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This Phone Accessory Will Make Your Photos Look Sick As Hell

A review of Photojojo's Iris Lens Series.

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Your phone's camera is (probably) already very good.

Nicole / BuzzFeed

Maybe so good that its photos can be used as giant billboards and entire wedding albums.

The latest devices have truly impressive camera technology (12 megapixels for the iPhone 6S and 16 for the Galaxy S6, plus an array of fancy software like "smart optical image stabilization"). But they can always be better, and that's where the Iris Lens series from Photojojo comes in.

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Photojojo recently introduced three phone lenses that'll make your photos look sick as hell.

Nicole / BuzzFeed

They're mini versions of the lenses used for big, fancy DSLRs, made just for your smartphone device.

The phone lens concept is not new. There are plenty of options already on the market, but they're problematic for two reasons. Most lenses either a) require a mount that's permanently affixed to your phone (like the Moment Lens) or b) can only attach to the device without a case (like Olloclip).

The Iris lenses (which come in wide, macro, and fisheye versions) are different because they work with or without a case, and are compatible with both the iPhone 6/6S and Samsung Galaxy S6. Photojojo also claims that the lenses ($90 for all three or $35 each) have the "highest center and edge resolution" of any phone lens.

Are these lenses a *must* for mobile photographers or just a gimmick? I reviewed them (on loan from Photojojo), so I could see for myself.

To use the lenses with a case, you need to place a removable plate on the inside of your case.

Nicole / BuzzFeed

For this review, I'm using Apple's leather case.

There's a different attachment to use the lenses without a case, but I won't cover that here because who the heck doesn't use a case??

The plate is a mount with a little plastic nub that pokes out next to the camera. Line up the lens with the nub and attach.

Nicole / BuzzFeed

That extra white cap you see here covers the lens when you're not using it. You need to adjust the cap so that it's positioned in front (a slight inconvenience, but not a major flaw).

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Let's start with my favorite model: the 180-degree, super subtle wide lens.

What I loved about this guy was how much information I was able to fit into one photo, without the often overly-dramatic look of a fisheye lens.

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You can capture a whole cenote that's ~200 feet in diameter.

Nicole / BuzzFeed

This is the Ik Kil cenote in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. It's a really big underground swimming hole that's insanely hard to capture from the top down, as evidenced by all of these Instagram photos. On the day I visited the cenote, I grabbed the lenses on my way out the door, and I'm so glad I did.

With the wide lens, my landscapes felt more true-to-life. Everything in the photo appears a little bigger, a bit more epic.

Next up is the 10x magnifying macro lens, which gives photos a ~dreamy~ vibe.

Nicole / BuzzFeed

I really liked how the macro photos turned out. The background light sources became soft and diffused, while the objects in the focus remained super crisp and clear.

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The lens's focusing distance is three millimeters, which means you need to get really freaking close to your subject.

Craig Harvey / Via Instagram: @craigharvey87

I found this photo from UK-based photographer Craig Harvey on Instagram and asked him a few questions about his experience with the Iris series. Craig told me, "I've used similar lenses before that require magnets and cases to be removed, and it's always been a hassle."

He continued, "Having these lenses with me and the fact they're so easy and quick to attach has helped me with my creativity. I don't always want to lug my DSLR around and now I can get detailed macro shots or fisheye'd landscapes with the camera I always have with me - my iPhone!"

The macro lens is great at capturing the texture of things like plants and food with a bokeh-esque look.

The catch is that you need to hold *very* still when you hit the shutter. It's tough to make photos look clear and in focus when you're outside and your hands are cold and shaky. But when you do get a good shot, the results are stunning.

Here's a photo taken with the 180-degree, full-frame fisheye lens.

Nicole / BuzzFeed

Fisheye photos always come out fun and bubbly, but can sometimes look weirdly warped. The angles produced by the Photojojo lens came out gentle and clean.

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Some fisheye lenses produce a dark circle around the photograph's edges but, with Photojojo's lenses, there's no light loss.

Instagram: @_jay_tee_

Just take a look at this gorgeous shot of Yosemite taken with the Photojojo fisheye lens, by Instagram user _jay_tee_.

The lens doesn't work with waterproof, battery, or other generally bulky cases.

Photojojo hasn't figured out how to make their lenses work with bulky covers like Apple's smart battery case and Mophie's H2Pro yet.

This a big, big bummer. Why? Because the situations in which you need extra battery and protection from the elements are most likely the situations that you want to photograph. When you're out adventuring and doing fun, cool stuff, that's exactly when you'll want both your lenses and bulky, protective cases.

A workaround for the battery case is to get an external battery pack instead (they range from $15 to $35 on Amazon).

The lenses also doesn't work for cases that can fit extra cards or money, like the Bellroy's 3-Card offering. You'll have to stick with minimal, slim fit cases.

Flash doesn't work when the lenses are on.

The phone's flash produces a green-ish, reflective glow when the lenses are attached. It looks cool and lomo-esque with the macro lens, but is prohibitively obstructive with the wide and fisheye models.

This isn't a dealbreaker, but if you want to shoot at nighttime or in low light, you'll have to lug around an extra accessory to use flash with the lenses. Get a pocket flash or something similar. They cost around $25-$30 on Amazon.

Switching out the lenses is pretty annoying.

Nicole / BuzzFeed

To remove the lenses, you need a really good grip and strong fingers. It takes a combination of forceful pulling and wiggling. After about a dozen tries, I finally got the hang of switching the lenses out, but it was still a big pain point in high-pressure, need-to-take-a-photo-now situations.

Craig, who captured the dew droplets above, had a pretty good tip for lens removal: "The lenses can be a bit tricky to get out of the holder. A little tip is to grip the lens and [when you] pull each time, give a quarter turn. Works every time!"

The Photojojo Iris series are high quality lenses offered at a not-outrageous price.

Nicole / BuzzFeed

At $90 for all three or $35 each, the Iris Lenses cost a slightly less than the Olloclip equivalent ($120) and much less than Moment ($100 for each lens) or iPro's Lens System ($224 for three).

The quality of the lenses are apparent in the bright, clear images they produce. They'll give your images that "wow" factor with minimal effort.

The mounting system is cleverly designed. It was clearly built to make removal and installation – with or without a case on – very easy.

The Iris series is a good purchase for anyone looking to up their Instagram game.

Nicole / BuzzFeed

I've used the lenses for about a month now, and can definitively say that they're a foolproof way to make your photos look damn good.

If you just want to keep things simple, I'd say opt for just the wide lens. It's great for travelers who want to leave their DSLR at home. The wide model is the most versatile because it's non-obtrusive and will help you capture twice as much with its 180-degree lens.

You can buy the lenses over at Photojojo.

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