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Pixel 3 + Sirui Lens Kit Review

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By PuffDaddy_d, Senior Member on 1st February 2019, 07:46 PM
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***WARNING*** EXTREMELY LONG REVIEW ***WARNING***

TLDR:

If you’re serious about your photos, but don’t want to buy a dedicated camera, the lenses from Sirui offer so much versatility and creativity to the Pixel 3 - a phone that is already one of the best point and shoots in the world. After spending a week taking photos with them on vacation, I believe they are absolutely worth every penny!

Introduction:

I love photography - full stop. But I can’t stand the thought of spending $2,000 on a dedicated camera and another $2,000 on lenses and accessories. Plus, carrying all of that around doesn’t sound fun either. This is why I started using my phone’s camera as my primary shooter. The results of smartphone cameras have improved dramatically in the past 2-3 years to the point where I am proud to share my photos online with regularity. Granted, there is still only so much a fixed focal length lens on a smartphone can ever do – even if that smartphone is a Pixel. Enter, the moment lenses… (but wait, I thought this review was about Sirui lenses?!) Hang on. Sometimes we have to go back before we can go forward; we’ll get there…

Background:

Ever since the original Google Pixel was released, the camera was praised and lauded as the premier smartphone camera in the industry. At the time, I was not in the market for a new phone, but my mom was, so I suggested the Pixel to her. She loved it for more than just the camera, but every photo she sent to me just blew me away. It felt unfair that her phone took so much better pictures than mine. So, I decided to do what many of us tech enthusiasts do, and went online looking for deals on the Google Pixel. In case you don’t remember, the original Pixel did NOT have many (if any) promotions during its first 6 months on the market, making it very difficult for me to pull the trigger on a purchase – especially since I’m not a Verizon customer, nor will I ever be (that’s a topic for another review). Because of this struggle to find a deal, enough time passed to where I started hearing rumors about the Pixel 2. It was time to be patient and play the waiting game.

Months later, the Pixel 2 was announced and Google shocked the world with the highest DXO Mark score of any phone EVER – 98! (Yes, I know DXO scores are not the only way to judge camera performance, but this improvement was notable at the time). This score was up from the 89 that the original Pixel scored and knowing how impressed I was with the original, I immediately clicked ADD TO CART. The photos I was able to produce with the Pixel 2 were nothing less than INCREDIBLE. At family gatherings, family members would throw their iPhones aside and beg me to take pictures for them because my phone took such great photos. I was more and more impressed with each shot that I took with this phone. I would even try to take photos of increasingly challenging scenes just to see how far I could push the camera; intentionally breaking the rules of photography by shooting into direct sunlight, or seeking out areas of poor lighting, only to be in awe of the results every time. But these high flying feelings didn’t last forever.

Eventually, I started to get a little bored; bored by how easy it was to take a great photo, bored by how little editing was required to make each photo share-worthy, and simply bored by taking the same types of photos, just in different locations - portrait, landscape, flower, food, repeat. After a year of the greatest smartphone camera experience ever, I became eager to upgrade to the Pixel 3 to recapture that initial magic which my Pixel 2 seemed to have lost. But I was instantly disappointed; not by the Pixel 3’s camera performance, because it’s still class leading, but disappointed by the lack of “wow” factor that I felt with the Pixel 2. It didn’t have the same obvious improvement in photo quality thaw we saw from the original Pixel to the Pixel 2. I was temporarily wowed by the new Night Sight feature - which is pure magic if you ask me, but its use cases are limited and the older Pixels have that feature too. I finally turned to the internet to look for inspiration and found increasingly frequent articles and videos touting the advantages of Moment lenses.

These Moment lens advertisements *ahem* articles and video reviews showed me a new world of photographic possibilities that I simply could not replicate with with my Pixel 2 or 3 alone. They could take portrait photos with natural bokeh without any edge detection failures, and they could take breathtaking wide angle shots to give the scene more drama than the standard focal length lens. And finally, they had a macro lens which I thought would be a game changer. You can always zoom in/out with your feet, but the details that can be seen with a macro lens cannot be imitated. I had to have them! After browsing the Moment website for a moment (no pun intended), I was quickly turned off by the astronomical pricing for these lenses. I simply could not justify paying $100 per lens, plus another $30 for the case required to attach the lenses. After tax, it would have easily surpassed $350 for the set. The dream was dead.

