I have long been a fan of the Olloclip lens system and was intrigued by the recent announcement about Olloclip’s brand new “Active Lens” attachment for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
For those of you who may not have heard of Olloclip before, it’s basically a small lens system which mounts onto the iPhone covering the camera lens. The Olloclip comes in a selection of different lens sizes which includes wide angle, fisheye, macro and telephoto. Olloclip was the brainchild of Patrick O’Neill and was a kickstarter success story. Since then it has evolved into a leading brand name in the iPhone accessories market and in a few short years has built up a legion of passionate users and followers.
What is the Active Lens?
The new ‘Active Lens’ system has been specifically designed so that it can easily be carried and fitted over both the front and rear facing camera of the iPhone 6 and 6 plus. This means it can be swopped around without the need to change any small fiddly parts. This comes are welcome news to me as one of my first experiences of the Olloclip with my iPhone 5 involved dropping the lens (on its first outing) as I changed from the wide angle to the fisheye resulting in a broken lens. On that occasion the fantastic customer service team at Olloclip saved the day when they offered a replacement lens. This was something they didn’t have to do but something I was extremely grateful for.
The body of the lens system is made of a solid moulded plastic material which snaps firmly into a holding pendent unit which can be either be clipped to a keyring or worn on a lanyard around your neck. I have to say this feature is brilliant and in my field tests it allowed me to carry and easily access the required lens. The holding pendant comes in a choice of three colours, black, lime green or cyan. I found it useful when carrying a few Olloclip’s at the same time to help me identify which lens was which.
Once detached from the holding pendent the Olloclip lens firmly slides onto the iPhone covering the front and rear facing camera lens. Many other lens systems only cover the rear facing lens but this Olloclip covers both without the need for separate parts such as a dedicated case or mounting bracket.
The lens glass itself is made of good quality, precision ground coated glass optics which gives good clarity to the images you take and sits neatly inside a metal housing. Overall the build quality of the Olloclip ‘Active Fit’ is good quality and it has a good, solid feel.
The Olloclip ‘Active Fit’ lens comes in a selection of different lens sizes. These are:
- Wide Angle
- Telephoto x 2
Lens performance in the field
In practise I found the Olloclip to be relatively easy to use. At first there was some confusion over why my screen quickly dimmed each time the Olloclip was fitted over the camera lens. This was due to my settings having auto brightness enabled. You see the Olloclip covers the sensor that detects light levels so disabling auto-brightness fixed this issue. I found this a little frustrating that I had to turn this feature on and off every time I wanted to use the lens but it is something I can live with.
Being a seasoned Olloclip user with my old iPhone 5 there weren’t many surprises in relation to the lens performance and quality (that I noticed anyway).
Wide Angle Lens
The wide angle lens is my favourite lens from the Olloclip range. The wide angle takes the iPhone lens to about 24mm but added some noticeable softening of focus towards the edges of the image while the centre of the image was sharp. There was also some slight curvature to some horizontal and vertical lines but this can only be expected with a wide angle lens of 24mm caliber.
The fisheye lens performed as you’d expect a fisheye lens to. It more than doubled the field of vision, introduces the trade mark distortion that you’d expect from a fisheye, it had black corners and further softening to the edges of the image.
Some people find the distortions a little off putting but Olloclip have an app that is free to download from the App Store which does an excellent job of adjusting the lens distortions so the lines in your image are straightened out. The discovery of this app was like a breath of fresh air as it now allows me to really take full advantage of having that extra wide angle capability without having to sacrifice a few tradeoffs in the process.
The macro lens performance was pretty impressive as well. The macro lens come in 10x and 15x macro lens sizes. Both have very shallow depth of field which means you have a very small area of sharp focusing. Once you have mastered how to use the macro lens a whole new world of creative possibilities is suddenly opened up. Due to the shallow depth of field focusing can be tricky with the macro lenses but the lens kit comes with two perspex lens hoods which help you pin point the field of focus straight away.
The telephoto lens offers a 2x lens zoom and is ideal in situations where you need to get a little closer but can’t. The lens is ideal for taking portraits but with a shallower depth of field. In my tests in a street photography situation I found I did struggle to find the optimum distance to moving subjects but found the lens to be very handy in situations when I needed to zoom in closer to stationery objects in the distance.
Front and rear camera differences
Using the lens on the front facing camera compared to the rear facing camera there aren’t many differences. The images seem to have a lower resolution, the fisheye doesn’t have as noticeable black edging and the wide angle vignetting is slightly reduced. I’m not really sure if there is reason to use the telephoto or macro lenses on the front facing camera unless you’re into photographing nasal hair or unwanted skin blemishes.
Conclusion about the Olloclip ‘Active Fit’
Overall I like the new Olloclip lens pack for the iPhone 6 and 6 plus. The system has a good selection of lenses to suit pretty much everyone’s taste or style of photography. The build quality of the lenses are good. There are some slight distortions that can only be expected when using small lenses especially at wide angles, but I feel these are minor and can either be fixed with a corrective app or used to your creative advantage. That said care does need to be taken in the first instance to make sure the lens is fitted correctly otherwise these effects are more noticeable.
I especially love the ‘Active Fit’ holding pendant. It is a fantastic feature which provides a solid and secure grip onto the Olloclip lens and enables it to be located round your neck for easy access or clipped to the outside of a bag.
The only thing that I missed is an Olloclip case which will be next on my shopping list.
If you are looking for a versatile and compact lens system for the iPhone then in my view the Olloclip is well worth checking out. It retails at $79.99 from Olloclip.com.