Macro and Telephoto Lenses for Smartphone Cameras

Quite a few iNatters use macro lenses for their smartphone cameras, which can be pretty useful for taking close-up photos of small organisms or details. This topic is for discussing their use, and for sharing examples.


further tip for mobile users (discovered today and made my week): with one of those cheap (5EUR?) clip lens you can get amazing pic of super small items with your mobile, in the field.
This are for instance pic I shot today of a spidey 2mm long and some moss fruiting body. Super easy: you take the picture of the visible features and the like, then snap the lens in place and … voilà!
And beside being cheap is super handy, 5x5x2 cm so pocket size and comes with a led light to illuminate the subject if you need to!.
And you can use it as a field lens too.
Best investment so far for me.


I’ve tried one of those (National Geographic Smart Phone Microscope). The big problem I had was that the lens has to be practically touching the subject, and most live & mobile things won’t stay still for that.

But it was under $20, and I guess you get what you pay for. :woman_shrugging:

Maybe I should save it for lichens and plants.

I got one of these for less than 3USD
Yes, you need to get 5mm close, but with small spiders if you make it lightly it worked for me. Today I shot pics of Araniella and Frontinellina, both 2mm top in length. If you do not want to take the big guns around it’s a very good option in my view.
Obviously the goal is allow identification, not for artistic purposes.

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This is mine:

Of course, but my problem was:

  1. I don’t think it did all that much for identification (see here)
  2. I tried to stun the 2 subjects (tiny wasps) I needed to photograph so they would be still and accidentally them instead. I felt really bad about that, so it kind of scared me off of using the clip-on that had prompted my desire to stun them.

yes, I see your pain. Yesterday I tried with a larva of Cteniopus. , 2mm wide. I had to struggle half an hour because they wriggle quite a lot but in the end I managed to take nice shots.
I usually immobilize the sample in damped toilet paper. Does not kill/hurt them and is heavy enough to immobilize them

I’ve had a look, and share what I learned with mine. When you clip on, you get that round spot vision - you just need to zoom in (in my case to 5.5) to get a full screen view. Of course you do not get a huge depth of field, but you can adjust the distance to get a nice shot at what you want to observe.

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@edolis and @star3 I moved your conversation to a new topic. Macro lenses for smartphones are awesome!


I would be very interested in specific recommendations for clip-ons. I had a great one that I got extremely cheaply on Amazon a couple years ago, but I lost it in the field and the ones I have tried more recently have not been as easy to use.


Heh, this is exactly why I buy the cheapest ones I can, I lose them all the time. I think both @carrieseltzer and @abhasm use this one:


Yes, and I can’t recommend it enough if you’ve got a phone that is compatible (there are several). I have the wolverine one for my iPhone XS. Used an older version for my previous iPhone 6S.


I use one of these too, after Carrie recommended it. My one main complaint is it requires a specific case that is a pain to put on and off so if you want another case you can’t easily switch. That being said, you can take the set of lenses off so you don’t have to lug it around, and the case I got is a pretty solid metal one which is nice. Some of the lenses are pretty useless and in my version one of them detaches, I think it was the wide angle, and i just don’t use that because I will lose it in the field.
Overall i definitely recommend it, I use it for keying out plants, easier than a hand lens in a lot of ways since you can save the photo… here is my latest use, though not the prettiest overall:


So, I love the clip on lens, there are also phone cases that allow a small lens. I don’t have one right now.

However, I’ve found that I can mostly brace my quality Coddington 10x loupe against my phone in one hand, and take a photo. Sometimes awkward, but doable.


I use a clip on macro lens by Black Eye.
This probably isn’t the exact one I am using but appearance wise thats how the one I have looks like. Served me pretty well in taking detailed shots, though personally I wish the depth-of-field could be bigger. Other downside is that to actually clip the lens onto my phone camera (I have an iPhone 7, “old school” lol) I need to remove my phone case to be able to fit my clip on lens snug onto the camera lens. Also there is no built in light so one needs an external light source to illuminate the subject when necessary.

Here are some of my observations that utilised my macro lens (quality of photos also depend on the fact that the observation subjects have a mind of their own and that the photographer gets lazy quickly):


I bought a Xenvo Pro Lens Kit ahead of a trip to Panama and I couldn’t be happier with the results, best 30 something bucks I spent in my life. Excellent, sharp images and a much better option than a full macro camera for portability, since it fits in my pocket. I copy below some examples of photos I took this week, I also have HD video of insects and millipedes that I hope to post at some point.


What magnification are you guys using? I have only tried one model so far, a 10x macro, and I feel with some patience and a steady hand the distance is (not always but more often than not) enough to also get shots of insects that are easily flushed.
Here are some diptera examples I managed to take with the lens on:

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What an interesting topic…I tried to use a cheap clip on lens bought on Aliexpress, but I wasn’t happy with the result…I seen that my mobile without lens could get better pics than with them on… Does anyone have some indication? I have a smartphone Lenovo K6 Plus…



I have something like this, but mine version includes a bag. It is a nice case. how else to store such a small lense? And today it is cheaper.

Also look for the post of robotpie, who also uses a Black Eye.

Black Eye 3-Pack Smartphone lenzen
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De Black Eye 3-Pack G4 bestaat uit een klem met 3 functies voor je smartphone. In deze set zit een fisheye lens, groothoeklens en een macrolens. De klem werkt als een wasknijper en plaats je over de camera van je smartphone. Voor verschillende camera effecten draai je er 1 van de meegeleverde lenzen op. De universele klem werkt met smartphones, tablets, laptops en apparaten met dubbele lenzen.

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If anyone is like me and has trouble getting phone macro photos to not be blurry, I recommend using video mode instead since you have a greater chance of getting some frames in focus. Then find a frame that’s in focus and save it as an image. I use MPC-HC on my computer to do this, but you could also just screenshot specific frames on your phone if you don’t care about the smaller resolution from doing it that way.


One technique to use if the camera is having trouble auto focusing is to put the camera on focus lock (which often comes with exposure lock as well). Then the camera will stop trying to autofocus and you can just move the phone slightly further or closer to the subject until the focus is correct.

I’m not sure how to focus lock on Android, but on iOS, just keep your finger on the subject for a few seconds. It takes some practice but it can be really helpful.


On my android phone I downloaded a separate manual camera app (there are dozens of them) that allows me to manual focus, which allows me to lock focus and keep the phone from skittering off into the background,