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Zeiss wants your iPhone photos to look nicer, launches new mobile lenses

Could Zeiss make iPhoneography even better? The optics company is collaborating with ExoLens to develop a series of Zeiss-branded mobile lenses for its iPhone interchangeable lens bracket system.

Updated on 07-21-2016 by Les Shu: ExoLens has announced pricing and availability for the telephoto and macro lenses. The story has been updated to reflect the news.

Updated on 06-16-2016 by Gannon Burgett: ExoLens has made the wide-angle lens available. We’ve added additional info about the lenses.

There’s no denying that add-on lenses for smartphones are popular, but don’t necessarily improve on the camera’s image quality. The Zeiss-ExoLens lenses – the Mutar 0.6x Asph T* wide-angle, Mutar 2.0x Asph T* telephoto, and Vario Proxar macro zoom – use Zeiss’ optics design, which is known for quality. Made out of black anodized aluminum, they are specially coated to reduce reflections and light transmission, but they use the same mounting system as existing ExoLens variants, which screw onto a metal bracket that slips onto the iPhone (6/6S and 6 Plus/6S Plus).

Related: ExoLens premium wide-angle and telephoto lenses customized for iPhone 6

“The wide-angle and telephoto lenses offer excellent image performance with outstanding edge-to-edge contrast,” Zeiss says. “The macro lens features a zoom function — unique for accessory lenses of this type — for flexible image composition.” Chromatic aberration is also corrected.

But the big question is, does it actually improve quality? Based on some of the samples Zeiss posted, the photos do look impressive. We didn’t think the original ExoLens lenses delivered any dramatically improved results, but we have high hopes for the Zeiss models.

The Mutar 0.6x Asph T* Wide-Angle lens utilizes an aspherical design for minimal distortion and features an full-frame equivalent of an 18mm lens, making it perfect for landscapes and architectural shots. On the other end of the spectrum, the Mutar 2.0x Asph T* lens offers an equivalent focal length of approximately 56mm, making it a great standard lens for portraits and lifestyle photography. Most interesting of the bunch is the Vario Proxar: This zoom lens offers an equivalent focal length of 40-80mm and is designed for macro-style photography.

ExoLens with Optics by Zeiss wide-angle lens kits are available now, for $200, at Apple retail stores and online. The macro and standard telephoto lenses will be available in September, for $149 and $199, respectively.