The ZEISS ExoLens Pro is a premium lens system for the iPhone 7 which also fits older 6 models and gives you a wider image with no shortcomings.
If you’re into photography, chances are you’ll know ZEISS very well. Costing in the thousands of pounds, their lenses make up the premium tier alongside names such as Hasselblad and Leica. While the camera sensor and image processing are two critical elements of what makes a picture, we often forget just how important the glass is in getting critical focus and detail. Most smartphones use only basic glass, aside from a few notable mentions like Nokia’s old Pureview range and the Huawei P9. Even when a name like ZEISS or Leica is slapped on the back, it’s still up for debate if the lens really is up to the same quality as their standalone lenses (we’re looking at you Huawei).
Rambling aside, glass is a big deal and ZEISS has shrunken down its line of expensive lenses to fit the iPhone 6 and iPhone 7. Collaborating with ExoLens, a mobile optical accessories manufacturer based in the United States, the glass maker released a new line of premium lenses aimed at improving picture quality. You’ll be able to pick up the ExoLens Pro kits in 3 versions; macro, telephoto and wide-angle. The one we’re looking at today is the latter, offering an effective focal length of around 18mm at 0.6x magnification. Costing £160 you can hardly call it cheap, so the we’re expecting nothing less than the absolute best quality here.
Presented in some premium packaging with plenty of accessories to boot, it’s pretty obvious from the get-go that this isn’t your run-of-the-mill iPhone lens. The exoframe which holds the lens onto the handset is solid metal and feels like it could withstand a nuclear blast, with a removable inner rubber housing to stop it scratching the device. The ExoLens Pro comes with a spare rubber housing just in case you damage the first one, which is a nice touch. The lens itself also comes with a hood which can be used to stop glare in bright conditions, plus a cover to help prevent scratches. It’s pretty hefty at 92g, with a solid metal construction and huge footprint. Attaching it to our iPhone 6s Plus, we found the extra weight made the phone only usable with two hands. Thankfully, the screw mount on the bottom of the frame means that you can easily attach this to tripods and stands.
The standard iPhone 6 has a (35mm focal length equivalent) of 29mm. This is increased to roughly 18mm using the ZEISS ExoLens Pro, which allows for some seriously wide pictures. We took a series of snaps with and without the lens in identical spots to test out its performance. Looking at the results, it’s pretty clear which one is which. Practically every cheaper smartphone lens we’ve used in the past has introduced significant barrel distortion and chromatic aberration but the ZEISS manages to completely avoid this. We also noticed that some of the images taken with the ZEISS ExoLens Pro had richer colour and deeper contrast, likely because the sensor could now accumulate more light.
There’s very little to dislike about the ZEISS ExoLens Pro and it represents one of only a few options where you can get quality results from an aftermarket smartphone lens. Most of the cheaper ones we’ve tested in the past are downright awful but as expected, the ZEISS exudes none of the shortcomings which plagued these cheaper variants. if you can justify the very steep price of £160, you’re not going to find anything better.
Definitely one for only the most hardcore photography nuts out there, the ZEISS ExoLens enhances the focal length of your iPhone 7 and iPhone 6 without any distortion or negative impact.