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When you already have a top of the line smart phone, be it Apple or Android. 99% of the time you don’t need anything else because your high end smart phone has you covered but for those rare 1% moments, you wish or feel your smart phone had that bit more oomph up it’s sleeve. This eventually led us down the road to where we bought the Sandmarc telephoto lens.
Why did we buy an external telephoto lens from Sandmarc?
4 months ago my wife started her freelance journey as a Social Media Manager for a swimming club in Oman. She handles everything for their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Right from shooting videos and pictures for content creation to scheduling and posting. That’s when she ran into that 1% situation, where she wished that her iPhone 13 Pro Max had a bit more oomph.
All of a sudden one day she asked me, “do they make any good quality external lens for an iPhone?”. I was under the impression that she wanted lens filters for more dramatic and cinematic shots for work but after a bit of questioning I finally figured that she was actually looking for a better telephoto lens that would give her the ability to capture video and photos from a distance without having to lose the picture quality by digital zooming.
Now the right answer to her question would be buying an actual digital camera like a good quality entry level SLR camera but after seeing the prices of those babies, she wasn’t having it. Sony had released 2 extremely popular cameras for content creators that were relatively inexpensive in the Digital camera space.
- SONY ZV-1F ($499.99)
- SONY ZV-1 ($749.99)
These are even available on Amazon:
However, despite these options she was very happy with her current workflow and just wanted a quick add-on for her phone for those situations.
What are the different external lenses for smartphone available?
A quick search on Google & Amazon for external iPhone lenses and it was a rabbit hole that I was not prepared for. Plus, as the resident “Tech Guy” the burden of finding such a product that was not only good but also relatively inexpensive fell on my shoulders.
After many late nights of scrolling product pages on Amazon, reading reviews on websites like Toms Guide and watching a vast number of reviews on YouTube. I eventually narrowed it down to two companies Sandmarc and Moment.
The Battle: Sandmarc VS Moment
Now don’t get me wrong neither of these were what we call cheap at over $90 a lens, I had to be as sure as possible that I knew exactly what we were getting for the price. So here’s a quick run down:
Sandmarc Product Offering
Sandmarc doesn’t sell only the lens on their website. You would need to buy the respective lens and iPhone cover for your phone. The cases have a built-in mount mechanism so that you can screw the lens in place. There are two types of case options and multiple bundles.
- Anamorphic Lens Edition $139.99
- Telephoto Lens Edition $129.99
- Macro Lens Edition $99.99
- Fisheye Lens Edition $99.99
- Wide Lens Edition $99.99
They also sell mounts, tripods, filters, rig’s, dolly’s etc.
Note: The prices listed are non-sale prices, they do have sales and offers fairly regularly around prominent holidays.
Moment Product Offering
However, Moment does sell you the lens of your choice on their website. But the catch is that you would also need to buy the mount for the lens otherwise you would not be able to attach it to your phones camera plus they also sell you the case separately.
They also have a bundle option that would come with the lens, camera mount, cover, wrist strap, lens cleaner and covering caps for the lens itself. There are many bundles to choose from as well.
- M-Series Fisheye (14mm Lens) $129.99
- M-Series Anamorphic (1.33X Lens) Gold Flare $149.99
- M-Series Macro (10X Lens) $129.99
- M-Series Wide (18mm Lens) $129.99
- M-Series Telephoto (58mm Lens) $149.99
- M-Series Anamorphic (1.33X Lens) Gold Flare $149.99
Note: The prices listed are non-sale prices, they do have sales and offers fairly regularly around prominent holidays. Also, I found that One, Two & Three Lens bundle offers to be extremely expenses. The latter being retailed at an eye watering $509.90.
Fine print of “Paid” third party apps
Everything is not as Plug & Play as the main page of both companies would like you to believe. In order for any of the lens to work correctly, you would need to make an additional purchase of a third-party app for both products.
To their credit both companies do mention that the 3rd party app is necessary for their products to work as advertised but you have to be careful not to miss the fine print.
