Review: ExoLens’ Zeiss iPhone lenses turns your phone into a full-fledged camera

Anyone even remotely interested in cameras knows that Zeiss lenses are the gold standard. But the 170-year-old company’s lenses can cost thousands of dollars each, making them pretty inaccessible for amateur photographers.

But that is now changing, as the company has teamed up with the ExoLens brand to release three Zeiss lenses for the iPhone 6/6s and Plus. The three lenses are wide-angle, telephoto and macro. The wide-angle is available now for $199.95; the other two will be on sale later this summer as standalone lenses. For now the product is exclusively available from Apple, both online and in their retail stores.

The kit comes with an ExoLens iPhone case, which is how you attach the lenses to the phone. The case is really well-made — the company says each one is machined from aluminum and has a soft interior liner to protect your phone. The case also has a standard screw-in tripod mount, as well as a “cold shoe” mount to attach an additional accessory like a light or microphone.

We took an early look at all three lenses on an iPhone 6s, and you can see the results below.

(to compare the before and after, click between the two pictures in each album)


The wide-angle is the only lens currently on sale. When taking a photo, the first notable benefit of using the lens is that you can see almost double the content inside the frame. For example, if you’re taking a picture of a bedroom and can only see part of the room, the wide-angle lens should allow you to fit the whole room in the shot.

It works similarly well in tight spaces — check out the below shot from inside a dog crate, taken from the same exact spot, with and without a lens. The lens opens up the whole inside of the crate and makes you feel like you are inside. Ultimately, for shots that aren’t space constricted there isn’t too much difference, but it’s still nice to shoot with the lens and get more content inside your shot.

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While not on sale yet, I found the macro lens to be pretty amazing. Know that issue where your iPhone will lose focus if you get up close with your subject? Yeah, this doesn’t happen when you use this lens. I kept moving the lens closer, literally to the point where the subject was touching the lens, and it stayed crystal clear the whole time. Check out the crazy difference between the two exact same shots below, one with the lens (left) and one without (right).

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The last lens lets you take telephoto shots without the loss in quality that occurs when you have to use iPhone’s digital zoom. The lens provides 2.0X magnification, and while not as breathtaking as the two previous lenses, it will probably come in handy in situations where you wish you were just a little closer to the action.

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As great as these pictures look, there are of course downsides in using these lenses — mainly the fact that you have to carry them around with you. But still, that’s a small price to pay to be able to get the quality typically reserved for DSLRs and cameras with larger lenses than the one built-in to the iPhone.