If you haven’t done so already, read this article first: Don’t get ripped off! Part Seven. Comparison Test One: Telephoto Phone Lens vs DLSR and Zoom Lens. It will explain the background and methodology behind this comparison test.
I purchased the 8-18X telephoto lens to check it out. Like the lens in Part One, it is another Chinese lens for smart phones. The ads for this lens say this lens is amazingly sharp and it is being sold for $59.99. That is an outrageous price of course. I found one on Amazon for less than $12. I knew when I bought it that it would not be worth $12. Other online reviews for this lens point out how bad it is but I wanted to see for myself.
These lenses are purchased in large quantities from China for a few dollars each and re-sold in the U.S. under a number of different names on a wide variety of web sites. Here are a few screen captures from one of the the ad/articles selling this lens.
Now, on to the comparison test. This is the “12X lens” I tested for Part One. I will compare the 8-18X lens to this one. I took the 8-18X lens and went to the same location and took photos of the same subjects with the same methodology as in the test of the 12X lens.The lens was mounted on a sturdy tripod for the best possible image quality.
You will recognize this scene from the last test. The first obvious difference is the 8-18X lens has a serious issue with vignetting. The 12X lens did not have this problem. If you look at the upper right and upper left areas of this image you will see some serious distortion.
Here’s the same scene taken with the 12X lens from the last test. No vignetting and less distortion. This is a narrower field of view than with the 8-18X lens so the 12X lens has more native magnification. More about that later.
Now lets compare both lenses using the digital zooming feature on the iPhone (which is actually just cropping the image, not optically zooming in).
As you can see, the 8-18X lens is even worse than the 12X lens. Look at the middle row of letters. Portable Sanitation is more distorted in the image taken with the 8-18X lens. Both lenses give you terrible image quality when compared to a camera lens from the major manufacturers.
At 100% actual pixels magnification, the 8-18X image is smaller because it has less magnification than the 12X lens. The magnification designations for both lenses are totally meaningless. Although the ads for 8-18X lens say it is a zoom lens, it isn’t a zoom lens at all. It is a single focal length telephoto lens. It has a manual focus ring and that is it. The only zooming is the digital cropping built in to your smart phone, a detail the ads manage leave out. Digital zooming with a smart phone just magnifies the lousy image quality. The 35mm equivalent focal length of the 8-18X lens is about 225mm, so its actual magnification is about 4.5X. The 35mm equivalent focal length of the 12X lens is a little longer than 300mm so the magnification for the 12X lens is about 6X.
As a reminder from the last comparison test, this is how the 12X lens looks compared to a Canon DSLR, 100-400mm zoom lens, and 1.4X teleconverter. The bottom photo is what good image quality will look like, no matter the manufacturer.
Both camera phone lenses are cheaply made and it is obvious they both have poor image quality. the 8-18X lens just happens to be even worse then the 12X lens.
While both lenses are plastic, the 8-18X lens feels more cheaply made than the 12X lens. Neither lens has any practical photographic value unless you are after distorted images, and then it might be fun to own one. If distortion is your thing, get the 8-18X lens. Find the best price you can get on Amazon or eBay ($5 – $15). For heavens sake don’t pay the $59.99 or more that you see in the ads that show up on Facebook. That price is a total rip off.
Apexel Set of Four Camera Phone Lenses – This is the first set of lenses I bought at Amazon to test cheap, poor quality Chinese lenses.