How Well Do Mobile Telephoto Lenses Work

I often see talk about macro lenses, but not for telephoto/telescopic lenses. I’m curious to know, how well do they work? Is it possible to at least get an identifiable shot with them?

I tried a fairly sophisticated combination of an Opticron BGA 8x42 monocular and their Universal Smartphone Mount UM-2. My goal was to get reasonable telephoto action on bike packing trips without carrying a real camera. When I took time to get everything set up, aligned and used a small light weight tripod it worked OK, but not great. The combination was not quick nor agile and thus not really suited for wildlife.

If I was to try again I would look for a simpler set up that aligned quickly and was easy to use handheld. However, my current plan is to go to a newer, higher quality phone that has at least a 6x optical zoom (because I’m in the Apple universe that means waiting a few months)


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I got a real cheap one like 10$, its… okay. While my photos of birds and such have definitely improved it it does not autofocus and took a few weeks to get to the point where it was giving me nicer photos then my standard iPhone camera. The clip is already starting to crack and I basically just carry it around in my pocket when it’s not in use.

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I’ve since upgraded to a proper camera, but I used an Apexel 18x clip-on tele for my phone for a while. The main thing it has going for it is that it is inexpensive.

I found it fiddly to get in place so that the lens was centered over the cellphone camera and my camera case is too thick to use with the clip so I would have to take it off anytime I wanted to use it. The photo quality was OK, albeit generally a bit pale, with a very limited manual focus. It also required fairly steady hands or the photo would be blurred beyond recognition.

I got some useable observations out of it (mostly stationary waterbirds or far-away plants), but I found it impractical for birds in flight or songbirds likely to flit away while I was trying to get the lens in place. So overall, it extended the range of possibilities (sometimes), but was fairly frustrating to use.

Some examples: (2nd photo without the tele, for comparison) (IDable photo of birds on the far side of the lake)

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I found that binoculars are better, especially because I usually already have them. Detailed comments here:

And I’m sure other people have suggestions on that thread.

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Thanks for the link!

I read that using binoculars with an adaptor is more efficient than using a telescopic lens, is there any difference in terms of photo quality?

Quality would just depend on your lenses. My cheap telephoto wasn’t as good as my cheap binoculars. And I also didn’t use an adaptor.

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I bought an adaptor and tried it out with binoculars. Honestly the photos aren’t that bad. My only complaint is that they’re bulky, tough to carry, and the focus is wired.

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All photos on this observation were taken using one of the built-in lenses on a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, with 10× optical zoom. This one was cropped to make it more easily identifiable:

It’s definitely nowhere near as good as a real DSLR or bridge camera, but very useful in a pinch!


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