We bit the bullet and ordered a set of Moment gear for our iPhone 11 Pro Max. Moment makes everything from phone cases, to lenses and other accessories that the aspiring shutterbugs (or filmmaker) would ever want.
While there are several companies making this sort of gear, Moment stands out because their glass is optically superior and paired with the Moment Camera App, you can do some seriously cool work with this stuff. In our opinion, depending on the circumstances, the results will rival footage shot on a DSLR. Moment also sets itself apart by having the only attachment mechanism that aligns the phone and add-on lens in a way that doesn’t feel like a kludge.
The first impression one gets when the unboxing happens is that this gear is serious. These aren’t toys. They aren’t cheaply made plastic. They have heft to them (more on that in a minute) and the quality they render is amazing.
You can tell the entire system is very well thought-out and well made. Someone spent some real time perfecting all this and it shows.
We ordered their 58mm telephoto lens, their anamorphic lens, their phone app, a case for the iPhone and some accessories like a grip, a USB trigger, a strap, a filter adapter and a third party ND filter. We also ordered a Moment case to hold it all together. (We will be experimenting with other Moment lenses later and will report on all of them here.)
Now for the bad news. This gear is NOT inexpensive. We spent around $500 for all of it. It becomes clear why it’s so expensive once you use it. You get what you pay for.
WHY USE THESE LENSES ON THE 11 PRO MAX?
We know what you are thinking because we thought it too. The iPhone 11 Pro Max has three lenses including a super wide, wide and telephoto. Why Moment?
While the new 11 comes with multiple lenses, the MAIN lens is the sharpest and the fastest. The built-in ultra wide lens on the 11 Pro series has an aperture of f/2.4. This relatively slow aperture combined with a tiny sensor makes for somewhat uninteresting imagery. It also doesn’t focus as closely as the main lens and lastly, it doesn’t support RAW shooting, in case you need that.
If you use the wide-angle Moment lenses (Wide, Superfisheye and/or Anamorphic lenses) attached to the main iPhone lens, you get an f/1.8 lens which, when combined with the wizardry of the Moment camera app, gives you nearly distortion free shots even when at 170-degree field-of-view.
Another thing to consider is Night Mode. You cannot use that on the Apple ultra-wide Lens but you CAN use it on the regular iPhone lens and with a wide-angle Moment lens mounted, you’re in business.
And speaking of the Anamorphic lens; Moment has hit a home run with this thing and nothing in the built-in iPhone app can deliver anything close.
While the iPhone 11 Pro/Max is a tour-de-force, photographically, the Moment lenses just amplify that. So there’s no reason to pass on Moment if that was your thinking.
You have to have a Moment case to make the lenses work. Once you have the phone case, mounting the lenses is easy. The lenses mount via a twist and turn method, and are held securely to the phone so that you can move around freely without having the lens fall off. Because the lenses are small, they travel easily and Moment sells a nice (but expensive) case that makes it easy to carry everything you need to shoot.
Build quality is impressive. Moment says their products are hand-made, using cinema-grade glass and we see no reason to doubt that. It feels like you’re using pro gear when you mount these lenses. The image quality from the two lenses we bought is simply amazing. The star of the show is the anamorphic lens. To get a lens for a “real” camera with anamorphic properties would set you back a ton of money. Here, for a fraction of that cost, you can get the same effect and it looks legit. We were worried that it would render as some sort of gimmicky impersonation but we were wrong. The anamorphic effect is real and using the Moment app, you can automatically de-squeeze the output. (You can also do this in post if you prefer, but in the app it’s incredibly easy and intuitive.)
The Moment App – called “Pro Camera” is only $5.99 and even if you don’t want to use add-on lenses, we’d say this is a good investment. (Available from the App Store.)
It offers a variety of pro features and turns your smartphone camera into a “real” camera with all the traditional control you are used to over things like the exposure triangle.
You can choose between multiple file formats (including TIFF and RAW) and you can shoot in burst mode. The necessary controls to take full advantage of the Moment lenses are also available in the app and make this a no-brainer if you are buying their lenses.
You need a case that supports Moment lenses. All of the Moment lenses require a case on your phone before they can mount. This “M-Mount” as Moment calls it makes it easy-peasy to mount the lenses to the phone case. It is clean and effective. Moment has several cases for sale and all of them are reasonably priced if you were already considering higher-end cases. There are some third party cases (not from Moment) that offer the same M-Mount. Cases from Nomad come to mind, but we have not tested those cases or the results that one can get by attaching a Moment lens to them.
There are some things you should know. Mainly, handholding shots in low-light with these lenses attached will become challenging because the lenses add some serious heft to the front of the phone. The result is that the phone feels unbalanced in your hand and front-heavy. Slower shutter speeds may generate blurry pics because the camera is out of balance. The solution is to use a gimbal, a tripod, a grip or other camera stabilizer. These things are deal breakers for some people because they impact the portability of the phone itself. Our opinion is that if you want to use your phone as a serious still or video camera, this is a trade off you’ll be willing to make because you likely had to make it when you shot with your “real” camera.
The cost is another downside. We are not saying that these items are overpriced. Quite the contrary. We think they are appropriately priced, given the quality of both the design and execution. It’s just that the price point will be out of reach for some shooters.
Lastly, we had lots of trouble ordering directly from the Moment store. Our order was never filled, and we couldn’t get any information by contacting the company. Granted, this was around the holidays but at some point, someone should have responded. We waited weeks not days. We ended up cancelling the order and charging back our credit card because nobody from the company ever responded to our requests for help. We found out that the lenses were available on Amazon and at B&H so we then bought the same gear there, and got it within two days. We would recommend avoiding the Moment Store and using a third party store like Amazon or B&H Photo to get better service.
People are relying on their smartphone cameras more and more. Some pros even rely exclusively on the new iPhone cameras. Adding more functionality to these cameras, just as you would an interchangeable lens camera only makes sense. Moment offers you a chance to do that.
While they were not responsive to our order for the phone case and lenses, we did get them to respond to questions about the app. The response to that sort of call for help was swift and helpful.
Moment has done a fantastic job, especially with some of their newer products. They offer lots of tutorials and support material on their website and on YouTube, although if you don’t wear a man-bun, dress like a lumberjack, or know how to skateboard, you may be worried that you’re in the wrong place. Don’t be. We are not in any of those camps, but we can appreciate the work done by these young people, even if we’re not necessarily their target audience (as they see it.) IF you’re going to treat your smartphone like a real camera, the Moment products are absolutely worth a look.
Image Credits: shopmoment.com.