Traveler’s Product Review: OlloClip 3-in-One Lens for iPhone 4 and 4s

Shameful perhaps for a photographer to admit but there are many times that I just cringe then balk at  carrying around all of my Nikon camera equipment.  I’m one of those “go lightly and quickly” sorts.

Believe me, I regret the decision to leave it all behind more often than I’d like to admit.  Will hitting 42 years old in less than two weeks slow me down?  I honestly kind of hope so – just a bit.

That need to GO with next to nothing has resulted in my iPhone4 as my one and only camera often times. The very thought however, of adding some lens kit to my iPhone4 has seemed nothing short of laughable.

Then one day I get to the mail box and there with a note requesting a product review is: the Olloclip – an actual lens kit for the iPhone?!

Well, overall, I’m impressed.

olloclip

The Whole Package

 

Olloclip has made a fairly easy to use lens kit for the iPhone4 and iPhone4s – and at $60-$70 a pop it’s well worth the money.
Inside a small, black microfiber drawstring bag that can easily fit inside your breast pocket is a set of three add-on lenses that dramatically widen the photographic abilities of the already impressive iPhone camera.  The Olloclip easily fits over the top corner camera area of the iPhone.  Turned one direction and you have a large, very wide-angle fisheye lens with a little plastic protecting lens cap.  Flip the OlloClip over to use two other lenses: a wide-angle lens (also covered with a plastic lens cap) that can be unscrewed to turn it into a fairly impressive, albeit hard to use, macro lens.

The optical qualities are impressive.

Right up front I will say that one of the major downsides to the lens is that the OlloClip can only be used on the glass body of the iphone. So before you can put it on, you have to remove whatever protective case you are using. I find this terribly annoying but I honestly don’t know how the creators of this little tool could have overcome this limitation.

Keep at it guys!

Let’s take a look at individual features.

Macro Lens

The macro lens is very hard to use. Designed to be used a mere 12-15 millimeters from the subject. That’s close!!  I find that 95% of the time I am simply unable to hold the iPhone steady long enough for a decent shot. Often times you just can’t get the iPhone auto-focus to get a solid take on the subject when using this macro lens.  On top of that, the shallow depth of field can give you a lot of blurry images.  All that said, IF you can get the right distance, not shade your subject, steady your hands and get the iPhone to focus, you are going to end up with some seriously fabulous close-up captures.

 

olloclip iphone

Macro Lens

olloclip iphone

Macro Lens

olloclip iphone

Macro Lens

 

Wide-Angle Lens

This is the most useful tool on the 3-in-One OlloClip.  Taking the camera phone from about 32mm to about 18mm, the wide-angle does just what it is supposed to do: widen the viewing angle for the camera.  But that is a damn wide angle. While perfect for wide mountain vistas, large objects or a family reunion shot you invariably end up with some barrel distortion and a soft, fuzziness on the corners of the shot. But look below. It isn’t that bad.  I really think OlloClip could have gone with a slightly smaller width on this, however – worth it for a cleaner capture (see the bottom of the post for another comparison between wide-angle and no-wide angle).

 

olloclip iphone

Wide-Angle Lens

olloclip iphone

Wide Angle Lens

olloclip iphone

Wide Angle Lens

 

Fish-Eye Lens

While the wide-angle may be the most useful, the fish-eye is the most fun.

With “a 180 degree field-of-view”, you have to expect a large amount of distortion but it is a worthwhile trade-off for landing some fun and unusual images. Not to mention a field-of-view you will NEVER get in any other point and shoot. The particular fish-eye lens gives you the black corners and soft edges.

 

olloclip iphone

Fish-Eye Lens

olloclip iphone

Fish-Eye Lens

olloclip iphone

Fish-Eye Lens

The Clip Itself

The Olloclip itself is made of hard plastic and is perfectly fitted to the top of the iPhone 4 and 4S.  You simply slide it on and slide it off.  The possibility of scratching your phone has been eliminated by some very tiny little pads on the inside of the clip.  But again, you simply cannot use this in conjunction with any case or phone shell or even a screen protector. The OlloClip lifted my screen protector right off.  Arg.

I still find that irritating and I can see quite a number of people choosing to NOT use the OlloClip simply because of that fact.  Will you go through the trouble to remove your case each time you want to take a shot? Do you want to expose your fragile iPhone to a possible crash on the rocks to do so?  I think the answer will be different for everyone but I hope the next generation of OlloClip will have a better mounting system.

In the end, I find that I will use the OlloClip despite the irritations.  It does what its makers promise it will do.

The OlloClip is not a substitute for my Nikon and my “real” lenses but in certain situations I can see it augmenting my shooting capabilities.  And on those days when I really just don’t want to carry a bunch of STUFF?

Well…this will do.

I think for many backpackers and travelers, this is a good little tool to have around.

olloclip iphone

Without OlloClip

olloclip iphone

With OlloClip Wide Angle Len

 

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20 Responses to Traveler’s Product Review: OlloClip 3-in-One Lens for iPhone 4 and 4s

  1. Jim O'Donnell August 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    John Mata – this might be of interest to you.

  2. Jim O'Donnell August 1, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    Rasmus , being that you're an iphone fanatic and photographer, this might also interest you.

    • Jim O'Donnell August 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

      Rasmus Vuori ! Still curious what you think!

    • Rasmus Vuori August 8, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

      Well, to answer your question; I have a hard time to get excited about add ons to devices that are locked to a specific model, size or form. Sure, many are quite clever and handy, and of course a lens like this is much cheaper than a DSLR lens – but they also have a much more limited lifespan. This is not to say that some people might find them really useful and handy.

    • Jim O'Donnell August 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

      Good points. I appreciate the perspective.

  3. Jeff Titelius August 1, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Great write up my friend. The product certainly looks interesting enough and despite its shortcomings in the macro arena, I love that image of the orchid…quite striking indeed. Now, all I need is to get an iphone and I am all over this little bundle! Thx for the great review and brilliant use of visuals!

    • Jim August 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

      HOW CAN YOU SURVIVE WITHOUT AN IPHONE?!?!?! :-)

  4. Andi August 1, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I really, really want this!

    • Jim August 1, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      Grab on! It is a relatively cheap tool for making the iphone camera more versatile. I’m curious what you’ll think of it.

  5. Lisa @chickybus August 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Very tempting! I find that I’m using my iPhone 4S to shoot a lot of photos. Might be worth getting this…

    • Jim August 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      It is worth it Lisa, even as a nice little back up in case something happens to your regular camera.

  6. Vero Autphenne August 8, 2012 at 12:15 am #

    I got one a few months ago and love it. In fact, I'm thinking I should start some kind of Tupperward like scheme and have Olloclip house parties!

  7. Michael Jon Falk August 14, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    I didn't even know this existed! It's interesting but my thought is when I choose a phone camera it's because I want no hassle, right out of my pocket camera available. The minute I start adding accessories I my as well bring my dlsr….right?

    • Jim O'Donnell August 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

      I tend to agree Michael. Now that I've had this for 2 months and played with it enough to write this post, I find a literally NEVER use it. I think this is the kind of thing for people who use their iPhone as their main camera.

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