mobile photography technology, culture and community

Accessory review: The iPhone Telephoto Lens

The iPhone Telephoto Lens comes with a tripod and thin, hard shell case.

The iPhone Telephoto Lens might be the most ambitious mobile photography accessory I’ve ever reviewed. With a huge zoom lens sticking out from a thin, delicate device, this is more than just an accessory — it’s a statement. I took the 12x zooming iPhone 5 version of the lens out for a spin, testing it in a few different photography situations. (The iPhone 4/4S version offers 8x zoom.)

The lipstick-sized lens attaches to a tight-fitting shell case and comes with a tiny tripod to provide the necessary stabilization to prevent camera shake from hand-holding the long lens.

While the iPhone Telephoto Lens may seem like an impractical tool for most iPhone photography situations, the case and tripod are very handy. The case is thin, black and allows for full use of the iPhone’s buttons, sensors and ports so you could use it without the telephoto lens as an everyday case that's also compatible with the collapsible tripod for more stable orientation in landscape and portrait compositions. (And for $35 from Photojojo, it's not a bad deal for the case and tripod alone.)

Up on a mountain above Lake Tahoe, I wanted to get a closer look of the boats on the water.
While the zoom capability of the iPhone Telephoto Lens is impressive, the details lack clarity.

When I first read about the iPhone Telephoto Lens, I expected it to be bulky and cumbersome but I was pleasantly surprised when I unpacked it. The lens is obviously too awkward to keep on your phone all the time, but it’s easily detachable from the case and is light and small enough on its own so it’s not difficult to take with you. 

If you think you can use the lens without the tripod, forget about it. Hand-holding a 12x zoom lens without shutter speed control is nearly impossible. Even when the phone is in the tripod, it’s still a little hard to get a clear shot because of the slight shaking that occurs when you press the button.

Once you have picked the spot for your tele-photo shoot, you have to manually focus the lens. The iPhone’s autofocus will help you once you’ve found a general focal range, but if you have a multi-layered composition, focusing can be a little tricky.

I tested the lens in a few different situations. First, I zoomed in on a landscape. Trying to focus on a sunny day with the iPhone 5’s 4-inch, 1136 x 640 pixel display is challenging, but not impossible.

Standing on a summit looking down at Lake Tahoe, I was really impressed by the lens's zooming capabilities. I could see boats in the water from a great distance, and was able to completely crop the trees in the foreground out of my shots. Once I got home and reviewed the zoomed images on my computer, my excitement quickly faded. There was quite a bit of distortion and my images were too blurry to make me want to share the zoomed-in photos with friends.

I found shorter range zooming was a little better. The distortion is still noticeable, but it's much easier to focus and subjects tend to be clearer.

Over shorter distances, the iPhone Telephoto Zoom delivers slightly better clarity, but there is still a lot of distortion in the scene.
For comparison, here is a photo of the same scene, sans zoom.

As far as the iPhone Telephoto Lens' optics go, there's seems to be more novelty at work here than science. Sure, you can get a decent close-up shot from far away, but you certainly are not going to be able to get a super clean detailed shot to match the results of a DSLR or compact interchangeable lens camera. But for casual smartphone photography, it's a fun toy.

We like: Well thought out product package. Great iPhone case and tripod. The detachability of the lens makes it practical and portable.

We don’t like: It’s a cool toy, but it’s not quite portable enough or powerful enough to make it a must-have iPhone photography accessory. 

Overall rating:



Total comments: 10

Just an accessory for iPhone owners that crave saying : You know, my iPhone's got a big one...

unknown member
By (unknown member) (Aug 30, 2013)

It's like putting a Michelin racing tyres on a bicycle.


Given the mediocrity of this zoom lens I would say the opposite : putting bicycle tyres on a Ferrari... They have a larger diameter but do not allow to go faster !
Well, an iPhone is not really a Ferrari in the camera land too...


given the mediocrity of both this zoom lens, and the iPhone's camera, I would say it's like riding a bicycle while wearing a F1 suit and helmet.


All these accessory lenses and gadgets make me wonder...
Ok, I like the iPhone and it's camera for the occasional casual photo... but when I have to start to tout that low-res low-quality telephoto lens around, the silly full of distortion and CA "wide angle",... the X.... then why not just get something like a compact camera with a zoom lens.
Doesn't add that much more weight to the pocket than all that silly accessories and it actually works.

Why do we have to try to make everything with the iPhone, just for the sake of using the iPhone...


gadget it is, As it is only a 12x nothing more, Only if they made it to focus from 1x-to-12x then I be interested. One day some one will make one good case, and all the accesorries to fit on One good case.


Absolutely useless.


If I were to rate this thing, it will be 1/5 for effort. The point that you are shooting it with a crappy iPhone and forcing it to act like a superzoom is none sense. Just buy a travelzoom or bridge cam and use your iPhone as a phone so you will have a normal life.


Jcmarfilph, how right you are. Have a iphone 5 great little phone but as a camera give me a break, it no way compares to a real dedicated camera!

One can tale seeminly very nice sots with it, colors are wonderful, when using it's HDR but picture quality beyond viewing on iphone or small screen is poor compard to a real camera. I use so I can send pictures to friends and my real cameras for printing and framing. The ideal of large lens hooming up to an iphone is silly! gagets for gear heads is all! Which is cool, just don't try taloing about iphones being real cameras!


Sorry about all the typos above!

Total comments: 10
About us