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As smartphone camera quality improves, I continue to challenge my thinking on whether a mirrorless or DSLR camera is truly needed for great travel photography. A few years ago I traded in my beloved Canon DSLR for the lightweight Olympus OMD EM10 Mark ii mirrorless camera. It was love at first sight! But, with my recent purchase of the iPhone XS, I’ve been wondering if I should consider incorporating a smartphone camera lens kit into my gear.

So, when I got the opportunity to play with (I mean, review) the Bomgogo GoVision L5 Combo smartphone camera lens kit I was so excited! Here’s my honest review of the Bomgogo product, but also smartphone camera lens kits as an alternative to mirrorless cameras particularly for hiking and traveling.

For comparison, I’ll use the specs for the Olympus OMD-EM10 Mark ii and the Sony a6000 as they are both popular mirrorless cameras for hikers and travelers.

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Bomgogo Smartphone Camera Lens 0.5x Wide Angle shot of the Basilica in Minneapolis.

Smartphone Camera Lens: How It Works

Before I get into comparisons, let’s quickly walk through how to actually use a smartphone camera lens and kit. There are loads of smartphone camera lens kits on the market, including the Olloclip, Moment and Bomgogo, but they mostly work the same way.

The lenses clip onto your smartphone. How they clip onto your phone is the major way in which they differ. Bomgogo uses a springloaded clip that you position over the camera lens on your phone. This standard clip has a screw mount on which you can fix a number of lens and filter combinations. Olloclip has a sort of lens sleeve that fits over the edge of your smartphone camera. And Moment has a phone case you screw lenses on to.

Bomgogo GoVision L5 smartphone camera lens mounted on iphone XS with case.

Smartphone Camera Lens vs. Mirrorless Camera: Weight & Size

At just half a pound (227g) the Bomgogo L5 GoVision Combo Lens Kit is hard to beat if you’re looking for something lightweight. The Olympus OMD EM10 that I carry is 0.7lbs (300g) including the memory card, battery and camera body BUT that’s without any lens attached. With the standard 14-42mm lens, the Olympus weighs in at around 1.1lbs (498g). In comparison, the Sony a6000 with the standard 16-50mm lens weighs in at 1.0lbs (468g).

Bomgogo is up to 54% lighter than popular mirrorless cameras.

As you can see, there’s a similar trend with the size of the smartphone camera lens kit vs mirrorless cameras.

 Bomgogo L5 Go Vision Combo Smartphone Camera Lens KitOlympus OMD EM10 Mark ii Mirrorless CameraSony a6000 Mirrorless Camera
Weight0.5lbs or 227g0.7lbs or 300g (w/ body, memory card, battery)

1.1lbs or 498g (w/ 14-42mm stock lens)
0.9lbs or 404g (w/ camera and memory card)

1.0lbs or 468g (w/ 16-50mm stock lens)
Size2.7 x 2.0 inches
69 x 52 mm
4.7 x 3.6 x 3.3 inches
119 x 91 x 84 mm
(w/ stock lens)
4.7 x 1.6 x 2.6 inches
119 x 41 x 66 mm
(w/ stock lens)

Smartphone camera lens kits such as Bomgogo have a serious advantage when it comes to weight and size.

Bomgogo Smartphone Camera Lens vs Olympus Mirrorless size comparison.

Smartphone Camera Lens vs. Mirrorless Camera: Lenses & Image Quality

Probably of greatest importance is whether the image quality with a smartphone camera lens compares to that of a mirrorless camera. Overall, I am impressed with the image quality using the Bomgogo lenses. However, it’s only as good as the smartphone camera the lens is used on. So, the better your smartphone camera, the higher quality you’ll get. If you are wanting to shoot in manual by adjusting aperture, exposure and other settings, a smartphone camera lens isn’t going to give you that functionality.

Pro Tip: Image quality suffers if the lens is not clean and/ or the lens is not aligned to the lens on your smartphone camera. 

Most mirrorless cameras come with a stock lens that’s great for general use. Purchasing fish eye, wide angle or zoom lenses is an extra expense. Think of your smartphone camera as your stock lens. So, any smartphone camera lens or kit you purchase will offer you additional functionality beyond a stock lens for a mirrorless camera.

