Chinese Lens Redux: One More Look at Overpriced, Lousy Quality Lenses

Chinese Lens Ad on Facebook

Don’t waste your money!

The short story: You can buy this same exact lens on Amazon for $10 – $15, or on eBay for $3 – $4. Don’t pay the $37.99 price in the ad. The lens quality is lousy. Lots of people have been ripped off by some of the companies selling these overpriced lenses.

The longer version.

I thought the ads for these lenses had disappeared for good after all the bad reviews online. But as of the Christmas season these ads are back.

Here’s what you need to know.

Lens Quality

This lens and similar lenses are cheaply made plastic lenses imported from China for about $3 each. They are resold on Amazon for $10 – $15 each. Rip off artists have been selling these lens for as much as $200.

Despite the word “zoom” in the ads, the lens is not a zoom lens. It is a single focal length, manual focus lens. It is a pain to use.

The image quality is lousy. An example follows.

Side by side comparison test: Chinese lens vs telephoto lens on a DSLR.

Look at the impressive moon on the iPhone in the Facebook ad at the top of this article.  That is clearly a faked composite image and the moon photo was not taken with the lens in the ad. I bought this lens and tested it using the moon as my subject. I took over 600 photos with this lens, doing my best to get a decent image of the moon. The photo on the left (in the pair of photos immediately above) is a good as you are going to get from this lens. As you can see, the image quality is terrible. On the right is what a DSLR and quality telephoto lens can do. While I was at it I tested another cheap Chinese telephoto lens and it wasn’t any better.

In the ads, ridiculous claims are made for the quality of this and similar Chinese lenses. The claims are not true. Despite the phony comparison chart in the ad, this lens is not better than lenses made by Nikon, Zeiss, Leica, and Canon.

Stolen and Misleading Photographs

Many of the photos used in the ads for this and similar Chinese lenses were stolen from professional photographers without their knowledge. I know because I wrote to the photographers. The stolen photos used in the ads were created with professional grade DSLRs and lenses. Photos are used in a misleading way, giving you the impression that these Chinese lenses have optical capabilities which they most certainly do not have.

Let’s look at two of photos used in this particular ad. When you click on the link in the Facebook ad, it takes you to an even longer ad which is here at the Perfect Pixel HD web site.

Scroll down the page and you will see this part of the page.

Screen capture from the Pixel Perfect HD web site. Click for a larger version.

Note the three side by side photos. I tracked down the original baseball photo on the left and the original deer photo on the right. These are two unique, non-repeatable photos. As any professional sports photographer could tell you, you could take hundreds of photos of the same baseball player at bat, and no two photos would be exactly alike. No other photo would look exactly like this one with the exact same glove position by the catcher and the exact same out of focus crowd position. A professional wildlife photographer could tell you that you could take hundreds of photos of a moving deer but the position of the out of focus branches would be different in each photo. Where did these two unique photos come from?

The Baseball Photo

Here’s another look at our unique baseball photo.

Photos by Steven Hendricks at the Fotolia/Adobe Stock site. Click for a larger version.

The baseball photo used in these Chinese lens ads was taken by Steven Hendricks. He sells permission to use his photos via Fotolia/Adobe, a stock photo agency. Here are some of his images. You can see the baseball photo in question in the top row, 2nd from the left. As any professional sports photographer can tell you, these photos were not taken with a cheap Chinese lens on a smart phone.

Screen capture, Phoenix Arizona NABA site.

This is a legitimate use of Hendricks’ baseball photo. It has been cropped to use as an illustration on a web page for the Phoenix Arizona NABA.

The Deer Photo

You know what is coming next. The deer photo was not taken with the Chinese smartphone lens either.

Deer photo from the Sigma blog (left) and on Chinese lens ads (right).

I tracked this photo down to the Sigma corporation photography blog. The original photo was taken with a Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens. I know from trusted online reviews that this a high quality lens (more information here). Since the flash used for this photo is made by Canon, I am guessing they used a Canon DSLR. Other photos in the same Sigma article were taken with a Canon Rebel T3i so that might be the camera they used for the deer image.

