iPhone Photography Gear Review

A few months back, I wrote up a post on the new photography gear I’d be using on our November and December cruises and trip to Disney World, and figured it was probably time to take a look back and see how it all performed. Before getting in to it, I should note that I added one piece to it between those two cruises. In early December, Moment finally finished up their phone case for the iPhone 6s Plus, so I was able to try that out on the second cruise and compare it to the rig I used on the first one.

Let’s take a look at the gear I used on each sailing.

November cruise aboard the Norwegian Escape, Disney World over Thanksgiving, and the Roar Before the 24 in January:

DSC02399 DSC02406

December cruise aboard the MSC Divina:

DSC02411 DSC02412

Here’s my take on the individual pieces of each of these kits:

ShoulderPod S1 Grip: I absolutely love this thing. Of all the gear I’m covering here, this was the best money spent. This allows me to get some odd-angle shots in a totally stable way without the feeling that I’m going to drop my phone. As an example, it allowed me to get a couple of my favorite shots using the reflection on the glass of our balcony by holding the phone way over the balcony. At no point was I concerned about this thing falling into the ocean, since I had the S1 to grip on to, and the strap around my wrist:

Morning reflection… #CruiseNorwegian #norwegianescape #connectconference #momentwide #shotoniphone6splus

A post shared by Wanderlist Vacations (@wanderlistvaca) on

The S1 does an outstanding job of allowing you to take single-handed shots in awkward positions in a stable manner. Seriously, if you only buy one thing in your quest for better smartphone pics, this should be it.  I’ve had a lot of people on these trips approach me about it, all of whom really liked how it felt when they tried it. If you want to help the blog out, you can pick it up here on Amazon :).

Moment wide angle and telephoto lenses: I have a complicated relationship with these. I really like the wide angle, and keep going back and forth on the telephoto. On the first cruise, and again at Disney, I overused the wide angle lens. For the most part, I was treating it as a permanent attachment, and I know better. I’m in the camp that believes you don’t improve image quality by putting glass in front of glass, which is exactly what adding any lens to a smartphone does. I do, however, love that it allows the camera to see more of what’s in front of it without me having to re-position myself. I tried to make that work in close-up scenarios too often, however, only to see later that it added noticeable distortion to the image, giving it an almost fish-eye look. Not the fault of the lens, more my fault for being lazy and not just removing it and backing up.

I got better at determining when to go with a “naked” camera on cruise #2, so for me, there was definitely a learning curve. I did get a lot of excellent shots with it that would have been a pain otherwise, though. This is especially useful for us as travel agents, as I’m able to get more of a hotel room or cruise cabin in a single shot, reducing the number of overall pictures it takes to be able to show off the entire room. For example, here are two shots of the same hotel room, taken from the same point in the room. On the left, no lens. On the right, using the wide angle. Definitely an advantage to having a wider field of view sometimes.

20151113_021029000_iOS 20151113_021341000_iOS

Moving on to the telephoto, I think my biggest issues were using it indoors. I used it a few times to shoot our general sessions in the main theater on the Escape, attempting to get close-up shots of speakers without having to use digital zoom, and in that setup, with challenging lighting, the shots were no sharper and clearer than those shot using just the built-in digital zoom. Outdoors in the right conditions, this does allow you to gain a closer perspective without the IQ loss that tends to occur when using the iPhone’s digital zoom. In the group of pictures at the end of this post, the shot of Atlantis was taken sitting at the back of the ship using the telephoto lens with no added zoom.

Moment Case:  As mentioned, I didn’t have this until the second cruise, and having it for that only happened because I agreed to give up the one I wanted due to supply shortage. I’d pre-ordered the black/black case on 11/24 with an estimated shipping date of 12/3, but when they finally started shipping on 12/8ish, my order status changed to Back Order. After contacting them, I learned that the system had accepted more orders for that color combination than they could fill, so I could either change to one of the other two options, or wait until some future date when they had more. Reluctantly, I chose to switch to the black/white case, as they didn’t know how long the wait would be.

