Can I photograph the eclipse with my smartphone?
The short answer is a definite ‘yes!’, but of course you have to be careful that you minimize glimpsing the bright sun with your eyes without the benefit of a proper filter. As for your camera, there is no valid reason why you would want to point your smartphone camera at the brilliant, un-eclipsed sun without putting a filter over the lens. During totality, you do not need the filter, of course!
Unless you have a telephoto lens for your smartphone, you will only be able to take unmagnified images of the eclipse in your sky. These photos can be very exciting because the field-of-view is large enough that you can compose the shot with your friends and local scenery in the shot, at the same time a recognizable, eclipsed sun during totality hangs dramatically in the darkened sky. You will easily be able to capture with most smartphone cameras the darkened disk of the moon surrounded by a clearly recognizable bright solar corona. Many examples of these kinds of wide-angle shots can be found on the Internet. Of course, if you use the camera’s digital zoom, you will see a pixelized, enlarged image that will not show much actual detail in the corona. To get around this, you need a telephoto lens for your smartphone.
There are many styles of telephoto lenses for smartphones. Avoid the ‘clip on’ lenses because they constantly slip and have to be precisely lined up on the camera lens to work. They are often of low optical quality. The best lenses are rated as 12x and above, and come with their own smartphone mounting bracket. At these magnifications, a tripod is essential because of camera jitter. A decent 12x lens and tripod adapter will cost you about $30.00, but you can also use this system for great ‘close up’ shots in sport and nature settings too! The telephoto lens will give you enough magnification that you will clearly see some of the details in the bright corona. You should test your system by taking night-time photos of the moon so you understand how large and detailed the moon will appear in your shot. The sun/mon during eclipse are equal-sized so this is a good way to compose your eclipse shots too. Also experiment with the settings on your camera using a downloadable app like Camera+ or NightCap Pro, which allow you more flexibility in setting up the exposure, f/stop and other factors. For more information on eclipse photography with smartphones, read the project details found at our Citizen Explorers page.
Above all, don’t forget to put your smartphone down and enjoy the eclipse with your own eyes!