Olloclip recently began shipping two new products in its line of iPhone photographic accessories; the Olloclip Active Lens (US$99.99) and the Ollocase for the iPhone 6/6 Plus ($19.99 when purchased with an Olloclip lens system, or $29.99 without).
For serious iPhone photographers, the line of clip-on accessory lenses from Olloclip is a must. But there’s always been one little problem — to use the lenses, the iPhone had to be carried without a protective case. Sure, one could always just pull the case off just before taking photos, snap on the Olloclip lenses, and then put the case back on afterwards, but that’s counterproductive to taking spur of the moment photos.
That’s where the Ollocase comes in. It’s not the most attractive or protective case that has ever been produced, but for those who use Olloclip lenses on a regular basis, it provides just enough protection to keep the iPhone from being scratched and makes it simple to attach the lenses while keeping the case installed.
The Ollocase comes in two color combos: Matte Smoke and Black or Matte Clear and Dark Gray. The case adds just 0.7 ounce (20 grams) to the iPhone 6 and 1 ounce (30 grams) to the iPhone 6 Plus.
Olloclip has recently moved to a common design for all of its lenses. Each lens is really a kit of two or more lenses that are attached to a clip. That clip either attaches to the iPhone or can be clipped into a lanyard for easy carrying in the field.
Once the Ollocase is installed on an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, attaching any of Olloclip’s accessory lenses — the Active Lens, the 4-in-1 Lens, the Macro 3-in-1 Lens, or the Telephoto + CPL Lens — becomes as simple as just sliding it onto the case. It’s automatically aligned with the iPhone camera lens, and switching to the front-facing camera is just a matter of sliding the lens about a quarter-inch.
The Ollocase can be used with a number of tripod adapters (not included) such as the $30 Glif for even more flexibility in shooting professional-quality photos and video.
The Ollocase finally makes it simple for dedicated iPhone photographers to swap out accessory lenses while keeping their phone somewhat protected. When purchased with a lens kit, the Ollocase is reasonably priced; otherwise, it’s rather pricy for a simple case that provides a minimum of protection.
Apple World Today Rating (out of five stars): ★★★★
Olloclip Active Lens
Olloclip’s previous lens offerings have always been somewhat confusing. The Macro 3-in-1 lens is really only good for doing macrophotography, the Telephoto + CPL lens provides a nice telephoto lens and a circular polarizing lens, and the 4-in-1 offers a perplexing combination of wide-angle, fisheye, and macro lenses.
With the Active Lens, Olloclip finally provides a lens that makes sense for most people. It includes an ultra-wide angle lens for taking shots that require a big field of view, as well as a 2X telephoto lens for focusing in on a subject.
Olloclip includes a lanyard, clips in three different colors (orange, maroon, and black), and lens caps for the lenses.
As an active travel photographer, I use an 18-135mm zoom lens for most of my DSLR photos. The Active Lens is almost equivalent to the extreme ends of that range, so it’s useful in a variety of situations. Of course, taking photos in the middle of the range (50mm equivalent) is as simple as just sliding the Active Lens off of the Ollocase.
To test the Active Lens in action, I took a short walk in the local greenbelt and took shots with the iPhone 6 Plus, the 2X Telephoto, and the Ultra-Wide Angle lenses. The images are in the gallery below. In each case, the image taken with the regular iPhone lens is shown first, the second shot is with the Active Lens telephoto, and the third shot is with the Active Lens wide angle lens.
Looking at the photos taken with the Active Lens, several things are apparent that are quite common with accessory lenses for iPhone. First, there’s vignetting (slight darkness in the corners) and a slight out of focus condition on edges of telephoto images. In addition, ultra-wide angle lens photos also suffer from the vignetting and focus issues on the edges of the frame, and there’s a tendency to get some amazing distortion of the horizon (see Image 4 - Olloclip Wide Angle for an extreme example) if it is placed in the upper or lower part of the frame. The centers of the Active Lens photos are very nicely in focus, and there’s no color shift at all.
With the addition of the Active Lens to the Olloclip lineup, the company has provided a lens that will most likely be the go-to accessory lens for most iPhone photographers. The company has also assured iPhone owners of an upgrade path for the future; regardless of what Apple comes out with next, the company simply needs to redesign the Ollocase and the expensive part of the deal — the lens — will still be usable.
While the lenses still suffer from vignetting and distortion around the edge of photos, that’s very common with iPhone accessory lenses and cannot be counted as a downside to this lens. With proper cropping of photos, the distortion and vignetting can be eliminated while still giving the center of the photo the benefit of the Active Lens.