Hand Lenses / Loupes for Macro Photography?

I use a set of Bausch + Lomb Hastings Triplet hand lenses (4x, 10x, 14x, and 20x) for not just observing with my eye, but also for my photographs. To use them I just hold the lens up against the back of my smartphone, centered over the camera, and take my shots.

Though this setup can be a little tedious sometimes, I don’t actually mind it too terribly. My only real gripe is the limited depth of field.

Does anyone else take a significant number of their macro photographs this way? Whether you use them for your photographs or not, what hand lenses do you use?

Do you also have problems with depth of field making it difficult to get all of the relevant details for ID’ing in one (or just a few) shot(s)?

Or if you used to take your shots this way but have moved on to another setup, what do you do now and why?

I kind of wonder if I’ve reached the limit of what I can do with hand lenses and need to break down and shell out for my first camera and camera lenses.

You can check previous topics about macro photography, but you will never get large DOP with macro, only through stacking, so choose angles where the most crucial parts will be in focus simultaneously.

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I had looked around for topics regarding hand lenses but didn’t find much about their use in photography. My fluency in the language of photography, though, is at the cave man level. I thought that surely my problem was a “guy trying to use a smartphone and hand lenses to take photos” problem. I didn’t realize this is just a problem with macro photography in general, nor did I know what stacking was until you mentioned it (and I went and looked it up) just now.

So, thanks for the comment! I will indeed go look through some of the macro-related posts further. I am still curious though how many people are using the same (or similar) setup as me.

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I’ve used hand lenses like this at some point, but I shifted to the Ztylus Revolvr for smartphone pictures, which is far more practical and not too expensive.


Pentax has some good equipment to be used for this.

First of alle the Pentax Papilio. Only a 6.5x or 8.5 Bino. Closest focusing distance is 0.5m I got my 6.5x21 Papilio for about 200€ - now you get this or the 8.5x21 for 100€ on special sale events, like black friday or maybe happy easter.

For Smartphone photography there is the Pentay VM 6X21 WP Set.
You can order a smartphone adapter and a microscope kit for this.
Closest focusing distance about 0.7m - but in my opinion the magnification is about 3x - 4x and not 6x - compared with the Papilio 6.5x you see a big difference.
The monocular is only worth its money with the microscope attachment. This microscope attachment makes everything good again and there is unfortunately no alternative for it.
250€ for the complete set is a big number. Maybe the price drops this year or next year.

As i use a “normal” camera and various macro lenses i have no example image of this. But can do some shots today with my kit.


I just looked that up and that’s pretty neat! I have a Google Pixel 6a, so that specific brand wouldn’t work for me (unless I buy an iPhone or Galaxy), but I have seen lenses specifically for smartphones mentioned elsewhere on this forum. Until now I’ve been dismissive of them, but seeing this makes me think maybe I should give them a chance.

One thing I’ve not really been able to branch out to is birds. I want to, I just can’t get a decent shot at the distances I’m able to observe them from. Something like this seems like it could help with both macro and distance shots.

just a sample shot - to get an idea of the DOF with the microscope attachment. field of view is about 1.5cm
it also works without microscope attachment as attachable telephoto lens.

i only have a poor smartphone camera - 12MP single lens

There are some good clip-on macro lenses for smart phones - Apexel from India are good quality. But i do not have one this clips.


Shallow depth of field is just part of macro photography: the closer you get, the shallower the depth of field. There are two main workarounds that people use, although neither really work with a smartphone as you need a lot of control.

  1. Using a flash (diffused is best) to provide more light, which allows you to make the aperture smaller and increase the depth of field.

  2. Use focus stacking/focus bracketing to take a bunch of photos with different parts of the subject in focus, then join them using software.


Backing off a little can also get you an increased depth of field. There is a tendency to want to get as close as possible but this reduces the depth of field. If you have a camera/smartphone camera with a lot of megapixels it can be better to shoot from a little further back and then crop the photo later.


When using a hand lens or clip on macro lens, that’s usually not an option, unfortunately. For those, you have to get within a few centimeters in order to get anything in focus.

It is the same with all lenses. It is just that the distances are smaller with macro. If you normally shoot at 5cm try backing off to 7cm. You might be surprised at what you get.

