Gear Review: Olloclip 4-in-1 lens

olloclip_logoThis is something a little out of the norm for me to review, but I have my, albeit lame, reasons for it. I have been converting some of my equipment to more of an ultralight setup due to the distance of some of the snow profiles I will be doing this winter. One item that caught my attention was the Olloclip for the iPhone 5s. I was able to get the item pro-purchase since I will be using it for this exact thing.

What caught my attention on this little drama was the Fishbowl lens, 10X and 15X macro lenses. 10X magnification is about what I use under a loupe to analyze snow crystals, which is uh, 10 times magnification.. I have had some limited success holding a camera (even an iPhone) directly against the loupe and photographing certain stellar crystals.

I have a reverse macro ring for the larger Canon EOS for photographing snowflakes, but taking that camera with me in to these places is no longer an option. I simply cannot afford the weight. While I am not completely against the idea of a Go-Pro, the electromagnetic interference from the Go-pro with an avalanche beacon is well documented. Anything that interferes with safety is just not an option.

I generally do not keep my phone on in the backcountry, not even in airplane mode, because there is still interference issues with avalanche beacons. As mentioned, electronic devices are best kept away in avalanche terrain. I do however like to take photos at snow profile areas. Documenting shear plane zones, pit depth, surroundings, recent slide activity, and if I can pull it off – snow crystals.

The Olloclip is not the perfect solution, but it was ‘a’ solution. The Olloclip is a 4-in-1 lens (I should say lenses, because it is technically four different lenses). There is a wide-angle lens, a fisheye lens, a macro 10X lens, and a macro 15X lens. The lens threads for each are unique so you don’t have to worry about which side the lens came from. The fit on the phone is perfectly snug—it’s not hard to slide the Olloclip on or off, but once it’s in place it feels sturdy and doesn’t move a bit.

The fisheye lens is a hoot to shoot with, giving you distortion that no photography app can properly mimic. They make fun videos, too. The wide angle lens is less useful — the iPhone 5 and 5c already sport a 35mm equivalent field of view, and the 5s is even wider. The widget, it’s probably the best word for it, is made from aircraft-grade aluminum and precision-ground, coated glass optics with the specific field-of-view, light-control and resolution of the iPhone 5’s 8-megapixel camera in mind.

The drawbacks are numerous and concerning, so I will reserve my enthusiasm until this gets some serious time in the backcountry.

Cons:

  • The lens caps seam frugal.
  • I had to remove my iPhone from it’s waterproof rugged Otter case in order to use the Olloclip.
  • A small piece of the screen protector had to be removed for the Olloclip, I’m not jazzed about that. First world problems.

Workarounds:

TPU Guide Waterproof Case

  • I have no idea what to do about the lens cap issues – I will likely mark them in a fluorescent color and just try to be careful with them.
  • The removal of the phone for the Otter-case is not my first choice, but Sea To Summit supplied me with a waterproof bag case. I generally keep the phone in the top pocket of the backpack anyway. The TPU Guide Waterproof Case made by Sea to Summit. It is sleek, waterproof, minimal and bomb-proof. I can use the screen without taking it out of the bag. For the Olliclip, it is a solution.
  • The amount of screen protector that had to be removed was roughly half the size of a dime in the upper right corner. I will live with it.

Pros:

  • The lens set is made of aluminum and seems as if built well. The lens threads have a perfect tolerance. Overall it is a well made item.
  • It includes a small micro fiber bag that doubles as a lens cloth.
  • The fit on the iPhone 5s is flawless. It is molded perfectly to fit the contour of the 5s.
  • The photo clarity is pretty amazing. Certainly something that no app can reproduce.
  • All four lenses have an anti-glare coating.

Here a few comparisons of photos I took on a recent hike.

Update 12/1/14

Here are a few pics of snow forms under the 10x macro lens from the Olloclip. The Olloclip lens did what I was hoping for photographing snow and crystal structures in the field though. I will update a few more as the season progresses.

So there you have it.

The Olloclip retails around $69 USD.

You can find it for less, but be sure it is from a trusted seller. Caveat emptor: I have heard there are numerous knock-offs out there that are cheap replicas from China – totally worthless. I received mine directly from the manufacturer in Huntington Beach, CA.

More information can be found at www.olloclip.com

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