Revisiting Moment Lenses for the iPhone

“Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.”

Yousuf Karsh

While Yousuf is correct with his thoughts, good glass doesn’t hurt the process 🙂 And with the itty bitty lenses on most smartphones, trying to enhance the lens can be a trying experience.  Most are junk and some are fair but one maker has really set the bar for an accessory lens for the iPhone and Android smartphone and that is Moment.

Original Style Moment Lens set with stick-on mount

I bought my first set of Moment lenses when they were a Kickstarter project back in 2014. Moment raised almost a half million dollars to fund their project to make a set of real glass accessory lenses for the iPhone.  When I bought my first set, my family and many friends thought I was crazy for paying what I did for a pair of iPhone add-on lenses. These were not the normal rinky-dink plastic clip-on but real metal and glass lenses.  They looked serious because they were not small, they were pretty big on the phone. They weighed a lot for an accessory lens and they were costly. That is a lot of marks against something right up front.

These lenses kick butt on my iPhone 5S and when I bought my iPhone 7, I decided to upgrade. Moment has improved the mounting moving away from the stick on mount and using a case with a built-in mount.

Moment Case for iPhone Xr showing lens mount

I had an email exchange with one of the folks at Moment and he was telling me that they completely re-engineered the telephoto lens from 60mm on the older iPhones to 58mm on the newer phones like the 7/8/X because the sensor chips have changed size. I had noticed my 60mm has a lot of distortion on the edges when used with the iPhone 7 and had written to them about it.  I ended up with a new battery case/mount plus a new 58mm lens. The 18mm wide-angle lens works fine with both versions of the sensor chip. I also picked up their small two lens belt case because these lenses are made from metal and glass are a bit too bulky and heavy to go into a pocket. Also, the opening on the back of the lens is SMALL so you need to keep them out of a dusty pocket or you will be looking for a cotton swab to clean the lens before you mount it.

This is a good time to talk about the battery case. I’ve had mixed results with it over the past year. The case itself is a nice design and holds up well. I do not like the big silver button on the side because that happens to be where I reset a finger so I’m also pressing the damn thing when I don’t want to.  It will charge a phone but it seems flaky about it. I don’t think it’s a problem with the case but a problem with the software on the case. The last Moment update helped some but it’s still not as robust as it should be. I have had my phone plugged in while in the case and it refuses to charge until I remove the case and charge the phone then put it all back together and it seems to work again.

Source Moment website

This is a problem because when you are traveling and using the camera heavily as I do, the phone battery doesn’t last nearly as long as it should. So you either carry a brick of some kind or you use a battery case. And with the Moment lens, you have two choices, brick or their case.  I hope Moment refines their case firmware a bit more soon because that is a pain point to using their entire system. Now that I’m done bashing on the base, I will say the case for protection is very good with the material able to absorb impacts well and it’s grippy even when damp.

Moment battery case for iPhone 7 showing mount, crease where to bend the case to install the case and lighting plug

I added one of their lanyards and I love the extra safety having the wrist lanyard in place when I’m taking shots that requirement to be dangling over water or from a high elevation. Or from a rollercoaster at speed. Losing your grip on the phone and then dropping it is a terrible and costly feeling.

Moment lanyard attached to battery case

I have a gallery of shots below that I took with my 5S and 7 using both the 18mm, 60mm and 58mm Moment lenses over the past few years.  Complaints aside of the case, I love the lenses and the new case mount vs the old stick on.

 

 

My wish for Moment is to add filter threads to the telephoto lens at least. It would help prevent me from hacking my filters onto the lens using gaffer tape 🙂  It’s not pretty but it works to put an ND filter or IR filter on my phone.

Using gaffer tape to put a ND filter on the 18mm wide angle moment lens

Why I would do such a thing will be a new blog post in the coming weeks. I had all of this in my book on iTunes but the book stopped at the 5S and IOS 7 so some of it is outdated now.  How to Create Amazing  iPhone Photographs

 

When people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes

This is the second time I’ve tried to start the Smartphonegeek website. The first time, my poor site languished and was ignored by me for things like soccer games, traveling, restoring vintage audio gear and not least of all, work.

So in rebooting this site, I have also made the choice to shut down my Michael Sweeney Media photography site because trying to make a living with photography today is in my opinion, just about impossible and I don’t need the website now.  I think we have come in a complete circle with the advent of Smartphone photography.  The photographer today has quite a bit in common with our ancestors with cameras. They were folks that had day jobs or patrons that funded this “hobby” of photography in their spare or not so spare time. Now, with smartphones decimating the professional market, we are back to working day jobs to fund our photography passion.  In truth, it is very hard to make a good living, put money in savings, raise kids and be middle class as a professional photographer.  At some point, the fun leaves and it becomes a job.  A secondary pressure on pros is we used to make good money from prints and picture albums. Now with everything online, that revenue stream has become severely limited. Even with weddings which were the bread and butter of a good many photographers has suffered a contraction in money earned vs the number of photographers. Between Craigs list low prices and the lack of print sales of any kind, it has become a challenge to make a living. Notice, I say a living and not beer money.

In my case, this has been a slow realization that started some years ago when I got laid off from my job and I went to go “pro”. But within a year I saw the handwriting on the wall after writing a book on iPhone photography and really experienced just how good these smartphones are in trained hands or even not so capable hands.  I went back to my day job which pays the bills, puts food on the table and so on while I use all my “real camera” full frame stuff for personal projects and getting awesome sports shots of my kids and the odd job.

Olivia
Before and After Editing iPhone 7 image

What has taken the place of shooting with 20lbs of camera and lenses, is my iPhone.  I take it everywhere and I’ve spent a lot of time really learning how to push the limits of the iPhone and I still think I have a ways to go. The newest software is truly amazing with what it can do now. Apple and other vendors have finally gotten the message that glass counts too and are starting to innovate with lens design and using multiple lenses to get better results.

Now we have battery cases that work, real glass lenses designed to augment the smartphone built-in lens, awesome software for BOTH the camera AND post-processing, better screens and more.

Propaganda Russian Style from iPhone

This really came home to a few weeks ago when I took a trip with the family to San Francisco and did not bring my DLSR. Not one body, not any of it. I shot the entire trip on my iPhone with my Moment lens set and battery pack.  That is the future of photography.  The DSLR manufacturers have finally thrown in the towel and admitted as much publically.

So I will happily create art with my smartphone on one hand and mourn the loss of the skills that a real camera makes you use. But in all truth, it’s not the gear that makes the artist, it’s the person and how they translate their vision with the gear they have. I still have my “real” camera and I still shoot film for a few different reasons so in the end, I think it will all work out.

Sara and Jeanne on a Cable Car in San Francisco. Moment 58mm Lens