What Is Atomic Zoom?

By Derek Lakin
HighYa Staff Published on: Aug 22, 2017

Made of professional grade aluminum and glass, Atomic Zoom is a high-definition snap-on lens that promises to turn any smartphone into an expensive, professional-grade telephoto camera in seconds.

To use, the website claims you just have to attach the lens, and you'll be able to take pictures and videos up to 10X farther, without a loss of quality. Then, shoot your image using the slim and compact lens set, unlike professional-grade zoom lenses.

Based on some of the images and claims featured in Atomic Zoom’s commercial and on its website, you might have some high expectations for this lens set. But what can you realistically expect? And compared to the competition, will its price deliver a similar—or perhaps even a better—value?

If you’re looking to get a solid handle on Atomic Zoom, there are a couple of necessary concepts we need to quickly go over. Stick with us for a few minutes, and we’ll help you make a more informed purchase.

When Discussing Camera Lenses Like Atomic Zoom, What’s the Importance of Focal Length?

In a nutshell, a lens is a piece of glass that bends light in a specific way. But not all wavelengths of light bend in the same manner, so How Stuff Works tells us that cameras utilize a series of lenses placed inside a single unit (also collectively called a ‘lens’), which work together to align different colors, or wavelengths of light, thereby producing a specific image effect; e.g. zoom, panoramic, and so forth.

Depending on the curvature of these combined lenses and the effect they produce, a camera’s overall lens is measured in something called focal length.

In layman’s terms, this measurement, in millimeters, tells us “how much of the scene will be captured—and the magnification—how large individual elements will be. The longer the focal length, the narrower the angle of view and the higher the magnification. The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of view and the lower the magnification.”

What does all of this have to do with Atomic Zoom?

The detailed answer: While the 10X zoom mentioned in the product’s commercial might sound impressive, without knowing its smallest and largest measurements, we also can’t know Atomic Zoom’s multiplier. And without a multiplier, we can’t measure the real-world focusing ability—commonly referred to as the focal length—of these lenses.

The short answer: We can’t know Atomic Zoom’s focal length, so there’s no way to know its real-world zoom capabilities, or whether or not it matches the 10X zoom claim made in its commercial.

We contacted three different customer service representatives in search of additional information. While all were pleasant, none could provide these measurements.

The Difference Between Digital & Optical Zoom

Writing for Digital Trends, Gordon Goble tells us that whether you’re taking a picture or recording video with a smartphone, when you zoom in, the device uses software to manually crop what you see. The result?

He explains, “digital zoom is a misnomer. It does not physically zoom any further – it merely enlarges a section of the image you’ve already set up and framed, similar to crop-to-enlarge an image with a photo-editing software.” The result is image pixelation or distortion.

Comparatively, an optical zoom—using the combination of lenses we just discussed—will not distort, up to its magnification potential.

Of these two, based on what we learned in the commercial and on the product’s website, Atomic Zoom utilizes an optical zoom. In addition to the unknown measurements or focal lengths discussed earlier, though, customer support wasn’t able to tell us if its 10X claim relates to just the lens itself, or a combination of optical and digital (inside the smartphone) technologies.

How Much Does Atomic Zoom Cost?

One Atomic Zoom lens set is priced at $19.99 plus $7.99 S&H. This includes one universal phone clip, one fisheye lens, and one macro lens.

During checkout, you’ll be able to double your offer for an additional $9.99 fee.

All orders come with a 30-day refund policy, less S&H. In order to request one, you’ll need to call Bulbhead customer support, a division of ASOTV giant Telebrands, at 855-668-1655.

How Does Atomic Zoom Compare to Other Smartphone Zoom Lenses?

Search online for terms like “smartphone zoom lens” and “cell phone lens set” you’ll be inundated with hundreds of different optical options. Some of these include just one lens, while others—like Atomic Zoom—come with whole sets.

Price-wise? Some could be purchased for as little as $5, while high-end options topped out at $240. How can you cut through the clutter and choose the best one for your needs?

While we didn’t encounter any general buying guides from authoritative sources during our research, based on what we learned from a variety of related sites, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • The majority of cell phone lenses cover the flash, which will be important if you’re planning to shoot in low-light conditions.

  • If you have a case over your phone, it will almost certainly need to be removed prior to attaching the lens.

  • Before purchasing, make sure that the lens is compatible with your specific phone model. Some are compatible only with iPhones or Android phones, while others can accommodate both—just make sure the product’s listing specifies.

Let's carry this thought over as we come to a conclusion about Atomic Zoom.

Our Final Thoughts About Atomic Zoom

Although we didn’t test Atomic Zoom lens set ourselves, based on what we learned during our research, it seemed to offer many of the core options that amateur smartphone photography customers are looking for, including zoom, fisheye, and macro options.

On top of this, it’s sold through the largest As Seen on TV manufacturer in the industry, who backs it with a 30-day return policy. We also reached out to customer support and were told it’s compatible with iPhone and Android models.

With this said, in a recent article titled “Add-on Telephoto Smartphone Lenses Get You Close to the Action,” Consumer Reports concluded:

“Let's be realistic: An add-on lens can't turn your smartphone into an SLR. No matter how good the product might be, piling one lens on top of another lens is not the best way to enhance image quality. Especially when the two lenses aren't aligned precisely.”

In other words, even among some of the $150+ competition they tested, none could hold a candle to an actual LSR. So, if this is your expectation, you might be disappointed by the performance of any lens set you purchase for your smartphone, whether Atomic Zoom or a third-party brand.

As a result, we have some doubts that this lens set will turn your smartphone into an "expensive, professional-grade telephoto camera in seconds," which is one of the primary claims on Atomic Zoom's website.

Related: 8 Tips to Getting Great Family Photos

With this caveat in mind, Android Central emphasizes that “having a few phone lenses ready to go can be a great way to switch things up in your shooting routine.” So, if you’re looking to spice things up—but not necessarily go professional—an add-on lens set could definitely provide the results you’re looking for.

And if you’re ultimately not satisfied, you can always return your Atomic Zoom lenses for a refund, although you’ll lose your initial $8 in S&H, plus whatever it will cost to ship the set back to the manufacturer.

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