Fast forward a couple months and I stumbled upon an article comparing the Moment lenses with a new lens kit from Rhinosheild. (Seriously - Rhinosheild?! Hurry up and get to the Sirui lenses already) Hang on, almost there... I was excited because these new lenses appeared to be much cheaper than Moment’s, but my excitement was quickly tempered by the side-by-side photo comparisons. IN the review, the Rhinosheild photos looked down right terrible. Somehow, their lenses made the camera’s photos look worse. I kept searching for alternatives and finally stumbled upon Sirui lenses. At the time, there were a handful of decent reviews for them and they were only a fraction of the cost of the Moment lenses. And to top it all off, they fit perfectly onto Moment brand cases. You know the drill by now… ADD TO CART!

The Review:

It took a while, but we’re finally at the review you were looking for. I purchased the Sirui 3-lens kit from Amazon for the grand total of $160 (before taxes) and I purchased the Moment case (wood grain model) for $30. Just in case you skipped the background, let me reiterate that the equivalent set from Moment (without a carrying case) would cost me over $330! The Sirui lens kit comes with 3 lenses (wide angle, portrait & macro), a hard shell carrying case, and a universal lens clip for those who don’t have a compatible phone case. Now of course, I braced myself for these lenses to be of marginal quality to help save on price. I held my breath as I opened the package and inspected the contents.

Build Quality - 5/5 Stars

To my pleasant surprise, they looked and felt very nice. The weight of the lenses was more substantial than I expected, and reassured me they were truly made of metal and glass. Although I’m not much of a fan of the bright red and blue colors for the macro and portrait lenses respectively, so far, neither appears as though the color would fade or chip easily. Scratches however are a real concern so I do not dare set these lenses down on any surface which is harder than a microfiber cloth. Speaking of which, the package includes a small microfiber cloth for cleaning the lenses as needed. It tucks away nicely into the sturdy and fairly rugged case which holds all 3 lenses. The case even has a metal clip/hook that can be secured to just about anything when traveling.

Wide Angle Lens - 4/5 Stars

The wide angle lens has a focal length of 18mm and doesn’t have that unnatural fisheye look of the original V-series LG phones. I’ve found it great to use for the following 3 scenarios:
  1. When taking a picture of a landscape (obviously) or anything that’s too big or tall to fit within the view of the standard focal length. Turn the camera vertically to capture tall buildings or statues.
  2. When taking pictures in a cramped space - real estate agents would love this to make any room look larger and more spacious; especially when you can’t step back any further for a better perspective.
  3. When using the Pixel’s portrait mode - it allows for background blur without cropping in as far. This one isn’t my original idea. I found it on one of the reviews I read.

This lens has proven to be quite versatile; more so than I expected when I purchased it. The lens doesn’t overly distort the scene and the image looks clear and detailed almost all the way to the corners. I only gave it 4 stars though because I wish the focal length was just a hair wider. It may be personal preference, but maybe 16mm would be ideal for my use cases. I found that I could easily replicate the wide angle viewpoint in a few cases by taking just a few steps backward, making the lens less useful in those scenarios.

Portrait Lens - 5/5 Stars

I did not expect to be as impressed with this lens as I was. I was already using my Pixel 3 in portrait mode for background blur to great success, so having a dedicated portrait lens felt redundant. I was WRONG! The portrait lens creates such a smooth and natural background blur that is every bit as satisfying as a dedicated camera. The artificial bokeh (or fokeh) that smartphones are using just doesn’t compare. This lens is the largest and heaviest of the three, so it takes a bit more effort to balance the phone when taking photos. The 60mm focal length does place you much closer to your subject so taking a few steps back is often required, causing your amateur subject to wonder if you’re doing something wrong. I originally planned to give this lens only 4 stars because it does have one small “flaw” that I can find: it’s not exactly razor sharp, or at least, not as sharp as I expected it to be. Granted, it’s sharp enough, and probably just as sharp as the Pixel 3’s lens. But for no reason at all, I just expected the results to be sharper. The reason why I kept the 5 star rating, however, is because of the added benefit of the 60mm focal length. It offers a true optical zoom to the Pixel 3, which already has a fairly impressive digital zoom, and the combination of both offers significant reach that neither could provide alone. I’ve found that I can zoom in up to 8x without critical loss of detail. It’s a very capable lens. I can remove it for normal/wide angle shots, and put it back on for portrait or telephoto shots. If I could only carry one single lens, this would be the one.

