How do $2 – $3 Chinese camera phone lenses get sold as marvels of German engineering for $50 or more? It is all very simple.
Anyone can buy cheap Chinese camera phone lenses in high quantities for just a few dollars each. Then start your own store on Amazon and sell the same lenses in sets of one or more for $15 – $20 each and make a nice profit. I have no quibbles with that. My complaint is when someone buys the same cheap Chinese lenses, makes outrageous quality claims (NASA optical design, German engineering, better than expensive Canon Leica, Nikon, and Zeiss lenses) and sells them for $50 or more. When that happens you’ve been ripped off. Not only that, all kinds of dishonest things are said and done to get your to fork over the extra bucks.
Meet Global Sources. They sell a huge wholesale selection of lenses from 7,771 suppliers, most of them in China. Nothing wrong with that. You can get just about any lens combination you want (one to six lenses) in several different mounting options (clip on is the most popular), and in just about any color and design you want. Go here and browse to your hearts content.
Here are just a few popular examples. So far, so good.
So where does the rip off come in? Let’s look at one example and see where things begin to go wrong, at least for the consumer.
This is a very popular 8X zoom lens for camera phones. If you buy it in quantities of 1,000 or more they are $2.95 each (U.S. dollars) from Global Sources. It ships from Shenzhen China.
If you don’t want to spend that much you can buy the same lens from secondary wholesalers like DHgate. You can buy as few as 20 of these lenses at a time from DHgate for $5.80 each. You can still turn around and sell them for $15 – $20 and make a nice profit.
If you just want to own one lens and not sell them, you can buy this lens from a whole bunch of dealers at Amazon for about $15-$20. Apexel sells them for $14.98. Everyone knows at that price that the lens is cheap and the quality isn’t first rate. So far so good.
Or you can buy the same lens from The Outdoor Spirit at their online ad/article. This is where things start to go bad. Would you feel ripped off if you learned you paid $54.95 for a lens that you could have had for $14.98?
And it gets worse. The Outdoor Spirit uses this football illustration in their ad. If you seriously believe this football image was taken with a zoom lens on a camera phone, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would like to sell you. They grabbed the football image on the iPhone screen from the U.S. Air Force Military Academy and used it without their knowledge. I know because I called the photography department at the
U.S. Air Force Academy.
Here’s the uncropped original from a U.S. Air Force Academy football game at Falcon Stadium, October 26, 2013. The stadium in The Outdoor Spirit ad is not Falcon stadium. The whole photo in the ad was faked to look like a smart phone photo. You can see and download the original photo here. When I called the photography department at the U.S. Air Force Academy they told me Sam Lee (the photographer) did not take this photo with an iPhone and a cheap add-on telephoto lens. He used a high quality DLSR and lens. I bet you already figured that out. You can read more in this article (that I wrote in January). As of today (September 12, 2017), the fake football photo is still on The Outdoor Spirit page.
They are clever. They never come out and claim the photo was taken with a zoom lens on a camera phone. They just give you that impression. This may not be illegal but in my book this is misleading and dishonest.
How good are these cheap Chinese lenses? Not that great. They are not recommended in any of the review articles from responsible sources. There are much better camera phone lenses out there. Check out the links below. For example I have a quality set of Olloclip lenses that I use with my iPhone.
But the Chinese lenses are cheap (at least at Amazon). So if you want to buy one or more cheap Chinese lens at Amazon, I won’t complain.
Don’t get ripped off! Part Three – the same lens, just a different name
Reviews of the Best Smart Phone Lenses
8x telephoto zoom lens for $14.98 at Amazon – as of Sep. 12, 2017
8x telephoto lens plus three more lenses for $19.99 at Amazon – as of Sep. 12, 2017
8x telephoto zoom lens for $54.95 at Outdoor Spirit – as of Sep. 12, 2017
8x telephoto zoom lens for $56 at HD350x.com – as of Sep. 12, 2017 (same lens, different name).
Wholesale Distributors of Chinese Camera Phone Lenses