A Traveler’s Review of the SANDMARC Smartphone Lenses

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Last yr, I decided to spend far too much cash on a brand new telephone.

For the past decade, I’ve been slowly learning the way to pack lighter. As I slowly downgraded from a 70-litre backpack to at least one I might comfortably keep on a aircraft, my travels turned more gratifying whereas my again ache diminished.

There was one journey essential I simply couldn’t appear to surrender, nevertheless: my digital camera. I journey with the Sony A7 II and love the photograph quality it offers.

However. It weighs a kilogram and is a ache in the ass to carry around with me. I try to document every facet of my travels, and meaning endlessly having a weighty digital camera hanging from my shoulders.

In an try to overcome this challenge, I made a decision to splurge on a new iPhone, upgrading from my embarrassingly-outdated iPhone SE to the XS. I hoped the improve would mean that I might begin leaving my digital camera behind.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

I shortly found the iPhone XS digital camera, while one of the greatest on the market, was still restricted. The photographs weren’t anyplace close to nearly as good as the ones I get from my Sony. Cue me continuing to reluctantly drag my digital camera around the world.

Last month, SANDMARC reached out to see if I used to be interested by reviewing its collection of lenses for smartphones. I used to be instantly interested, because it appeared like the answer I’d been in search of.

Perhaps attaching these lenses to my smartphone would upgrade my photographs to the point the place I might begin leaving my digital camera behind. A glimpse of the company’s Instagram account made a strong case that they might.

SANDMARC sent me three of its lenses to assessment: the wide-angle, fisheye, and macro variations.

What’s in the Field?

Every lens got here securely packaged in a cardboard box, which also contained a number of different equipment.

First, there’s the telephone case that the lenses screw into. Mine was for the iPhone XS, but you should purchase variations for every iPhone model from the 7 and 7 Plus upward.

There’s additionally an external clip included for those not using an Apple gadget. It features in much the similar means: you screw the lens into the clip, after which secure it over your telephone’s digital camera.

The box additionally incorporates a drawstring bag to keep the lens in, and a small microfibre material. You possibly can never have too many of these.

Design and Build

Sandmarc lenses in a row

My first impressions of the lenses have been strong: they’re compact (round 40 mm in diameter) and constructed from multi-coated glass. All of them felt sturdy and well-built, with out being overly heavy.

For the ultralight vacationers among us, the wide-angle lens was the weightiest of the group, at 71 grams. The fisheye lens weighs 55g, and the macro merely 25g. Every lens has a slim plastic cover for the front and rear to cease them from getting scratched.

Whereas I barely observed the weight of the macro and fisheye lenses, the wide-angle lens was more noticeable when it was hooked up to my iPhone.

The telephone was nonetheless completely usable, but I typically wanted to make use of two arms to steady the display while taking pictures. I also felt just a little extra weighed down when carrying my telephone in my pocket with the wide-angle lens hooked up.

How the SANDMARC Case Works

Sandmarc lens attached to phone case for iPhone XS

The case is made of a clean, lightweight plastic that has a slight rubbery feel. It’s thinner than telephone instances I’ve utilized in the past, which has both execs and cons.

On one hand, it doesn’t add an enormous quantity of additional weight or measurement, so you possibly can still easily hold your telephone in your pocket without any issues. On the different hand, in case you happen to drop your telephone, the case isn’t going to offer a lot protection.

Unfortunately, the case doesn’t have the sturdiness of the lenses, and doesn’t feel as well-built. Mine developed a crack in the nook from one month of mild usage, during which I only slipped it off the telephone a few times.

The cut up didn’t have an effect on how the case or lenses functioned, and since SANDMARC supplies a case with every lens, I had two spares to fall again on. Even so, it was a shock given the high quality of the lenses themselves.

The lenses screw right into a metallic ring on the case, with two place choices relying on which rear digital camera you need to use. You’ll be able to screw the SANDMARC lens over both the default iPhone lens, or the telephoto lens under it. Either method, the lenses sat securely and tightly in place as soon as they have been hooked up, with zero danger of falling off.

