Olloclip Active Lens iPhone 6 / 6s & 6 / 6s plus

Sep 06 2016

I typically rely on my manual 35mm SLR to take higher quality pictures. I have in the past only used my camera phone for casual picture taking. I recently switched to an Apple iPhone 6s plus and acquired an Olloclip Active lens at the same time to see if I could get photos with the two that would replace my SLR in most situations. The Olloclip Active lens is 99.99. It is more expensive than the Olloclip 4-in-1 lens but should allow iPhone photography to capture wider scenes, more detail from close up objects and focus on further objects than without it.

Device

The Olloclip Active lens comes with eyepiece covers, three different color clip holders, a lanyard or as Olloclip calls it “a wearable pendant”, and two different inserts for fit depending on your phone. It comes with the Apple iPhone 6 / 6s insert. If you have an Apple iPhone 6 / 6s plus you will need to take out the slimmer insert and put in the wider 6/6s plus insert. As an aside, if you use the Olloclip case take the insert out as it is not necessary with the Olloclip case.

The Active lens is two lenses combined on one clip. It includes an Ultra-Wide and Telephoto 2X lenses. The lenses are aluminum and glass. The body is made of plastic. They smudge easily, so make use of the lens covers when gliding it onto the phone. Both lenses can be used with the front or back cameras. I am not much of a selfie taker, so did not play with the front camera and the Olloclip too much other than to confirm that it works.

The Ultra-Wide lens, as the name suggests, is good for increasing the viewable area of the iPhone lens. Generally, this allows for more environment information on landscape photography and capturing a wider frame for group shots. The second lens, Telephoto lens 2X, is an optical zoom. It gives greater detail, clarity and object focus to pictures. 

I found the Ultra-Wide lens of more limited use than the telephoto lens. The Ultra-Wide lens adds a fuller view to the picture, for example a wider view of a whole piece of driftwood or a shoreline. It does add a definite angle on the edges of the pictures. I tested it on a number of landscape shots. It has picture clarity but adds a mild fisheye effect or outer picture distortion, which is less appealing to me.

I see the real value with the Ollocip kit in the Telephoto lens. It has an optical zoom, which allows for more detail than with the digital zoom built into the iPhone. Digital zoom is accomplished by cropping the image down to a center, making the center look larger but there are no improvements in resolution. If you want a more in depth review digital zoom see this Wikipedia article. 

Here is an example between no zoom, digital zoom 2x and optical zoom 2x. Yes, in the digital zoom you have a larger view of the picture focus, the edges are a bit less clear and loose many surrounding flowers and foliage. The optical zoom provides greater detail of the picture focus without cropping out the area around or loosing picture quality. Other examples are distant objects, flying a kite and a horseshoe crab, where using the Optical Zoom resulted in pictures with greater detail and clarity than with no zoom.

 

 

 

There are drawbacks to the Active lens. It adds enough weight to the top of the phone that I found I had to default to using two hands when taking pictures, one to position and the other to trigger. This is just in comparison to taking iPhone pictures without the lens. I can take them one handed. Using an SLR defaults to two hands. 

The other limitation is attachability. I find that this more of a negative. The Olloclip lens does not fit over my current case, a Terrepin extra slim fit. I knew going in that Olloclip says it is lens only is designed to fit over the Olloclip iPhone case but thought I would give it a try anyway. It is a definite no go with most cases given how tight the fit is over the iPhone. On a whim I tried the lens with an ultra-thin Caudabe case I had stashed. The lens surprisingly does fit over the ultra thin case, which is marginally thicker than the iPhone. 

Other than using a Caudabe ultra-thin case, which some may find does not have enough protection; the only other case option is the Olloclip iPhone 6 / 6s plus case. It looks slim on the back but with Otterbox style rubberized sides. The Otterbox style rubber edges are a bit of a turnoff to me. I prefer my phone case in a slimmer format. It is $29.99, which I find on the higher side for a case but the price maybe worth it for the lens added value.

Conclusion

It is necessary to switch to the Olloclip or ultra-thin case to make the lens worthwhile using. The real price for this package is $99.99 for the lens plus $29.99 for the Olloclip case. On the whole I find the improved photo quality from the lens, particularly the telephoto lens, compelling enough to add the Olloclip to my routine photo accessories.

Pro:

  • Improved zoom makes a SLR less critical
  • Sturdy construction
  • Ease of use
  • Good picture quality

Con:

  • Wide angle too “fish-eyed” for my taste
  • Case switch likely required
  • Price
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