Screen capture: Deer photo on the Sigma blog.

You can see the original deer photo about 3/4 of the way down this Sigma blog page. Of course there weren’t two photographers shooting this deer at the same time, one with a 150-600mm Sigma lens, and one with a cheap Chinese lens on a smart phone. I bet someone just grabbed this deer photo without Sigma’s permission and put it in all of these Chinese lens ads. Besides, anyone who has tested these Chinese lenses (and that includes me) knows the image quality of these lenses is so bad they can’t take a photo as good as this deer photo.

The people who write these ads are clever. They don’t actually say the photos in the ad were taken with the Chinese telephoto lens. They just put the photos in the ad to give you the impression these photos were taken with their lens.

Same Lens, Different Names, Different Companies

The same photo of the same lens but with 15 different names and sold by 15 different companies.

The same lens is sold under lots of different names by lots of different companies. These companies, many of them probably related, disappear as bad reviews come out, and reappear under a new name.

Dozens of Sites Use The Same Three Photos

Just of few of the many results from a Google image search.

If you do a Google image search you will find dozens of ads from lots of different companies using the same three photos to sell cheap Chinese lenses using lots of different names. Does this make you suspicious?

Questionable Business Practices

Some of these companies engage in questionable business practices. Despite the claims in some of the ads that shipping was free, people were being charged as much as $85 in shipping charges, and having a hard time getting a refund. One of the companies selling these lenses has an F rating from the BBB, and a long list of complaints from unhappy customers.

The companies who sell these lenses went so far as to invent a fake German engineer as the designer of the lens. The face of the German engineer was actually the face of a professional model who has nothing to do with engineering or lens designs.  When the fake engineer was exposed online by me and others, a new fake German engineer was invented, who is also a model. When I checked out the new fake German engineer, I discovered he had 17 fake online identities.

I was the first person to discover the stolen photographs used in the ads and to write to the photographers who had their images stolen. None of the photographers I contacted knew their photos were being used by these come and go, fly by night companies.

My Series of Articles

When these lenses first appeared on the internet they were being sold for over $200, an outrageous price for a lens imported from China for about $3. So I started writing articles about these lenses and the shady business practices of some of the companies that sell them.

12X Chinese telephoto camera phone lens vs DSLR and zoom lens.

I bought a couple of these lenses and did several lens comparison tests (here and here and here). I confirmed the lousy image quality that unhappy customers were complaining about online.

The articles I wrote turned into a whole series as the companies kept changing names and reappearing with new names. Other photographers began writing articles about these lenses and the way people were being ripped off by the high prices, shady business practices, and lousy image quality of the lenses.

If you really want one of these lenses just to see how bad it is, buy one for $10 – $15 on Amazon from a reputable company with good reviews.


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

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.

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

The Chinese Lens Rip Off Series, Part Ten. Good Luck Trying to Get a Refund

The Chinese Lens Rip Off Series, Part Eleven. The Same Lousy Lens With Many Different Names

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part Twelve. Lens Comparison Test Three: “Shoot the Moon”

The Chinese Lens Rip Off! Part Thirteen. Identical Action Shots from Different Lenses? Be Very Suspicious

Chinese Lens Redux: One More Look at Overpriced, Lousy Quality Lenses

How to Choose the Best iPhone Lenses

More Links

The best iPhone lens kit

The best lenses for iPhone photography

Don’t Fall for B.S. Camera Gear Ads – at PetaPixel

Apexel Set of Four Camera Phone Lenses – One of the sets of lenses I bought at Amazon to test cheap, poor quality Chinese lenses.

Buyer’s Guide Series Link

This article is also one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest of the series is here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.

Chinese Lens Ad

Perfect Pixel Pocket Zoom HD Ad – the ad with the $37.99 lens price (as of December 14, 2018) and ridiculous image quality claims