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ExoLens promises to make your iPhone photos better — for $300

Zeiss and ExoLens partnered to make a fancy iPhone attachment

Phones have largely replaced digital cameras in day-to-day use, but they still have a few major limitations, like their fixed focal length and inability to zoom. There’s a bevy of accessory lenses meant to give photographers more range with their phones, and the latest comes from a partnership between Fellowes, maker of the ExoLens, and the German lens maker Zeiss.

ExoLens and Zeiss displayed three prototype lenses at CES: a wide-angle lens, a macro lens, and a telephoto lens. Each attaches to an aluminum mount, compatible with iPhone 6/6 Plus and 6S/6S Plus.

We tested out the wide-angle lens briefly at the CES booth, and the images of waterfall dioramas and backpacked crowds were clear and undistorted. (ExoLens’ own images were professional-grade photos of flowers and cliffs.) The lenses themselves felt solidly constructed.

The lenses attach to an aluminum mount, which is a bit of a drawback, because it means you can’t use a case. It also looks as if your phone is wearing an alien monocle. The lenses probably aren’t something you’d slap on your phone on a daily basis, but maybe something you’d take with you while traveling if you didn’t want to take a full digital camera. The mount also has a fixture for attaching to tripods.

A Fellowes spokesperson said the lenses would be available in the second quarter of this year and come in two packages. The first will include the mount, macro and wide-angle lenses, and a carrying case, for $299. The telephoto lens will come separately for $199. That is, of course, about half as much as the phones they attach to, though cheaper than a new DSLR.

Left: iPhone 6. Right: iPhone with wide-angle ExoLens.

See all of our CES 2016 news right here!