The Bomgogo GoVision L5 Combo Kit comes with a 0.5x Wide Angle lens and 15x Macro lens, both fitted with anti-reflective glass, and here’s how they perform.

Wide Angle

A wide angle lens comes in handy whenever you have limited depth of field (i.e. you’re close to whatever you’re focusing on) but want to increase the field of vision. I use this most often when I’m taking photos in a city and want to get the entirety of the buildings in my shot or when I’m hiking and want to show the scale of the mountains or landscape behind me. In either scenario, I’m limited in the depth of field by either other buildings, traffic or a mountain. 

Here’s a photo of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis during winter taken with my iPhone XS without any lens attached to it.

Image of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis taken with an iphone XS (no Bomgogo smartphone camera lens).

This is the same shot taken with the Bomgogo 0.5x Wide Angle lens. Note that the far right of the image is slightly blurred. If this happens, check the alignment of the lens and clean it to eliminate any smudges. I’ve included it for your awareness.

Image of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis taken with an iphone XS using the Bomgogo wide angle smartphone camera lens.

And here’s the same shot taken with the stock lens on my Olympus OMD EM-10 Mark ii. Note the decreased field of vision compared to both other options.

Image of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis taken with an Olympus mirrorless camera with the stock lens.

In my opinion, if you want to buy one smartphone camera lens to start with, it should be a wide angle lens.

Macro

This is a lens that, honestly, not everyone needs. It’s not a zoom lens, it’s for very close-up shots (as in ~1 inch from the subject). Without a macro lens, smartphone cameras aren’t able to focus on a subject that close. I enjoy experimenting with macro shots but I use this lens far less than a stock or wide angle lens. Here’s a few that I took with the Bomgogo Macro lens on my iPhone 7.

Fall foliage macro taken with an iphone 7 using a Bomgogo smartphone camera lens. Snow on a log in the morning sun, shot with an iphone 7 using a Bomgogo macro smartphone camera lens.

The Bomgogo L5 GoVision Combo smartphone camera lens kit offers great functionality with one notable limitation which is the lack of zoom. Depending on your smartphone, though, you may have quality zoom capability there that can compensate.

RELATED: How to Photograph the Northern Lights (for Beginners!)

Smartphone Camera Lens vs. Mirrorless Camera: Filters

Whether you decide to stick with a mirrorless camera or a smartphone camera lens kit, filters are most definitely worth the investment. They’ll help you take your photography to the next level. Bomgogo’s kit includes a step-up adapter ring so you can use these filters even without a Bomgogo lens!

Circular Polarizing Filter (CPL)

Use this filter to reduce glare or reflection on reflective surfaces such as water or windows. It can also be used to make colors more vivid particularly in sunny conditions (avoid overexposure). Just rotate the lens until you get the effect you’re looking for!

Image of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis taken with an iphone XS using the Bomgogo CPL filter.

Neutral Density (ND8)

Have you always wanted to get those shots of waterfalls where the water is perfectly blurred? Or a night shot of city traffic with red lines where the brake lights blur past you? That’s what this lens does! If you try to take a waterfall shot like this during the day without an ND8 filter, it’s nearly impossible to not have them turn out overexposed. This filter turns down the brightness so you can capture that movement!

Star

This filter creates a six point star effect to any light source, though it works best in dark conditions with bright lights. I braved the cold to capture this night shot of the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis with the star filter. Here’s some more tips on how to master night photography with your phone, GoPro or mirrorless camera!

Star filters can be used with your smartphone camera lens. The top image is with an iphone XS no filter. The bottom image is the same image with an iphone XS with a Bomgogo star filter.

Smartphone Camera Lens vs. Mirrorless Camera: Function

Function and utility are incredibly important. How do smartphone camera lenses stack up?

The Bomgogo GoVision L5 Combo smartphone camera lens kit is really convenient to carry around. The carrying case keeps everything safe and the clip design makes the lens highly portable. About 90% of my usage is the wide angle lens, the ND8 filter or CPL filter. I grab whichever is most appropriate for what I’m shooting that day. The lens easily and safely clips to the strap of my backpack or purse and the carrying case stays in my bag.

