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Review of the New Olloclip for the Apple iPhone 5

Ron Risman, December 2012

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Review of the Olloclip 3-in-1 Lens for the iPhone


When the Apple iPhone was first introduced back in 2007 it not only changed the cell phone industry, it also changed the photo industry. While its 2.0-megapixel sensor didn't hold a candle to the 6 and 8-megapixel cameras that were on the market, it did offer the benefit of always being with you, and the phones 3.5" display offered over twice the viewing area over the LCD's found on digital cameras. Today, most point & shoot cameras offer 12MP or 16MP resolution, but the truth is... the 8-megapixel resolution of today's iPhone allow you to easily make beautiful 11x14" prints - if you choose too. All those extra megapixels found in point & shoot cameras really don't benefit you when sharing images online or when making prints smaller than 11x14". While it is true that point & shoot cameras still offer the advantages of superior image clarity (better metering, better optics), zoom lenses, and optical image stabilization - users have quickly discovered that the having a camera with you when you need it is just as important, not to mention the ability to immediately share photos or videos via email, text message, Facebook and Twitter. Why am I telling you all this? Well, probably because I love to ramble on (it makes me feel smart and useful) - but really it's to set the stage for my review of the OlloClip add-on lenses for the iPhone. Yes, that's right, you can add on lenses to your phone to take macro shots (flowers, coins, etc.), fish-eye shots that capture a super-wide perspective, or just wider-angle shots that help to capture the entire family when the living room wall just didn't let you get back far enough.

What is the Olloclip

The Olloclip is a 3 in 1 lens that slips onto the iPhone 5/4/4s. The Olloclip features a fish-eye lens, macro lens, and wide-angle lens - all integrated into an ultra-compact 1.4" x 1.2" module. The Olloclip is available in White, Black or Black/Red and has a retail price of $69.99.

The version for the iPhone 4/4s is not compatible with the iPhone 5 due to a change in the location of the lens on the "5," but Olloclip has released an updated version for the iPhone 5, which I am reviewing here.

In the Box / Out of the Box

The Olloclip comes nicely packaged in an easy-to-open cardboard box with a plastic front window that shows off the lens. Once out of the box you'll notice that there are two lenses, one on each side of a small corner piece that slips over the corner of your iPhone. Both lenses include a lens cap to keep them protected from scratches and fingerprints, and a small microfiber pouch is included for carrying the lens and to help keep the lenses clean during use.

Two lenses? I thought there were three lenses in the package? I'm glad you were paying attention. The third lens is revealed by unscrewing the wide-angle lens. Nifty, isn't it?

Fish-eye Lens

The larger of the two (exposed) lenses is the fish-eye lens, with its approx. 180-degree field of view and fish-eye distortion. Fish-eye lenses are ideal for caricature-style portraits - especially of pets, wide landscapes that help to show that the world is indeed truly round (I think) - great for sky shots, ocean shots, or anytime you just want a unique perspective that differs from what other cameras typically capture. Fish-eye lenses are also often used very close-up to capture extreme sports (skateboards, snowboards, surfers) as the exaggerated perspective and distortion is as cool as the sport itself. Keep in mind that fish-eye lenses are sharpest in the center and softer as the lens starts to bend light as you work your way to the edges of the frame.

Wide-Angle Lens

The smaller of the exposed lenses is the wide-angle lens. This lens is almost twice as wide as the lens built into the iPhone and really helps to capture landscapes, interiors, and photos that help to emphasize the size difference in subjects that are closer to the lens. The wide-angle lens offers much less distortion compared to the fish-eye lens, but vertical lines still have a little bend to them compared to the built-in lens.

Macro Lens

When you unscrew the wide-angle lens you'll now have a macro lens that gives your iPhone the ability to focus as close as .40" - .60" from an object (12-15mm). Macro lenses are ideal for capturing details of tiny objects such as money, jewelry, flower pedals, insects, and more.

Use with Video

The Olloclip isn't just for photography. Switch to video mode in the iPhone and now you have a powerful set of lenses to help you capture the world in motion with the same creative perspectives as you did with stills.

Use with the iPhones Panorama Mode

Why stop there? Put the camera into Panorama mode, slide on the fish-eye lens, and now the iPhone is ready to capture a complete 360-degree view instead of a 180. The wide-angle lens will give you about a 270-degree panorama, compared to the standard 180-degree field of view.

