ExoLens Pro wide-angle kit hands-on: Making a good iPhone 7 Plus camera even better

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus has a solid camera, but sometimes you want to capture more. The iPhone camera is limited by space so an external lens helps enhance the camera at a price.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

While I jump around a lot testing various mobile phones for ZDNet, the Apple iPhone 7 Plus (see my full review) continues to be a prominent part of my collection and offers everything I want and need in a smartphone today. The camera is a joy to use, but it also has more limited functionality than what we see in Android devices like the LG V20 or Huawei Mate 9.

Given the yearly iPhone release and massive market of iPhone owners, we thankfully have an incredible accessory market to enhance the iPhone. For the last couple of weeks I've been testing out an ExoLens Pro wide-angle kit for the Apple iPhone 7 Plus.

ExoLens has been making these high quality external lens options for various iPhone models, but we had to wait a bit longer for the iPhone 7 Plus due to the new rear dual camera design. There is now an iPhone 7 Plus gel liner option so you can purchase the full wide-angle kit, that includes the gel liner and mount, for $199.95.

The ExoLens kits have optics provided by Zeiss so are designed and built to a very high standard. I've owned several phones with Zeiss optics in the past and they are tough to beat. If you are serious about shooting great photography with your iPhone, then you will likely be as impressed as I am with the ExoLens product.

ExoLens Pro wide-angle kit hands-on: in pictures

The ExoLens Pro wide-angle kit includes gel liners for the iPhone 6/6s, 6/6s Plus, and 7/7 Plus. These gel liners fit under the aluminum ExoLens Edge mount. This mouint includes a cold-shoe mount on top for lighting, audio, and other accessories.

The iPhone 7 Plus gel liner slides over the secondary, telephoto camera lens that is positioned closer to the center of the iPhone 7 Plus. There is no impact on the primary camera, but you cannot take portrait or optical zoom photos with the lens mount on the iPhone.

The ExoLens Pro wide-angle lens is constructed of aluminum and glass. Rubber lens caps are included for both ends of the lens. The small end is threaded and secures firmly to the edge mount. It should be applied after you attach the edge mount. There is also an alumium protective lens hood included with the kit.

There is an integrated key-ring loop on the edge mount in case you want to carry this around with you on a lanyard. ExoLens includes soft carrying cases for the mount and large wide-angle lens so you can keep everything protected from dust and smudges.

The lens is a Zeiss Mutar 0.6x Asph T wide-angle lens (18 mm equivalent) and can be purchased without the edge mount for $149.95.

You can find a few samples of the output in my embedded image gallery. Full resolution images are available in my Flickr album that includes more comparison samples. It is immediately obvious that the ExoLens wide-angle lens captures much more than the default iPhone 7 Plus camera. Samples include houses along a street, a room shot that a real estate agent might capture, and a backyard landscape shot.

I included a few comparison shots from a LG V20 since the LG V20 has a dual camera design with an 8 megapixel wide-angle camera. As you can see in my sample shots, the LG V20 captures more than the iPhone 7 Plus with ExoLens wide-angle lens. The LG V20 also has a bit of curvature present at the edge of the photo while the ExoLens produces clear shots throughout the range captured by the iPhone.

These external lens accessories are expensive, but if you are going to use your iPhone as your primary camera and want more capability then they are a nice option to have. The ExoLens wide-angle kit is extremely well constructed and performs as intended. I encourage you to read through the details of the design and usage of the lens on the ExoLens website as it is impressive how much work goes into making such high quality lenses.

The ExoLens wide-angle kit is great for travel photography, video, time-laps, and more. Real estate agents will love using this kit to capture the exterior and interior features of homes.

It takes talent to capture great photos, but with devices like the iPhone 7 Plus and accessories like the ExoLens it helps us amateurs get a bit closer to the professionals.

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