Ever run out of your house without your good camera? Was it forgotten or an intentional decision? I find myself leaving my Nikon at home because the case is too bulky to carry; I am not a professional photographer, so why lug around the big, expensive camera to small events? Then there are the spur of the moment things that happen in life – how do you capture those without the camera that you left behind? While I don’t have a smaller camera, I do have my iPhone 4, and it gets the job done when I need quick pictures. My iPhone captures pretty decent images, but it is limited to the single 5-megapixel lens with 5x zoom. There are times that I want more, like a closer shot or a wider view.
Someone else felt my restricted pain, a Kickstarter campaign began, and the OlloClip was born. The OlloClip is a single device that slips tightly to the iPhone 4 to provide three additional lens options to the rear camera: Fisheye, Wide Angle, and Macro.
The OlloClip is small, measuring 35mm tall by 31mm wide (1.37 in tall by 1.22 in wide), and it fits in the palm of your hand. It is designed specifically for the iPhone 4 and clips directly to the phone’s corner in seconds. To keep the design simple and universal to all iPhone 4 users, the phone must be bare of any case or covering; this allows the curved clip to slide perfectly over the rounded edge of the phone. Once attached with the desired lens, as OlloClip’s webpage says, Your imagination is the only limitation – just open the camera or your camera-dependent app, and have fun. Using the OlloClip really is as simple as that: clip, aim, and click. As an external device, it works with any and all camera-related apps for both images and video.
OlloClip is a system of three lenses in one small attachment. The Fish Eye lens is the largest, a solid component with a lens cap. The Fish Eye lens adds a full 180 degree view to the rear camera, but the effect is less noticeable in video mode (this is due to the iPhone’s automatic resolution adjustment for video). Opposite the Fish Eye is the Wide Angle lens, a smaller lens and lens cap, that adds a wider perspective to the camera’s view.The Wide Angle lens is specially designed to work in conjunction with the Macro lens, even going so far as to act as the lens cap. Unscrew the Wide Angle lens to remove it from the OlloClip and to reveal the Macro lens. The Macro lens sits flush with the interior surface of the clip and offers wonderfully close detail from as little as a single centimeter from the subject. The short extension from the phone also allows smaller spaces to be photographed, bringing to life the detail from objects immovably close together, such as model displays.
Do you own a Steadicam Smoothee? The designers were conscientious of the clip’s intended function, design, location, and size, and fully guarantee the OlloClip to work with the Steadicam Smoothee. It will even work with the QuickPod Mobile and any other tripods or extension devices that do not block access to the area around the rear camera.
There are a few drawbacks, however. The OlloClip comes with a drawstring storage bag that doubles as a microfiber cleaning cloth, which in itself is not a bad design. The clip is intended to be a pocket device for storage in a pocket or, in my case, a purse. My purse is a stereotypical woman’s purse with a lot of stuff in a tiny space that can damage even my compact mirror if things bump the wrong way. A thin microfiber bag will not protect even the anodized aircraft grade aluminum and high density plastic when dropped into the depths of my purse. As a preventative measure, I cannibalized an old, unused ring box for a sturdy storage box. I would suggest extra care be taken if you leave the lens system in the bag, whether it be in a pocket or a black-hole purse. (I would have done a complete structural test to see how much it could withstand, but I could not bring myself to intentionally injure such innocent tech.)
The OlloClip’s case is not the only case in issue: to use the clip, the phone must be bare of whatever case you own. Most people buy cases to protect their phone against accidental breakage due to drops, but it must be removed when the OlloClip is attached. In order to allow the Macro lens to sit flush with the phone and to conserve costs and make a universally usable device, the designers were forced to work with, as their FAQ states, a naked phone. This being said, a screen protector can be, and should be, left in place. I did, however, have my screen protector get caught on the clip and lift. It did not happen every time, maybe once every twenty placements, but it did force me to reexamine and readjust how I was attaching the OlloClip. I found that if done slowly enough, the screen protector was not harmed.
One major problem with the various lenses is the lack of flash. Due to the close proximity of the flash on the iPhone 4 to the rear camera, the OlloClip covers the flash. Any objects or subjects to be photographed must be well lit by an outside source and the flash must be turned OFF; a photo taken with the flash ON will result in a glare or a complete white-out blur.
Aside from these few downsides, the ease of use, multiple lens options, and endlessly creative ideas put the OlloClip is at the very top of my wish-list. At just under $70 for three additional lenses for your iPhone 4, the only thing you have to decide is which color of aluminum do you want: black or red? I do hope that more colors are available in the future (blue?!) but until then, once you have yours, what will you photograph?