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Why do you need an external macro lens for a smartphone to take macro photos. Why can't the smartphone lens itself take macro photos?

  • Why are you under the impression that you can't take macro photos with the standard smartphone lenses? – feetwet Jan 8 '15 at 1:06
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Because most smartphones without an additional external macro lens do not have optical systems capable of taking photos at close enough minimum focal distances to produce macro photographs.

Even if you define macro as the equivalent magnification needed for the tiny sensors found in most phones to produce a print comparable to one made when the image of a subject projected onto a 36mmx24mm sized sensor or film is the same size as the subject itself, most smart phones can not focus closely enough to allow the camera-to-subject distance to be small enough to produce magnifications capable of creating such a print.

For the basic characteristics a camera/lens system need to produce macro photos, please see this answer to this question.

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