ExoLens ZEISS Wide Angle iPhone Camera Lens

Arguably, the iPhone still remains to be the industry's leading smart phone a lot in part due to the camera. Sure there are Android phones like the Samsung S Series and the HTC One Series that have come out with extraordinary cameras on their products and have even caught up to the fixed lens camera of the iPhone.

There are many lens attachments that help level the playing field, but there's something awesome just for iPhone mobile photographers: The Fellowes' ExoLens and Carl Zeiss partnership released the Zeiss Mutar 0.6 Asph T* Wide Angle Lens strictly for the iPhone with the Macro and Telephoto lenses, available at the ExoLens website.

This is a great pairing and it shows -- these wide angle attachment lenses are best-in-class and a terrific accessory for any iPhone mobile photographer.

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The Unboxing

Jackson Lake, Wyoming (ExoLens/ iPhone Panorama). Brad Puet

All the images featured here are used with an iPhone 6s and the ExoLens Carl Zeiss Wide Angle lens. The ExoLens pushes the envelope -- to the point that any and all mobile photographers who are serious about their iPhone photography should seriously consider purchasing the ExoLens with the highest recommendation.

The box comes with the wide angle lens which is an 18mm equivalent. For point of reference, the iPhone fixed lens focal length is a 4.15mm or in comparison to the ExoLens Wide Angle -- it is basically a 30mm equivalent. The build quality of this lens is extraordinary. It just feels like how a lens should be. It is heavier than other lens attachments -- one of the largest lenses available for the iPhone. On the back of the lens is the thread where you attach to the lens bracket.

Also included in the box: the lens bracket with a rubber liner, an extra liner, a lens cap, a lens hood, and lens bag.  The bracket itself is also of very good quality. It is made of machined aluminum and is light but feels very sturdy. The bracket includes a standard tripod mount (1/4") and a cold shoe mount for extra lights, microphone, or any other accessory that you could attach to it.

One complaint is that it blocks the flash unit on the iPhone, however, the flash on the iPhone or any other smartphone should never be used if you are serious about taking good photos in low light. So, what seems to be a complaint may well serve as a photography solution. Some users also find it to be a bit bulky, which is true. Try adjusting your grip and after a few photos and some practice, you'll adapt and it will become a natural and ergonomic fit. 

The lens cap and lens hood are sturdy, durable and great additions to the ExoLens. 

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The Lens

The ExoLens Wide Angle and its counterparts, Macro and Telephoto, are priced high, but for the price, you are getting what you paid for.

The lens is attached by screwing the lens onto the bracket. Other lenses attach to clips, adhesives, magnets, and other crazy ways of attaching. The ExoLens gets it right by threading the lens onto the bracket -- it is secure and will not slip on and off. The only way you may run into a problem is if you drop it.

For a big camera system, the camera body is important but more important is the quality of glass that accompanies the body. The same goes for mobile photography. A great lens will give you sharp photos with zero to no distortion, vignetting, and chromatic aberration. 

In a nutshell:

  • Distortion is any deformation of lines in a photograph. For the purpose of this review, we will focus on optical or lens distortion which means any deformation that is caused by the lens.
  • Vignetting is the loss of brightness or saturation in a photograph around the edges in comparison to the center.
  • Chromatic aberration is when a lens is unable to bring all wavelengths of color onto the same focal plane resulting in some blurriness and pronounced colored edges. 

There are many lens adapters for mobile photography. Some of them rate well when it comes to distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberration, but not fantastically so -- the bulk of them are actually quite bad when it comes to these categories. This is all based on the build and the glass. 

With the wide angle lens, you will definitely get a great point of view that is significantly wider than the fixed lens. As far as how the lens rates on the 3 categories, there was absolutely no visible vignetting and chromatic aberration. These photos were from a set of about two dozen. In those 24 images, none of them had those issues. In those 24 images, only 2 showed some distortion and because of that ratio, we can almost say that is more of a user issue than a lens issue.

The photos taken with the ExoLens Zeiss Wide Angle, especially in comparison to the other lens tested, showed as being very sharp with clean edges free of any distortion, vignetting, or aberration.

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A Final Word

Mammoth Springs, Yellowstone. Brad Puet

In comparison to the many different types of accessories for smartphones designed for mobile photography, it can honestly be said that the ExoLens Carl Zeiss Wide Angle Lens is one of the best on the market, if not the best, and there is nothing out there that can compare. 

The bracket is light yet very sturdy. It hugs the iPhone very tight and by itself can protect the smartphone pretty well and fits quite snugly. Also, the cold shoe mount and the universal tripod mount shows the foresight in design.

From a professional photographer's standpoint (and one who also uses mobile photography as part of their repertoire), this lens is simply the best. The optical quality is excellent, the build and reputation is in a class of its own, and it definitely outperformed in regards to image production.

We look forward to seeing this series of lenses advance and seeing how and where the competition tries to take the current champion for mobile photographers.