threads onto the standard camera mount you’ll find on any dSLR or compact camera. That said, the attachment accessories feel cheaply made, and did not properly lock into the Mobislyder’s socket — in other words, the camera could easily fall and break.

There is another issue related to the Mobislyder’s build: The Mobislyder has a thread for a standard tripod quick-release plate. But alas, once I connected the plate to the Mobislyder, it would jam up against it when I was sliding it — rendering it effectively useless.

That is not to say the Mobislyder isn’t useful or cool. Under the right conditions, with a compact camera or a lightweight mirrorless one, this is a wonderful little gadget (as long as you’re careful to ensure the camera does not fall!). The track itself is well built: Lightweight as promised, yet sturdy, and the rubber legs are nice and grippy on most surfaces.

Bottom line: Given its limited application and cost, I am not sure I’d spend $95 on the Mobislyder. You could make a serviceable camera slider out of simple supplies for less than half of that.

And here’s a video I shot with the Mobislyder and my phone, showing the focus issue:

Our verdict of the Photojojo Lens Kit and Mobislyder Camera Dolly:
Don’t buy the Mobislyder; skip most of the lenses, except for the Fisheye 180 and the wide-macro combo.
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