We’ve covered Sandmarc before, they offer a variety of professional level camera lenses that can be attached in a variety of methods to most smartphones using basically chip clip technology. I believe they also sell an iPhone case that allows you to screw their lenses in, however I’m not using an iPhone and that’s been a while.
TL;DR – review – lens works well, Paul’s phone and photography skills with it don’t, clip complaints. Buy it if you want a great ND filter.
The clip goes on over your camera, the Sandmarc Motion Variable ND Filter lens screws into that, and you’ve suddenly got new features that a pro style lens can bring. That is if you know how to use them. It became apparent I did not know how to use them.
This particular lens works by changing the amount of light that’s getting back to your camera. This allows you to break out your college photography book and try and remember ISOs and shutter speed (and what was that whole breadbox thing?) so you can do longer exposures that bring out much more detail and color, or blur the image to unrecognizable if that’s your thing.
I’m not a photographer. I wanted to be one at one point, but being colorblind was a serious challenge. Doing this has been an interesting challenge as well as I discovered after a night of shooting my color balance was green and everyone I showed things to thought the lens was screwing things up. Nope. That’s all me.
An ND filter, for those wondering, reduces or modifies intensity of all light wavelengths equally. Think of it as non-color-distorting shades that you can make a little darker or lighter. Make it dark, set to manual and try to over expose some shots, you’ll get a much more interesting picture. Darken the world and try and capture moving water, you’ll end up with a blur.
This particular lens boasts 4 different light levels you can set it to.
I ended up with a lot of blurs and not a whole lot of success with long exposures. I don’t blame the filter however, that is entirely on my skills and apps. Along the way, besides discovering I am a much worse cell phone photographer than I remember, I managed to capture some interesting slinky action shots.
The ND filter, if you know what you’re doing, you can create some cinematic effects. (as seen below).
Some not their fault criticism I will mention is one of my testing runs was for naught because I found my case was leaking light in front the side with the Sandmarc clip. The universal clip is not quite compatible with my case, which, oh well, discovery. Chances are the Galaxy Note 8 in a thick thick case crowd is not a major buying block for ND filters. You’re on an iPhone, this is all your game.
Some their fault criticism is the soft ring on their clip that surrounds the camera is glued down to the clip and is moving. I believe I have a defect clip here because we’re looking at about a week and a half of use and the ring is detached.
Having decided that I have a few of these sitting around I decided to rip it off and replace it. It’s glue, 3M it smells like, and it should not have moved. I mean yes, it has been that hot out, which is why this review has taken this long, but not that hot.
I found quite a bit that even trying to over-expose on the Samsung camera app in Pro Mode it seemed to override me, or perhaps I’ve just forgotten more than I should.
None of this is the lens’s failing. It does exactly what it’s supposed to. I was not able to coax what was needed.
One thing that surprised me about the lens was on attempt 4 or so where I was chasing my then 4-yo around the yard, she turned and grabbed the lens right off my phone with surprisingly, astoundingly dirty hands. We’re talking “how did you get your hands so dirty within 40 steps?” dirty. Lens was filthy, on the ground, and I put it on the deck to be taken care of later with a lens cloth I have from their last set they sent.
7yo walks out, asks what the thing is, I tell her and that it’s there because it’s dirty and wander off to come back a minute later the 7yo having cleaned it with her scratchtastic shirt trying to be helpful. Surprisingly no scratches. I mean this kid can scratch a diamond with a feather.
Oh, one random cool thing that I can’t tell if it’s a feature or chance, the lens screws in and appears to always have the text and info you need to adjust at the same side so it’s easy to see what you’re setting the lens to be.
This lens, knowing the potential, makes me want to be a better photographer.