Posted by Jim Martin 07 August 2013
Olloclip lens system for iPhone 5 review
£65 inc VAT
Smartphone cameras are getting pretty good, and the iPhone 5’s snapper is capable of some very respectable photos. However, unlike a DSLR or compact system camera, you’re stuck with the lens it comes with. Or are you? See also: 5 things we'd like to see in the new iPhone 5S.
You might be surprised to learn that you can add lenses in front of a smartphone camera to turn it into a telephoto, macro or wide-angle lens and there are several systems you can buy which work with the iPhone 5.
One is the Olloclip 3-in-1, which will set you back £70. It doesn’t include a telephoto lens (that’s on the way later this year) but you do get fish-eye, wide-angle and macro lenses.
Another - and one which is considerably more expensive - is the Schneider iPro Lens System.
The Olloclip is surprisingly compact. It’s a plastic clip which slots over the corner of your iPhone. It’s reversible, so you turn it depending on which lens you want to use.
The larger lens is the fish-eye, which gives your iPhone 5 roughly a 180-degree field of view and creates a circular border on photos. As with all fish-eye lenses, it distorts the image, but is ideal for getting up close and shooting some creative images.
The wide-angle approximately doubles the iPhone’s field of view and is great when you can’t step back further to get everything into the frame. You get use it up close for some fun, but it’s most useful when you’re photographing landscapes.
When you want to take some macro shots, you unscrew the wide-angle lens to reveal the macro lens behind it. It allows the iPhone to focus much closer than usual (10-15mm from the lens), letting you effectively magnify objects by around ten times. It’s ideal for small flowers and insects.
Since you’re not changing anything about the original camera, you can use the lenses with any app, including the built-in camera app, and continue to use any settings it offers, such as spot focus/exposure and zoom.
The Olloclip can also be used when shooting videos and for Facetime, although it obviously doesn’t work with the front-facing camera.
The clip itself is made from smooth plastic, and didn’t scratch our iPhone during testing. The two lenses have alumimum barrels and plastic lens caps. A microfibre carry pouch is bundled and doubles as a cleaning cloth.
Because the clip is designed to fit precisely to your iPhone, it won’t work with a case. Olloclip sells a case with a rotating corner which allows the clip to be attached, but it’s ridiculously expensive at £50. The price includes an adapter so you can mount it on a standard tripod and also attach any accessory that fits into a cold shoe, though.
Olloclip: Image examples
Aside from the inherent distortion created by the fish-eye and (to a lesser extent) wide-angle lenses, we were fairly impressed with the quality of the Olloclip lenses.
Photos taken with the wide-angle lens still looked sharp in the centre, but this quickly turns soft away from the middle, to the point of being actually blurry at the edges. Of course, you'll probably notice this only when you look at the image at 100 per cent in Photoshop; the example below looks pretty good when viewed fairly small.
Below is a photo of the same scene taken with the Olloclip removed:
With the fish-eye, you can get up close and personal with your subject, and the effect works well with pets, cars and (if they’ll allow it) people.
You can use it for landscapes for an interesting effect, but it’s not really intended for this.
The macro lens forces you to get extremely close to the subject, which also means an extremely shallow depth of field. Move your iPhone even slightly and the focus will change, so it’s imperative to have a steady hand (as well as an object that doesn’t move – flowers swaying in the wind are no good). Ideally, you should get some kind of tripod mount or stand for your phone.
The photo below is of a Passion flower taken with the iPhone 5's built-in lens. The photo below that is taken with the Olloclip's macro lens.
The main problem with the macro lens is that, if anything, it allows the iPhone to focus too close. The photo above is not cropped, sharpened or altered in any way, except to be resized to fit on this page. Where the Schneider iPro macro lens has a more sensible magnification, the Olloclip requires the lens to almost touch the object you're shooting before it's in focus. This has the side problem of an absolutely miniscule depth of field, so you really need to photograph flat objects to ensure it's in focus.
However, even with steady hands, it's almost impossible to keep your subject in focus, so a tripod or stand for your phone is essential. Attempting to photograph a live insect or anything that moves with the macro lens is likely to end in disappointment.
Olloclip for iPhone 5: Verdict
Although you might consider £70 to be a lot of money, the Olloclip allows you to get creative with your iPhone photography. The lenses won’t deliver results that will stand up to professional scrutiny, but photos are more than acceptable.