I’ve stored the case on my telephone for the past month, whether I’ve been using the lenses or not. Aside from the crack, it’s accomplished an honest job, though the slight bump of the lens mount does make the telephone slightly thicker in a single corner.

The design of the iPhone XS digital camera additionally signifies that part of the SANDMARC lens covers the flash whereas it’s hooked up to the mount, rendering it unusable. This gained’t be an enormous concern for many people — I by no means use the flash, for example — however when you do, it might be a frustration.

In fact, in the event you don’t notably like the SANDMARC case, simply pack the clip accessory as an alternative.

A Take a look at the Clip-On Mount

Sandmarc lens with phone clip attachment

I used to be intrigued to see how properly the clip-on mount labored in the real-world, so borrowed my companion’s Pixel 2 telephone to attempt it out for the afternoon.

It functioned surprisingly properly, should you can reside with 20 seconds of trial and error when you get the lens completely aligned.

There’s some mushy padding on one aspect of the clip to stop your display from getting scratched, with the different aspect designed to be positioned immediately over the prime of your telephone’s present digital camera.

The simplest method to get it in the proper spot was to open the digital camera app on the telephone, after which transfer the clip around till no half of the lens confirmed on the display. As soon as secured, the clip stayed firmly in place as I shot my photographs.

One profit of the clip-on mount was that it made switching between the totally different SANDMARC lenses quicker and easier than using the case. Each of the lenses got here with their own clip attachments, so should you screwed them into place prematurely, switching between them is pretty fast.

The clip-on mount also allows you to improve your selfies! If you want to have more of your background featured in your self-portrait photographs, utilizing the clip to put the wide-angle or fisheye lenses over your front digital camera helps you achieve this.

I notably like utilizing a fisheye lens to take selfies once I travel, because it exhibits extra of the surroundings that often get cropped out of pictures by the commonplace iPhone front-facing digital camera.

So how are the photographs?

The SANDMARC Vast-Angle Lens

Sandmarc extensive angle lens

For most travelers, the wide-angle lens can be the one they use most often on the street. It provides twice the area of view, letting you match more of the scene into your shot.

That’s useful in lots of conditions, from taking pictures of landscapes, crowds, and large buildings to getting more of your fancy lodge room into your shot. The photograph quality was incredible, and I noticed zero indicators of distortion at the far edges of the frame.

As I discussed above, that is the heaviest of the lenses, which may lead to the telephone feeling a bit of unbalanced. For a steadier photograph, you’ll in all probability need to hold it with each arms when capturing.

Under, you’ll be able to see how the similar scene appears when shot with the commonplace iPhone digital camera, the SANDMARC wide-angle lens, and the SANDMARC fisheye lens. All pictures are unedited. Click or faucet for a bigger version.

Normal iPhone photograph of a stroll in the countrysidePhotograph taken with commonplace iPhone lensSANDMARC wide-angle photograph of a stroll in the countrysidePhotograph taken with SANDMARC wide-angle lensSANDMARC fisheye photograph of a stroll in the countrysideAnd with the fisheye lens

The Fisheye Lens

Sandmarc fisheye lens

The SANDMARC fisheye is a 10mm lens that’ll capture much more of a scene than the wide-angle. Not everyone loves a fisheye lens, as they will trigger a big amount of distortion, but I discovered it wasn’t too excessive with SANDMARC’s version.

I did, nevertheless, notice some blurring around the edges of the photographs when utilizing the fisheye lens, which you’ll be able to see in the photograph above.

I found this lens to be most useful for photographing lodge rooms and small coffee outlets, for taking selfies, and for filming journey movies with a GoPro-esque effect.

