We’re fast-approaching a point with smartphone camera technology where travelers wanting to catch that perfect shot may no longer need to carry a separate DSLR camera. Clip-on Zeiss lenses, ultra-compact tripods, and Photoshop-grade mobile apps are replacing bulky, “old school” digital camera kits. Here are four of our favorite iPhone Photography accessories for budding (or near-pro) travel photographers.
ExoLens with Optics by Zeiss Wide-angle Lens – $200
Snap-on iPhone lenses are nothing new. However, most suffer from at least one of two shortcomings: their flexible design (to allow for use on a wide range of iPhone types) provides a less-than-ideal fit, or the quality of the glass isn’t worth the hassle. The awkwardly named ExoLens with Optics by Zeiss Wide-angle Lens (18mm equivalent) solves both problems. First, the included precision-machined mounting brackets provide for an ultra-tight fit with whatever iPhone you happen to be packing. Second, and most important, the lenses make use of world-famous Zeiss optics meaning the picture quality is far superior to any other smartphone lens kit on the market. The downside? Great quality and fit doesn’t come cheap.
Snapseed – Free
Like all great software and apps, Google purchased Nik Software (creators of Snapseed) in 2012. It’s no surprise, as original iterations of the mobile app were approaching the power and flexibility of full-fledged desktop photo-editing software. The latest version offers many of the best features of Adobe Photoshop. Instagram-style filters allow for fast, stylized editing. But, additional nuanced features allow power users to individually adjust for things like exposure, ambiance, warmth, and saturation — on a per-picture level or via preset brushes to edit only small portions of a photo. Where the app really shines is with desktop-grade features like a healing brush, facial recognition (to, for example, highlight only a single face or pair of eyes in a given photo), and an automated stretch feature. The latter allows for smart resizing to, for example, add additional blue sky or to extend a fence line in a photo where neither previously existed.
Pakpod – $99
For years, Gorillapod was the standard for photographers looking to take their cameras anywhere. While the company’s products are still solid as ever, Pakpod offers all the same features and then some. The uniquely designed mobile tripod was purpose-built for outdoor and adventure travelers who use their cameras in the most extreme situations. It’s lightweight, compact, and extremely portable. But, its biggest selling point is its stake system which allows it to be firmly secured in sand, turf, or snow. Once in place, all three legs are lockable with just one twist. What’s more: dedicated tie-down points guarantee the tripod will never budge.
Roxant Pro Stabilizer – $65
While smartphone software and hardware are rapidly catching up to DSLR camera technology, the one thing that’s been difficult to overcome is their awkward form factor. Smartphones were never intended to be used or held like a traditional camera. Enter Roxant’s Video Camera Stabilizer. The device features a universal mount that accepts not only smartphones but GoPros and DSLRs up to 2.1 pounds. The design offers a solid hand grip, three individual counterweights for better balance, and a purpose-built, Hollywood-inspired stabilizing design for shooting smooth, “indie film-style” footage without the usual smartphone shakiness.