By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
As mobile filmmaking becomes more popular with low budget and independent filmmakers, so does the need rise for crafting a better image. How do you get every pixel worth of clarity and color when you have a CMOS sensor the size of your fingernail? Well, you start by giving the iPhone a better lens to capture it with. And there’s no better option right now than Moment Lenses.
Now first I have to point out that every single external lens for a mobile device suffers from the same short comings, and they are, that regardless of how good the optics are, you’re still having to push the image through the iPhone’s camera lens array and sensor. There’s also the hassle of having to use their mobile cases for your phone, since a custom lens mount is required. And when a company decides to discontinue their systems, like Schneider did with the iPro Lens system just recently, you’re left with a set of lenses and no way to upgrade beyond whatever phone you bought them for. That’s a drag.
Some, like the Ollo Clip have surmounted this curb in the road by creating a slide on lens housing that can be put on at a moment’s notice. The downside here is, that you usually need to either remove your protective case to use it, or you end up having to use Ollo’s flip up case to be able to put the housing on and still keep your phone protected. Then, when you upgrade to a new phone, you have to replace your lenses as well.
If you’re going to do that, why not upgrade to higher end lenses like Moment’s which give you a far more secure connection of the lens to the body thanks to the built into it? I chose Moment’s wooden panel case because I kinda liked the look. But to be honest, the case itself is more for attaching the lenses themselves, rather than to provide serious protection for your phone. The cases aren’t bad, mind you. They’ll protect as good as any $30 case. But compared to my OtterBox, they’re a bit lacking.
But Moment had to redesign the lenses to accommodate the case mount system because the thinner veneer of the original slip on lens mount was too thin to accommodate the larger screen sizes of modern mobile devices. So Moment not only shifted to the case mounting system, but took the opportunity to beef up the lenses design. The case mount also gives users a nice place to put a wrist lanyard, so you can keep hold of your mobile devices without losing the grip and seeing it plummet to the ground. This is a nice feature considering the lenses will make the center of gravity shift on the device and if you’re not careful, you could drop it. So consider the lanyard as a nice last line of defense against a cracked screen. But I would have preferred Moment include at least a basic wrist lanyard with the case, rather than having users pay $19.99 for one.
Moment also makes an optional neck lanyard that attaches to it so you can just have your camera draping from around your neck until you need it. I can easily see myself using the neck lanyard while on location or even when traveling with family, just so I don’t have to carry my phone around in my hand all day long. All in all, a well thought out case design, even if it doesn’t look like it will protect from any impact.
Now that this is out of the way, let’s talk about the lenses themselves. Moment sent me three lenses to test out, the Wide Angle, the Superfish Wide Angle, and the 2x Tele. The lenses come well packed in a form fitting box, with foam inserts for additional protection. A very nice package. The lenses themselves are also housed in a quality felt bag, which keeps them safe from dust and moisture. I got a nice carrying case which not only allows you to carry up to four Moment lenses, but also has room for a small tripod, cables, and your mobile charging adapter.
First, let’s take a look at the Wide Angle Moment Lens. Ideal for real estate, landscapes and taking those group selfies, the Moment Wide Lens has actually been re-engineered from the previous model to get the best, everyday wide-angle image for mobile photographers and filmmakers. With improved ground glass and wide angle design, the Wide Lens offers 2x more image coverage than your mobile device’s standard camera set at its widest point. The result promises to be crisp sharp with no fisheye distortion. That’s the product description. And it’s spot on. Not only do you get far more coverage than the standard iPhone lens, but it also really does improve the image with a noticeable boost in sharpness and clarity.
If you’re looking for an even wider view, then Moment’s 15mm Superfish Wide Angle goes even further with a 170° field of view. Winner of the 2017 Geekwire Hardware Product of the Year, the Superfish is designed for tight areas where you need to get as much of the image as possible, but don’t have much room to move around. Like the Wide Angle lens, the Superfish offers a crisp view edge to edge. Using it for landscapes also gives a far more dramatic establishing shot without having to pan in the process. Then, to get a more stabile image, you can crop back in to offer a faux Warp Stabilizer effect.
Lastly comes the 2X Tele. The exact opposite of Moment’s Wide Angle lens, the 2X tele cuts the camera’s field of view in half without sacrificing its image quality. It’s 60mm focal length will get shooters a closer image without having to make sacrifices due to digital zoom. And although Moment says that the 2X Tele offers sports shooters the ability to “capture the action from the stands,” I think that’s a bit of a boast that isn’t really realistic. Maybe from the sidelines. But even then, the image quality is a definite improvement over just shooting with your mobile device’s lens all by itself. The 60mm is also very good for shooting close ups and portraits, bringing in details that you wouldn’t normally catch without it.
Though zooming into 60mm is a nice touch of this lens, the real star is the image sharpness that comes with the superior quality of Moment’s new ground glass design. In fact, I would say that’s true of all three lenses. It’s not really about what the lenses do, but how they do it that makes them stand out over other lens competitors. Apple may boast about the promise of their camera’s new 5 element sapphire lens design, but it’s these Moment lenses that truly deliver on that promise. Other than the apparent flimsiness of the Moment mounting case, the only beef I have with these lenses is that there’s no way to add a neutral density filter to it. But I talked to Moment and they’re working something that would support filters on their lenses. We’ll just have to wait and see.
It’s a shame that Schneider discontinued the iPro Lens system because I would have loved to have compared them head to head on my iPhone 6s Plus to see just how they look side by side. Maybe I’ll have to blow the dust off of one of my old iPhone 5s and see if I can find the Lens Pro mount case and give that a go. So stay tuned.
All in all, the image quality is what Moment brings to the party. So much so, that $99 for each lens seems a bit low to pay for what you get, I probably would have been willing to buy these at a higher price because it really does improve the images I shoot. Were it not for the shortcomings that come along with any external lens design, that means you have to swap out the mounting case in order to mount the lenses, I probably would have these with me 24/7. But I’m just not all that confident that the mounting case will be able to take a licking and protect my mobile device should I drop it in every day use, and I’m not going to be using a lanyard as I go about my day. But for shooting on location or a day off with the family, Moment lenses are definitely coming with me.