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When you put a hand lens or macro clip on lens on a smartphone lens, you lose the ability to focus from more than a few centimeters away from the subject. You can no longer focus to infinity, thus you can’t go from 5cm to 7cm. Or a least that’s how every one I’ve used works. You need an actual macro lens on an actual camera in order to shoot from further away and get more of the subject in focus.

@regnierda a lot of iNatters us the Olympus TG series cameras, you can read some threads about them on the forum. Later versions have a “microscope” functionality and auto focus stacking as well. That plus the optional ring flash can get you some nice macro shots with decent depth of field, as I’ve seen from friends’ photos. Or you can get an interchangeable lens camera and a macro lens and play with those. But yeah, you’ll always be fighting that shallow depth of field and the amount of light you’ll need. You can see tons of various diffusers and set ups for macro photography on YouTube.

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Those two issues are not the same. Yes, a clip-on will prevent you from going from infinity to 5cm. However, it won’t prevent you from moving in and out at close range. What use would a lens/camera that only focuses at 5cm be? This website gives a good explanation of how moving further out can give a better depth of field and how to calculate DOF at various criteria - https://photutorial.com/depth-of-field/

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So I tried playing around with my distance yesterday and I may or may not have figured out what you’re suggesting. I went to a moss that I always have to use a 20x hand lens to view.

Normally, I hold the hand lens up flush against the smartphone camera, and then I get to whatever distance from the target I need to to get the proper focus. The depth of field is usually pretty horrible though and is the main reason I haven’t been able to do more with mosses.

So: P - H - - M

(P = Phone; H = Hand Lens; M = Moss)

This time, I held the hand lens out from the smartphone camera an inch or so, and then backed up from the target a little more until things came into focus.

So: P - - - H - - - - - - M

Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, and I certainly need to play around with it more, but I do feel like the depth of field is a little better. It’s still not great, but I think it’s better. Normally 90% of my moss photos come out horrible and unusable (in my opinion) and just a big, blurry, frustrating mess. This time, I’d say maybe 50% of them came out with at least some details in clear view, and a wider area of focus than I normally get. The amount of the photo that was magnified was of course smaller, but at least there was some usable detail!

Am I basically doing what you’re talking about?

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I used a clip-on lens for my smartphone for a long time, and was able to get hundreds of great photos for under $40: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?created_d2=2023-02-01&place_id=any&user_id=lgarriga&verifiable=any (Anything macro is with the lens, anything more than 2 meters away is a DSLR). The only thing is to get a high quality phone macro lens at more than 10x, it might be a bit more difficult. But either way, a pretty cheap and pretty good quality way of approaching macro photogrphy:

I wanted a macro lens for my DSLR, so I found a $70 alternative to a many hundred dollar macro lens; a Raynox DCR-250 which attaches to a telephoto lens for macro. Same issues with depth of field, but still not bad photos overall. I still don’t have a diffuser other than the piece of paper I tape in front of my flash.


Can you use the Pentax Papilio (or any binoculars) with a smartphone? Or do you need a dedicated accessory to attach the phone and lens together, as is available with the Pentax VM 6x21 WP?

Someone on Amazon reviews for the Papilio suggested using them with either the Carson HookUpz 2.0 Universal Optics Adapter for Smartphones, or the Celestron – NexYZ – 3–Axis Universal Smartphone Adapter for Telescope. But it’s hard for me to tell whether that’s another gimmick that won’t work well. Looks like the forum user at https://forum.inaturalist.org/t/homebrew-tech-what-stuff-are-you-or-would-like-to-goofing-around-with-in-camera-tech/38400/2?u=ukanuk had good results at least, although they also used a tripod whereas I was thinking of doing handheld.

I looked up the Ztylus Revolver, but looks like they only support up to the iPhone X and Galaxy S9. It looks like other people sell generic phone lens attachments though, Amazon has an entire category for better or for worse https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/wireless/15124502011/

Wirecutter reviews a bunch too (not just for iPhone in spite of the article title)

Okay, found a few other threads now as well after searching for “digiscoping”.

“It is incredibly difficult to hold binoculars steady enough with only your hands, even if using a quality mount, to get a shot in focus with your phone peering through the scope lens. Best advice is definitely to get a tripod and adapter.”

Loads and loads of info

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