AMITIAE - Thursday 15 December 2011

olloclip Quick-connect Lens Kit: Macro, Fish-eye and Wide-angle Lenses for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S

apple and chopsticks


olloclip lens

Most of the time I like to experiment with some of the software photography apps that are available for iOS users. I recently took delivery of a 3-in-one lens kit for the iPhone: the olloclip, with macro, fisheye and wide-angle lenses. As with many things concerning technology, this needs some compromise, but initial results are fairly pleasing.

This article first appeared on 27 October 2011 on the former AMITIAE site and has been amended.

The Problem

One of the shortcomings of the iPhone camera is revealed when trying to take closeup pictures of things like machinery details, or small computer parts. Close is sometimes too close as the focus does not work for anything nearer than about 30 cms (12"), so an image may need to be cropped, losing quality and ending up being grainy.

The idea of adding a lens to the iPhone camera goes against my sense of how the device was designed by Apple: even the buttons are made of the same material as the antenna surround and fit almost flush to the body. I had seen a telephoto lens and rejected that immediately. However, I came across the website of olloclip who have a slide-over kit with three lenses: macro, fish-eye and wide-angle.

olloclip lenses

I was interested enough at the price of $69.95 which converted to 2,143.02 baht, to order this online and selected the fast shipping for another $29.95. With insurance I was billed 2459.45 baht. One of the deciding factors for me was that this kit will also work with the iPhone 4S.

Between order and delivery we have to insert a lot of water which we found out about at the weekend. I was at Salaya on Wednesday (26 October 2011) for an 8-hour watch. Shortly after I left, the Fed-Ex man phoned. He could have left it at the university but traffic and encroaching water may have delayed that. Instead he offered to bring it to my home the next day, adding that there was a VAT charge. When he arrived around noon, with the water here just beginning to seep into the estate I live, he phoned again, and I met him at the gate. The VAT was another 303.74 baht which I paid without demur: I was pleased that he had made the effort.

olloclip lens system

The 0.50Kg package came in a standard FedEx document envelope. Inside was another padded envelope that contained the lenses in thin plastic bags. There is also a small cloth carrying bag.

The main part of the kit consists of two lenses, mounted back to back on a black plastic bracket that slides easily over the iPhone camera lens. The bracket is well-designed and has a small cut-out that fits over the screen off button on the top of the device. The whole assembly (bracket and all three lenses) fits in my shirt pocket easily and is hardly noticeable when there.

The two lenses on the bracket are the fish-eye and the macro. The wide-angle lens screws neatly into the macro lens when needed. There are two colour options: red or black. I ordered the red, so the fisheye and the wide-angle attachment are in that colour. The package also includes lens covers that fit over fish-eye and wide-angle. The attachment method does away with an unsightly lens fixture and takes a couple of seconds to slide into place. The lenses only work with the rear facing camera: the one that faces away from the user.

Lenses in Use

I had to remind myself when I first attached the lens kit that macro doesn't just mean close, it means really close. Everything was blurred until I moved to within a couple of centimetres of a subject and then we were in business.

olloclip macro I tried a couple of experimental shots to begin with and then settled on the simple coffee bean (Espresso Roast) as a good test. The subject needs to be in an area of good light, but flash is not useful at all. In the couple of attempts using this the image was blurred and over exposed, showing the reflection of the bright light rather than the detail of the bean. The end result was quite pleasing, but this type of shot needs care when setting up.

I turned the bracket round and took a few shots with the fish-eye lens. The results were acceptable, but I am not a good critic here as this type of output has never really appealed to me. I think it is rather gimmicky: that is no reflection on the olloclip product.

The wide angle lens screws into the macro (a neat design, methinks) and produces x2 output, the differences in the few shots I tried outside my house were showed the differences when the lens was in use and not, but the limited subject matter was not really a fair test. I want to experiment more with this too.

olloclip fisheye
olloclip Fisheye Lens

normal image
Normal iPhone Image

olloclip wide-angle
olloclip Wide-angle Lens


This lens kit is an interesting accessory for the iPhone, especially the macro lens which will mean some useful detailed output for the type of uses I put the iPhone camera to. I would normally use my Nikon D7000 with its 24mm lens for pictures like that and then crop: this is a useful and much lighter alternative: small enough for a shirt pocket.

While my personal preferences would tend not to use a fish-eye lens, having that as a standby will allow me to consider that as an alternative style of output from now on.



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