Reasonable macro camera upgrades from IPhone 14 Pro?


So far for observations (and other bug images) I have been making use of my IPhone 14 pro, I paid extra in order to get the better camera. It has done phenomenal, but as my interest in even smaller bugs is increasing, it’s not really able to keep up. My hope is to get identifiable images of extremely small bugs, which requires a lot of detail for specific features.

ATM these are about the best small bug pics I can get with the camera. Pretty good for a bug ~5mm

I also have a cheap microscope camera for examining specimens, good considering the price, but it’s not quite enough to let me count the prosternal teeth on a 1cm centipede, and probably wouldn’t let me count leg spurs.

I don’t have lots of money, are there reasonable upgrades from my current equipment that won’t break the bank? I’ve seen macro camera lens for iPhones but I’ve also seen people say they don’t add much to 14 pros. I’ve also seen microscopic lens for iPhones, but haven’t looked into it much. Tips appreciated!

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I also use an iPhone 14 Pro for some observations. I recently purchased a Xenvo Pro Smartphone Lens Kit with a 15X macro Lens:
which costs about $40 on (no endorsement intended). I haven’t used it much but I am basically pleased with the results for small insects and flower parts:
The subject has to be quite still (not actively moving) and the depth of field will be quite narrow, but otherwise, I’m OK with the results.


I think you’re talking about the super-macro range which is usually only achieved with image stacking as the DOF are so razor thin.

It also depends on how close you can get to the subject without it taking off. Also-- even if you had the optics, you almost always will need a tripod to prevent motion blur.

But a cheap clip-on microscope to a phone can be made to work, sorta – using frames from a 4k clip.


FWIW, I’ve had very little luck with clipon macro lenses for my iPhones and i’ve tried 4 - 6 different kinds over the years.

If you want to “catch and release”, that may help with your small critter pics.

If you can gently capture the animal, put it briefly on a cold plate* or in the refrigerator. This should slow its movements enough that you can take your time to get some good pics while it is still. The insects and spiders I’ve tried so far usually recover pretty fast once I release them.

My iPhone 13 takes a really long time to focus, so the animals’ stillness really makes a difference to me.

*something as simple as a jar lid with a cover (a piece of cardboard, saran wrap, or another jar lid) set over an ice pack works well enough.

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I got a TG-6 earlier this year (after I lost my clip-on lens). It’s not a huge step up, I’d say about twice the resolution (so since my clip-on said 10x, I guess I now get 20x), but I definitely can see some more details.

Things I like now that I’ve used the TG-6 for a while:

  • the entire TG-6 fits in the same pocket I had used for my clip-on lens so still always have it with me
  • no need to fiddle with attaching the clip-on lens, so several seconds faster to start taking pictures
  • separate battery so my phone lasts longer even when I take 100ds of pictures

Things I don’t like:

  • Only slightly higher magnification than clip-on
  • hard to keep my hand steady enough to not blur pictures in microscope mode (I feel my phone had better optical stabilization)
  • GPS on the TG-6 is much slower than on the phone so I disabled it

I don’t have a direct comparison with the same species but here’s an old spring-tail with the clip-on and a newer one with the TG-6:
clip-on lens (Moment “10x” macro):

TG-6 (in “microscope” mode):


I attach Canon close-up lenses, one 500D and one 250D, to my phone to get closer focus. They work better than the cheaper macro lenses for phones because the glass quality is good and they are coated. Also, they don’t suffer from massive distortion and chromatic aberrations. The downside, as you probably guessed, is their price. I’ve bought them before for my DSLR, so I just happened to have them lying around. It’s up to you to decide how much you want to spend.

For even closer views, I use a part of a broken vintage Pentax 50mm lens. Again, I just happened to have it lying around. Getting a broken lens from Ebay would be much cheaper than the closeup lenses. Here are examples from the 1x camera on iPhone 12 Pro, cropped.

Closeup lenses:
(and most of my other observations)

Vintage lens element:


Do you have any guides on image stacking?

