Sandmarc’s New Retro Filter Brings Vintage Cinematic Look to iPhone

On the left, a hand holds a black iPhone with a clip-on lens attached. On the right, a person with short curly hair and a leather jacket stands in front of a neon sign that reads "HOT SHO" with various decorations in the background.

As cameras and lenses have improved, some photographers and filmmakers have begun looking back at objectively “worse” vintage lenses with envy. There is a certain charm to softer lenses, and Sandmarc hopes to capitalize on the nostalgia craze with its new Retro Filter for iPhone.

“With a growing admiration for vintage aesthetics, we aimed to create a filter that enhances the iPhone camera’s ability to produce high-quality content with a nostalgic effect,” Sandmarc explains. “The Sandmarc Retro Filter offers a vintage filmic look for every shot, perfect for capturing timeless photos & videos in any environment.”

The Sandmarc Retro Filter essentially reduces fine details in images, reduces contrast, and introduces a soft halation around light sources. This is similar in spirit and functionality to the dreamy highlight diffusion filter (HDF) that Ricoh Imaging added to its most recent GR III and GR IIIx models. There’s clearly a demand for this type of look, as those GR III HDF cameras are so popular that Japanese photographers have had to enter a lottery to buy them.

A smartphone with an attached camera lens accessory on the left and a close-up shot of a circular camera filter labeled "SANDMARC Retro Filter" on the right. The smartphone has a silver back with an Apple logo.

Two side-by-side images show a hand holding a smartphone with a coffee cup attachment. The left photo has the phone in the back pocket of jeans, revealing the Apple logo. The right photo shows the phone against a teal metal surface.

PetaPixel has also seen the desire for a “vintage” look with much more complex optical designs, such as Module 8’s variable-look Tuner system that recreates classic lenses through reverse-engineered lens adapters.

More like Ricoh’s HDF system and less like Module 8’s sophisticated multi-glass design, Sandmarc’s new Retro Filter is relatively simple. It is multi-coated glass that screws onto many Sandmarc’s iPhone lenses, including its anamorphic, wide, and telephoto lenses. As shown in the video below, the Retro Filter looks and functions like a neutral density or polarizing filter photographers attach to typical camera lenses.

Speaking of polarizing filters, the Retro Filter also has a polarization effect. It also includes two strengths: strong mist and soft mist. Sandmarc says the softer option provides subtle diffusion while utilizing the polarization effect, while the strong mist option delivers a more dramatic filmic look.

Collage of three images featuring a woman with curly hair. In the first image, she is sitting on a bench, wearing roller skates. In the second, she stands under a neon sign that reads "HOT SHOP". In the third, she is in a laundromat, casually leaning against washing machines.

A side-by-side comparison photo of a woman in a pool wearing a black swimsuit and white, round sunglasses. The left image is labeled "BEFORE" and the right image is labeled "AFTER," with differences primarily in lighting and color tone enhancements.

A collage of three images features a young woman wearing a black and white varsity jacket. In the first, she poses in a laundromat. In the second, she adjusts red sunglasses in front of a "Wash & Fold" sign. In the third, she sits alone at a dimly lit train station.

The Sandmarc Retro Filter is compatible with any iPhone model and is available for preorder now for $99.99. It is expected to begin shipping in August.

Image credits: Sandmarc