I ♥ Lenses.
This has been my mantra for over a decade and recently put onto fabric in the form of t-shirts that can be had here. I love lenses so much, I have a hard time not purchasing all sorts of lenses including cheap little iPhone lenses. There’s a flurry of iPhone lenses scattered about the interwebs that can be had for as little as $5 or as much as several hundred dollars. I was at my local Apple store this past weekend killing time while my wife shopped for whatever she shops for. I picked up a new AppleTV (cause, you know… 720p just wasn’t cutting it) and while I was waiting for a smurf to become available I saw a nicely packaged Olloclip “iPhone 4 lens system” for the iPhone 4s. I checked the price tag and just as I expected, the little accessory sat right in the middle of the iPhone lens range. I figured why not… I use my iPhone so often for Instagram and Facebook, why not give this little guy a try. I proceeded to flag down one of the blue garbed employees who was ready to check me out. New AppleTV and Olloclip bagged and anxious, I headed to the nearest seating area to tear open and anywise this cute little piece of glass, aluminum, and plastic.
The Olloclip is pretty tiny and is actually constructed quite well. True to it’s name, the Olloclip simply clips onto the lens with a snug pressure fit. The clipping portion is made of a fairly rigid plastic with smooth detents that allow it to slip into place without scratching your phone. The clip section is symmetrical which allows the device to flip-flop from lens to lens. It’s fairly easy to get it on and off. Maybe almost too easy as I find the clip slipping off a tiny bit between shots. because it snugs onto the corner of the phone it automatically realigns itself every time you apply any pressure to the clip. The lens housings are made from anodized aluminum. The overall design of the device is nice but one of the biggest flaws is that it covers the screen lock button when it’s attached. As I mentioned before, it’s fairly easy to slip it just enough to tap the button but at the same time, if you going to lock your iPhone and pocket it, you’re not going to want to leave the Olloclip on the phone anyway. Realistically, 90% of the time, I pull the lens out of my gadget bag (man purse… whatever) slip it on for a photo or two, remove it and return it to my bag. I wouldn’t recommend leaving it on since it could easily be dislodged and fall off. It wouldn’t be difficult to lose such a small accessory. In fact, I already misplaced the little pouch that it comes with. Sadly, I think it fell out of my pocket while I was reaching for the lens itself and I just didn’t notice. One other caveat is that you simply cannot use a case with the Olloclip. I absolutely love my BookBook iPhone case but I have to remove my iPhone from its book every time I want to use the Olloclip. Simple enough with such a case, but I can imagine it’s more difficult for some that may use a slightly more permanent case which would really discourage spontaneous use.
Obviously this is no Zeiss lens… However it does use glass elements and not cheap plastic. There are three lens options that come with the Olloclip. A wide-angle, a fisheye, and a macro. The wide-angle lens increases the field of view but also adds quite a bit of distortion and a moderate amount of purple fringing. The increase in the field of view is useful while retaining full frame coverage. But it’s just not quite… Fun. By simply flipping the Olloclip you get the other, slightly larger lens, the fisheye lens is a just a silly amount of distortion which vignettes in every corner but transforms the iPhone into a unique image capture device. The native aspect ratio of the iPhone camera exhibits severe vignetting but when using an app like Instagram, the squared image can just about eliminate the vignette when centered. The aberrations are obvious but decent with the wide-angle lens and prevalent with the fish-eye lens. The Macro feature has two different methods. You can either unscrew the wide-angle lens slightly to gain a few inches of close focus or you can remove it entirely and go crazy. The image quality suffers quite a bit with distortion, fringing, and severe focus falloff. But remember… This is an iPhone lens, not a Master Prime.
The Olloclip can only be used without an iPhone case which means you have to be one of those risk takers that doesn’t care about the appearance of their phone. Personally I use a wallet/iPhone case that requires me to completely remove my iPhone every time I want to clip on the Olloclip. It’s less than convenient and often times determined wether or not I was going to use the lens at all. And also pictured above, the Olloclip blocks the screen lock button when in position. It’s simple enough to slide the Olloclip out of the way to tap the screen lock button.