Friday, February 08, 2019

The $4.99 Mobile Phone Photography Game Changer

Every time I contemplate schlepping my DSLR with 70 ~ 300mm zoom lens around I wish for a more compact solution for my mobile phone. If only someone made a high quality telephoto lens for mobile devices!

Sure, you can get relatively high quality glass, but at 58mm, the Moment Telephoto lens just doesn't complete with my DSLR's reach. Experiments like the Sony DSC QX100 hold promise, but are riddled with technical flaws. And while there are a class of cheap cell phone "zoom lenses" (that don't actually zoom) on Amazon, there's no way such cheap glass can deliver anything but disappointment. Right?

Still, when I saw one of these lenses on sale for $4.99 I couldn't resist picking one up. Before I get into details, let's look at what this lens can do:

What's your seeing above is a snapshot made with the telephoto mode built into my Galaxy S9+ compared with the $4.99 Hizek lens. As you can see, the lens works!

OK, the quality on the lens is far from ideal. But still, it gets me shots I simply wouldn't be able to get without bringing along my DSLR. Heck, in some cases I see details in the photos that my naked eye couldn't see. What's more, the above shots were taken almost completely frustration free.

I switched my camera into Pro mode, setting the focus to manual, and the focus control to 'infinity.' I carefully placed the mounting clip over the center of my lens and gingerly screwed the lens into place. I then started shooting pictures. The lens focuses with relative ease and thanks to sunny weather I was able to get away with shooting without a tripod. I found I could switch subjects, refocus and grab shots with ease.

The mounting clip is OK, but it can be nudged out of place. When that happens, I found the easiest thing to do is to unscrew the lens, re-align the clip and reattach the lens. Annoying, but with care, not something I needed to do often.

I looked back at Amazon today to see if the price had gone up, and it turns out I overpaid! It's currently on sale for $3.99! At that price I almost want to pick up a second.

This does have me wondering: what if I splurged on a quality monocular and quality mount. How much would that improve on image quality? If I could manage a notable leap in quality, with a matching leap in price, I'd have dramatically extended my cell phone's shooting abilities. While it wouldn't be a DSLR killer, it would certainly give me more opportunities to leave the big guns at home. For now I'm going to enjoy toting around my little $4.99 wonder; it's compact, lightweight and too much fun to leave at home.

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