CamKix camera lenses review: A huge array of affordable iPhone lenses with quality tradeoffs

CamKix camera lenses review: A huge array of affordable iPhone lenses with quality tradeoffs

This article is part of our roundup of iPhone camera lenses.

Some companies, presented with opportunities, don’t say no: they fill every niche. That’s the case with CamKix, which has a bewildering array of lens options across multiple mount systems, and which sells them in many combinations. I tested two clip-based systems and two affordable telephoto lens (sold in kits with a case tripods, and sometimes other lenses).

CamKix consistently had the highest level of aberrations in its lenses, which is to be expected at the very low price they charge. You’re facing the clearest possible tradeoff here.

CamKix Universal 5 in 1 Mobile Lens Kit

There’s a lot to be said for cheap simplicity, and CamKix’s $40 Universal 5 in 1 Mobile Lens Kit meets that bar. Instead of requiring a case or an attached mount, it uses a simple spring-loaded clip that has a threaded hole you center above the iPhone lens. While this sounds like a formula for trouble, it works surprisingly well.

You can visually center a lens after screwing it in, because it’s very obvious when a circle within a circle is even slightly off. With certain cases, the clip might put the attached lens slightly too far from the iPhone lens to provide focus, but it worked with no case and with Apple’s leather iPhone 6/6s case.

CamKix Universal 5 in 1 Mobile Lens Kit CamKix

CamKix Universal 5 in 1 Mobile Lens Kit

The five lenses provide the full range: telephoto (2x), macro/wide-angle combo, fisheye, and circular polarizing filter. While the lenses perform well in the circular center, chromatic aberration affects all the outer edges, and the distortion is clear to see: light poles and bridge railings bow unnaturally.

Macro images fared better, because a very shallow depth of field is a characteristic of macro lenses, already. Having focus drop off sharply with hints of bokeh work better.

The polarizing filter was a unique inclusion among kits tested, and should be able to reduce the effect of glare, reflection, or light intensity. The filter can be rotated via its outer ring. I didn’t see any real testing in varying light conditions, however, no matter how I rotated the filter.

The lenses and clip fit into a nice padded, slightly rigid zippered case with a small carabiner.

Despite significant reservations, the kit is so inexpensive, compact, and easy, it’s a great first step for the snapshot-like benefit of grabbing a shot you’d otherwise miss because you couldn’t get close or far away enough to catch it.

CamKix Premium Universal 2in1 Camera Lens Kit

The CamKix Premium Universal 2in1 Camera Lens Kit ($35 on Amazon) sports lenses far larger than those found in most inexpensive sets, nearly big enough to work with a 35mm camera. The larger lenses allow greater universality, allow with a surprisingly stable threaded clip.

The set is a fisheye lens that unscrews to reveal a macro lens. It’s an odd combination.

Premium Universal 2in1 Camera Lens Kit CamKix

Premium Universal 2in1 Camera Lens Kit

You can visually center a lens after screwing it in, because it’s very obvious when a circle within a circle is even slightly off. With certain cases, the clip might put the attached lens slightly too far from the iPhone lens to provide focus, but it worked with no case and with Apple’s leather iPhone 6/6s case.

Image quality was better than some of CamKix’s smaller and cheaper lenses, though nowhere near as high quality as other lenses of this size. The macro lens provides a crisp and reasonable large area that’s in focus and without aberration, and the same is true of the fisheye lens.

If you’re looking for this odd combination with the ease of clipping lenses on, this is most affordable, easy-to-use, and worthwhile option. But it doesn’t hit the sweet spot for what we think are most people’s needs.

CamKix Universal Smart Phone Camera Lens Kit

This kit ($43 on Amazon) includes a barrel 12x telephoto lens that screws securely into the threads of a simple case. The kit also includes a tiny tripod and mount and two others lenses, one of them a combination wide-angle/macro.

All the included lenses have significant aberration, both in terms of distortion of straight lines and diverge of colors outside of a modestly large circular zone at the center.

camkix universal smart phone camera lens kit Camkix

Universal Smart Phone Camera Lens Kit

However, the 12x telephoto performs better than its 8x counterpart, providing a larger and crisper focusable area at the center. The manual focus on the barrel seems more precise, as well. The lens doesn’t zoom, and is fixed at its 12x telephoto ratio. This could be useful for nature photography, where blurred edges have less of an impact, or where you’re willing to crop and lose some resolution.

For casual snapshots intended for one’s own memory and posting on social media, this combination does provide a wide range of options at a low price.

CamKix Camera Lens Kit

This tiny barrel 8x telephoto lens ($19 on Amazon) in this kit screws securely into the threads on a simple case. The kit also includes a tiny tripod and mount.

camkix camera lens kit Camkix

Camera Lens Kit

The lens is a manual focus operation, so you have to keep your eyes sharp while you look at a photo app on the iPhone. This isn’t a zoom lens; it’s fixed at eight times the iPhone’s native focal distance.

I found it difficult to obtain a sharp focus while shooting. The chromatic aberration and other distortions are so severe outside of a very small circular zone, it’s impossible to recommend this lens, even for the most casual use.

IDG Insider

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