Apple’s iPhone has a pretty good camera—great if you’re lucky enough to own a new iPhone 11 Pro—but it remains limited by what Apple’s engineers can fit within a (relatively) small bump on the back of the phone. Add-on lenses are a great way to up your iPhone photography game, offering capabilities that bring it even closer to DSLR quality and flexibility. Without having to lug around a DSLR… Last year I reviewed Moment add-on lenses, and this time around I’m looking at the offerings from Lemuro.
Lemuro uses the approach of a custom, minimalist smartphone case with an integrated lens mount. The company offers a selection of cases designed in Milan, with various stylish materials and colors offered (including the Tangerine leather of my review unit). These cases feature an anodized aluminum lens mount for durability, as well as a TPE protective bumper, suede lining, and an integrated lanyard hook.
The case looks more stylish than functional; it’s slim and light while offering basic protection, the bumper is grippy, and it holds the lens securely. Prices vary slightly according to exchange rates but start at about $35. They are available for the iPhone 7/8 series and up, with iPhone 11 cases currently in production.
Although based in Europe, shipping is free to the U.S. and Canada for orders over $60.
European Quality Lenses
There are multiple lenses available as part of the Lemuro system, currently including Wide, Tele Portrait, Fisheye, and Macro. Prices start at $94, each lens is available in a choice of black or silver anodized aluminum, and each comes with a cloth carry bag and lens cover.
The design is Italian, and the optics are German, precision-engineered in Stuttgart. They utilize blue multi-layered high definition glass and feel quite substantial. The lenses use a screw mount to securely attach to the case, and can be used interchangeably with an iPhone’s wide angle or tele lens. (Note: see the next section for one caveat on that.)
Hands on With Lemuro Lenses
The Lemuro lenses are compact enough to fit in a pocket and attach to the case’s screw-on mount securely with a few twists. No worries about centering them properly.
In my time with the Lemuro lenses I found myself primarily using the Tele Portrait lens to zoom in on things. The Wide angle is a nice option for capturing expansive outdoor shots (there can be minor blurring at the extreme edges, but even with that cropped you get a much wider shot than the iPhone’s own camera), but being able to get closer to the action is something I really value.
Because of the way Apple’s iOS Camera app picks between cameras when using 2x optical zoom (it only actually uses the tele lens when lighting is deemed good enough), I found using a third party camera app that forces the iPhone to use the tele lens was key to getting the full multiplier effect of the Lemuro Tele Portrait lens stacked over the iPhone’s tele camera. This gave me a total of 4x (120mm equivalent) when used with my iPhone XS Max. I’ve included a few samples below, un-cropped, to show the difference. There are some artifacts visible, but that’s a function of the compression required for this website, not the lens. (Originals are in the 4 MB range and they get compressed down to around 100 KB.)
Quality add-on lenses like those offered by Lemuro aren’t quite as a good as having a DSLR, but they seriously up the capabilities of your iPhone’s camera(s). They offer enough flexibility that you may opt to leave the bulky DSLR behind and bring a lens or two in your pockets instead. There is an investment involved—although a Tele Portrait Lens, Wide Lens, and case will set you back considerably less than most entry level DSLRs. The Lemuro lenses are high quality, built to last, and they can be carried forward to your next iPhone as well—you just have to buy a case to fit the new model.
Disclosure: Lemuro provided lenses and cases for evaluation but had no input into this review.