Photography Snap-happy travels: Phone cameras get smarter

Photo of Angie Tomlinson

The latest quality lenses for mobiles offer a much lighter option than carrying a digital SLR camera.

How many travellers do you see snapping photos with their mobile phones? Perhaps you are one of them. After all, the mobile is our constant companion, always at the ready. And how light is it compared with your DSLR camera?

The trade-off, of course, is quality. Although there has been dramatic improvement in smart phone cameras, especially with the new iPhone7, iPhone7+, Samsung Galaxy S Edge and Google Pixel phone cameras, capability for wide-angle or close-ups can be limited.

That market gap is being filled by new product SnapLens — a series of clip-on lenses that attach to a mobile phone, expanding its capability to capture macro, fisheye and wide-angle photos.

“Before I started SnapLens in late 2015, I noticed while travelling that everyone was using their mobile phones to take pictures. With abundant free wi-fi in a lot of travel destinations, it makes sense for a traveller to use their phone to capture images so they can instantly share those photos and experiences with friends and family,” SnapLens founder Chloe Elliott says. 

“So I started thinking about ways people could maximise the use of their phone’s camera and SnapLens was  born.”

SnapLens co-owner Pascale Angliss says the lenses offer professional photographers a great substitute when the DLSR isn’t handy, and for amateurs the ability to take professional shots without the investment.

“It’s a great alternative or stepping stone for people already into photography that want to explore using a macro or fish-eye lens but don’t want to go out and buy the more expensive equivalent for their DSLR,” Ms Angliss says.

The lenses work well for the minimal traveller, with the Pro Range supplied in a small case that can be attached to a belt or kept in your bag for quick retrieval.

Snaplens first released a range of magnetic lenses in late 2015, but this year has seen the launch of the SnapLens Pro Range consisting of macro, telephoto and dual function wide-angle/polariser lenses.

“We’ve used the lenses at the beach, in the garden and on trips down south. We particularly enjoyed capturing beautiful seascape photos of the Southern Ocean with the wide-angle/polariser lens,” Ms Angliss says.

Ms Elliott took the Pro range on an island-hopping trip through Indonesia, capturing portraits of macaque monkeys with the 2x optical zoom of the telephoto pro lens and close-ups of tropical fruit at the markets with 10x zoom and short focal length of the macro lens.

The wide-angle polariser lens captured the wet season beautifully, while the circular polarising lens is adjustable so Ms Elliott was able to twist the lens once attached to her iPhone7 to determine the amount of light in the shot. 

While the lenses won’t necessarily turn you into a professional photographer – Ms Elliott and Ms Angliss argue that is more about exposure and composition – the lenses are perfect for capturing and enhancing subjects in specific situations. 

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