Your phone takes good pictures — no, great pictures. But sometimes, even a smart phone needs a little help.
While phone camera technology has come a long way in recent years, it still can’t match the sharpness, versatility and clarity that a physical camera provides. For starters, without a decent lens, you’ll never get as wide an image or as close to the action. When it comes to recording video, your phone is limited in its scope and range, and its auto-focus will never be as accurate as one on an actual camera.
But that doesn’t mean you have to swap your device for a DSLR anytime soon. Unless you’re a professional photographer, there are a number of camera accessories and add-ons that can upgrade your phone’s photo capabilities – features you probably won’t find on your phone’s built-in camera for another few years.
These best-selling accessories are compatible with both iPhone and Android, and let you hack your phone camera to take better photographs, videos and yes, selfies, whether you’re shooting your favorite artist at a concert, traveling around the world or just sorting out some options for social media.
1. Auxiwa Clip-On Selfie Ring Light
Popular on Rolling Stone
You’ve taken enough photos with your phone to know the importance of good lighting. You’ve also been to enough parties and events to see everyone from influencers to event photographers using these clip-on ring lights.
This popular ring light illuminates your sightlines (and your selfies) with three brightness levels and 36 long-lasting LEDs. Unlike your flash, the ring light emits a subtle, softer glow, that won’t look harsh or overexposed in photos. Reviewers say it’s also great for videos, especially when grabbing footage at a concert or say, documenting your meal at a dimly-lit restaurant.
What we like: the ring light is rechargeable using the included charging cable, and it’s designed with scratch-resistant material to protect it from dings and drops. The company also offers a lifetime guarantee. With a 4.3 star rating from more than 1700 reviews, this is one of the best-reviewed phone camera accessories online. Purchase: $13.99 on Amazon.com.
2. Coreal Mobile Phone Chest Mount
Strap on this mobile phone harness and free up your hands on your next shoot. The adjustable chest mount steadies your phone against your body, letting you record video while on-the-go. Clip in, then adjust the clamp to get your desired shooting angle. You can either tap your phone or press the shutter release attachment to begin shooting.
Reviewers say the phone holder locks in tight without worry, and they say the straps are more comfortable than you think. People have also worn this over their jackets, for convenient outdoor recording that gets you cool-looking footage, while your hands and body stay warm.
Coreal provides a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not 100% satisfied with the product. The harness also comes with a 12 month warranty. Purchase: $17.98 on Amazon.com.
Looking for a less intrusive option that’s especially great for action sports and recording footage from a first-person perspective? Try this head-mounted phone holder for $20 instead.
3. Xenvo Pro Lens Kit
A Number One best-seller on Amazon, this $40 hack lets you expand your smartphone’s field of view with a “TruView” 0.45x wide angle lens. The coated optical glass lenses minimize any lens flare or reflections, and unlike cheaper attachments in the marketplace, you won’t get that annoying “vignetting” (read: dark corners) in your photos.
The kit comes with a lens clip, rechargeable LED light (so you can use it at night), charging cable, lanyard, case and cleaning cloth. It also includes a 15x macro lens, which magnifies the image in front of you for super crisp, close-up photos. Note: this lens addition works best when you’re closer to your subject; it’s not designed for zooming in. Purchase: $39.99 on Amazon.com.
4. Pictar Mark II SmartPhone Camera Grip
Use your smartphone like a real camera with this camera-style handgrip. Get steadier shots with a more natural and familiar grip, and never worry about your phone slipping out of your hand again.
In addition to the sturdy, ergonomic case, the Pictar works like a camera too, with a shutter button, dials for adjusting brightness, and a rotating “zoom ring” that lets you zoom in and out with just one hand. It also comes with nine pre-set modes that mimic the look and feel of a real camera (think: auto mode, portrait mode, landscape mode and ISO priority mode).
This set includes an adjustable wrist strap and handy carrying case. There is also a discreet socket built into the case, for mounting on a tripod. Purchase: $77.95 on Amazon.com.
5. Zhiyun Smooth 4 Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer
Shoot higher-quality footage with less shakiness with this handheld tripod and stabilizer. Unlike other stabilizers in the market, this one comes with “pull and zoom” capability, which lets you zoom in and out without having to touch your screen. The built-in handwheel also lets you rack focus to achieve more professional-looking shots.
What we like: Zhiyun’s “Smooth 4” technology helps to zone in on and track objects including with much higher precision than your phone alone. Frame the object that you want to track on the screen, and the stabilizer can do the rest, never letting it out of its sight. The stabilizer’s integrated control panel also reduces the need to touch the screen, with built-in “hot-key” buttons that put all the main functions at your fingertips. Purchase: $99.99 on Amazon.com.
6. DxO ONE 20.2MP Digital Connected Camera
This portable device packs the power of a high-end camera into a tiny, lighter-sized package. Attach it to your phone’s lighting port and turn your device into a savvy, intuitive digital camera, with a 20.2MP lens, a fast f/1.8 aperture and ability to handle shutter speeds up to 1/20000ths of a second. Your phone screen becomes a digital viewfinder that you can swivel around to get the best shot. A 6-element aspherical lens lets you capture closer, sharper, more accurate images too.
What we like: the DxO ONE has its own memory card and battery so it will never impact your phone’s storage or battery life. It also works on its own as a mini standalone camera. Purchase: $144.97 on Amazon.com.
Editorial products are independently selected. If you buy something from our links, PMC may earn a commission.