Trying Out a Set of $560 Zeiss iPhone Lenses

Shelling out $560 to buy three lenses for your iPhone might seem a bit extreme, but is it worth it? Do you get more optical performance out of your smartphone if you put Zeiss glass in front of that tiny sensor? Kai gave it a go.

For this vlog, Kai wandered around Cambridge with two different sets of lenses: the ultra-popular Zeiss EXO lenses (price: $560) and a set of three iAiLun “LP-3006” clip-on lenses (price: ~$6).

After messing around a bit and trying out all three lenses—wide angle, standard, macro—the results were clear: the Zeiss EXO lenses are much better than the super cheap clip on. Distortion is minimal, and optical quality is good… and yet. When you really think about it, good as these lenses are, they just don’t seem to be worth the money.

“These lenses are pretty good for lens converters—they’re not lenses that go directly over the sensor, but over the iPhone lens—they server a purpose, and do reasonably well,” concludes Kai. “But they can’t drastically improve the image quality over the original lens itself.”

This, ultimately, is the EXO lens’ downfall. If you’re going to spend nearly $600 to improve your photography… why wouldn’t you just spend it on a good used camera and lens? 10 seconds on eBay and I was able to find a D7000 with 35mm f/1.8G lens currently bidding for under $400.

Yes, it’s bulkier, and you always have your smartphone with you, but the Zeiss EXO lenses aren’t exactly tiny. I find it hard to believe it’s any more convenient to add a bulky cage to your phone and carry around three lenses than it is to strap an SLR to your hip.

Check out the full review up top, and let us know what you think of these high-end smartphone lenses in the comments.