The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part One

After reading a glowing review you order a set of smart phone lenses and you are billed over $100. You get socked with an additional $85 shipping charge (the ad said shipping was free). Then you find out you could have bought the same lenses for less than $10. To add insult to injury you discover the great review was from a fake review site and the quality of the lenses is disappointing. You’ve been ripped off.

This ad has trouble written all over it, for all kinds of reasons. Caveat emptor!

Ridiculous Claims

On Facebook I kept seeing these absurd ads for a “tiny smart phone device” that claims to turn any phone into an expensive DLSR. “I can take the same quality pictures from my phone as I would have with my $5,000 DSLR camera.” No experienced photographer would take this kind of claim seriously. You shouldn’t either.

The ads are for a LUX HD450 three lens set designed to be used with smart phones. the lenses come with a simple clip to hold them on the phone. The ads on Facebook look pretty much the same and are worded pretty much the same except for using several different photos that seem to have nothing to do with the lenses they are selling. The photo in the ad above shows a telephoto lens that isn’t even part of the LUX three lens set.

LUX HD450 ad

LUX HD450 ad

Here’s another ridiculous claim, that these lenses will “Increase Picture Quality by 700!” Seriously? Who measured it and how?

If it sounds too good to be true . . .

No Reliable Reviews 

This all started when I was looking at reviews for good quality auxiliary smart phone lenses.

So I went looking for reviews for the LUX HS450 three lens set. None of the smart phone lens reviews I read from responsible sources says anything at all about about the LUX HD450. The articles I read were about the good choices in smart phone lenses. The LUX HD450 didn’t make any responsible reviewer’s list. That should tell you something.

Of course I found lots of bogus reviews for the LUX HD450. More about that later.

No Real Company Location

The company address is nothing more than a mail box in California. Red flag. There is no real brick and mortar business. A photo on this page shows the company address is a mail box store in a strip mall.

Fake Engineer?

Screen captures from three different ads.

Hmmmm. The “lead technologist” in Stuttgart for the lenses (ah, the implied illusion of German engineering. So why does the same guy have three different names in three different ads for three different products? And he is also a builder (with yet another name) for another company in a fourth ad. Busy guy. And if that is not enough, he also looks exactly like a professional model. The story behind this face is here.

The Changing Magazine Cover

Screen capture: LUX HD450 article/ad.

Screen capture: LUX HD450 article/ad.

This is the cover of the April 2016 issue of Digital SLR Photography as it appears in a LUX HD450 article/ad. Note the bold LUX HD450 graphic.

Digital SLR Photography, April 2016 cover.

This is the cover of Digital SLR Photography from the magazine’s web site and Facebook page. Note the absence of the LUX HD450 graphic. You can buy a digital copy of this issue here.

Digital SLR Magazine on Facebook

Digital SLR Magazine Facebook post, March 28, 2016.

Questionable Review Sites

There are several sites with questionable reviews for the LUX lens kit that are really just advertisements with links back to the sale of the lenses.

The reviews/articles are so much alike (even using some of the same photos) that it seems obvious that the company paid to place the reviews/articles at these sites.

Real reviewers from responsible journals write their own articles and take their own photos to test the equipment they write about. And they post real photos that were taken with the equipment they are reviewing.

One dead giveaway of a bogus review site is a site that reviews only one product or products that are all from the same company.

LUX HD450 Review at a Garcinia Cambogia Site. Click for a larger image.

Another giveaway is a review from a site that has no qualifications to review the product in question. Do you really want to get your photography advice from a Garcinia Cambogia web site?

It does not instill confidence if the review is poorly written with bad grammar.

You might already be aware that there are some companies that go so far as to create fake review sites with glowing reviews of their own products, complete with sales links. In fact, several companies (possibly related) can get together to fill up each others fake review sites.

Unhappy Customers and Outrageous Charges

And then there are the online complaints, like the one above from Eugene Spearman who was charged $85 for shipping and handling and was billed for more items than he ordered.

Or the person who wrote in and complained: “I just purchased this product but found I was billed for five of the items when I know I purchased only one. In addition, I was charged $72 for a warranty, that they called an upgrade.”

Photos That Have Nothing To Do With The Product

And what about the photos that accompany the ads? I traced several of the photos in the ads to their original sources. They were not taken with the LUX HD450 lenses and they have nothing to do with the LUX lenses.

Screen capture from a LUX HD450 article/ad. Click for a larger version.

Take a look at the fisheye photo on the right from this screen capture. This happens to be a one-of-a-kind, well known image by Randy Scott Slavin.

Empire State. Digital composite by Randy Scott Slavin. Click to see a larger version.

Here’s the whole, uncropped photo from his web site. This particular angle, coverage, and viewpoint can’t be created with a single capture using a fish eye lens.

The story behind Slavin’s image. Click for a larger version.

Slavin takes up to a hundred individual photos and spends hours and hours of time using special computer software to combine the photos into a single image like this one.

The Daily Mail write about Slavin’s image. click for a larger version.

Here is an article from the Daily Mail about the same image. It is clear that this image was not created using a LUX HD450 lens. And if you look carefully, the article/ad doesn’t actually claim any of the photos were taken with a LUX lens. It is just written to give you that impression.

Now lets look at the middle photo in this screen capture from the LUX HD450 article/ad. This beautiful and professionally produced engagement image was create by Lin & Jirsa Photography. To fully appreciate this image, look at the large, uncropped version of the photo at this site.

Screen capture from 3 Must Have Engagement Photography Lenses.

