Jelly Lenses - compatible with most cell phones
$6.20 / £4.29 each or $68 / £48.14 for set of 12
Jelly Lenses are self-adhesive lenses for your smartphone that look like they've come straight out of a gumball machine. Composed of a bright-colored plastic ring around a plastic lens, each Jelly Lens is backed with a ring of stretchy, jelly-like removable adhesive that allows you to stick it over your camera phone’s lens. Each lens is attached to an elastic band and metal clip so that you can attach your Jelly lens to whatever’s handy—your phone, your wrist, or your bag.
Jelly Lenses come in 14 varieties, each with a different purpose. A few of them are truly useful, others not so much. The most useful for serious photographers is undoubtedly the Polorizer [sic] lens, since it’s very effective and I’ve not yet seen another polarizer option for camera phones that compares to it. The Close Up and Wide Angle lenses also fall into the useful, rather than gimicky category.
The advantages of Jelly Lenses are that they’re cheap (a little over $6 each or about $70 for a dozen), you can stick them on just about any camera phone, whether it’s in a case or not, and they’re very convenient to carry.
However, that removable adhesive doesn’t work perfectly. After several minutes, Jelly Lenses tend to fall off. The adhesive also attracts lint, which reduces its stickiness. Each Jelly Lens has a little cap to cover the adhesive when you’re not using it, but dust and lint have a way of getting everywhere, and at some point you’ll need to wash your Jelly Lens with a little detergent to make the lens stick again. Just be careful when giving your Jelly Lens a wash: The plastic mounts aren’t waterproof and some lenses have more than one element, which means you can get soapy water trapped inside the lens.
Here’s at what a handful Jelly Lenses can do, from the interesting to the gimmicky (all images taken using an Apple iPhone 4S on a tripod):
The plastic mounting ring of each Jelly Lens covers the flash on most camera phones, but that’s not usually a big loss. What’s more of a problem is that some of the brightly colored lens rings show around the edges of photos or create a color cast in them. Putting a Jelly Lens on a phone seems like it should be just a matter of sticking it on, but it actually takes a little care -- more than you might think -- to position them correctly.
The image quality produced by Jelly Lenses is about what you’d expect from an inexpensive plastic lens—usually rather soft. In most cases, though, that isn’t a major problem. The softness blends in with the special effects produced by the more 'creative' lenses, and it isn’t so severe as to ruin the usefulness of the more practical ones.
Most of the lenses in the Jelly Lenses range fall into the fun, rather than functional category, and the novelty of many of them is likely to wear off pretty quickly. But $6.20 is a decent price for the ones that work well, and serious photographers should certainly consider the Polorizer [sic] which is genuinely useful.
We settled on a star rating of 2 for Jelly Lenses, because though some of the useful ones might rate a 3, others result in effects that can just as easily be applied with apps and are actually more trouble than they're worth.
What we like: Jelly Lenses are an inexpensive tool for experimenting on your smartphone, and the adjustable Polorizer lens is actual a useful tool for photographers.
What we don't like: Jelly Lenses often fall off after several minutes and the majority won't prove useful for anything more than gimmick.
Aimee Baldridge is a writer and photographer based in New York. For more than a decade she has specialized in covering imaging technology, digital media, and the world of photography. You can see more of her work at www.aimeebaldridge.com
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