Exploring the Most Exciting iPhone Camera Accessory of CES 2024: The Shiftcam Probe Lens, Only $299

Remember the $1,599 probe lens Laowa made for DSLRs? Well, Shiftcam built one for 1/5th the price… and it mounts onto your iPhone for the most surreal macro videos ever.

A probe lens for smartphones was definitely not on my 2024 bingo card, but it seems like Shiftcam had other plans. When Laowa launched the first probe lens in 2019, it instantly became the talk of the photography community. The lens had a distinct design, shaped less like a cylinder and more like a projectile. Its design was the perfect example of form following function, because the probe lens could shoot macro unlike any other lens on the market. The only problem, it cost an eye-watering $1,599.

At CES, Shiftcam’s broadly achieved two incredible feats. Not only has it debuted its own probe lens for an ultra-affordable $299, it’s also redesigned it to work with iPhones, bringing the incredible experience to pretty much any smartphone photography enthusiast.

Shiftcam’s Probe Lens has that same unmistakable design, with its long, tubular form factor. This pretty much lets you sneak your way into places where most smartphone camera lenses wouldn’t, allowing you to get what’s called a ‘bug’s perspective’ on things. Aside from being able to prod your way into tree trunks, aquariums, and other tight nooks, the distinct benefit of a Probe Lens is the fact that it doesn’t have an extreme DoF. This keeps things in your frame relatively clear, unlike most macro lens that aggressively blur foregrounds and backgrounds out to focus on a singular subject.

The Probe Lens boasts a wide-angle 25mm focal length, quite similar to Laowa’s 24mm lens. The results are incredibly similar too, but it’s a constant endeavor to remind yourself that while Laowa’s $1500 lens fits on expensive high-end cameras, Shiftcam achieves the exact same thing with a $299 price tag and the ability to mount onto any iPhone.

The lens builds on your smartphone’s camera specs, basically leveraging the iPhone’s wild 4K@60fps shooting ability. It relies on Shiftcam’s existing mounting cover cases, which means the lens can attach onto older versions of the iPhone too.

Shiftcam’s announced two versions of the Probe Lens at CES 2024. The regular variant sports a $299 price tag, while the $399 Pro variant boasts extra features like a built-in LED ring, variable DoF adjustment, and a waterproof front tube that lets you point the tip of your lens into water.