Stick and clip on lenses for smartphones have been around for a good few years now. And every single one of them has been a disappointment. The optical quality just was never up to a standard that could be considered very good. They were more a novelty fun item, and the ultra low prices usually reflected that.
So when Samsung announced the Lens Cover with a pair of seemingly high quality lenses at the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge launch, I was all ears.
At the time of writing, the Lens Cover does not appear to be available outside of European markets. Samsung's own USA store page just leads to a dead end.
Inside the plastic packaging is a plastic detachable carry case for each lens, user documentation, and a high quality snap on TPU case for the phone itself.
The case could easily double up as a full time protective cover for the phone. The quality is of a high standard, just as you'd expect from a first party accessory, and the inside is carpeted with a soft felt material.
I feel the design of the barrel shaped lens cases have been well thoughts out. The caps to each case also functions as a lens cap when used in isolation. The two cases can then lock into each other, which means both lenses are then in one convenient place. A lens centipede.
The cases are all made of TPU plastic, while the lens caps are flexible. Nothing feels cheap about anything in the kit, and even though the lenses are made of aluminium, they have some heft to them.
The screw thread quality is also of a good standard. I found no resistance when attaching, or detaching the lenses, and it appears the thread ring on the cover is actually metal.
Compared to competitor lenses, the Samsung kit is in a league of its own. Take a look below at a cheap Amazon clip on wide angle fisheye lens.
The magnification factor of the telephoto lens is rated at 2x, while the wide angle lens gives a 110 degree field of view.
The lenses appear to be optically very good. For web use, you'd be hard pressed to fault them. There is a very small amount of vignette at the corners, but overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the photos taken with both of them.
I took a walk down the road to one of my favourite photo spots for capturing sunsets and sunrises. A perfect location for testing out wide angle distortion. These samples have only been resized from the original 4032x3024 resolution. Camera settings were set to auto mode, and HDR was enabled.
Wide angle - There is noticeable distortion as the frame reaches all edges. This effect may work well for certain architecture photographs such as churches, but it will render other things in an unflattering manner. Notice the horizon line is slightly curved as well from the barrel distortion.
Telephoto - This does a good job of magnifying the scene without adding common optical issues like chromatic aberration and lens flare. Of course, shooting with the sun directly in front may cause these artifacts depending on the angle, but in general, the results are quite pleasing.
No lens attached - The Galaxy S7 has a wide angle lens by default, and while it does a great job of fitting in as much as possible, with very little distortion, the wide angle lens manages to capture more at the edges.
For closer subjects, the lenses fair decently as well. The closest focus distance is at most 30cm for the telephoto lens before the camera has trouble focusing on whatever area you touch. The wide angle lens can get a little closer, although the subject will appear smaller and more distant due to the wide angle nature of the lens.
Pixel peepers out there will be happy to find further samples in the gallery linked at the end of this review. I have also uploaded a short video demonstrating the quality of the wide angle lens.
My only complaint is that storing them on your person can be a bit tricky without having large jacket pockets, or a bag. While the protective lens cases are vey good, they are a few mm wider at each dimension than the lenses themselves. Pocket bulge is most definitely a thing!
The price will come up time and time again when it comes to the Lens Cover kit. And I can completely understand why. £99 is not cheap, and there are no electronic or moving parts either to justify that kind of price premium.
In Isolation, the case is easily worth £30, and the lenses could account for the remainder, at £35 each. Looking at it that way, the total; price for the kit does not actually seem too bad.
Sadly, there is no mention of waterproofing for the lenses. I would have liked to see this since both the S7 and S7 edge are IP68 rated phones.
I would like to see some strong competition though from the usual third party names. only when this happens will the prices hopefully level out just like they have done with the Qi fast wireless charging pads.
But for now, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge Lens Cover offers a new way in which to capture photos without sacrificing quality, even if this luxury comes at a hefty price.
[UPDATE] Due to popular demand, I have added a video sample with the wide angle lens, as well as further samples with 100% crops. Lastly, a 2x digital zoom vs telephoto comparison. These can be found in the gallery attached to this review.