Bottom line: SANDMARC's 25mm Macro Lens is perfectly portable and comes with a drawstring pouch, clip-mount, polishing cloth, and a protective carrying case. The lens itself is made with premium multi-coated optics for crystal clear images up to 30x, and it has front and back lens caps. It also includes an iPhone case for your model.
Premium, multi-coated optics for crystal clear images
Includes phone case and clip-on mount
Has front and back lens caps
Packs in pouch, cleaning cloth, and carrying case
25mm with up to 30x macro photos with iPhone Telephoto lens
Requires steady hands
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For many people, the iPhone is their primary camera these days. As Apple introduces a new iPhone annually, the camera is usually the element of the device that gets big improvements year after year. For this reason alone, it's why I upgrade pretty much each generation.
The iPhone 13 Pro is the first iPhone capable of macro photography straight out of the box. That's because it uses the Ultra-Wide camera and autofocus system to focus at a mere 2cm. So if you have an iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max, you simply use the standard Wide camera but bring the device close to your subject until it autofocuses with the Ultra Wide lens while still retaining the normal crop of the Wide lens. This effectively works when your subject is within Apple's 2cm (or 0.78-inches) distance.
However, while the built-in Macro mode on the iPhone 13 Pro series devices works nicely, it's far from perfect. And if you don't have either of those devices, what can you do? There are still iPhone camera lens accessories still out there, and they can still outperform what Apple brings to the table. SANDMARC is one of those brands, and its lenses are top-notch. Today, we'll be testing out the SANDMARC Macro Lens.
SANDMARC Macro Lens: Price and availability
Though you can find some SANDMARC products on Amazon, the SANDMARC Macro Lens is available only directly on the SANDMARC website. From there, you can find the Macro Lens available for all of the best iPhone models, from the iPhone 13 Pro Max going all the way back to the original iPhone SE/8/7. The lens comes in only one color, and it retails for $100. With your initial purchase, you also get an iPhone case for your particular model, as the lens can be screw-mounted on with SANDMARC iPhone cases.
SANDMARC Macro Lens: Seriously small with big details
SANDMARC is a brand that is known for high-quality photography accessories for not just iPhone but for GoPro and other devices too. The SANDMARC Macro Lens for iPhone is quite small and compact, making it a great accessory to take with you anywhere. The lens itself is made with premium multi-element, multi-coated optics, including an industrialized aluminum body and engineered glass. The results are crystal clear images that are comparable to a DSLR.
I mentioned that the SANDMARC Macro Lens is great for taking with you anywhere. That's not just because of the small and lightweight size, but all of the extras that it comes with. In the box, you'll find a carrying case with an interior mesh pocket, labeled drawstring pouch, clip-mount, cleaning cloth, and a carabiner to attach the case to a bag. The lens itself also has a front and back cap to protect the glass and a clear plastic lens hood for gauging distance and light. If you have a SANDMARC iPhone case, you simply screw the lens onto the camera, as there are screw-in threads for this purpose. If you're using a different case, or don't want a case at all, the lens clip is for universal mounting.
The SANDMARC Macro Lens has 10x magnification right out of the box. When you combine that with your iPhone 13 Pro's 3x Telephoto lens, that is 30x magnification, which means you can get super up close and personal with your subjects. I noticed that the SANDMARC Macro Lens has a narrower focal plane than the iPhone 13 Pro Macro mode, which can be good and bad depending on your point of view. Due to this, it can be a little tricky to find the right distance between the lens and the subject, though this is actually remedied with the lens hood. When you use the hood, it is a great gauge for measuring the correct distance between the lens and the subject, so I recommend using it. The hood also helps light reach your subject matter, which is incredibly important since you'll likely cause shadows by being so close up.
