Smartphone lens kits have been around nearly as long as smartphones, affording far more variety and precision to your snapshots than your phone can by itself.
Just one problem: Most of the kits require either a specialized case (bleh) or the addition of an unsightly magnetic ring around the lens (double-bleh). Others are limited to specific phone models. And many of them cost a pretty penny: I've seen prices ranging from $50-150.
If you've wanted to test the add-on lens waters without spending that kind of cash, here's a sweet deal: For a limited time, and while supplies last, New Harbor has the Neewer 3-in-1 clip-on lens kit for $11.99. That's after applying coupon code XBA3XBCE at checkout (which I tested and was working as of 10 a.m. ET). Shipping is free for Amazon Prime subscribers.
Update: Although the code appears to be expired, there's at least one similar kit priced even (cough) less. It's a bit less elegant, with what appears to be a larger, spring-loaded clip, but the reviews are about the same and the price (for the black version) is just $8.39. And it looks like there are quite a lot of kits like these, so if and when you get one for your phone, I'd love to get your feedback!
What I find immediately cool about this kit (aside from the price, natch) is its universal plastic "clamp," which promises compatibility with the majority of modern smartphones -- and even many tablets as well. Granted, if your phone is in a case, you may have to remove it, but depending on the design, the clamp might fit right over it.
The Neewer includes the usual three lenses: fisheye, wide-angle and macro. (Don't be surprised if it seems like only two lenses come in the box; the wide-angle and macro come attached to one another and work in concert.)
You also get a lens-cleaning cloth and covers for the lenses -- but no carrying case, so you'll want to scrounge up a drawstring pouch or something similar.
The kit earned a 3.9-star average rating from over 500 buyers -- not stellar, but pretty good. Interestingly, there's much talk of the "black background" in fisheye images, but the product description specifically mentions that's not an issue, which makes me think this is a newer version of the kit than what some folks received and reviewed.
In any case, I consider this kind of a proof-of-concept, a what-do-you-expect-for-$12 opportunity to fiddle with smartphone lenses and decide if you might like to invest in something a little more robust. On the other hand, you may find this delivers exactly what you need, in which case: super-bargain!
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Your turn: Let's ramp up some chatter, cheeps! Every so often I'm going to pose a question I hope will spark some lively conversation. Starting with this one: What's your all-time favorite freeware? For me, it's IrfanView, the fast, free image-editing utility. I've used it daily for years; there's no quicker, easier way to crop, rotate and otherwise tweak an image file. Now hit the comments and share your pick!