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 Comparison Test One, it is another Chinese lens for smart phones. The ads for this lens say this lens is amazingly sharp. 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. I had read other online reviews for this lens which point out how bad it is, but I wanted to see for myself.
Posted Sep. 22, 2017. Revised and expanded Dec. 12, 2017.
Background Info on These Lenses
Before I get to the lens comparison test, here is the short story on these lenses. They are purchased in large quantities from China for $2 – $3 dollars each and re-sold in the U.S. under a number of different names on a wide variety of web sites at highly inflated prices. Here are a few screen captures from one of the the ads/articles selling this lens.
The hype for these lenses is unbelievable. As you will soon see, I can’t get decent images at a distance of 50 or 100 yards with this lens, much less miles away. And you won’t get this kind of magnification either.
Lens Comparison Tests
Comments on each photo are below that photo.
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.
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. No autofocus either.
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. Since this lens is not a zoom lens, the 8-18X designation is meaningless. The only zooming you can get is using 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.
I tested the focal length of the 8-18X lens and compared it to a zoom lens on a full sensor DSLR to determine the equivalent 35mm focal length. The 35mm equivalent focal length of the 8-18X lens is about 225mm, so its actual magnification is about 4.5X (not 8X or 18X or somewhere in between). The 35mm equivalent focal length of the 12X lens is a little longer than 300mm so the actual magnification for the 12X lens is about 6X. So if you want a lousy 300mm focal lens instead of a really lousy 225 mm lens, get the 12X lens.
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 of this pair is what good image quality looks like from a quality lens manufacturer like Canon, Nikon, Leica, Zeiss, and the other major respectable lens manufacturers.
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 and vignetting is your thing, get the 8-18X lens. If you want the less lousy of the two lenses, get the 12X lens.
Find the best price you can get on Amazon or eBay ($4 – $15). For heavens sake don’t pay the $59.99 or more that you see in some of the ads that show up on Facebook.
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.