- Extremely wide angle-of-view
- Nice fisheye effect
- Solid build quality
- Easy and quick attachment
- Compatible with most smartphones (although works best with iPhone 6/6s generations)
- Strong image softness
- Varying degrees of vignetting (depending on smartphone camera)
- Some lens flare in sunny conditions
- Slows down camera AF
- Exposed front element prone to scratching and fingerprints
- Clip not compatible with many phone cases
Fixed focal length lenses are one of the key limitations of smartphone cameras. So it’s no surprise that add-on lenses, which allow you to vary the focal length, are among the most popular smartphone accessories.
We have had the chance to test one of the more extreme variants, the Apexel 8mm fisheye lens, which provides a whopping 238-degree field-of-view. The lens comes with a clip that makes it very easy and quick to attach to most mobile devices – Apexel claims it is compatible with 98% of all smartphones – but we’ve found it to work best with the latest generation Apple iPhones, as the back of the lens slots onto the iPhone’s lens protrusion, where it is firmly held in place. On other devices, without a protruding camera-module, things can get a little more difficult and you might have to optimize the position of the lens by moving it around very slightly until you find a position that gives the best image quality.
The provided clip makes lens attachment very easy and quick.
Lens construction features six elements in five groups
The lens construction features six elements in five groups and a multi-layer coating. The glass is housed in an aluminum body and the clip is made from very robust ABS plastic. Apart from the lens and clip you’ll find a lens cap, storage case and lanyard in the box.
Image quality does of course vary depending on the smartphone camera you are using, and can be a little hit and miss. We tested the lens on the iPhone 6s Plus and the Lenovo Moto Z Force. On the iPhone, the lens clips neatly onto the protrusion of the phone camera but still, many images are very soft across the frame. During our testing the iPhone’s AF system clearly found it more difficult than usual to find a lock and, so it seems, sometimes simply did not focus correctly before the shutter was triggered. Other images are relatively sharp at the center of the frame and only show softness around the edges.
Apple iPhone 6s Plus
Lenovo Moto Z Force
In general, sharpness was better on the Moto Z Force but you’ll have to make sure the lens lines up perfectly with the smartphone camera. That said, even in a best case scenario vignetting is much more pronounced than on the iPhone – in sunny conditions lens flare is visible and again the AF occasionally takes much longer to lock than without the clip-on lens. With the Apexel’s extreme angle of view it can also be difficult to keep fingers and other body parts out of the frame, so check the preview image carefully before pulling the trigger.
Of course, the lens also works in video mode. The sample below was recorded in the Lenovo Moto Z Force’s 1080p video mode. It shows most of the same imperfections as the still images but thanks to the lower video resolution they are not quite as intrusive.
The Apexel 8mm fisheye lens for smartphones is a nicely made accessory lens that is very easy to clip onto most phones (as long as you don’t use a case). The fisheye effect is extreme and can be an interesting additional weapon in your creative mobile imaging arsenal. However, image quality purists won’t be happy with the strong softness, vignetting and some lens flare we’ve seen in our sample pictures. Not that we were expecting Zeiss quality from a smartphone accessory lens, but the Apexel is generally quite a bit softer than we’d like.
That said, the lens can be fun to use and capture image results that are different from your usual smartphone pictures. The Apexel 8mm Fisheye is currently available for approximately $44 on Amazon.com*.