Macro Lens - 4/5 Stars

Macro photography is an area where smartphones generally struggle. Software simply cannot overcome the minimum focus distance of the hardware, resulting in blurry photos when positioned too close to the subject. Some of the most dramatic photos can be achieved through macro photography, and this lens is the tool I needed to complete my smartphone photography journey. The Macro lens offers a 10x magnification (not zoom) of the subject so you can see every detail in a flower petal, drop of water, or grain of sand. It highlights details that are barely visible to my naked eye and really brings everyday objects to life. The lens even comes with a light diffusing, removable hood to prevent harsh shadows as you hold the phone so closely to your subject. Be careful though, as you have to hold the lense within 1-2 cm of the subject and risk scratching the lens by contact. I prefer to use the lens hood to help protect the lens. The moment I feel the hood touch my subject, I know not to get any closer. My only complaint is the SUPER shallow depth of field doesn’t allow me to take full advantage of the sensor area. I’m sure it is a standard characteristic of macro lenses, but I find that only the very center of my photo is in focus while the rest of the frame is quite blurry. This forces me to crop out half of my photo before sharing so that only the in-focus area is presented. With phone sensors being so small, cropping really sacrifices the final resolution of the photo.

Conclusion:

I took the Sirui Lens kit with me on a trip to Cancun recently and was able to get some fantastic shots that I absolutely would have not been able to achieve with the Pixel 3 alone. Even though my wife is pregnant, she was a willing model for me on our vacation. And if you know anything about most women, they can be very critical of how they look in photos. She came away from the experience quite impressed with the results and has even given me permission to share them with complete strangers on the internet. There is a link to an album of sample images at the end of this review.

Bottom line - if you are looking to take your smartphone photography to the next level, and aren’t willing to shell out the cash for a Moment lens system, give the Sirui lenses a shot (does that count as a pun?). As long as you don’t expect these lenses to turn your phone into a DSLR, then I doubt you’ll be disappointed. And as you can probably tell by my willingness to write this lengthy review, I certainly am not.

Bonus:

Moment Photo Case - 4/5 Stars

I am fairly impressed with the Moment Photo Case. It is offered for the Pixel 3 in three colors and I chose the black with wood grain backplate. It looked the classiest of the three to me and it certainly feels premium in the hand. It’s bulkier than the ultra thin X-level cases I typically use on my phone, but nowhere near as thick as an Otterbox Commuter or anything like that. The threaded connection for the lenses is super easy to use, requiring only a quarter turn to secure and release the lens. The lenses are also clearly marked in a way that helps you quickly align the threads. I docked it’s rating just a little for the price. In a world of $10 cases, $30 seems a bit steep, but is ultimately required to complete the experience. I also wish Moment made a battery case for the Pixel 3, as this would turn the phone and Sirui lens kit into the ultimate photography tool. Anyone who takes a bunch of photos knows the toll it takes on the battery. And due to the somewhat cumbersome nature of swapping lenses, you typically only carry them with you when you plan to take a lot of pictures. Hopefully, a Moment battery case will be developed some day. Do you think they’ll ever read this review?

Link to Sample Photos:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/HakfHBeif8FekCPv7
The Following 8 Users Say Thank You to PuffDaddy_d For This Useful Post: [ View ] Gift PuffDaddy_d Ad-Free
 
 
24th June 2019, 03:27 PM |#2  
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Hey, i'm interested in these lenses but i can't seem to find them online (also i can't find the case you're talking about) could you dm me a link?
25th June 2019, 05:13 PM |#3  
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Thanks for your review. I have the portrait and have a problem, the pictures look bland and not sharp. I had that lens with my old Pixel 2 and it worked fine.
29th July 2019, 03:38 PM |#4  
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I just got 2 lenses. One from Apexel with 120 degrees capture but there is some distortion and problems with focus on the corners.

Just got the 18mm Sirui and this is a whole other lens. Sharp images with huge quality compare with the Apexel. Though it is only 95 degrees. But no distortion or problems with sharpness.

I am loving it. I know Sirui now on Aliexpress has a new version which from reviews they are saying are even better than Moment now. I just didn't want to wait 2 to 4 weeks so I bought the only one I found here in Brazil available.

---------- Post added at 11:38 AM ---------- Previous post was at 11:37 AM ----------

29th July 2019, 03:47 PM |#5  
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Since I had the same doubts I will attach one example for each lenses.

You can look the difference.

For the Sirui will see a clean and good image.

For Apexel, check the right and left side of the picture. Center is clear and sharp but corners are bad.
Attached Thumbnails
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1st August 2019, 07:44 PM |#6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YorbenB

Hey, i'm interested in these lenses but i can't seem to find them online (also i can't find the case you're talking about) could you dm me a link?

From what I understand, this lens kit is not sold in all regions across the world. I am specifically talking about one of the many kits available on the US Amazon website.
2nd August 2019, 08:56 PM |#7  
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Is this one done with portrait lens: https://photos.app.goo.gl/9xcJ7TdFfdVMDfL7A and the other without just with the Pixel's default focal length?
The Pixel is doing quite well in wide angle but I'm looking for a descent lens towards zoom (or maybe portrait).
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