Olloclip has established itself as one of the leading lights of the aftermarket lenses-for-smartphones market. Its 4-in-1 lens kit for Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus has finally arrived in South Africa and, like its predecessors, its most popular lens combo is well-made, produces solid results and isn’t prohibitively expensive. But it also suffers from the same failings as its forebears: it can’t be used on a phone in a case and it’s model specific, so you’ll need a new one every time you get a new phone.
The kit includes a wide-angle and fish-eye lens, both of which unscrew from the plastic mount — the “clip” part of Olloclip — to reveal a macro lens (offering 10x magnification and 15x magnification respectively). All four lenses work with either the front or rear iPhone camera because the clip is reversible. On the iPhone 6 the lenses align with the front and rear cameras perfectly, but on the iPhone 6 Plus you need to slide the clip slightly to one side when switching between cameras.
Further, in order to fit both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus the 4-in-1 Olloclip includes two plastic inserts, one for each model. Once the insert is in place the unit fits very snuggly over the top edge of the phone. We’re a tad wary of the effect sliding the clip back and forth on the iPhone 6 Plus might have on the top of the device’s front and rear over time, but then again, our phones tend to accumulate scratches no matter how precious we are about them.
In order to use the Olloclip your phone needs to be as naked as the day it was made — the clip won’t work with a case in place. That’s understandable, given the range of cases available and the impossible task of making a clip to fit all of them, but if your phone lives in a case (and we imagine most do given the protruding rear lens on the latest iPhones) that means removing it every time you want to use the Olloclip, which in turn makes it less convenient and effortless than we’d like.
Using an Olloclip greatly expands the creative possibilities of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus’s already outstanding cameras. The wide-angle lens is great for cramped spaces and handles distortion admirably while the fish-eye makes for really novel images with its almost 180° field of view. The fish-eye is so wide you’ll likely get your own feet in shots if you’re not careful and results in a circular image with heavily vignetted corners, but that’s standard operating procedure with all circular fish-eye lenses.
The pair of macro lenses, meanwhile, are a little fiddlier to use because maintaining the right distance to achieve crisp focus requires steady hands, but when you get it right the results are crisp and detailed. All of the lenses suffer from a little softness at their edges, but most people won’t even notice and it’s a small price to pay for the amount flexibility the Olloclip offers.
Because the clip obscures the ambient light sensor above the speaker on the front of the iPhone, the screen brightness is often dialled down by the phone, making it trickier to use in broad daylight and at times making images look underexposed on screen when they actually aren’t. Of course, this problem is easily overcome by overriding the automatic display-brightness setting in the phone’s display options.
Olloclip supplies a pair of translucent lens caps and three storage clips that can be affixed to a keyring or the supplied lanyard. Everything feels high-end and considered, which is to be expected given the 4-in-1 lens kit retails for between R1000 and R1200. That may sound like a lot, but given most individual third-party smartphone lenses cost around R300 each its not a bad deal for four lenses in one.
Our primary gripe about the Olloclip is the fact that it’s handset specific. This is understandable; by making the each unit for a particular handset the fit is perfect and the distance between the add-on lenses and the device’s built-in ones can be more precise than it would be with a peg-like design. But that does make it a tougher sell, especially if you’re only likely to use it occasionally. For the avid mobile photographer, however, it’s a great device and one that can always be handed down along with the handset for which it’s purchased.
The Olloclip is available in South Africa from Singer Photographic.