PNY 4-in-1 Lens Kit at a glance:
- Four optics
- Price: £24.99
- Website: www.pny.eu
While smartphone cameras are capable of remarkably good image quality, one limitation is that their fixed lenses give little compositional flexibility. The obvious solution is to use add-on lenses, such as this set from PNY. It contains four different optics: a macro marked 15x, a fisheye labelled 198°, a 0.35x super-wideangle and a 0.63x wideangle that works by screwing onto the macro lens. These attach to your phone using a sprung plastic clip, which has slots either side for holding the lenses. The inside of the clip is felt lined, so it shouldn’t scratch your phone or screen, and a small felt bag is provided to protect the lenses when they’re not in use.
This approach is supposed to work with almost any phone, while being quicker to use than lenses that screw into a custom-designed case. However, it has its own problems. Centring the lenses properly is near-impossible, and the clip won’t always sit flat against the phone’s own lens, especially with slimmer devices. Load two lenses onto the clip and it often slips out of place under their weight. Unfortunately, an off-centre, tilted converter lens is a recipe for technically poor images.
However the optics themselves aren’t too bad, at least if you can get them to sit tight. Attaching the macro lens to my iPhone SE allowed it to focus just a couple of centimetres from the lens, giving an image area of around 18x24mm. Both wide converters worked as expected, although with pretty severe barrel distortion and softening towards the frame edges. The fisheye gives a circular image with black borders, but comes nowhere close to covering 198° – more like 140°, perhaps.
Of course, these criticisms have to be seen in the context of this kit’s low price, as £25 for four lenses is a bargain. It’s fun to play around with, but ultimately you get what you pay for.