Guest author Chris McConnell is an opinionated, entrepreneurial-minded designer and writer who founded DailyTekk and Climbur.
I’ve got a problem. I love the camera on my iPhone. It’s become an appendage—like an arm, or hand. If it was amputated from my life I’d feel like I’d truly lost a part of me. I use it all the time. Maybe too much (no one wants to be that guy that gets a picture of the moment but misses the actual thing, but hey, I can’t help it and neither can you).
The thing is, I wish my iPhone’s camera could do more. It’s not a Apple vs Samsung vs Nokia type of thing. I’m talking about features that you don’t find on phones in general. DSLR-like features. I love the convenience of having a great camera in my pocket at all times, but it’s missing the power and the feel of a full-featured DSLR.
I found a few upgrades that can give an iPhone DSLR-like superpowers. Now plant the phrase, “Whoa, that exists?!” somewhere convenient in your brain, because you’re going to be accessing it a lot in the next few minutes.
Sony QX100 Smart Lens
Though it might look like a DSLR lens without a body, in reality the Sony QZ100 Smart Lens ($448) a full-fledged camera that uses your iPhone as a viewport. When combined with an iPhone via an included attachment, it’s possible to use in a traditional camera-like fashion: point and shoot.
But the real fun happens when the two items are detached. You can mount the solo Smart Lens on a tripod (perfect for lining up those professional selfies) or hold it in one hand with your iPhone in the other (perfect for hard-to-reach angles). The QX communicates with your phone via NFC or Wi-Fi (it actually creates its own hotspot).
Sony’s app will let you adjust white balance and exposure settings and control the zoom, among other things. While an iPhone 5S sports an 8 megapixel sensor, the QX packs a whopping 20 megapixels—more than double the iPhone’s out-of-box capabilities.
Olloclip Telephoto + Circular Polarizing Lens
I don’t know about you, but I’ve passed up many a cool subject because I knew my phone’s built-in zoom wasn’t up to the challenge. (That, or the photo would be so grainy I might as well take a picture of some sand.)
If you wanted to equip your iPhone with a more capable zoom without adding a ton of extra bulk, you’d look for something like the Olloclip Telephoto + Circular Polarizing Lens ($100). It may look small (and it is), but it will give you 2x optical magnification. Sure, it’s not something the paparazzi will use, but it might give you just the extra oomph you are looking for.
iPhone SLR Mount
You sometimes hear experts say that a camera is only as good as its lens. That’s why you can have an older camera body with a great lens on it and still take award-winning photos—and why a newbie with a brand new DSLR and stock lens might not have any good photos.
Going by this rule, the best way to upgrade your iPhone’s camera is to attach a huge beast of a lens—a full-fledged SLR. This is actually possible thanks to the iPhone SLR Mount ($175), which comes in both Canon and Nikon flavors.
Taking a break from the hardware front for a moment, let me tell you about ProCam (99 cents), an app that adds a familiar-looking DSLR-like interface to your iPhone screen when taking photos.
But the app is more than a looker—it actually lets you control things like focus and exposure, white balance, saturation and more. You can also control JPEG compression or opt for saving images in true lossless TIFF format. Another neat feature is the level mode which uses your phone’s gyroscope to auto-straighten the viewfinder in realtime.
Those of you old enough to remember (and excluding all you pros)—have you ever found yourself missing the old viewfinder you used to use to line up shots? You know, the eyepiece you actually held up to your face to peer through? There was something professional about it. It made you concentrate.
Though you’ve probably never pictured it before, you actually can buy a physical viewfinder to stick on your iPhone. It’s simply called the iPhone Viewfinder ($30) and it uses a screw-on suction pad to vacuum onto your phone screen. Used in conjunction with the Daylight Viewfinder app, this is a great way to spice up your iPhotography experience.