Screen capture from 3 Must Have Engagement Photography Lenses.

In this screen capture from the article 3 Must Have Engagement Photography Lenses, Lin & Jirsa tell us this image was created with a 24-70mm lens for a DSLR. Elsewhere in the article you learn this is a Canon f/2.8 L series professional lens. It is ironic that the LUX HD450 article/ad tells you you can get rid of your professional DSLR and then they use a photo taken with first class professional equipment.

Times Square Looking South. Photo © Billy Carpio. Click for a larger version.

This is another example. Billy Carpio discovered his photo of Times Square (above) was being used without his permission. The photo was taken with a Sony A550 camera and a Vivitar 7mm fisheye lens.

This link is to the gallery where he posted his photo February 22, 2012.

Screen capture of Billy Carpio’s doctored photo.

This is a screen capture of Billy Carpio’s doctored photo at the end of a LUX HD450 article/ad. The name “Amber Jordan” was put on the photo but it is clearly Billy’s image. You can tell from a careful examination of the ever changing Times Square digital signs, the location of the standing vehicles, the unique trailing light patterns of the moving vehicles and the precise shape and location of the clouds. Even if “Amber Jordan” was standing right next to Bill Carpio when he took the photo and she clicked her shutter at the exact same moment as Billy, the perspective of the two photos and the precise alignment of the overhead streetlamp with the clouds would be different.

LUX HD450 ad.

LUX HD450 ad.

This image is from the LUX article/ad at the Garcinia Cambogia site referenced above. It will not surprise you to learn that this image was not taken with a LUX HD450 lens.

This is the original image by professional photographer Christian Vinces (you can see more of his beautiful work at his web site). Vinces was at Tambopata National Reserve in Peru which is part of the Amazon River basin. He created this image in October 2013 using first class professional equipment, a Canon 5D Mark III DSLR and a Canon 17-40mm f/4 L series lens. Christian told me he sometimes takes two or three images and stitches them together to get a wider field of view.

Christian Vinces, Amazon image at Shuttestock. Click to see a larger version.His copyrighted images are available at industry standard rates through Shutterstock, a stock photo agency.

Christian Vinces, Amazon image. Click for a larger version.

Here’s a legitimate use of his image in an Amazon River Cruise ad.

I could give you more examples but you get the idea. LUX HD450 uses professional images taken by professional photographers using professional DSLR equipment and writes ads designed to give to give the impression (without actually saying so) that the photos were taken with a LUX HD450 lens on a smart phone. Would you call this false advertising?

Paying Too Much For A $10 Item

LUX HD450 ordering options.

The ordering options (as of June 20, 2016) at the LUX HD450 are confusing. One lens is $56. 4 lenses (“42.25 per unit”) is $169. Three lenses (two at $39 each and one free) is a total of $117. Or does the word “lens” really mean one box of 3 lenses? It isn’t clear. What is clear from complaints on the internet is that people are getting billed two or three times what they expected to pay. As has been pointed out in online posts, you can buy what appears to be the exact same set of lenses (under different names) at Walmart or Amazon for less than $10. It is not uncommon for a manufacturer to sell the exact same low budget item to several different companies and add each company’s name to the item item.

LUX HD450 at the top and GFKing at the bottom.

Compare these two items (look at the sdhape of the clip), taken from the two screen captures below.

LUX HD450 three lens set.

LUX HD450 three lens set.

The complete LUX HD450 three lens set. Two of the lenses are stacked together on the clip.

GFKing three lens set.

The GFKing three lens set at Amazon. Click for a larger version.

The GFKing three lens set sells at Amazon for $7.81 (as of the date of this article). If you look closely at these three lenses (0.6X WIDE, MACRO, FISH EYE LENS 180°) and the names on the lenses, they are identical to the lenses in the LUX HD450 ad. The only difference is the name on the clip.

Universal Three in One Lens Kit at Amazon.

The same lenses, same clip, different company, different price. Even the photo is the same except for the absence of a name on the clip.

Look familiar? Same three lenses. Same clip. Different photo. Different company.

So you can pay over $100 for a three lens set (and buy the set from a company that has been known to add on outrageous extra charges) or you can buy a three lens set under several different brand names for under $10 from Amazon or Walmart. Your choice.

Despite the reviews at Amazon (the reviews are no better than the experience and skills of the reviewer), don’t expect a lot of quality for a three lens set that sells for under $10. If you want a really good quality auxiliary lens set for your smart phone, read reviews like this one or this one from people who actually test the lenses and post comparison photos.

Problems with the LUX HD450 Company

You can learn a lot more about the problems with this company in this article: LUX HD450 phone lens, I’m calling it a scam, or this follow up article on irate customers.

Series Overview

The Chinese Lens Rip Off Series – Overpriced Camera Phone Lenses

Series Links

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part One

Same Guy, Several Different Names, Several Different Ads, Several Different Products – The fake German engineer used in the Chinese lens rip off ads  

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part Two

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part Three

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part Four

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part Five. The fascinating story of cheap, Chinese camera phone lenses.

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part Six. Video: “Does It Suck?”

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part Seven. Comparison test: telephoto phone lens vs DLSR and zoom lens

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part Eight. How much does this lens really cost? $224.50? $2.99?

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part Nine. Comparison Test Two: 8-18X Telephoto Phone Lens vs 12X Telephoto Phone Lens

How to Choose the Best iPhone Lenses

Photographer Links

Randy Scott Slavin

Lin & Jirsa Photography

Natural Light Couples Photography

Billy Carpio Photography

Christian Vinces