Even though the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have Macro mode built-in, the SANDMARC Macro Lens still takes better macro shots. I've noticed that my iPhone 13 Pro macro photos have a bit of blur and distortion around the edges, but you don't get that with the SANDMARC Macro Lens. As long as you can get the right distance between lens and subject, images are much more sharp and clear than the iPhone macros. And with up to 30x magnification when combined with the iPhone Telephoto lens, you can see even more details that you would never have seen otherwise. To see examples of the macro lens in action, click the images below to enlarge.
The best thing about the SANDMARC Macro Lens is pretty obvious: if you don't have an iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max, this is an excellent accessory to help you get amazing macro shots on older ones iPhones. And if you have an iPhone with a telephoto lens, then it's even better.
SANDMARC Macro Lens: You'll need steady hands
Honestly, there isn't much I don't like about the SANDMARC Macro Lens. I suppose if I had to nitpick, it's just the fact that you will need incredibly steady hands when using this accessory. Since it has a very narrow focal point, even the slightest little movement can take it out of focus, so you need patience when using this lens.
The other thing is that the SANDMARC Macro Lens is definitely on the pricier side, though that's probably because it also comes with an iPhone case and other accessories. There are definitely more affordable options when it comes to the lens kits on the market, and when you can get a bunch of different lenses on Amazon for less than $50, the SANDMARC Macro Lens can be a hard sell. But SANDMARC is a trusted name for the iPhone photography accessory market, so it's about quality over quantity here. Plus, from my testing with the lens around the house, it turns mundane objects into something interesting with a new perspective, and the resulting images are just packed with every little fine detail. Imagine what you could do with it while on a nature hike!
SANDMARC Macro Lens: Competition
There certainly is no shortage of great lens kits on the market today, with many of them being more inexpensive than SANDMARC. One of the other lenses that we reviewed was the Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens, which Karen Freeman gave a favorable review. This one has both a telephoto lens and a macro lens in one, so you get more bang for your buck. It comes with a universal clip mount and can be used with any device. However, since it only uses a clip, it can be a little fiddly, and it is mostly for giving your iPhone a bit of an optical zoom boost.
Another option is the Hitcase TrueLUX Lens Bundle that I reviewed in the past, which includes a clip and three iPhone lenses: SuperWide, Wide, and Macro. I enjoyed these because the clip makes these lenses compatible with any device you may end up with, and you get a lot of bang for your buck. The image quality with these lenses was also quite good, so if you want multiple lenses to experiment with for the same price as one SANDMARC one, then consider Hitcase's TrueLUX Lens Bundle.
SANDMARC Macro Lens: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You take iPhone photography seriously
- You want an excellent macro lens
- You don't have an iPhone 13 Pro
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You are fine with the iPhone 13 Pro Macro mode
- You don't plan on taking macro photos
- You're on a budget
The SANDMARC Macro Lens is an excellent accessory for any iPhone photographer, whether you're an amateur or a pro. It's made with premium optics, so you get the absolute best quality photos when you use it. And while it's a bit pricey, it does come with an array of accessories to protect it while in transport and a clear plastic lens hood to help you get the perfect distance for those macro shots. It also comes with an iPhone case for your chosen model so that the lens can be screwed in directly onto the case, but there is also a clip-mount so that it will work with your other devices. And even if you have an iPhone 13 Pro with Macro mode, the SANDMARC Macro Lens helps you get even better macro images because you can utilize the Telephoto lens for up to 30x magnification. That's a lot of detail!
However, there's no denying it — the SANDMARC Macro Lens is quite expensive. If you aren't serious about iPhone photography and don't plan on taking macro photos, then this is probably not the best accessory for you. Or, if you want to have a lot of options for experimentation, you may want to consider another product. But if you want to emphasize macro photography with your best iPhone, and if you don't have an iPhone 13 Pro, this is a fantastic option to consider adding to your iPhone photography arsenal. Or, if you do have an iPhone 13 Pro device, you can make your macro shots even better with this 25mm lens with up to 30x magnification with the iPhone Telephoto lens. I'll be keeping this one around for incredibly detailed macros.
Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.
When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.