Review: Moment Case and Lenses for Google Pixel 3
Dec 6, 2018, 7:00 AM by Eric M. Zeman
Google’s Pixel 3 may have one of the best cameras on a modern smartphone, but with no wide-angle or telephoto options, it isn’t as flexible as the cameras on competing devices. That’s why Moment has targeted the Pixel with a new case and lens system. If you want to take your Pixel photography to the next level, this is how you do it.
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Though I love the Pixel 3 camera above all others, its limitations make me sad. I really enjoy using wide-angle lenses to capture huge scenes, or telephoto lenses to zoom in closer to the action. Google bucked 2018's trend of using multiple lenses to provide some form of optical zoom.
Like Olloclip, Moment has a series of cases and lenses that bring new lens functionality to your smartphone's camera. Here is a look at the latest from Moment.
Moment's case and lens system is virtually foolproof. The company has created a range of cases for different phones, such as the iPhone, Galaxy S, and Pixel. The company says it re-engineered its case design for the Pixel 3 in order to make it more protective.
The case is made from a fairly thick, hardened rubber. The case hardware is available in black or white. The black case comes with either a canvas or walnut insert covering the rear, and the white comes with a tan leather insert covering the rear. I like the way the tan contrasts with the white. It's adventurous in a take-me-on-a-safari kind of way.
Compared to others cases, this one is more pliable. It's easier to put on the phone, and easier to take off, than other brands. I like that.
The inner side edges of the case have ridges to provide cushioning, and some sort of smooth insert on the back panel to comfort the Pixel. The side edges are tall enough that they form a rim around the Pixel's face. This means you can place the phone face down on an even surface without imperiling the glass.
Form-fitting nubs on the right edge cover the buttons and make them easy to find and use. I like the travel and feedback; the case doesn't get in the way of the button action. A wide cutout around the USB port on the bottom ensures your charging cables or USB headphones can always connect. Moment included two lanyard hooks, one on each side of the bottom edge. That's thoughtful.
An appropriate-sized opening leaves the fingerprint reader on the back accessible. I like the way the round hole slopes toward the reader, which helps your finger find the reader quicker.
Each case Moment makes has an opening perfectly centered over the main camera. It's reinforced with carbon fiber. Simply fit the lens into the opening and rotate it 90 degrees. It couldn't be simpler, and ensures each lens is locked in place properly.
Moment makes no official claims as to how tough or strong the case is other than that it can handle drops to asphalt, slaps by tree branches, and the “occasional wild night out.” The rubber is thick enough that I'm confident the case can handle the bruising phones are prone to receive as people use them every day.
The beauty of the case system is that it's compatible with the majority of Moment's newer lenses. Moment supplied us with its 18mm wide-angle and super-fisheye lenses for testing. Both are much more substantial than the lenses from competitor Olloclip. They are made of metal and glass, are fairly big, and are definitely heavy. They feel well-engineered and manufactured with good materials (according to Moment, aerospace-grade aluminum).
First, the 18mm. Moment calls it the "Wide 18", and the “go-to wide-angle lens for mobile photographers and filmmakers.” It's a big hunk of hardware. It weighs 2.8 ounces (76g) and measures more than an inch in each dimension. It feels substantial when you lock it into place on the Pixel 3. The lens has six elements and is coated with a multi-layer, anti-reflection finish.
This lens effectively allows you to capture a scene that's twice as wide and tall, with minimal optical distortion. Typically, wide-angle lenses introduce at least some bubble effect, but that's not the case with this lens. Everything in the frame is straight with no visible fisheye-type distortion. The center of the frame was always sharp as a tack, but I noticed some slight blur in the four corners of each image I shot with the 18mm lens.
The photos I took with this lens varied in terms of focus and exposure. Putting any glass in front of the camera affects the light reaching the sensor in myriad ways. That means the Pixel 3 needs to adjust accordingly. Outdoors, I saw no issues with exposure. Indoors, however, the Pixel had a harder time dialing in the proper exposure through the 18mm lens.
This lens does truly open up a much wider canvas than the Pixel's camera can capture on its own. It will work well in tight spaces, such as hallways, alleys, or small rooms when you're trying to fit everything in.
The "Superfish" lens is all about the optical distortion. It is actually a bit smaller than the wide-angle lens and weighs less, too. The fisheye effect, a huge bubble, is fun for lots of reasons. This lens generates a whopping 170-degree field of view. That means you can capture almost everything in front of you. The bubble effect is pronounced, but the images are dynamite.
I used the Superfish indoors and out, and it's stunning to see the differences. Because there are few truly straight lines in nature, the bubble effect isn't as noticeable outdoors. When shooting indoors, or anywhere there are lots of straight lines, the bubble effect becomes more pronounced. You can create some really unique images using this tool, particularly when you take the time to find an interesting viewpoint.
It behaves similar to the 18mm when it comes to focus and exposure. I noticed some softness along the outer edges of the images. Keep in mind, the Superfish is bending a lot of light. Exposure on shots outdoors was good, but more prone to contrast issues than the 18mm. This means the Pixel 3's built-in HDR was less able to successfully balance the light and dark regions of photos (see palm trees). Still, overall, this lens is a lot of fun.
The Pixel 3 from Google's camera is amazing, but limited to one field of view. The Moment case and lens system brings two benefits to the Pixel. First, it does a fine job of protecting the phone from everyday thrills and spills. Second, it introduces the ability to change lenses for wide, fish-eye, or zoomed photos.
Moment's system for securing the lenses to the case is far more stable than Olloclip's, and automatically centers the lenses over the camera. This is a major plus.
The cases go for $30, which is totally reasonable. The 18mm lens costs $100 and the Superfish costs $90. They aren't cheap, but that one perfect image made possible by the Moment lenses might just be worth it.
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