Macro and Telephoto Lenses for Smartphone Cameras

Welcome to the Forum. That diagram is interesting. Is that set-up designed for a camera phone or for a regular camera? Or, am I asking the wrong question :crazy_face:

I think it’s just a generic for any situation, showing how it “shortens” the focal length. for a start, even regular cameras have many more lenses involved inside them, and phone camera lenses themselves are quite complex multi-lens setups.

One issue I will point out is that because the lenses aren’t “paired” well, a diopter situation will often introduce distortion around the periphery of the photo… which I personally don’t mind because I try and get the subject into the centre third area of the photo so that it’s not affected by that distortion, and that allows “just enough” context around the subject to know what is going on… (eg in a petri dish on my desk, on a leaf, floating on water, etc.)


It seems that most clip on macro lenses only work for smartphones with single lenses. My phone (a galaxy a13 5g) has four. Any ideas for a cheap clip on lens that could work for this model?



The macro lens only will work with the main lens of the phone, but it doesn’t matter how many other lenses the phone has. I’d say pretty much any clip-on lens will work (unless it says something like “iphone only”) and will have good results.

(I have one now where the lens can be screwed into a case that was specific to my phone model - and it makes it a bit faster to attach and un-attach the lens since it’s always aligned, but the quality is actually slightly worse than both of the $5 clip-ons I had before.)

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Yeah, you have to find the correct lens. One issue, though, is that even if you find the correct lens, sometimes the clip-on lens goes partly over the other lenses, which can confuse the camera and make it switch to the wrong lens.


This also reminds me, when I got my first clip-on lens and tried it everything was just blurry and after 5 minutes I was ready to send it back thinking it’s broken until my wife tried and she got a perfectly sharp picture on first try and I realized two things:

  1. I had to be unexpectedly close to the subject, almost touching it.
  2. It had a very narrow focus range, when something is in focus the things just 1mm behind or in front are blurry.

Yes, I had this same issue. which it why I had been trying to cold-stun my subjects, as they tend to dislike that. :grin:

I think I dampened the end of the cotton swab when took this observation:

I’m looking to get clip-on lenses to use with a cell phone camera – both magnifier and telscope. The phone is a Samsung Galaxy A21s, I think, though I’m pretty sure most clip-ons are likely to fit most phone models anyway.

Not looking to go too expensive, but just want a solid step up from simply relying on a cell phone camera with digital zoom and autofocus. As for budget, based on the prices I’m seeing on Amazon (which is probably where I’ll order them from, despite my misgivings about the company), I’m thinking of a total price of about $25 to $30 USD, but this is pretty flexible. (And if you know of a better store, please do tell.)

What are some products y’all have tried and what do you think of them?

Do y’all have any tips on what to look for or what to avoid when shopping for these things?

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I’ve seen a lot of people using the Xenvo brand sold on Amazon. Everyone I’ve talked to has reported good results with it. Be aware that using a thick phone case may affect how well it works. Also should be aware that you usually need to have your phone very close to the subject to focus on tiny things.

(moved the above two posts to this existing thread)

For macro, I think most lenses, even the cheaper ones, will provide decent optical quality.

But what does matter is how it physically attaches to the phone and what configuration provides the best compatibility and ease of use for your particular phone/case combination. So there isn’t necessarily going to be a one-size-fits-all answer to this.

I’ve had trouble with some clips because my case is too thick, or because the clip puts pressure on the top of the screen where some of the camera menu settings are located and thus inadvertently turns on the flash or the self-timer function or whatever. If you have a phone with multiple lenses (I don’t), this also may need to be taken into account so that the clip or edge of the lens doesn’t block the sensor or other lenses.

There are also lenses that attach using some other method – for example, they screw into to a special case or can be used with a phone rig. These in turn have their own requirements which may or may not work for you (i.e., not being able to use your regular case). The macro lenses I use attach using silicone rather than having a clip, which I’ve been quite happy with, though they are somewhat easy to lose as a result.

