olloclip Lens Kit for iPhone: Great at Any Angle

| In-Depth Review

It’s almost a cultural certainty that the point-and-shoot pocket camera is dead. With our smartphones having 5 to 8 megapixels and support systems, like email, to get those photos moved around, posted, and albumized, there’s no point in carrying s small camera around anymore.

olloclip 1

 

Close up, only 35 mm tall

I should point out, however, that expert photographers know that the tiny pixels in a small point-and-shoot camera don’t have the same favorable properties as the larger pixels in, say, the Canon and Nikon DSLRs. These CCDs have greater dynamic range and produce better photos, megapixel for megapixel. Even so, the photos we take with our smartphones are generally good enough. Even very good.

What that means is that the market for add on photo accessories for the popular iPhone seems to be booming. Want to use your Nikon lenses with your iPhone 4? No problem. On the other hand, for those occasions when you need just a little bit more control over the image and don’t want to carry around pounds of extra weight, the olloclip, at much less than an ounce, is perfect.

olloclip 2

On a tripod (tripod mount not part of this product)

How it Works

The olloclip is a small, two piece system that slips onto the edge of the iPhone 4/4S. It’s made of plastic, so it won’t scratch the Gorilla Glass, but it’s also a fairly firm fit so it won’t fall off. Getting that balance right is half the battle, and olloclip handles that beautifully.

The first thing to know is that this unit won’t work with just about any iPhone case; you’ll have to remove your case to use the olloclip. Depending on the case you’ve chosen, this may or may not be a problem. With my OtterBox Commuter, it slips off easily in less than 10 seconds. But for some cases, like the OtterBox Defender, that’s a real chore.

The next thing to note is that the olloclip is reversible. It slips onto the corner of the iPhone and has edges designed to hold it squarely and securely over the iPhone’s camera lens. When the large lens is over the iPhone lens, you get a fisheye. If you turn it around, the smaller lens provides wide-angle coverage. If you unscrew that outer lens, the inner lens becomes the macro lens. (The interesting thing is that, by design, it looks like a straight through system. Of course, it’s not; the iPhone is solid in between.)

Features

  • Real glass lenses
  • Fisheye captures roughly 180 degree field-of-view
  • Macro lens focuses within about 12 to 15 mm. (about a half inch) to achieve about 10x magnification
  • Lens caps included
  • Microfiber carry case included
  • Works with iPhone still or video camera
  • Total weight is less than 20 grams (0.7 oz.)
  • Will work with the thinner screen protectors in place

Negatives

  • Covers the iPhone’s power switch
  • Won’t work with most iPhone cases or thick screen protectors
  • The parts are very, very small and potentially easy to lose

These are very mild negatives, as things go.

In the Box

The very easy to open plastic packaging (snaps open and shut) includes the two piece lens unit, two lens caps, a microfiber carry case, and a small booklet that describes the operation and points to an excellent FAQ. The case, being a microfiber material, does double duty as a lens cloth.

olloclip 3

What’s in the box (Lens caps are a nice touch)

Usage

I took two sets of photos, indoors and outdoors. Because I take a lot of product photos with my iPhone, then email them to my TMO account, I can see right away how these extra lenses could come in handy, especially for close ups. Several years ago, I almost spent $500 on a Nikon Macro lens for my DSLR, but decided not to. Again, while the quality would have been incredible, the photos I now take with the iPhone are sufficient for a product review.

olloclip 4

Clockwise from upper left: normal, wide-angle, macro, fisheye

The photo of my yard shows what you gain outdoors in going to the wide-angle and then the fisheye lens. While I didn’t conduct any special optical tests, a visual inspection suggests that the olloclip didn’t add any artifacts or distortions or color to the image. See for yourself below.

olloclip 5

Left to right: normal, wide-angle & fisheye

The vignetting with the fisheye can be accommodated and is described in the olloclip FAQ.

Conclusion

When I go on vacation trips, especially in the summer in Colorado, I’m never without my Nikon DSLR, but there are occasions when this lens system could come in very handy, especially when it’s awkward to carry a big camera and zoom lens. Throwing this 20 gram kit in a jacket pocket is eminently sensible. Just be aware that removing your iPhone case, if you use one, and keeping track of multiple iPhone case components as well as these very small lenses will require some presence of mind.

Note: Nancy Gravely published a Quick Look review in February as part of our TMO coverage that includes several reviews of this nifty product.

Product: olloclip

Company: olloclip

List Price: US$69.99

Pros:

Three-in-one system, glass lenses, small and light weight, nicely packaged, carry case and lens caps.

Cons:

Will generally only work with a caseless iPhone and thin screen protectors.

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5 Comments Leave Your Own

BurmaYank

What do you think about this $49 Photojojo set of Fisheye, Macro/Wide Angle & Telephoto lenses for iPhone?

Apparently, the magnetic lens coupling attachment needs to be stuck onto the back surface of the iPhone.  If so, (and if I found I liked the picture-taking capabilities of the lenses) I’d cut out a hole in my iPhone’s case the size of that magnetic lens attachment so it could permanently stay there on my iPhone.

John Martellaro

The olloclip FAQ says that Apple doesn’t allow iPhone accessories with magnets.  Would interfere with the compass.  Anyway, that product you mentioned will have to wait. I need to move on to some other things.

BurmaYank

”...Apple doesn?t allow iPhone accessories with magnets.”

Nice catch!  Thanks for the heads-up.

Too bad they didn’t/couldn’t just make their lenses magnetic, and make the attachment ring of some material which a magnet could attract without inducing any residual magnetism in it.

BTW, according to a FAQ on their website, the Photojojo magnetic lens coupling attachment apparently would actually not require any modifications of (thinner) iPhone cases to permit using lenses without removing the case.

Substance

Great review John, I’ve been wondering how these products fare in the field.  I may have found my birthday present smile

John

Great read…. You can grab the Olloclip on Sale, check it out!

Olloclip on Sale

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