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Mobile Accessories

Christmas gifts 2018: iPhone and Android phone camera accessories

Want to take better photos and videos? Raise your phone camera game with these useful accessories.

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Most people use their phones as their only camera because it's always with them. While phone cameras have massively improved over the past several years, they still have their limitations. Phone camera accessories can help fill in those gaps.

If you're getting a gift for someone who loves shooting pictures or movies with their phone and are in favor of anything that allows them to do more with the tech they have, this roundup is for you.

Disclaimer: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page. 

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Olloclip has been developing iPhone camera lenses since 2011, so it has something for every model out there, including the new iPhone XS and XR. Don't have an iPhone at all? Olloclip has a multidevice clip that lets you use any of its latest lenses on a wide variety of Android devices.  

If you're buying for someone who's already pushing their phone's camera capabilities, consider picking up one of the company's Filmer's Kits -- they include a hand grip, multiple lenses and a case to keep them all ready for travel. 

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Available for the iPhone 7, 8, Plus and X, the ShiftCam case allows you to easily slide between a set of wide, telephoto, fish-eye and macro travel lenses, so you can switch up your shots in a flash. And you can use either camera on dual-lens models. 

The multilens unit can also be swapped out entirely for larger, higher-quality telephoto, wide and macro lenses. The travel lens set and case start at $70, with single ProLens add-on lenses priced from $80 to $100. 

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If you want "what the pros use" in the world of phone camera lenses, you want Moment. Its current lineup has six lenses for macro, telephoto, wide-angle and fisheye as well as a new anamorphic lens for filmmakers. You'll need one of its cases to mount the lenses to -- they're available for the latest iPhone, Galaxy and Pixel phones. 

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The dual-lens PanoClip iPhone accessory lets you easily take 360-degree photos and "tiny planet" shots instantly by combining images taken with the front and rear phone cameras. The free app used with the lens system even lets you turn shots into cool sharable video clips. 

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If your gift recipient likes to go on adventures, but also likes to capture all the action with their iPhone, consider getting them the Hitcase Pro 2.0. The case itself protects your iPhone from water and falls -- it's waterproof down to 10 meters (33 feet) -- and includes a rail attachment that lets you mount your phone like an action camera. HItcase also sells a variety of lenses that screw into the case.

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Bitplay's case offers flexibility others don't. Want a slim case that slips in your pocket? No problem. But if you prefer a bigger grip to make it feel more camera-like, you can just screw one on. The case pictured has a clever shutter release mechanism on top that actually triggers the phone's volume button on the opposite side. Or, you can get its latest grip that adds a Bluetooth shutter release that can be removed and used as a remote trigger. And, like others here, Bitplay makes a whole series of lenses to add to its cases. 

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Sandmarc makes all kinds of lenses for iPhones, but my favorite set is its polarizer and neutral density filters. They're excellent quality and can be used with just about any phone since they simply clip on. For anyone who wants to kill reflections, punch up blue skies or use a slower shutter speed in bright lighting, these are a must-have accessory.

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Phones have small camera sensors, which generally require a lot of light to get good photos and video. The Lume Cube Air gives you a bright boost when you don't want to ruin your shot with a flash. With its built-in Bluetooth and mobile app, you can wirelessly connect the light to your phone to control brightness, strobe speed and flash duration. It comes with diffusers to help soften its light and the compact, lightweight design even has a magnetic back in addition to a tripod mount so you can use it hands-free, too. 

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Add a camera grip and controls without buying an entirely new case with the Pictar One. Just snap your phone into its spring-loaded holder, launch its free app for iPhone or Android and start shooting. The camera controls work instantly because the Pictar actually talks to your phone using high-frequency sound instead of needing a Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or direct connection to the phone. For more serious phone photographers, Miggo has a Pro version coming soon that has more substantial controls and an add-on viewfinder so you don't have to fight screen glare when framing your shots.

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Black Eye is just now breaking into the US market, but it has a big presence in Europe where its clip-on lenses are popular with action-sport junkies. (The company was started by professional snowboarders Eero Ettala and Fredu Sirviö and their pro photographer friend Arto Ekman.) The lenses work with just about any phone, tablet or even the webcam on your laptop thanks to the clip mount. And since the lenses simply twist off the mount, you can quickly swap between fisheye, wide-angle, telephoto and macro shots. Depending on your budget, Black Eye makes pro-quality models as well as mid- and entry-level kits. 

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