Verdict: Three stars ★★★
You can have a lot of fun with the Olloclip Core Lens Set, but don’t expect DSLR-style optical quality. You’ll get images and videos that are great for sharing, but for exhibiting, not so much. You get what you pay for and you aren’t paying a lot.
iPhone photography – don’t knock it. The iPhone has a good camera with some clever modes, nice filters and the ability – of course – to share your photos instantly, which is something regular cameras make a bit of a meal of.
All the iPhone needs is interchangeable lenses. Naturally, you can’t remove the camera lens built into the iPhone, but you can do the next best thing and use clip-on lens accessories.
And with the Olloclip Core Lens set, you get three of them in a handy all-in-one kit. They consist of a Super-Wide lens, a Fisheye and a Macro 15x lens. It looks like two lenses not three at first, but in fact you unscrew the front element of the Fisheye to reveal the Macro lens.
Fitting the lenses takes a little figuring out at first and the instructions aren’t a whole lot of help. Once you get it, though it could hardly be simpler. The lenses come on small lozenge shaped panels that clip into the two-sided lens holder via a small spring-loaded catch on each. It all feels a bit loose and unsatisfactory until you clip it on to the iPhone, and then everything wedges firmly into place.
What is a bit of a nuisance, though, is that the clip doesn’t obscure the iPhone screen in the picture on the box, but it does overlap the top few millimetres on my iPhone 7 Plus.
The Super-Wide lens is on one side, the Fisheye/Macro lens is on the other. To swap them, you lift off the clip, flip it and fit it the other way around – easy. If you don’t want to use both lenses, just remove the one you don’t want and insert the supplied blank plate to maintain the firm fit on the iPhone body.
You don’t need to do anything else. The iPhone’s camera can focus through the lenses without any help from you and all the regular shooting modes and filters work just fine. And if you want to take the lenses off the camera but keep them handy, there’s a supplied pendant holder you can fit them to that hangs around your neck.
This pendant holder does something else that’s rather neat. It’s hinged at one end and opens out into two arms at 90 degrees to each other. You can lay it on a flat surface then slot your iPhone into two grooves, one on each arm, to use it as a simple table-top support.
The design is very clever all round, but things take a bit of a dive in terms of optical quality. The Super-Wide lens is fine with more distant subjects but introduces some massive barrel distortion with nearby subjects at the edge of the picture, like door or window frames. It’s also none to sharp at the edges, with a fair amount of chromatic aberration (colour fringing). This is not a high-quality lens of the same standard as the built-in iPhone camera lens. If that’s what you’re looking for you need the pricey Zeiss Exolens system.
The Fisheye lens is a bit disappointing too. Fisheye lenses produce lots of uncorrected barrel distortion, which is all part of the ‘look’, but they are either ‘full-frame’ fisheyes with fill the whole frame with an image, or ‘circular’ fisheyes which product a circular image in the middle. The Olloclip Fisheye is in the middle, producing a circular image that’s cropped off at the edges. You kind of wish it was one or the other.
You unscrew the front of this lens to reveal the 15x macro lens, which is actually rather cool. You have to get right up close to your subjects to get them in focus, but the definition and the magnification are pretty impressive.
It’s best to think of the Olloclip Core Lens Set as a fun accessory for experimenting with, since the lens quality is very much at the budget end of the market – but then the whole thing is just £99.99/$99.99.
So it’s fine for hipster Instagraming, fun film making and general photographic experimentation, but it’s not going to replace your DSLR system.
Verdict: Three stars ★★★
More information: Olloclip website
Guide price: £99.99/$99.99