Up Close With olloclip’s 3-IN-1 Macro Lenses for iPhone 5/5s

| Quick Look Review

olloclip continues to develop its product line of lens kits for the iPhone. Now, olloclip has launched another in the series: the Macro 3-IN-1 Photo Lens for iPhone 5/5s consisting of 7x, 14x and 21x power lenses.  At the higher magnifications, the iPhone becomes a digital microscope with interesting applications in medicine, dentistry, forensics, botany and zoology, just to name a few.

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The iPhone continues to evolve into the modern Star Trek Tricorder of our time. Long ago, the iPhone's excellent camera made point-and-shoot cameras pretty much non-essential. With a 21x macro lens, the iPhone verges on being a very good (non-stereo) microscope that takes photomicrographs.

Introduction

This time around, the kit, which is available only for the iPhone 5/5s and iPod touch 5G, includes two transparent lens hoods designed to diffuse the light and facilitate focusing.

Macro 3-IN-1 Photo Lens

Here's a summary of the features

  • 7x macro - The lowest magnification option, revealed when you remove the 14x hood. It provides a wider field of view (FOV) with minimal bokeh (aesthetic blur in out-of-focus areas). The FOV is about 2 cm.
  • 14x macro - Medium magnification. Previous olloclip products have included 10x macro (original 3-IN-1) and 10x + 15x (4-in-1). The FOV is about 1.5 cm.
  • 21x macro - Allows you to get into details and textures not easily seen with the naked, according to olloclip and delivers a higher degree of bokeh. The field of view is about 1 cm in diameter. This is can serve as a low-power, hand-held microscope.
  • The frame is aircraft-grade aluminum and the multi-element glass lenses are precision ground and anti-reflection coated. The exact coating details are proprietary.
  • As always, lens caps and a microfiber pouch are included.
  • Compatible with iPhone 5, 5s and 5th generation iPod touch.

Using the Lenses

The weight of the base unit with no attachments is 0.48 oz. (13.6 grams). With the 14x hood attached the weight is 0.67 oz. (19 grams). This is so light, you can always have a kit handy in a coat pocket.

The base unit has a 21x macro on one side, and you can friction fit one of the lens hoods. On the other side is the 7x macro (which doesn't use a hood). If you screw on the second lens hood, you'll have the 14x macro because another lens is embedded inside it. There's no ambiguity here: olloclip clearly labels the magnifications and makes sure that the desired configuration only fits in one obvious way.

olloclip says that "...macro shots will have more edge-to-edge clarity, greater depth of field, nicely diffused light on the image and less pincushion distortion," compared to the previous generation products.

I took some photos of my (now famous) wooden ruler to size up the aberrations and the field of view.

Taken with iPhone 5s lens system alone.

Here they are: 7x, 14x and 21x respectively.

7x

14x

21x

As you can see, there is some mild pin cushion distortion as the magnification goes up, but it's not very objectionable. Also, at 21x I noticed a some blurriness at the edges, even though I used the lens hood to keep the iPhone square to the ruler. To fix the distortion, olloclip provides a free companion app for iOS that can remove that minor aberration. I'd say that the magnification gains vastly outweigh the minor aberrations which are always present, to some degree, in any extreme lens system.

Also, at the higher powers, in some cases, it might be desirable to to have a custom stand that allows the iPhone to be at rest -- even though the iPhone 5s is pretty good about weeding out vibration when hand held.

Packaging

As always, the packaging is first-class. It comes apart non-destructively, clearly labels the compatible models of the iPhone, and showcases the product nicely. olloclip says you can buy these products at the Apple store, and that means olloclip has met Apple's formidable retail standards.

Left: the box; Right: inner plastic package and data flap on box.

There are no written instructions in the box. Rather, user guides are posted online at olloclip's website. As I mentioned above, the pieces fit together in an obvious way, so out of the box, you're up and running. As with previous products, the microfiber pouch doubles as a lens cloth. (I sure wish this kit had used a new color, say, red or green for the pouch to distinguish from other kits.)

Package contents (black plastic device on right side is iPod adapter.)

Summary

I think olloclip has another hit on its hands here. By focusing on the macro aspects with one system and three magnifications, olloclip has provided a professional tool with a great design and flexibility. Plus, in addition to all the professional uses, it would make a great holiday gift for the young, science-minded person who wants to take a close look at, well, just about everything -- and then snap pictures.

Finally, fine optics don't some cheap, and I think olloclip has hit a great price point.

Icon of Apple's Photos app, iPad Air, with 21x macro

Product: Macro 3-IN-1 Photo Lens for iPhone 5/5s

Company: olloclip

List Price: US$69.99

Pros:

Three macro lenses in one kit, 7x, 14x and 21x. Lens hoods to assist with lighting and focus. Unambiguous assembly. Multi-element glass lenses with anti-reflection coatings. Carry pouch doubles as lens cloth. Lens caps included. Great packaging. Great price.

Cons:

Minimal aberrations (correctable with software). Can be hard to hold steady at 21x. As always, any iPhone case, except olloclip's, must be removed.

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