It’s no secret that today’s smartphones are capable of capturing photos which are downright stunning. Whether it’s one lens, a dual-camera setup, front-facing, or rear, the stuff we get from phones is awesome.
No matter how good the final image result is, our handsets still lack some of the manual control we get with traditional cameras. We don’t get the same control over what the phone actually sees. There’s rarely anything in the way of macro, wide-angle, telephoto, or other lenses. Things are getting better, but you’ve got to spend flagship money to take advantage of that stuff.
Olloclip offers a solution to that problem, and it’s rather compelling. Announced in late August, the new Multi-Device Clip is an accessory that you clip to your current phone which opens up the door to a range of lenses.
Think of it in terms of how you can swap out lenses on your DLSR camera. For some shots you might want a wide-angle perspective while others may call for something even wider. On the other hand, your subject may necessitate an extremely close (macro) lens. The Olloclip Multi-Device Clip allows for all of these.
Once you have the clip for your handset you can add lenses as need be; there are a number of options for various needs.
- Super-Wide: Four-element lens with more than 120-degree visibility
- Ultra-Wide: A 155-degree action camera field-of-view
- Telephoto: 2X optical zoom to get twice as close to the action
- Fisheye and Macro: Unique 180-degree wide-angle spherical effect and microscope-like magnification
- Macro 7X +14X: Get detail oriented and see beyond the naked eye
- Macro 21X: Turn your phone into a microscope
The clip works with most smartphones, both with and without cases. There’s a growing list of compatible phones on Olloclip’s website which details devices with full or partial compatibility.
Olloclip sent us its clip and a new “Intro Lens” to test out. Moreover, we also received super-wide and telephoto lenses a few days later. The introductory lens actually provides two fields of depth; the wide-angle lens can be unscrewed to provide a macro view.
With slightly more distortion than the Essential Series Super Wide lens, the Intro Wide Angle lens delivers more of a photographic effect. The lens unscrews to reveal a Macro 15x lens to transform any smartphone into a digital microscope.
We found this to be a great way to enhance your mobile photography. The wide angle lends itself nicely to landscape pictures but it also works well for time-lapse shots and for sports, too. Photos are just a little bit more interesting when you’ve got more to look at, right?
Move the clip around to the front and your selfies get wider, letting you get group shots without crowding everyone. If your phone doesn’t have a wide-angle lens on the front or back, you’re really missing out. Well, you’re leaving things out of frame.
Taking off the wide angle lens and moving in close for the macro, we were really impressed. We knew the Pixel 3 XL was getting excellent shots with a lot of detail, but there was something special about the super close stuff. That is, when we got it right.
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The pictures you see here are cropped and edited but do represent samples of what you’ll get from the macro lens. To be fair, there were occasionally traces of black vignette effects around the edge due to imprecise placement; we had to crop those out.
It’s Not Easy
It takes a little bit of time to get the feel for what the macro does and what you’ll get from it. Specifically, you’ll need to find the sweet spot for placement over your phone’s camera. In our trials we found that it captured some subjects really well but in others the end result was about half out of focus.
In a handful of our pictures we ended up seeing the dark edge of the clip, giving an almost vignette effect to a corner or side. In others we saw half of the shot in sharp focus with the other half somewhat blurred. To that end, a little cropping and editing seemed to fix things up.
Imprecise placement leads to less than desirable results
The longer we played with it, the more adept we became, better understanding limitations and expectations in the process. We like popping the color and adding effects to images, tweaking things to change the way we look at everyday items. Having a macro lens shows off the textures all around us, and a filtered or edited approach makes everything feel brand new.
Telephoto and Super-Wide
The telephoto lens is like having a 2X optical zoom on your camera. In essence, you’re getting twice as close to your subject. This is a big deal as a lot of people use digital zoom on their camera, basically cropping things out and capturing grainy and unflattering pictures.
It’s definitely on the heavier side, but that’s because it’s a lot of glass. Like the Intro Lens it snaps into the Multi-Device Clip in a matter of seconds and it has a rubber protective cap to keep the lens safe.
Adjusting for the right fit isn’t hard to do, but you’ll want to snap a few sample pictures to check for proper placement. We took a handful of photos before we realized there was a dark shadow creeping into the edge of frame.
In checking with others who have also reviewed various Olloclip accessories we found they share similar experiences. Every phone is different, and each case makes things a unique situation. Event though it looks like you might be able to simply “snap and go” it takes a bit of work to get the precise placement.
In theory the lenses are a fantastic, flexible, and affordable way of getting more out of your phone’s camera. In practice, they are those things, but only after fidgeting and almost constant trial and error.
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Olloclip offers a line of protective cases with built-in support for lenses, but only for select iPhones. We get it, there are far too many devices to consider doing this for Android. But, we can’t help but think this would be a better experience if there were something for, say, the Samsung Galaxy S series. Placement would be exact and precise and there’d be no fooling around with placement.
The lenses are designed very well and have a nice, solid weight to them. And, the overall design of the clip system is smart and intuitive. It takes no time to figure out how to swap the lenses in and out and the clamp is straightforward. But, the exact placement over your camera sensor is sometimes frustrating.
Once you’ve got your lens in place and start getting the result you expect, things are great. You won’t be slapping these on in a rush or going between multiple lenses. They’re not really designed for action shots.
Where these work well are in landscapes, still life, time-lapse, and other scenarios where you can steady the phone. Finding the precise focal point and be tough, but once you’ve got it set, things go well. And, if your phone has a solid camera, then you can really have fun with the results.
If you’re looking to explore that fancy camera setup on your phone, or want to get a different perspective on life, you should certainly consider the Olloclip solution. If you want to get up close and personal, or step back and take in a much wider view, the lenses make sense. They’re priced affordably enough to splurge on one or two or to put them on your gift list.
Unfortunately, there are too many phones with multiple cameras on the back and/or front. To that end, the Olloclip Multi-Clip simply doesn’t work. There’s just no way to place the clamp on your phone without covering other lenses. So, if you’re working with something that’s on the increasingly longer list of phones with secondary (or more) cameras, you need to pass on this one.