There are many wide angle add-on lenses for smartphones, but not many in the telephoto department. The FlatLED 8X Smartphone Telephoto Lens is one such option…but is it worth a damn? Yes…and no. Well, maybe.
The FlatLED 8X Smartphone Telephoto Lens is a fixed focal length telephoto adapter lens (8x zoom factor) that is designed to attach to and fit over most recent smartphone camera lenses. It uses a spring-actuated clamp to hold the lens in place on your phone and sports a functioning focus ring. Everything is plastic; no pesky heavy glass or metal here.
I used a tabletop tripod (my review is here) to set up the shot below. The left images is the phone by itself (iPhone 7) and the right is with the FlatLED tele adapter affixed. Both photos are unedited, other than reducing size for web.
The main positive point is that the image quality of theFlatLED 8X Smartphone Telephoto Lens is surprisingly pretty good, assuming your smart phone has a decent lens and JPEG processing firmware, of course. Properly focused (more on that below), center sharpness is quite good. Way better than I would have guessed, actually.
Build quality is on the cheap side, but it doesn’t feel flimsy (for an inexpensive toy plastic lens, that is). The focus ring works smoothly, and has enough tension to keep it from moving by itself.
Because of the clamping system, it will work on a wide variety of smartphone brands and models.
Getting the lens properly fitted over a built-in smartphone lens is tricky, at least on an iPhone 6 and 7. You will almost certainly have to remove any phone case to get a good fit. There is a very small sweet spot, and everything else will give partial to massive vignetting (edge darkening) and soft-focus images. It takes a bit of time to get things adjusted properly, making this little add-on lens not a viable options for any sort of moving subject.
Despite having very good center sharpness, the outer 1/4 of the frame (in all directions) begins to take on a strange blur effect. It’s somewhat like typical telephoto pincushion distortion with the added effect of soft-focus that gets more pronounced at the edges. A little cropping after the fact can mostly address this, but that adds another step to the process.
Turning the focus ring can easily move the clamp mount out of its sweet spot. Also, your smartphone’s camera app will also constantly try to refocus itself as you adjust the adapter lens’ focus ring, meaning you have to make an adjustment and then wait for the phone to catch up. This makes dialing in focus take a while, especially on a really sunny day when screens are harder to see clearly.
For the cost (~ $10 USD), the FlatLED 8X Smartphone Telephoto Lens is a viable option for getting super-telephoto reach with a standard smartphone. Image quality is very good, especially in the center of the frame, but the time and effort needed to properly set it up may be too much hassle for some. While it’s not a replacement for a more robust camera and proper telephoto lens, the portability factor and low price make it something worth considering for your next travel photography outing. Just don’t expect pro results from $10 worth of plastic.