iPhone users looking for the best when it comes to add-on lenses have pretty much been confined to Moment’’s lenses — at least until now. Sandmarc has debuted a high-quality lens system for the iPhone X that rivals Moment’s lenses in build quality. But is it one of the best iPhone lenses you can get? Read our full Sandmarc review to find out.
Each of Sandmarc’s lenses are very substantial. Made of metal, with glass elements, they’re similar in size and heft to Moment’s lenses.
Each lens came with both a case for the iPhone X, as well as a clip that lets you use the lenses with other smartphones. (Sandmarc also makes cases for the iPhone 7 and 8.) For future iPhones, the company will let customers buy just the case if they already have a Sandmarc lens, a customer-friendly move should the size of iPhones change in future years.
When using its case, the Sandmarc lenses will work with only the iPhone X’s wide lens. By comparison, Moment’s case lets you use its lenses with either of the iPhone’s rear cameras.
While Sandmarc’s case is made of plastic, I like that the screw mount for the lens is made of metal, which helps ensure a longer, and sturdier, connection. Also, the diameter of the screw mount for the Sandmarc lens — the part that connects to the case — is about twice as large as that on the Moment lens, which made it feel less likely to snap off accidentally. However, Moment uses a bayonet-style mount, which makes it faster to change lenses on the fly.
The clip that comes with the lens is also quite sturdy, but it took a little finessing to place it in just the right spot over an iPhone lens. Sandmarc’s Wide lens weighs 2.5 ounces, while its Fisheye lens comes in at 1.8 ounces; both comes with a small drawstring cloth pouch for protection.
Fisheye Lens Performance
The Sandmarc’s fisheye lens has a wider field of view than Moment’s — 230 degrees with a 0.2x magnification, compared with 170 degrees for Moment’s Superfish lens.
In an outdoor scene of an ice skating rink, the Sandmarc was able to capture more of the rink, as well as buildings on the periphery. For example, you can see much more of the Empire State Building. However, objects on the fringes were more out of focus, more so than with Moment’s lens.
A photo taken of the main hall of Grand Central Terminal, as well as outside the building, exhibited the same characteristics. The writing on the departures board was crisper in the Moment’s photo than in Sandmarc’s.
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Wide Lens Performance
The Sandmarc Wide Lens, which gives you twice the field of view as the unadorned iPhone X camera, was sharper from edge to edge than Moment’s and Shiftcam’s wide lenses.
You can see it most clearly in this photo taken outside Grand Central Terminal; not only does Sandmarc’s lens capture more of the scene, but the Chrysler Building — which is slightly blurry in the Moment and Shiftcam shots — is rendered sharply here.
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Macro Lens Performance
Sandmarc’s Macro lens offers a 10X magnification, and was pretty evenly matched with Moment’s macro lens. In a shot of a Lego Chewbacca figurine, I could make out every errant speck of dust, as well as the halftone color patterns on his face.
I liked that both lenses include a translucent hood, which helps protect the lens but still lets plenty of light in.
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Generally speaking, Sandmarc’s lenses cost about $10 to $20 less than comparable lenses from Moment.
Sandmarc also sells The Photography Edition ($189), which includes the Wide, Macro and Fisheye lenses.
After Moment dominated the high-quality iPhone lens market for some time, I like that the company finally has some genuine competition in Sandmarc. In general, Sandmarc’s lenses helped produce some great images, with excellent build quality. The only lens I had issue with was its fisheye; while it was able to capture more of the scene than Moment’s fisheye, those areas were blurrier than I would have liked.
Ultimately, we prefer Moment’s lenses because of their slightly better quality, and that you can use them with both of the iPhone X’s lenses (as well as the second lens on the Note 8 and other dual-lens smartphones). But if you’re looking for a slightly less expensive alternative to Moment’s lenses, Sandmarc’s are a very good option.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Tom’s Guide