The Macro Lens

SANDMARC macro lens

I had the most quantity of enjoyable enjoying around with SANDMARC’s macro lens, though it’s in all probability the one which has the fewest use instances for travelers. Until you plan on taking tons of artsy, close-up pictures around the world, this in all probability isn’t going to be super-useful whenever you’re on the street.

Still, the lens itself is fantastic, and I liked taking close-up photographs of all the things in my house, then gasping once I noticed how much dust was hanging around. I notably enjoyed taking photographs of flowers and crops with this lens, and even zooming in on my boyfriend’s eyeball.

Click on/tap on the tabs to see every photograph.

The macro lens comes with a removable, translucent plastic hood, designed that will help you ensure all of your pictures are perfectly targeted while still letting in a lot of mild. Should you’re touching an object with the plastic rim, it’s in focus. Very straightforward.

When you love taking super-super-up-close photographs, you need to use the SANDMARC case or clip-on mount to connect the macro to the telephoto lens that’s constructed into the newer variations of the iPhone. This provides you a further 2x zoom.

Different SANDMARC Offerings

In addition to the three lenses I was reviewing, SANDMARC additionally make a telephoto lens for many who favor to zoom with their digital camera fairly than their ft. I wasn’t despatched one of these to evaluate, however I anticipate it to be the most helpful lens for journey images after the wide-angled one.

SANDMARC also provides a pair of filters that may be hooked up to its lenses for those keen to step up their telephone images even more. Both polarised and impartial density filters can be found on Amazon or from SANDMARC.

The Value

All 4 lenses mentioned in this article can be found individually from SANDMARC’s on-line store, priced as follows:

You can even purchase the Lens Package from SANDMARC for $229.99, which includes all of the above lenses. You’ll save a whopping $150 when in comparison with buying the 4 lenses individually.

In case you’re considering buying two or extra of SANDMARC’s lenses, it’d make sense to buy the complete package to get more in your cash.

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So, Are the SANDMARC Lenses Good for Travel?

My verdict: Sure!

Whereas the SANDMARC lenses are fairly expensive, I feel they nonetheless supply good worth, particularly when you purchase them as half of the lens package. The closest competitor is Moment (reviewed right here), which sells its lenses for the same worth, but doesn’t bundle them all into a discounted package.

I was impressed with the enchancment in photograph quality that got here from using these lenses. I’ll be taking both the wide-angle and fisheye on upcoming journeys, and anticipate higher landscape photographs and selfies as a result of of it.

I don’t assume the macro lens will do a lot for my travel images recreation, however it’s undoubtedly helpful in my non-travel life. I’ll doubtless now be spending an alarming quantity of time taking up-close photographs of my crops, for instance, and then wondering how on earth they managed to get so dusty.

At the begin of this article, I anticipated that SANDMARC lenses would give me the push to go away my costly digital camera behind on upcoming trips. How do I feel about this now?

While the lenses have improved the variety and high quality of the pictures my iPhone can produce, the photographs are nonetheless restricted by the measurement of the sensor. There’s not a lot that SANDMARC can do about that.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that even good add-on lenses gained’t turn my iPhone into an expensive full-frame digital camera, so my Sony will nonetheless be coming along on my travels.

The SANDMARC lenses do present additional flexibility in what and how I shoot, nevertheless, especially once I’m wandering round a brand new city without my massive digital camera. So, not only will I be taking my digital camera with me on future adventures, however I’ll now be packing a pair of smartphone lenses in my backpack as nicely.

I’m unsure if that’s an excellent or a nasty factor, nevertheless it’s occurring both method.

About the Writer

Lauren Juliff

Lauren Juliff

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Lauren is a physicist turned digital nomad who’s travelling and dealing her approach round the world on a permanent basis. She’s the clumsy member of the staff — if there’s a digital camera to be dropped, a Kindle to be stood on or a laptop to pour a drink over, she’ll be the one to do it.

You possibly can learn more about her journey misadventures over at By no means Ending Footsteps.

Reviewing the Sandmarc smartphone lenses for travel