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Canon has designed a clip-on telephoto lens for smartphones

Canon clip-on telephoto
(Image credit: Canon News)

Canon’s run of novel photo gadgets looks set to continue, as designs have been uncovered for a new clip-on telephoto lens for smartphones.

Canon News spotted the patent registration that shows how the telephoto add-on is going to work. It appears to be a much more sizable unit than the current crop of best lenses for smartphones, which makes sense – this market has stagnated somewhat, with former big players like Olloclip pulling out entirely.

• Read more: Best camera phones

If Canon can produce a telephoto add-on that genuinely improves the optical performance of the likes of the iPhone 12 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, then it could have something of a hit on its hands. One of the key ways in which smartphones are inferior to cameras is that they simply can’t contain big optical zoom lenses – the technology just isn’t there. An add-on like this could be an interesting way to level the playing field. 

While Canon, like all companies, registers a lot of patents that don’t necessarily turn into products, an add-on like this would certainly fit as part of the recent stable. With interest waning in traditional compact cameras, the firm has reinvigorated its PowerShot brand with some quirky, interesting cameras that focus on a specific USP.

The smartphone lens, spotted by Canon News, would bring true optical zoom telephoto tech to phones (Image credit: Canon News)

For instance there’s the AI-powered Canon PowerShot Pick, which promises to be able to automatically “pick” its moments to capture on video, with the help of subject recognition. We were also pretty impressed with the PowerShot Zoom, a tiny device that effectively puts a focal length of 400mm in your pocket (up to 800mm digitally). It would make sense for the clip-on telephoto to take a few design cues from the Zoom, as they are essentially going for the same thing.

Another cute concept camera is the Canon Posture Fit, which made its debut at CP+ 2021. It’s a moving camera that sits on your desk and monitors how you’re sitting for signs of bad posture, and gives you a reminder when you’ve been sitting for too long.

So while the clip-on telephoto for smartphone may seem an odd choice for someone who only uses DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, if you’ve been paying attention to the latest PowerShot releases it actually fits right in.

We’re encouraged to see this level of innovation from the firm – with the camera market in a tricky place, this is the time to innovate. Does the world need another oblong consumer compact that shoots FullHD video and has a 4x zoom? Not particularly. But something like this clip-on zoom could shake up smartphone photography and open up some exciting new opportunities. 

Read more: 

iPhone 12 Pro review
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review
PowerShot Zoom review
Canon EOS R image stabilization will be in-body and in-lens hybrid

Jon Stapley

Jon spent years at IPC Media writing features, news, reviews and other photography content for publications such as Amateur Photographer and What Digital Camera in both print and digital form. With his additional experience for outlets like Photomonitor, this makes Jon one of our go-to specialists when it comes to all aspects of photography, from cameras and action cameras to lenses and memory cards, flash diffusers and triggers, batteries and memory cards, selfie sticks and gimbals, and much more besides.  


An NCTJ-qualified journalist, he has also contributed to Shortlist, The Skinny, ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, The Guardian, Trusted Reviews, CreativeBLOQ, and probably quite a few others I’ve forgotten.