A smartphone camera lens, such as Bomgogo, is far more portable than a mirrorless camera.

But there are a few functional watchouts with smartphone camera lenses.

Phone Screen Protector Damage

Reviews for Olloclip report issues with damaging even the most thin screen protectors. I did not experience any damage to my phone with the Bomgogo clip design. This is probably due to the antislip rubber padding they use.

Compatibility with Phone Case

The field of vision through the smartphone camera lens can be impacted by your smartphone case.  When this happens, black rounded corners on one edge of the photo appear. I believe this is why Olloclip and Moment have created their own cases as a solution to this issue (though that means you’re locked into using their case).

So what does this mean? If you have a relatively flat phone case, you likely won’t experience this issue. I use a battery case that’s ~5mm deep from the surface of the camera lens. In order to take unobstructed photos using a Bomgogo lens with this smartphone case, I have to partially remove the smartphone case.

If you find your photos are obstructed by your phone case, there are five solutions to consider:

  • Do what I did, keep your phone case and slip it off partially when shooting with a Bomgogo lens.
  • Use a slimline phone case with just 1-2mm of depth from the surface of the camera lens.
  • Edit the corners out of your photo, as needed.
  • Shoot square photos.
  • Don’t use a smartphone camera lens (but what fun is that?)

Bomgogo recommends that their devices work with any smartphone that has 28mm from the edge of the phone to the center of the camera lens on the phone. 

Smartphone Camera Lens vs. Mirrorless Camera: Cost

As I said earlier, the smartphone camera IS your stock lens. Since you *probably* already have a smartphone, the relative cost of a smartphone camera lens kit is significantly less than a mirrorless camera.

 Bomgogo L5 Go Vision Combo Smartphone Camera Lens KitOlympus OMD EM10 Mark ii Mirrorless CameraSony a6000 Mirrorless Camera
Lenses includedWide Angle, Macro, StockStockStock
Filters includedNeutral Density, Circular Polarizing, Starn/an/a
Battery includedNone neededYesYes
Strap/ Case includedCaseStrapStrap
Cost$79.99~$500~$500
Check the latest pricesBomgogo GoVision L5 Combo Smartphone Camera Lens KitCheck price
Exclusive offer: Use promocode BIGWILDWORLD at Bomgogo.com for 18% off the GoVision L5 and L6 Combo Kits, the GoVision L5 and L6 Lenses, and all of the 52mm filters (ND8, CPL, star).

Bomgogo GoVision L5 Combo smartphone camera lens kit with carrying case.

The Verdict on Smartphone Camera Lens Kits

Smartphone camera lens kits such as Bomgogo are a great option for anyone who:

  • Currently shoots primarily on their phone and wants to up their photography game.
  • Or is looking for a lightweight alternative to a mirrorless camera.
  • Or doesn’t intend to use manual settings such as aperture, ISO, f-stop, etc. but wants more flexibility than a standard smartphone camera offers.

If you’re an advanced photographer who prefers to shoot in manual or want zoom capabilities beyond what your smartphone offers, I don’t think a smartphone camera lens kit can replace your mirrorless or DSLR camera (yet). However, I’d recommend adding a wide angle lens and/or filters for your phone into your photography gear kit!

Still have questions? Send them my way! I’d love to help get you some answers.

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How do smartphone camera lens kits compare to mirrorless cameras for hiking and traveling? I compare Bomgogo's GoVision L5 Combo kit to two popular mirrorless cameras. #travelphotography #cameragear #cameralens Are smartphone camera lens kits worth adding to your photography gear? Can they replace your mirrorless camera? Here's a comparison of Bomgogo GoVision L5 Combo kit to two popular mirrorless cameras. #bomgogo #travelphotography #cameragear

2 Comments

  1. This is really helpful I actually had NO idea they made a lens for the iphone! I had been thinking about whether I need a camera and can’t bear to carry something around when I travel. Problem now solved 🙂

    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Awesome! This is a great option for you! Yeah, since we usually carry our cell phones anyway, why not use them as our camera as well. These clip ons give you some cool options to experiment with. Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

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