Still, smartphone cameras have some limitations. For example, because of the constraints of the lens, it is almost impossible to snap a really good close-up or a really good distance shot.
But now that, too, is changing.
Companies are producing dozens of inexpensive smartphone attachments that can easily convert a mobile phone into a mini-professional camera. These products include zoom, fisheye and ultra-up-close macro lenses — all designed to snap onto a smartphone and make photos look as if they were shot with an expensive single-lens reflex camera. And for the most part, they are easy to use.
Photojojo, a San Francisco-based online company, sells smartphone camera attachments from various makers. Many are iPhone-related products. The site offers everything from serious telephoto lenses to goofy kaleidoscope attachments, priced from $15 to $250.
One of Photojojo’s most popular products is a kit of three lenses, for $50, which will work with most smartphones. The kit includes a fisheye lens to capture wide-angle images, a macro lens for close-up detail shots and a telephoto lens for objects or people far away. The lenses can also be purchased individually for $20 to $25.
The lenses all come with a small magnetic ring that sticks to the back of a smartphone, and they can be attached to the ring when in use. Just connect the appropriate lens, snap a photo and disconnect. No fiddling with f-stops, apertures or other confusing camera adjustments.
“People don’t have to be intimidated by photography anymore,” said Jen Giese, Photojojo’s store manager. “With a smartphone and some easy-to-use lenses, they don’t need to know anything about photography or lighting to take great pictures. It’s become extremely accessible.”
For iPhone-toting paparazzi who want to snap a picture of Lindsay Lohan at a bar, Photojojo sells a powerful telephoto lens kit for $35. This lens can zoom up to eight times as close as a normal iPhone camera. But don’t expect to go unnoticed with this attachment; the lens is three inches long and makes your iPhone look like a C.I.A. secret weapon.
Olloclip, a company based in Huntington Beach, Calif., makes a three-in-one attachment for the iPhone 4 and 4S. The Olloclip, as the attachment is called, doesn’t require magnets; it clips around the edge of the iPhone, covering the camera with a different lens. It’s quick and simple to use. The lens options include a fisheye, which can capture a field of view up to 180 degrees, a wide-angle lens and a macro lens that allows people to get as close as 10 millimeters from a subject. The Olloclip costs $70 and includes all three lenses, and can be purchased from the company’s Web site.
Pixeet sells a 360-degree fisheye lens for $50 that works with almost any brand of phone or tablet. To use it, you download free software from the company’s Web site that can then convert the images into interactive zoomable spaces. The photos allow people to navigate a virtual image on their computer, swooping with the click of a mouse.
There are also a number of cheap, wacky lens attachments. Photojojo sells a kit for $15 that includes a starburst attachment that blurs the edge of an image; it also sells a kaleidoscope attachment. A quick Google search can find other unusual options, too.
Of course, every photographer with a kit of lenses needs a tripod.
One of the most popular iPhone 4 tripods is the Glif, made by a company called Studio Neat, that costs $20. It’s a sleek rubber mount that looks more like a travel toothbrush that a tripod. It can balance an iPhone at different angles on flat surfaces. The Glif can also screw into a regular tripod, making it perfect for avid iPhoneographers too. Using a tripod and free third-party software available in the iTunes Store, the smartphone can snap long-exposure photos at night, or timed images during the day.
Although not as slick as the Glif, there are dozens of other tripod mounts available on Amazon.com that will work with any brand of smartphone.
There are also attachments for experienced photographers who already own high-end camera equipment. Photojojo, for example, sells an iPhone S.L.R. camera mount for $250 that can attach Nikon or Canon lenses from a normal 35mm camera. Although this attachment can take unbelievable pictures, the set-up is not easy. The kit comes with several attachments that can take some time to put together, and it can feel a little like overkill for an iPhone. But, if you have the knowledge and patience, the stunning photos it can take can be worth the time.
For those just getting started in smartphone photography, Web sites offer tutorials and tips. Several, including Meetup, offer walking tours with a smartphone, letting people snap away in the wild and teaching the art.
Last month in San Francisco, hundreds of smartphone photographers attended the 1197 conference, where photojournalists and authors offered talks about tricks they have learned. The name of the conference commemorated the date that the first camera phone photo was taken, June 11, 1997. Similar conferences are expected in the future.
Meanwhile, there’s the AstroClip — a plan to produce an attachment that would marry an iPhone to a telescope or microscope. It’s the brainchild of Matthew Geyster, a designer in Massachusetts. Mr. Geyster said in a phone interview that he couldn’t share any details about a possible release date for the gadget just yet. He said the idea, though, is to let people metaphorically travel into space on their iPhone, snapping high-quality pictures of the moon and the stars.