- For Sandmarc it is the ProCamera app on the Apple store listed for $13.99
- Subsequently for Moment it is their own Pro Camera app on the Apple store listed for $6.99
Note: You can use any one of the below 3rd party app for Sandmarc
Why did we choose Sandmarc Telephoto Lens?
So, why Sandmarc then? Well when I figured out what my wife wanted was just a telephoto lens it honestly came down to 3 key factors for us; price, availability and shipping/returns. Let’s discuss this one by one.
- Price: In terms of price, it was $129.99 Sandmarc Telephoto Lens vs $249.94 Moment Telephoto Lens for the telephoto bundle that’s even before international shipping. Sure, you could argue that you get more choice and items in the moment bundle, but the price difference was just not doing it for me. Sandmarc Telephoto Bundle and Moment Telephoto Bundle.
- Availability: Since this order was going to be placed around the New Years’ time (post-Christmas) both companies had highlighted delays in order processing and shipping due to the holiday rush, but the key difference was that Sadmarc telephoto lens was in stock whereas Moment telephoto was on back order due to the high demand.
- Shipping and Returns: Now if you live in the North America region (US & Canada) then this wouldn’t be such a problem for you. Both had free shipping in the US, Sandmarc has a 30-day return window whereas Moment had a 60-day return window but since we live in the Middle East there are a lot of factors that I had to consider. Like the cost of shipping and returning (incase the product arrived damaged).
The final decision was made easier after reading the fine print of both company’s international return policy and the fact that the Moment telephoto lens was on back order for months. I decided to take the preverbal plunge and go for the Sandmarc telephoto lens (and it did not fail us).
Sandmarc Telephoto Lens: Product ordering and delivery experience
The Sandmarc website ordering process was simple and easy. The international shipping costs were clearly mentioned and the credit card payment was pretty straightforward. I ended up paying an additional $40 for the shipping.
I did get the tracking and shipping details a little late (3 days after placing the order) but that was to be expected giving the timing of the order. The rest of the delivery process was standard. However, my Fed-Ex parcel did arrive a day early than the scheduled delivery time so that was a nice bonus.
The package arrived in one piece and was not damaged and when I opened it up everything was safe and sound and more importantly the lens was clean and free from any starches.
Sandmarc Telephoto Lens: Product & build quality?
The lens has a real heft to it and the outer casing that holds the lens feels nice and sturdy. The case on the other hand does feel a little light. I was kind-of expecting a more rugged case, nothing in lines of a M.A.G case but a little sturdier.
Since the mounting bracket is molded into the case it doesn’t feel like it will come apart once the lens is screwed into place. The case snaps snugly onto the iPhone and you get to hear a satisfying click to know you have installed it correctly. Once the lens has been mounted in the right area the camera tends to feel a bit heavier but nothing cumbersome.
Once you have taken the shots that you require the disassembly process it was quite easy but I wish the part of removing the cover from the phone was a better experience. It does feel like you need to put an uneasy amount of force to get it lose to the point where you feel like you would snap it in two. But in our experience if you apply equal pressure on all side and slowly push it outwards the case does come loose. It’s definitely one area they can improve on for sure.
Sandmarc Telephoto Lens: Our experience
Initial user experience
When my wife started using it she was a bit unhappy and uncomfortable holding the phone with the lens attached to it. As it does get heavy but that’s just the initial experience you tend to get used to it quiet quickly. With regards to the zoom they do mention using a tripod to make sure that the shots are not blurry when you zoom in to much. However she did not want to use a tripod as she was looking for a quick fix to capture shots something that can be done easily and requires no big set up as such.
3 months later
Once she was used the telephoto lens screwed onto the phone and the weight of it she was much happier. She even stuck to a thumb rule of not zooming into the maximum so that the shots do not get blurry as she still doesnt use a tripod. Another thing helped her for having steady hands is to lean onto something while shooting be it a wall or a railing.
Overall she has been very happy with the purchase and the results it gives her for her social media content creation. The Sandmarc telephoto lens gives a nice depth of field when shooting thus making the picture or video even more interesting.
You can see more of her work on Threshers Swimming Club.
Ease of use
Value for money
3rd party app
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