Panorama shot with iPhone 5

Panorama shot with iPhone 5 with Olloclip Wide-Angle Lens

Panorama shot with iPhone 5 with Olloclip Fish-eye Lens

Another great use of the iPhone's Panorama mode is to use it in Macro mode to capture a wider view of an object that's just 1/2" from the lens. Since depth-of-field is very shallow in macro mode place the iPhone with macro lens on a tripod and place it parallel to the subject you want to capture. Then instead of moving the iPhone to create the panorama, move the object. See my examples below of a faux Rolex watch and a dollar bill.

iPhone lens vs. Olloclip Macro Lens

The image on the left was as close as I could get with the iPhone while still retaining the ability to focus on the half-dollar. You can clearly see the advantage of having the macro capability. In fact, the macro lens, for me, is one of the best reasons to get the Olloclip.

Image Quality

Image quality was better than I had expected it to be. With converter lenses you'll never get better quality than the original lens since you are placing the converter OVER that lens, but the Olloclip does a very good job at retaining sharpness with the macro lens and center sharpness with the wide-angle and fish-eye lenses. The wide-angle lens does introduce some barrel distortion, while the fish-eye lens purposely distorts the image fit the almost 180-degree view into the frame. The fish-eye lens is fairly sharp in the center, but quickly loses focus as the lens distorts the images toward the edges of the lens.

Fits the Naked iPhone - only!

If there is one issue with using converter lenses with the iPhone it's the fact that cases interfere with them. The Olloclip was designed to be compatible with a naked iPhone, which might be a deal-breaker for many iPhone users. For me personally, I always have a case on my iPhone as I like to re-sell them on eBay when it's time to upgrade. The better condition the phone is in, the more I get for it. It's that simple. Using an iPhone without a case is risky, but it's the only way you can use the Olloclip. The thickness of a case, even if just a few millimeters, makes it impossible for an add-on lens to sit flush against the camera phones built-in lens. The only real way to make a lens work with a case is to design a case specifically to work with the lenses. I would prefer this method vs. using the iPhone naked. Schneider Optics, a company known for the high-end optical lenses, makes such a product. It's called the iPro lens system, and includes a specially designed iPhone case that the lenses attach too. The iPro Lens System includes a wide-angle and fish-eye lens (no macro) and sells for $189, almost 3x the price of the Olloclip.

Review Summary

At $69.95, the Olloclip offers added versatility for your iPhoneography. While software allows you to add gimmicky filters to your photos, only add-on lenses can give the camera true macro capabilities or a wider field-of-view. The Olloclip is very compact and offers very good image quality from the macro and wide-angle lenses. The fish-eye lens creates a great look for certain shots, but at the expense of image sharpness. Fish-eye images look fine on the small screen or when shared on Facebook, but you probably shouldn't print enlargements of those images.

I am hoping that Olloclip is working on a telephoto lens converter for the iPhone. Since camera phones lack zoom lenses, this is one converter I wish was already included. I would also like to see a pass-through power button to allow you to turn the iPhone on & off without having to remove the Olloclip. When shooting street photography I like to turn the phone off as I walk around in order to preserve battery, but as it's designed now you have to slide the Olloclip off to get to the power button. It's not hard to remove it - just slide it off, turn off the phone, and then slide it back on - but it's just another step you have to take, and another chance of dropping the Olloclip.

If you find yourself using your iPhone for most of your daily photography then I highly recommend giving the Olloclip consideration. It's a cost effective way to turn your iPhone into a more useful, take anywhere, camera. The lenses also work great for shooting video. The fish-eye lens is a great lens for POV style sports videography, while the wide-angle lens will help you capture landscapes, sunsets, interiors, and architecture. Put your iPhone on a tripod and even the macro lens becomes useful for macro videography.

Where to buy

The Olloclip can be purchased at online stores like Amazon.com or B&H Photo or direct from Olloclip.

Olloclip for iPhone 5

  • B&H Photo (Black)
  • B&H Photo (Black/Red)

  • Olloclip Review Image Gallery

    Olloclip Wide-Angle Converter Lens

    Olloclip Fish-eye Lens Converter

    iPhone 5 Lens

    iPhone 5 with Olloclip Wide Angle Lens

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