Up to this point, I hadn’t used Moment’s camera app much, as I prefer Camera+ (and am learning PhotoToaster). Going in to the purchase of this case, I knew I’d have to change over if I wanted to make use of the dedicated shutter button, as it only works with their app. I tried to like it, I really did. I spent the first couple of days after getting the case trying to get used to the app, and even filed feedback on a couple of changes I’d like to see:

  • One thing I like about Camera+ is the ability to edit pics in the app as soon as you shoot. This is something Moment’s app doesn’t have, and the answer I was given was that focusing on the capture side was their priority, with no plans for any editing features since there are so many editing apps out there for people to use. I get it, but it still slows me down when I want to shoot and post stuff fast, so looks like I’ll be staying with Camera+ for now.
  • They currently have no HDR support in the app. Now, Camera+ doesn’t have this on the capture side either, but has the ClarityPro editing built in to allow me to quickly add a similar effect right after taking the shot. They did say this is coming at some point, so there’s that.

There are some general fit and finish things that could be done to make the app look better too, including:

  • A dark theme. Seriously. I hate the white theme. I get that opinions differ, but that’s what choice is for.
  • Connectivity between the case and app seems to drop sporadically, and when it happens, you may not realize the shutter button isn’t working until you’ve missed your shot. If I can’t rely on the hardware button, what’s the point of having it?
  • When the app detects the case, it’d be nice if it would automatically make the on-screen shutter/control buttons smaller (or make them disappear completely) to give the viewfinder more real-estate. Overall, the on-screen controls take up too much space.
  • Too many crashes. This may have been taken care of in some update over the last month or so, but when I was using it on the boat, it crashed on a number of occasions when shooting and reviewing shots in the app. If I can’t trust it, I’m not going to use it.
  • I’d love to see them open up the shutter button connection to other app developers so we’d have the option of using other camera apps with the case.

Even with the above issues, I continued to use the app on the first couple of days on the boat. By day 3, I was back to Camera+ and only using the case to securely mount the lenses. That brings up another point. When not using their case, you have to use mounting plates to attach the lenses to your phone. This really isn’t a big deal, even though a few reviewers have complained about having to stick the plate to the back of the phone. I’ve taken 3 off and have left no damage or residue. It’s really not hard to get that thing off if you take your time. Of the two options for attaching the lenses, it’s the least favorable option, however, as I’m finding that a given mounting plate only lasts for one week-ish long trip. No matter how careful you are mounting and removing lenses, the connection point on the mounting bracket loosens up and you start to worry the lens will come loose and fall out at some point. With the case, no such concern, as that mounting point is a lot more solid than the one on the plate. This means I need to keep at least one extra mounting plate with me on each trip, as I see myself using the first setup more often than using the Moment case. Because of the case’s shape, I can’t really use the ShoulderPod with it either (although I tried), and frankly, I find the S1 more functional than the Moment case.

One other piece of the Moment gear that’s bothering me, the lens caps. Buying them was a no-brainier (frankly, each lens should ship with one) , but it looks like they could stand to be slightly deeper or more rigid than they are, as I’ve had them rub the actual glass on the lens when putting the cap back on, causing smudging in the center of the lens, which in turn meant having to clean the lens quite a bit. I’m sure pressing the center of the lens cap as I put it back on is contributing, but if it were more rigid this wouldn’t be an issue.

The lenses are pretty good quality, imo, and none of the above issues will deter me from continuing to use them. While I’m still learning when to use each in specific scenarios based on what I’ve seen out of them so far, I’ve been able to get some great shots with them under the right conditions, and the wide angle allows me to get more things in the frame of a single shot without having to employ any sort of panoramic functionality. Here are a few samples of shots taken using the Moment lenses over the course of our trips:

IMG_4208 IMG_4193 IMG_4009 IMG_1647 IMG_1540 IMG_1536 IMG_1514 IMG_0844 IMG_0812 IMG_0804 IMG_0773 IMG_0752 IMG_0554 20151120_211925000_iOS 20151119_215042000_iOSIMG_5549IMG_5464IMG_5158IMG_5501IMG_5335

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