olloclip's new 4-in-1 Photo Lens kit for the iPhone 6/6P uses a new design that fits over both the FaceTime (front) and iSight (rear) cameras at the same time. A small adjustment is required for the iPhone 6 Plus. The system includes wide-angle, fisheye, 10x and 15x macro lenses.
Followers of this company know that there's been a special olloclip lens kit going back to the iPhone 4, and the design has been pretty much the same. The squarish profile of those iPhones and the relatively poor front facing camera meant that it made sense to only clip onto the corner of the older iPhones and provide an accessory lens for the rear facing camera.
There are many interesting things about this new lens kit for the iPhone 6 family and that's the focus of this review. I won't try to compare, in detail, the optics across generations. (However, newbies to this lens system should be prepared for some serious curvature of field with the macro lenses. That's normal.) Instead, I'm going to evaluate the new physical design.
This new generation has offset lenses that can cover the iPhone 6 (pretty good) front facing camera lens as well as the exceptional 8 Megapixel rear facing camera lens at the same time, even though that lens protrudes slightly from the back of the iPhone.
In addition to being able to flip between the two cameras with a touch of the iPhone's display, the former, unsettling illusion that something weird was happening when the optical axes were lined up but the iPhone sat in between the lenses is gone. Despite the intriguiing appearance, the former design was compact and effective.
Because there is only one kit, designed to work with both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, one must slide the assembly a few millimeters to switch between cameras on the iPhone 6 Plus. This is unlike the operation on the iPhone 6 where no sliding is necessary and is a serious compromise.
A bit awkward looking, but it fits and works well.
Next: A Closer Look
Page 2 - A Closer Look
Also new in this design is the use of a snap-on plastic pendant that provides a loop that can be used with a lanyard/neck strap. Not only is a neck strap included, but the kit provides three pendants: blue, green and black. However, I had my doubts about locking the user into fixed colors and would have preferred more attention in other areas.
Unfortunately, the included instructions don't discuss how to remove the pendant that's attached by default for shipping. The best technique I found is to, with the left hand, grasp the whole assembly via the lanyard loop, then grasp the closest lens to the loop and then pull the lens assembly upward. It's scary the first time you grab a lens that way.
The weight of just the lens kit, with all lenses but without the lens caps (found in the microfiber pouch) is 0.98 ounce (27.7 grams), so carrying this lens kit via the pendant and neck strap is pretty much hassle-free. It's too bad the pendant, when removed, doesn't have a place to store the lens caps. That would have been impressive.
Another problem I found is that the instructions show how to insert the small plastic adapter for either the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, but not how to remove it safely. The kit comes with the adapter for the iPhone 6 pre-installed, and so one, not having the experience of inserting it, isn't properly informed about how to remove it gracefully. It's basically a friction fit, but I think one would have to be very careful to remove the iPhone 6 piece before inserting the 6 Plus piece.
A closeup video of all this would give the customer a much better feel of how to handle all the components. As it is now, the help page simply points to a PDF of the included paper instructions.
Because the lens assembly fits correctly over both camera lenses on an iPhone 6 at the same time, one has a choice of using the wide-angle with the rear facing camera and the fisheye for the front facing camera-or vice versa. From testing, I'd say the fisheye lens is probably better for selfies when held at arm's length.
Speaking of selfies, I have my doubts about marketing this lens as a boon for selfies because it detracts from the technical nature of the kit and selfies are just a fad. Plus, most people who take selfies aren't going to remove an iPhone 6 case and attach an $80 lens kit just for that, then put the iPhone back in the case. But that's just my opinion.
When you do attach the lens assembly, it sits at a slight angle by design, and looks odd, but don't worry about that. I think the best way to attach the kit is to hold the camera with the back facing you and slide the desired side of the lens kit down onto the rear facing iPhone lens until you see the two lens apertures line up.
Once this lens kit is attached to the iPhone, there's no chance it's going to fall off. From years of experience, olloclip has chosen just the right fit and material finish to make sure the fit is secure, but also makes for easy removal.
Once you attach this kit, the iPhone's flash will be covered on the back. Also, the time at the top of the display will be covered on the front side. This kit is not really designed for conditions that require a flash.
olloclip says that the lenses are: "Made of precision ground multi-element coated glass optics and work with all photo and video apps." I've asked in the past for more details, but the company president, Patrick O'Neill, says the details must remain proprietary. (Coated optics means that a very thin layer of dielectric material is applied to reduce reflection at the air-glass surfaces.)
Because this len assembly is larger than before and has a lot of mass, I tested to see if the signal from my AT&T Microcell was attenuated, but there was no effect. The plastic that fits over the top of the iPhone is thick, but not metallic. I wouldn't have expected to see a difference.
The fisheye lens is excellent for shots like this. (Slightly cropped.)
Next: Packaging, Availability, Closing Remarks
Page 3 - Packaging, Availability, Closing Remarks
The packaging is up to olloclip's usual standards and is first-class. A cover-flap opens up on the box to both reveal the hardware and provide a lot of extra information. A compartment at the bottom the box contains all the extras, including a microfiber pouch, 6/6P adapter, neck strap, a split-ring, and two lens caps.
Lots of accessories, including three pendants. The black one is already attached here.
I've suggested before that each new generation of this kit use a different color pouch, but it isn't happening. I can only dream.
The neck strap is well made and includes a very good ring that clips on and off the pendant easily. All in all, the packaging of this product continues to impress me.
There is an olliclip standard 1-year warranty.
olloclip is currently taking pre-orders. General availability will be "late November." olloclip started shipping to customers who pre-ordered last week.
The new shape of the iPhone 6/6 Plus has created both problems and opportunities for olloclip. I liked the design, in principle, in which the offset lenses fit onto both the front and rear facing lenses at the same time. But that entails a lot of mass. I liked the pendant design that allows one to clip the lens kit to a small carabiner or the supplied neck strap.
The packaging, the design of the product and accessories are up to olloclip's traditional standards.
This assembly is large and blocks part of the display.
On the other hand, this assembly, thanks to its ambitious design, is not quite as compact and elegant as before. On the front side, it blocks part of the display. Also, I doubt there will be an elegant case from olloclip for the iPhone that's compatible, as before. The instructions need lots of work for clarity in all cases and completeness.
This is a solid effort and olloclip has mostly met the challenges presented by the new iPhone 6 family. However, I think there are some things that could have been done better with the pendant design, such as holding the lens caps and making it much more clear, out of the box, how it separates from the lenses. Also, the decision to support both iPhone 6's with one product created a compromised design.
In the final analysis, while I had multiple quibbles on the mechanics, this product gets the optical job done with grace, just as with previous generations.