Taking photos with a smartphone can be more than a little limiting at times. There’s only so much you can achieve with an app, due to the restrictions put in place by the tiny lens/sensor system. And that’s where õlloclip’s 3-in-1 photo lens comes in. They say the best camera is the one you have with you, and having a case that allows you to mount full-size DSLR lenses on to the back of your iPhone hardly answers the problem of portability. õlloclip has created a bespoke lens mounting system for the iPhone 5 (4/4S models available too) that gives you added flexibility without hindering you on the portability side.
The 3-in-1 photo lens solution is made up of 2 parts. Firstly there’s the plastic mount with built-in macro and fish eye lenses that secures itself over your iPhone camera. Then, there’s a detachable wide angle lens. Both wide angle and fish eye lenses have a tiny lens cap to help reduce any risk of scratching the glass when you’re on the move. The entire system fits inside a tiny microfiber pouch that seals with a neat little pull string. The microfiber comes in incredibly useful when you need to wipe fingerprints or smudges off the lenses (something that’s seemingly unavoidable no thanks to the size of the lenses.)
Out of all three lenses, the macro was the one I found most useful, but there are clear benefits to using the wide angle lens too. Since I’m reviewing a photography accessory, it makes sense to use pictures to give you and impression of what each lens does.
You can see why I love the macro lens so much, it allows you to get ridiculously close to an object and be in focus. It’s like having microscopic vision. I’ve already loaded up a few samples of shots taken with the Macro lens. But, since I was going out to test the system as a whole today, I decided I should take some more. Just because I was that impressed. On a usability note, it’s really tough to take shots of unsteady objects with the Macro. Because you’re so close, every tiny movement made by you or the object of your focus is magnified to the nth degree. My advice: lean against something steady, or even use your own legs/spare arm as an anchor point. You will need to.
In terms of actually swapping out lenses, you don’t need to do a lot, unless you’re switching from wide angle to macro. In that case, you simply screw off the wide angle lens, and place it (with cap) inside the microfiber pouch. It’s pretty simple. Switching from wide angle or macro to fish eye just involves turning the õlloclip around. It’s almost certain that your fish eye lens won’t be perfectly in place when you first use it, so to ensure that you have the vignette in the center you just push/pull the lens up, down, left or right until you can see the lens is in the middle. It doesn’t take much setting up at all. If there’s one flaw with it, it’s one that didn’t bother me at all: the unit does cover up the LED flash slightly, but I genuinely can’t remember the last time I used the phone’s flash for anything other than a flashlight at night. And, considering most people using the flash on their phone are using it to take overly exposed shots in night clubs, I’m doubting they’re in the market for an õlloclip (unless they wanted to take close-up images of their dilated pupils).
The unit is durable too, with the actual lens units being made of aluminum, and the rest being polycarbonate. There’s really not a lot wrong with it. Granted, you’re still not going to get DSLR-like flexibility. For instance, there’s no manual focus on the lenses themselves, so you’re still reduced to fighting with the iPhone’s somewhat temperamental “touch to focus” system. But still, there’s only so much you can do when you’re trying to create a versatile, ultraportable and easy to use lens system for the iPhone.
At $69.99 it’s certainly not an impulse buy, but having used it for a couple of days I’ve found that it adds such a massive new dimension to my smartphone photography that any keen iPhoneographers will find almost impossible to resist. It’s available now for iPhone 4/4S and available for pre-order for the iPhone 5 (shipping in the first week of December). It’s available in 3 different color combinations: red/black, black, white/black. To check out the range, head on over to olloclip.com.
If you have any questions about õlloclip, feel free to tweet me: @TiP_Cam
Gallery (click images to open)