Your Windows Phone probably already has a good, or even great camera; but bring MLens to the party and suddenly it's even more versatile.
Mpow is one of the leading authorities on Windows Phone accessories. We have taken a look at several of Mpow's Bluetooth accessories such as the Magneto Bluetooth headset and Armor Bluetooth Speaker. The company also offers several camera accessories and the MLens is an easy way to expand your Windows Phone camera's capabilities.
The MLens is a collection of three clip-on lenses that includes a macro, wide-angle and fisheye lens that clip onto your Windows Phone and sit on top of your built-in camera. Add-on lenses aren't always a success story, with a tendency to degrade image quality with their lesser optics. However, after using the MLens collection over the weekend, the results were surprisingly decent.
The Mpow MLens is packaged with the three lenses, a small cleaning cloth and a plastic carrying case. The lenses break down as follows.
- Fisheye Lens: 180-degree view with .33x magnification
- Wide-Angle Lens: .36x magnification that greatly increases the focal length of the native lens
- Macro Lens: Provides 20X magnification to your Windows Phone camera
The design of the lenses is simple: they're essentially clips that you slide over your phone, positioning the attached lens such that it rests on top of your camera. Because of the universal design of these clips, they can be attached to practically any with less than 1.18 inches (3cm) between the camera and the edge of the phone — including the front-facing camera. There is a rubber ring around the inside of the lens and the clip to prevent the attachment from sliding around and scratching your phone's body or screen.
I was able to fit the MLens on both rear and forward cameras on the Lumia 950 and 550 without issue. However, the rear camera sits too low on the Lumia 850 for the MLens to come close to fitting properly.
Proof is in the Pudding
While the MLens clip-on lenses appear well made and fit nicely on a Windows Phone, the key to their success is ultimately judged by the quality of the images they produce. For the most part, image quality was good with all of the lenses. However, there are limitations with each of the lenses worth noting.
The wide-angle lens did have considerable distortion along the edges of the frame. If my math is correct, it turns the 26mm lens on the Lumia 950 into a 10mm lens. While there is distortion present, that is not uncommon for such a wide-angle view. The above image was taken with the Lumia 950 without the lens attachment and the below is with the attachment.
You do need to be careful to center your Windows Phone camera lens with the MLens or the edges of the clip-on lens will creep into the frame as well.
The macro lens does a good job of pulling in detail for the smallest of subjects. However, the lens has a very limited focus range that will require you to be about half an inch away from your subject and the depth of field is very narrow. Working that close to your subject can limit the amount of light cast on your subject and fortunately, sp the macro lens has a clear plastic hood that will minimize any light loss.
While the 20x magnification brings the tiniest of subjects into view, the macro lens is almost more of a microscope lens than a macro. I would have like to have seen less magnification and more depth with this lens. As is, it does a nice job but will be limited with its usefulness.
The fisheye lens may have the least amount of limitations. The 180-degree view will not fill the camera frame and there is some distortion along the edges of the photo. I cannot knock the fisheye too much because these characteristics are common with any fisheye lens. Of the three lenses, the fisheye performed the best.
Mpow MLens Collection: A nice accessory to have handy
While there are some limitations in using the Mpow MLens set, I was pleasantly surprised by the lenses performance. Build quality is good and the lenses fit nicely on the Lumia 950.
The macro lens is somewhat limited in where it can be used, but you can create some rather interesting close-up images with some patience and practice. The wide-angle lens considerably opens up your camera's field of view and can be helpful capturing landscapes. The fisheye had the fewest issues and, like the macro lens, can create some interesting images.
Overall, the Mpow MLenses are a nice set of accessories to have on hand to increase the versatility of your Windows Phone's cameras. The Mpow MLens is currently running under $20.00 at Amazon.com or, if you don't have access to Amazon.com, directly through Mpow for $25.00.