Almost every day I see ads for the same plastic, cheaply made Chinese lens, and the ad often uses the same faked photo of an impressive picture of the moon (see examples below). I decided to do a “shoot the moon” comparison test. As you will see in the results that follow, it is impossible for this Chinese lens to take the moon shot used in these ads.
This is one in a series of articles about Chinese lenses. You can find the rest of the articles in the links section at the end. Comments on each image are below the image.
If you are on Facebook, you’ve probably seen ads like this. The suggestion that this lens and your smart phone can take pictures the equal of a $2,000 DSLR is utterly ridiculous. The ad doesn’t actually make that claim. They just hint at it and hope you draw that conclusion.
The lens quality is so bad and the reputation of the company is so awful (HD Zoom Pro has an “F” rating at the Better Business Bureau, see the end of this article), the people that sell this lens have to keep changing the name of the lens and creating web sites with new names, just to keep ahead of the bad online reviews.
I’ve tested this lens before. I used the same equipment and procedures for the “shoot the moon” test as I in the last test, so I won’t repeat all of that again. You can read all about the details of the test here. I will just add that this lens is even more of a pain to work with at night than it is in the day time. I took over 600 photos with this lens in the attempt to get a decent photo of the moon.
To create the best possible images, my iPhone was in a sturdy mount on a professional grade ball head and tripod. The ads shows this lens taking a photo of the moon handheld, but trust me, that will not work. The lens is manual focus with a stiff manual focus ring. If you hold the phone in one hand and twist the focus ring with the other, the back of the lens twists away from the right position on the phone. If you hold the lens with both hands to focus, the phone slides in the clamp, again moving the lens out of position. You either need three hands to focus, the dexterity of a magician, or two hands and a tripod.
Despite the word “zoom” in the ads, this is not a zoom lens. It is a single focal length lens with an actual focal length just a little over 300mm. The only “zoom” you get is the digital zoom (cropping) that comes inside your phone. If you try and zoom in on the moon with your phone, the image quality of the moon just gets even worse.
Once you finally get the lens focused, you discover a serious problem with the lens, an outrageous amount of lens flare. The big white blob just below the actual moon is lens flare, and there is more flare above and to the right of the moon. This was present in all but a few of the photos I took. I tried changing the position of the lens on my iPhone, including off centering the Chinese lens from the iPhone lens in every possible position. You will also notice the quality of the image is not very good. The moon is pretty fuzzy, nothing like the moon in the faked ads.
In the screen capture from Adobe Bridge earlier in this article, the white blobs you see in the images is lens flare.
I finally managed to get the lens in a position that eliminated the flare. As you can see, the image quality is nothing to write home about. This is the best image I could create with this lens. This is nothing like the moon in the ads.
This is the center of the same image. Click on it to see it at 100% “actual pixels” magnification. This is what the center of the image would look like on your computer if you blew it up to 100%. This is bad.
After fighting with this lens, I tested another “popular” Chinese telephoto lens the same night. It had equally wretched image quality. After fighting with two lousy lenses I gave up. If you want to see images from the second lens, go to the Addendum section below, just above the links.
Three days later I had another clear night and set out to photograph the moon again. This time I used a Canon 7D Mark II camera body, a Canon EF 100-400mm Mark II L series lens, and a 1.4X Mark III teleconverter. I put everything on the same rugged ball head and sturdy tripod that I used to hold my iPhone and Chinese lens. Needless to say, this gear is a dream to work with.
Not surprisingly the images of the moon are better than with the Chinese lens. The focal length of the lens and teleconverter combination is 560mm. The Canon 7D Mark II has a 1.6X field of view crop, making the final effective 35mm focal length equal to 896mm. This image is uncropped so you see how big an 896mm moon looks in the frame. Even at this magnification the moon is nowhere near as big as the moon in the faked Chinese lens ads.
This is the center of the same image. Click to see this at 100% actual pixels magnification.
And finally, click to see this side by side comparison of both images at 100% actual pixels magnification. When it comes to image quality there is no comparison. As you can see, it is impossible to take the moon photo in the ads with this Chinese lens.
Any lens with a 300mm focal length (including zoom lenses) from any major lens manufacturer will run circles around this lens. Any point and shoot camera with a built in zoom lens that gets out to 300mm will also run circles around this Chinese lens.
You can check out the other articles in the series in the links section below.
Addendum – Chinese Telephoto Lens Number Two
This is the second Chinese telephoto lens I used for the “shoot the moon” comparison test. This is the second most popular Chinese telephoto lens currently being sold on the internet as an add on for your smart phone. I have tested this lens before and you can see the results here. At that time is was called an “8-18X zoom”, but, despite the “zoom” in the name, it is not a zoom lens either. It is a single focal length lens with a focal length close to 255mm. Like the lens tested above it is also a manual focus lens. Unlike the first lens I did not have flare issues with this lens when shooting the moon.
The image quality of this lens is equally terrible.
Here is the center of the same image. The quality of this lens is genuinely awful. .Click on the image to see it at 100% actual pixels magnification.
Any 300mm lens from a major lens manufacturer will be worlds better than this lens.
Buying These Lenses
If your curiosity is getting the better of you and you want to buy one of these lenses, for heavens sake don’t buy one from one of the rip off places that advertises on Facebook. They want $30 or $60 or $100 for a lens you can find for $10-$20 at Amazon. They do terrible things as numerous online reviews have pointed. Here’s a list of some of the things these companies have done to consumers in the past. They double or triple charge your credit card. They charge shipping even though the shipping is supposed to be free. They charge your credit card a service fee every month after you have made your initial purchase. They refuse to refund your money.
To buy one of these lenses go to Amazon and pick a company with high customer service ratings.
Posted January 31, 2018. Updated February 3, 2018 with additional information and images.
How Many Identities Can One Man Have Before You Get Suspicious? Would you Believe 17? – Another fake German engineer used in the Chinese lens rip off ads.
Apexel Set of Four Camera Phone Lenses – This is the set of lenses I bought at Amazon to get the telephoto lens for this lens test.
Better Business Bureau Links