Not sure how practical and potentially distracting to coworkers it would be for me to break out my Sony A7iii on a business trip, I decided to buy a Moondog Labs anamorphic lens for my iPhone XS. It would be a good opportunity to find out what kind of cinematic footage my new phone was capable of.
For disclosure, this is my own personal non-sponsored review. I purchased the lens, phone case, and accessories myself. This article represents my own personal opinion.
Before I get into the actual use of the lens, let’s talk about buying the product. Moon Dog offers a couple of different versions of the anamorphic lens. Early versions, clip on to the phone itself and were made for specific phone models. This could get pricey if you wanted a lens for multiple phones.
The newer version of the lens is mountable and comes in a couple of different versions. Finding the right one was a bit confusing at first. I think that they could do a better job of grouping the lens and corresponding accessories together. I wanted the one that mounts to a phone case, so I purchased the Moondog Labs 1.33x Anamorphic Lens with 12.5mm thread. The lens bundle I bought came with the mount for the SolidSuit phone case. The other threaded version mounts to a phone cage system.
I also purchased the 52mm Filter Mount for Gen 2 Anamorphic Lenses that fits the 12.5 and 37mm threads so that I could mount a Hoya 52mm Variable ND filter on the lens.
I looked on amazon for the recommended RhinoShield SolidSuit case for the iPhone XS as I wanted the Carbon/Black version, which was backordered at several places. It appears that there may be a newer version of the case not compatible with mount and it is not clear on some sites which one you are getting. I would recommend buying the case from Moondog directly or from one of the camera stores that makes this clear. I purchased this one. I really like the case. It looks good and feels much tougher than my previous case.
Assembly was straight forward. Before putting the case on the phone, push the threaded lens mount insert into the similarly shaped hole on the case, then put the case on the phone. Next, screw the lens onto the mount until tight. The main lens is still adjustable and can be straightened.
The filter mount slides onto the outside of the lens and and has a thumb screw for securing it to the lens. Now you can mount whatever 52mm filter you want. I went with this ND Filter.
On my trip, I kept this setup in my jacket pocket and it was easy to pull out and shoot video. It does add some noticeable weight to the phone as everything seems well build. My only complaint with the setup is that I wish there was a way to lock the lens once positioned. It is not loose, but it will rotate when bumped.
I was very pleased with the lens. It produced some interesting lens flares that I really liked and the video footage turned out great. It is important to remember that the anamorphic lens squeezes the footage so you will need to de-squeeze it in post or use an app like filmic pro that does it for you. I have heard of damaged footage resulting from de-squeezing on the phone while shooting, so I decided to just handle that in post.
Some of my evening footage turned out great, while other times it was more grainy. I would not expect this lens to improve low light video performance of the iPhone, but during the day it was excellent.
As with other anamorphic lenses, you should expect some curved distortion, especially if close to a flat object. This is true with these types of lenses in general. If that is not acceptable or desirable, then you probably don’t want this lens.
If you want an anamorphic lens at a reasonable price, then this is a good option. I shot a lot of footage before and after my meetings on a 5 day trip and am impressed. It is a keeper.