Telescope lens for smartphones

Recently I’ve been making a lot of bird observations, however since they usually are skittish I would have to take really zoomed up pictures using my iphone. This makes the quality of the images quite poor, so I was thinking about getting a clip-on telescope lens. I’m not so ready to buy a full camera set yet as I am more interested in recording observations rather than photography.

If anyone could share what clip-on telescope lenses they used and their experiences with it I would be grateful, that way I can have a better idea on what to buy.

Also, I would like to see some observations made with the lenses please.

I went with the Ztylus brand 6 in 1 revolver lens set after reading a rave review on this site (which I can’t find)
I have only played with it and am very happy with the ease and clarity of the pics.

Ztylus

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I have heard and seen youtube videos of a brand called Moment. You can check out their youtube to see the actual photos. I don’t have any experience but have seen what their products can do. I would like to recommend checking out adorama used section and maybe even facebook market place. I have seen some very good and cheap deals anywhere from just old stuff that works perfectly fine for observations here and people sell presents they don’t want way more than you think. I found a $400 lens a guy was selling for $150 just cause it was a gift and he didn’t want it. I already had it but I would have loved to grab that. Good luck!

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I bought something that looks identical to this: https://www.amazon.com/FidgetFidget-Telescope-Telephoto-Universal-Cellphone/dp/B07HZ2H556/ but it was sold under a different name two years ago. Anyway, I was quite pleased with it. The 20x zoom was very helpful for getting birds in view then getting a nice close picture of them, and focusing is easy. It is sturdy, and has held up well. I took some great pictures with it and it fits in my pocket. If you can spend hundreds of dollars you can certainly get better optics, but this will be much better than a plain old cell phone camera. The only reason I don’t still use it is I now have a camera with a 40x zoom.

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Keep in mind that a clip on lens is reducing the depth of field to some mm. Beyond you just see total blur

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yes I am aware of this, on amazon I have seen some adjustable lenses so hopefully that reduces the DOF issue
eg. https://www.amazon.com/Telescopic-Fisheye-Shutter-Compatible-Samsung/dp/B07KZSX71R/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=telephoto+lens+for+iphone+7&qid=1575495395&sr=8-4

Hi @robotpie, you already got good answers specific to the smartphone zoom lens, but one line in your original post caught my attention:

I’m not so ready to buy a full camera set yet as I am more interested in recording observations rather than photography

My 2 cents since I was recently in the same situation. I used smartphone for iNat for ease of use, timestamp, GPS, iNat app, etc. Like you, I’m more interested in the observation than the artistic/photography side. This was fine for plants, big animals, many insects. However even with a lens attachment it was horrible for birds, small fast-moving insects, or really anything more than a short distance away.

I recently needed a new camera (for other uses than iNat). I did some research and decided on a ‘bridge’ camera. After some searching I got the Nikon P900. Point-and-shoot style photography with huge zoom and built in GPS. Essentially a modern smartphone sensor attached to a compact telescope.

Incredible difference. The 89x zoom factor means I don’t even bring binocs. Image quality is not as good as SLR, but zoom surpasses anything they offer and quality is good enough for ID. So much more intuitive and fun to use than smartphone+lens. I observe things I wouldn’t without it (recently parasites on the back of a flying fox high up in a tree). You get natural shots without scaring animals by trying to get close. Output JPEGs play well with iNat - time and GPS stamps picked up accurately. Honestly I would never go back to smartphone. This is just so much more… fun.

While it’s not exactly cheap, the price is going down all the time and is still half the price of the new iphone… check my observations if interested in examples of what it can do in complete amateur hands.

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Bridge cameras are pretty great for telephoto. My friend’s bridge camera got a waaaay better photo of an owl than my “professional” set up did. And you can probably get an older model like his for a few hundred US dollars.

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