A telephoto lens, sometimes called tele, magnifies your subject in a manner ideal for intimate portraiture photography or videography. Think about the portrait mode on your phone’s camera; you love that blurry bokeh, right?
Well, adding a smartphone telephoto lens will improve that effect, and their benefits don’t end there. You shouldn’t be using the digital zoom on your smartphone anyway, and the zoom effect of a tele lens solves that problem. 2020 has some seriously high-quality, cost-effective options, so we’ll break them down and let you know what we like and dislike about each.
Telephoto Lenses for Mobile Phones
So, how does this telephoto lens effect happen on a smartphone? Well, what’s going on is a change in focal lengths, or effective focal lengths because your phone’s camera is different than a traditional camera. The higher focal length found in a telephoto lens means more zoom, and it’s optical zoom (the right kind).
A telephoto, also sometimes called a zoom lens in traditional photography, is usually about 58-60mm. For comparison, a wide angle lens is typically about 18mm. With a DSLR or mirrorless camera, lenses have adjustable focal lengths. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of smartphone photography is that adjustable focal lengths aren’t a thing – yet.
Even still, the varied photo and video looks you can get with multiple smartphone camera lenses and a triple camera set-up are pretty spectacular. So, stick around to see our favorite smartphone telephoto lens options of 2020.
The 3 Best Smartphone Telephoto Lenses of 2020
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Because of the nifty zoom of a telephoto lens, they’re ideal for more than just poignant portraiture photography. Wildlife, cityscapes, and video are also viable uses for the optical zoom of your smartphone tele lens. Do be careful about some of the cheap Amazon options out there as they promise unrealistic zoom capabilities. 22x? Really? That’s twice as much as you need for smartphone macro photography.
The most important bit to consider when purchasing a mobile telephoto lens is its working distance, or how far away from the subject you need to be to achieve a crisp focus. In certain circumstances I find myself thinking my iPhone 11 Pro Tele and Moment 58mm Tele Lens 4x optical zoom combination is perfect for a quasi-macro shot. In reality because the working distance of the tele lens is 7 inches compared to the macro working distance of one inch (the industry average anyway) the shot just doesn’t work. So, consider what you want to use the lens for and buy one with a compatible working distance.
When it comes to quality, you get what you pay for – this list is no different. The world of mobile photography is notoriously inundated with cheap crap, but that doesn’t mean you need to fall for it.
Best Quality Option – Beastgrip Pro Series – 3x Tele Conversion Lens
So, you’re going to need to be an iPhone photographer or videographer to really appreciate this offering. But, if you are, then it’s a serious game-changer. With 3x zoom and approximate equivalent focal length of over 80mm, you’ll get a look unlike anything else out there. And, because you’re shooting through the seven-layer broadband-coated glass, your photos and videos will be crispy every time.
Do note that you’ll need a Beastgrip Pro or Beastcage to avoid vignetting (curse those pesky designers!), but you know that you probably want a smartphone rig for photography and videography anyway, right? The reason for this? Well, Beastgrip was kind enough to include a smartphone filter mount in the design of its telephoto lens. Don’t know why that’s helpful? Then read this.
Best Deal Option – Moment Tele 58mm Lens
It’s no surprise that Moment made this list, after all, they’re arguably the most popular phone camera lens providers. We are generally big fans of Moment, but it’s worth mentioning that their telephoto lens is perhaps their least impressive offering.
Check out our full Moment Lens Review to learn about the 58mm in comparison with all of their offerings.
The Moment 58mm isn’t a bad lens; it’s just not as impressive as their other four. Do note, that if you shoot with a newer iPhone, you’ll get the best result with Moment’s telephoto lens because the optical zoom jumps from 2x to 4x. Moment does have superior customer service and satisfaction guarantees in addition to the fact that their lenses are supported on some Android phone models – the other industry juggernauts do not.
Best Budget Option – Ulanzi 65mm 2x Telephoto Lens
So, Ulanzi’s lenses aren’t going to knock your socks off, but this one’s a great way to see if a smartphone telephoto lens is for you. While we typically prefer mounted options, we have to admit that Ulanzi’s Aluminum Alloy Clip with CNC Screw Lock is the best clip-on offering that we’ve seen.
Their lens to phone connection design is universal to all phones too, which can’t be said for either of the other options on this list (well, Moment has this thing.).
The lens glass is pretty high-quality and does a decent job with lens flare and reflection ghosting. At a quarter of the price of Moment’s tele lens and a sixth of the cost of Beastgrip’s tele lens though, Ulanzi’s offering is intriguing, to say the least.
Adding a Mobile Tele Lens
So, you’re convinced that a tele lens for your phone is the way to go. You know these lenses provide optical zoom that’s ideal for portraits and those more intimate landscape and cityscape shots and you know how our three favorite tele lenses on the market stack up against each other.
The question now is which one of the three is for you. Let us know in the comments which one you’re leaning towards, or if you prefer something else. As always, tag us using #photoswithphones for a chance to be featured on the site.