They say the best camera is the one that you have with you. And in most cases these days, that's become the camera inside your smartphone.
The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S already have great cameras -- some of the best on any smartphones out there. In fact, the camera on Apple's phone might already have you leaving your point and shoot at home in some instances and relying on it as your sole camera. However, there are a few things you lose by not having that point-and-shoot or standalone camera. And they're things you can't achieve by just downloading an app.
Whether you want to take shots with different compositions or of farther-away subjects, or you're looking to take more stable or better-lit photos, you'll want to check out the three types of iPhone accessories below.
The first trick to turning your iPhone into a better camera? Get a better lens. Many companies make lenses that clip over the iPhone's 8-megapixel camera. The kits are unique in their own right, but most of these kits offer three types of lenses:
A fisheye lens, which lets you take fun images that look like a round globe or like the center of the shot is coming at you. (See photo to the left.)
A wide angle lens, which takes wider images than the iPhone typically can.
A macro lens, which captures the detail in up-close shots.
Some kits also have telephoto lenses, which let you zoom in closer on a distant subject. I have tested a number of lenses over the last few days. Below are three of my favorites.
The Olloclip is my favorite of the bunch, mostly because of its size. The lens clips, as its name implies, to the top of the iPhone and is no bigger than a box of matches. You can see how easily it clips on in the video at the beginning of this story, but the other great thing about this small device is that it contains all the lenses you want in one.
One end has a fisheye lens and the other has a macro/wide angle lens. Unscrew the wide angle and you'll get the macro lens. The macro option is particularly great. If you're worried you won't know which lens is which, a small label along the ring of the lens tells you, but you'd likely be able to tell right by looking at the frame of the shot on the screen. The one downside of the Olloclip -- and actually all of the lenses we tested -- is that it can't fit over an iPhone case.
The Onchee is the best deal of all the lenses featured in this article. It's not as convenient or small as the Olloclip, but for $89.00 you get five different lenses and a tripod in the box. Included in the kit are wide angle, fisheye, 2x, 9x, and 12x telephoto lenses. All the lenses took great-looking shots, but the telephoto lenses in this kit were particularly fun to play with. I took this photo of the East River from my apartment window using the 12x lens, which is half a mile away.Unlike the Olloclip, the Onchee comes with a case for your iPhone. The lenses simply screw into an opening over the camera. It's a bit more cumbersome to port around the lenses with you, but there's no denying the options here. Oh, and did I mention that they also throw a tripod into the box? Before you pull out your credit card and order one of these, it is only available through USBFever.com, which is based in China
The PhotoJoJo offers a number of iPhone lenses and cool accessories, but the coolest-looking one is by far the iPhone Lens Dial. Three lenses -- a fisheye, wide angle, and telephoto -- are attached to a rotating dial on the aluminum case.
While it looks very cool and like one of those contraptions at the optometrist's office, though, it costs $249.99, making it the most expensive accessory we tested.
I took some of my best shots with this lens, but I also worried the most about breaking it. I was especially uneasy when I pulled out the dial to switch from one lens to another. The aluminum frame also makes it heavier than the others at 10 ounces.
The iPhone 4 and 4S already have good LED flashes, but sometimes you just need a bit more light, or you want to know how your shot is going to look before you snap the photo and the flash goes off.
A great little accessory, the iFlash plugs into the bottom of the iPhone and can be turned on anytime by pressing the small on/off button. Shots I took in the dark with the iFlash looked slightly brighter, but even more helpful was being able to frame the shot using the light before I even hit the shutter button.
The last thing you want to do is go through all that effort to get a picture and take a shaky shot. There are plenty of iPhone tripods, but Joby's GorillaMobile not only looks the coolest, it's the most functional.
With its bendable legs you can take the tripod anywhere and wrap it around a chair or pole to take a shot. Included is a case that straps to your phone and then connects to the stand. It's great for taking self-portraits and avoiding that awkward outstretched arm thing to take shots, though you might want to download PhotoTimer since the iPhone doesn't have a built-in photo timer.