Telephoto: unlike with macro lenses, here cheap price seems to directly correlate with poor quality.

The inexpensive options sold explicitly for cell phones (10x tele or similar) provide only modest image quality and are difficult to use. Clip-on models have all the potential disadvantages outlined above, and I’ve found it quite fiddly to get the lens correctly centered over the phone camera (by which time the bird I want to photograph has often flown away).

If you already own a decent pair of binoculars or a spotting scope, I suspect a better option would be to purchase a digiscoping adapter or phone holder meant for this purpose.


I just got a Galaxy A 53 and use a Xenovo clip on for macro only. I have to switch the phone to macro mode and put the lens over the camera’s macro lens. I don’t know if the A21 has that functionality. I can’t really speak to the zoom lens.

To see the difference the Xenovo makes, I took three photos of our tablecloth, one of the table cloth in regular photo mode, one in macro mode and one in macro mode with the clip on. It’s interesting how the green of the tablecloth got “bluer”.

I’ve been pretty happy with the quality of the Xenovo photos. My goal is to observe aquatic macroinvertebrates that are identifiable to order. This anomopod was observed with this set up. For scale, the background grid of the card is 6.35mm/.25in.

I also used the Xenovo with the Galaxy S8 which had an automatic macro mode. It also did not have a dedicated macro lens on the phone. The quality was good but I like the A53 better as they seem a smidge crisper.

My other tips for cell phone macrophotography:

  1. Photograph in the shade or your shadow. You can increase the exposure in a photo fixer for details like wing pads before uploading. You also aren’t contorting yourself to keep your shadow out of the photo.
  2. White is not the best background even though I used it for the anomopod. I usually use a green Rite in the Rain card but that was an especially windy day and the green card blew away (later recovered in some brush, thankfully).
  3. Take some burst photos. They can be saved as gifs and added to the observation if organism movement helps with identification.

I recently bought the Apexel 100X Mini Microscope for smartphones on Amazon, but unfortunately, I’m not convinced by its performance. Although the lens is supposed to fit any smartphone, its bulky size makes it difficult to install correctly. Additionally, the image quality is not up to my expectations. The edges of the image are blurry, which impairs the clarity of details.

Another negative point is that to take a sharp photo, it’s necessary to get very close to the subject, about 2 or 3 millimeters, which makes taking photos difficult, especially if the subject is in motion, as is the case with insects.

Finally, the price of about 35 euros without shipping costs is high compared to the quality of the lens. For this price, I would have hoped for more convincing results. Overall, I do not recommend the Apexel 100X Mini Microscope for smartphones because the image quality is mediocre, and it’s difficult to use, even for an experienced photographer. It’s better to look for other higher-quality alternatives.


Thanks for directing me to this thread. This seemed like a topic that other people would obviously have said stuff about but I just couldn’t find anything in a search for whatever reason.

That said, this is about magnifiers; should I make a separate thread for telephoto lenses?

The kit I got has telephoto as well.

But I think taking photos through binoculars is better overall in terms of quality for price. I usually already have binoculars on me whenever I’d want to take telephoto pictures.

I can change the title to “Lenses for Smartphone Cameras”. Or feel free to start one for telephotos.

I have binoculars but I’ve found it horribly inconvenient because if I as much as move my phone a tiny bit off from the exposure of one of the scopes the picture disappears out of view. And I have to realign this for every single picture.

If you’ve got some binoculars that work well for this purpose, please do feel free to suggest them.

Feel free to change the title, if there’s no existing topic for telephoto lenses. I think I tried looking as well but couldn’t find one.

Given that telephoto and macro lenses are sold together pretty often, it makes sense I guess.

I guess I’ve just gotten pretty used to taking pictures through binoculars and microscopes. I just use a small Tasco (#168RB) that was lying around. I hold the binoculars sideways so both lenses are firmly held against the back of my phone. It takes a little getting used to, but I think it’s fairly easy to hold my phone and the binoculars while also having a free thumb to focus and take photos.


Just saw these posted on a photography site I frequent. Kind of intense…

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