Ollo Clip 3-in-1 lens for iPhone 4/4S: Hands-on impressions

Ollo Clip lens

There’s no denying it: The iPhone 4S has the best camera of any smartphone on the market. It’s so good, the 8-megapixel cameraphone poses a serious threat to dedicated point-and-shoots, which have dropped more than 30 percent in sales over the past year as smartphones have grown in popularity. The iPhone 4 is currently the most-used camera on Flickr, and the iPhone 4S has skyrocketed in popularity on the photo-sharing site.

The one downside of using the iPhone as your go-to shooter is a lack of lens options. That’s where the Ollo Clip 3-in-1 lens for iPhone 4 and 4S comes in. Started as a Kickstarter project – one of the most-successful Kickstarter projects in the history of the crowdfunding platform, having received more than 450 percent of its $15,000 funding goal – Ollo Clip is now available in Apple stores worldwide, and it’s about to make its debut at Best Buy. We had a chance to get our hands on one at this year’s ShowStoppers conference (a companion show to CES), and thought we’d take it for a test run.

Lenses

The Ollo Clip includes three different lenses: A wide-angle lens, which is just slightly wider than the standard lens on the iPhone 4/4S; a super-wide fisheye lens; and a macro lens, for ultra-close-ups. Lens caps and a small carrying bag also come standard.

The regular wide-angle lens is the least extreme of the three Ollo lenses. But it’s definitely wide enough to add some extra character to your shots, especially when shooting subjects that are close.

The fisheye is, well, a fisheye, offering a full 180-degree view. You can see the edge of the lens around the sides of the image (known as a vignette), and everything is highly distorted – just as you would expect from a fisheye lens. This one is definitely good for party shots, and getting in a lot of the world around you in a single shot.

The macro lens, which is used by screwing off the wide-angle lens piece, is surprisingly good. You have to put the lens so close to what you want to shoot, it almost touches. But that’s kind of the point: to be able to grab the tiny details that are lost with the standard lens thanks to the 10x magnification.

Using your Ollo

Ollo Clip fish eye

The Ollo slides tightly over the corner of the iPhone, which puts the desired lens over top of the iPhone’s camera. Sliding it on is easy enough, but it can be a bit snug at times, which is far better than it not being snug enough. It’s hard to say whether the Ollo will become less tight with time, but we haven’t heard that complaint anywhere so far. Once it’s on, just start shooting.

There are no extra apps you have to install; just use the standard camera app, Instagram, or other third-party camera apps. And we found that the functionality of these apps worked just as well with the Ollo on as they did off; no lags in focus, or other such nonsense that you might expect when strapping on a whole new lens to your iPhone.

Quality and build

One of the first things we noticed about the Ollo is how well it’s made. Constructed from aluminum, glass and plastic, the Ollo feels like a high-end product – a good thing, since it will run you about $70. It’s relatively light, but heavy enough to not feel cheap. It’s also small enough to easily fit in the pocket – though you’ll be hard pressed to fit your iPhone in your jeans pocket with the Ollo still on.

Downfalls

ollo clip 3 in 1 lens for iphone 44s hands on impressions flash

Most everything about the Ollo Clip rocks — but there are two notable downsides the the little piece of equipment. First, it does not fit when a case is on the phone. This is definitely frustrating for people who have hard-to-remove cases, or are simply looking for a lens solution that works with a case or bumper on. Second, the flash does not work when the Ollo is on. It still flashes, of course, but the body of the Ollo blocks the flash, rendering it nearly useless. (Photo above is taken with the fisheye lens, using flash.) Seeing as the Ollo is perfect for late-night partying situations, this is definitely a major downside, one that outweighed the obnoxiousness of having to remove our case.

Conclusion

We’ve heard a lot about the Ollo since this summer, so we were extremely psyched to have one of our own to try. And, if you haven’t already realized, it surpassed even our high expectations — except for the bit about the flash not working; that’s genuinely annoying. The only other real complaint we have is the price; $70 is a bit much to spend on such a small accessory. But if you’re an avid iPhone photographer – especially if you like the look and feel of Instagram’s stylized snapshots – then it’s a small price to pay for such a solid product.

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