@teellbee I’ve actually been attempting identification of tiny bugs from specimens preserved in alcohol, put onto a slide haha. The things are just so tiny

Thank you others for all of the tips!! I’ll definitely be exploring these options :)


There are various options to do the stacking. I use Luminar to process most of my photos, but it’s commercial software. There’s also a dedicated focus stacking program called Helicon Focus, but I have only tried a trial version of it. I think there would be some free options, as well, but I haven’t looked up because I already have Luminar.


Well, it’s kinda specific to gear and I have minimal gear.

For the quickest, handiest (pull out of pant pocket and shoot) way I use my Olympus Tg-5 Stacking microscope mode. There are two options on the TG for stacking: in-camera processing, or capture images for stacking later on your computer. Since I primarily use my TG as an ‘opportunistic’ camera (carry it with me whenever I can’t carry anything bigger), I almost always end up using the in-camera mode.

It’s dead easy to use (point and shoot) but like all stack shooting, it doesn’t work very well on moving subjects. And even standing or sitting, many animals twitch SOME part of their body (antenna, mandibles, etc.). That’s maybe where I’ll switch to stack capturing where I can get more control stacking outside of the camera for more control and correction of movements and other stuff.

I started using Photoshop for stacking and in its favour, it does a pretty decent job at aligning shots that may be slightly different scales and angles. But it’s god-awful slow compared to just about any other package. Why Adobe (the king of image processing) can’t improve this, I don’t understand.

When I went looking for quicker alternatives I tried out all kinds of stacking software trials. My feeling is that many if not most of the packages were designed really for gear that I didn’t own or use like computer controlled stacking rails or cameras with easy/quick file transfer connections. Then I found Affinity Photo.

This one is kinda ‘stacking for the rest of us’ in that it is incredibly easy to use, very fast, and limited in controls and tools. It’s also (and this is important to me) the most tolerant and forgiving of all the apps I tested for auto-aligning images taken by handheld shooting. That’s why it’s now my main goto for most externally stacked jobs. They have a 30 day trial if you want to check it out.

The focus stacking in Affinity is, like Photoshop, really a menu item in the main photo-editing program. It asks you to select and add files, then you click OK and a few seconds later it starts to actively stack and the results build in front of your eyes in seconds. Then you go back in with a simple touch up tool to replace any lower focus areas in the result with better focused areas contained in any of the stacked images. That’s about it!

Because I shoot mostly with a Nikon P950 bridge camera, I use 4K video for the majority of my high macro shots because – it provides lots of focus results in the frame choosing afterwards, and also – you can use the video recording capture to ‘scan’ the focus of a subject and select frames from the result later to stack. It works pretty well! Here’s a couple stacked images from today and one from two days ago to demo what I’m getting.

All shot with available natural light, handheld, as 4k vid clips. At home I selected the best focus stacking frames and used Affinity Photo to do the stacking, then finished tweaking the exports from Affinity in my Photoshop setup.


Could you say/show how you attach the close-up lens and broken lens part to your phone?

1 Like°-Fisheye-Compatible-Smartphones/dp/B07NXZL19H/ref=dp_prsubs_sccl_3/133-6739521-1553051?pd_rd_w=7NzxO&content-id=amzn1.sym.22d70615-7a4e-4672-b6a1-6181b9d57bf2&pf_rd_p=22d70615-7a4e-4672-b6a1-6181b9d57bf2&pf_rd_r=V

This is my go-to. It’s cheap enough and sturdy enough that I take it with me basically everywhere. Being able to brace your hands against something helps. These guys are about 2 mm

how does that work?

I bought a filter holding clip and filters from Amazon. This is what it looks like:

Then I use adapter rings to go from 37 mm to 58 mm:

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I added several photos down below.

By the way, I recently bought the Apexel 200x, and I’m very satisfied. It’s not capable of 200x magnification, but the optics are well built, coated with little chromatic aberration and distortion. I have a complaint about its attachment - a similar clip to the one in my previous reply. It’s hard to centre it on top of the camera, and it’s rather easy to displace it. I wish there was more working distance, but that’s a matter of optical design. You practically have to touch the subject. It’s impossible to aim it at an animal unless it’s tame or sleeping. Here is a sample. The zoomed-out views are not taken with the Apexel.

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