Bottom line: Zoom in closer to your subjects with this handy clip-on lens.
3x optical zoom
Easy to use
Can be fiddly
Vignetting can occur
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I bought the iPhone 12 mini this year, after having had a "Pro" model iPhone for years. One of the things I miss most is the telephoto lens. Fortunately, there are some third-party iPhone lens kits that allow you to enhance your iPhone photography, no matter which iPhone model you rock.
The Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens is easy to use; you clip it onto your iPhone's camera lens. While it's not perfect, it does work as intended. The 3x magnification lets you get closer to your photography subjects. It's universally compatible, fitting onto any smartphone. I was able to attach it to my iPhone "naked" or with a lightweight case. I even tried it on my iPad Pro, and it worked there as well.
Assembly couldn't be easier, screw the lens onto the clip (which will work with other Move lenses, as well) and remove the lens cap. As you clip the lens onto your iPhone, it's helpful to have the camera app open so you can make sure you're placing it correctly. Incorrect placement will result in vignetting and distortion, as you can see in my tree photo (in the photo gallery at the end of this article.) One note about using the Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens, specifically with the iPhone 12 mini: you will need to bump up your digital zoom to 1.1x to avoid vignetting. You probably won't need to do this with larger phones.
Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens: Price and availability
You can find the Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens on Amazon or Movo's own website now for about $40. As of this writing, you can pre-order it at B&H Photo, where it will be the same price.
Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens: What looks good
Optical zoom involves a physical change in the lens to get you closer to a subject. Digital zoom uses magnification to enlarge one part of the photo, so you lose some megapixels and picture quality as a result.
I took some side-by-side photos of the same subject with and without the lens and then cropped down to the same section of both so you can see the greater loss of quality when you use digital zoom exclusively. There's certainly nothing wrong with using digital zoom, I do it all of the time, but having optical zoom lets you get even closer without compromising quality.
I've really missed having optical zoom on the iPhone 12 mini. The iPhone 12 Pro has 2x optical zoom, which isn't a lot, but it's better than none. The Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens is even better, offering 3x optical zoom.
I find the lens easy to use; clip it into place and start shooting. It is a universal clip, so it'll fit on just about any smartphone or tablet. Movo also makes other lenses such as wide-angle and fisheye; the clip works with all of them. A lens cap is included so you can protect your lens when not in use. The lens has a one-year warranty in case you have any issues.
Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens: What doesn't look good
The lens is a bit fiddly. Unlike screw-mount lenses that are fixed into the right position, the clip has to be placed carefully onto the lens each time. And it can be knocked out of position if you jostle it.
If you fail to place the lens correctly, you'll get distortion and vignetting (dark areas) around the edges of your photos. A tip: keep your camera app open while you clip on the lens, as that will help you place it correctly. Another thing to note: because the iPhone 12 mini is so small, you will definitely get vignetting unless you use at least 1.1 digital zoom for shooting. This should not be an issue for larger phones.
Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens: Competition
Moment is a popular lens brand that makes lenses that attach securely to iPhone cases. It can be pretty expensive because you'll need to buy the Moment iPhone case and then the lens to fit. But once you do so, the lens gets securely fastened in the exact place; you don't have to fiddle with it.
If you're on a tight budget, you might check out the Apexel 10-in-1 Lens Kit. It is a clip-on system like Movo's, but it comes with various lenses and costs less.
Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You want a universal telephoto lens
- You prefer optical zoom over just digital
- You want to boost your iPhone's optical zoom to 3x
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You don't care about optical zoom
- You prefer a screw-on mount
- You don't want to carry extra stuff in your kit
If you want to boost your iPhone's optical zoom and you want something that clips onto your current iPhone and any future phones you may buy, you'll like the Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens. On the other hand, if you prefer to buy a case-and-lens system that lets you screw the lens into a precise position, you're better off with a competitor. Obviously, someone who doesn't care much about zoom and doesn't want to carry around a separate lens doesn't need this and probably hasn't read this far into the review anyway.
The Movo SPL-TELE 3x Telephoto Lens is a good quality clip-on lens that offers even more zoom than the iPhone 12 Pro. It makes up for the zoom capability I've been missing on my iPhone 12 mini. The clip-on mount offers you the flexibility to use it on any iPhone and most other smartphones, and even tablets. The clip-on mount also means that you have to be careful when placing it, or you'll get some photo distortion.
Bottom line: Get closer to your subjects with 3x optical zoom on any iPhone model.
Karen is a contributor to iMore.com as a writer and co-host of the iMore Show. She’s been writing about Apple since 2010 with a year-long break to work at an Apple Store as a product specialist. She's also a contributor at CNET. Before joining iMore in 2018, Karen wrote for Macworld, AppAdvice, WatchAware. She’s an early adopter who used to wait in long lines on release days before pre-ordering made things much easier. Karen is also a part-time teacher and occasional movie extra. She loves to spend time with her family, travel the world, and is always looking for portable tech and accessories so she can work from anywhere.
By Tammy Rogers