The Chinese Lens Rip Off Series – Overpriced, Low Quality Camera Phone Lenses

The ads started showing up on FaceBook all the time. They talk about wonderful lenses that will turn your smart phone into a camera that is better than a DSLR costing thousands of dollars. They brag about German engineering, a NASA optical formula, or the testing that proves their lenses are better than expensive lenses from Nikon, Zeiss, Leica, or Canon. The names of the companies change on a regular basis, but the scam is the same. Sad to say, a lot of people actually fall for this nonsense.

Posted September 12, 2017. Updated and re-posted November 18, 2020. Updated December 15, 2021.

In reality the lenses are cheap, poor quality lenses purchased for $2 or $3 each in bulk quantities from companies in China. The German engineer in the ads is made up. There are no real authoritative lens tests. The photos used to illustrate the ads were created with professional level DSLRs and professional lenses by professional photographers. And the images were stolen from the photographers without their knowledge and used without their permission. I know because I contacted photographers who had their images ripped off without their knowledge.

The lenses are usually sold for $50 – $60 or more (and as much as $224.50).

And it gets worse. As the articles in this series point out, people got ripped off in the billing process. Some people were charged double or triple the advertised price for the lens on their credit cards. Ridiculous shipping charges were added to their bills (as much as $85) even though the ad said shipping was free. People ended up with total credit card charges of over $200 for a lens advertised at $59. And the company would not reverse the charges so they had to battle it out with their credit card companies. To make matters worse, they could have bought the same lens at Amazon for $15 or less. Terrible rip offs were going on.

The good news is these cheap Chinese lenses are fading away from the marketplace. Lots of people have caught on to the scam. The whole thing is a cautionary tale.

If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

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

The Starscope Monocular, It Is The Same Old Scam

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.