Olloclip three-in-one lens for iPhone 4

The age of lugging around a pricey DSLR kit just to capture casual fisheye, wide-angle and macro photos may be nearing its end -- for some of us, at least. Designed by a startup duo in California, the Olloclip was the first project featured in our Insert Coin series, and we were thrilled to learn not only that it was successfully funded, but that the device is ready to ship to both early supporters and new customers just two months later. The accessory brings the functionality of all three lenses to the iPhone 4, and it does so well enough to warrant leaving your pro kit at home on occasion -- assuming, of course, that your photographs aren't responsible for putting food on the table.

While a bargain compared to its professional equivalents, $70 is a lot to spend on any iPhone accessory, so the lens's price tag may not sit well with some users. Also, design limitations mean you won't be able to use the lens with other devices, and there's no way to guarantee compatibility with future iPhones as well. Nonetheless, we had a blast shooting with the Olloclip, and we think you will too. Head past the break to find out why.

Design and appearance

At first glance, the Olloclip only appears to include two lenses, but unscrewing the wide-angle reveals the cleverly hidden macro. To use any of the built-in lenses, simply slide the clip onto your iPhone. The fit is quite snug, so you can rotate the phone, walk around, and even slip your phone into a bag without worrying about the lens slipping off. It's also easy to reposition -- to swap the wide-angle for the fisheye, for example, just flip the entire clip around so that the lens you want to use is facing forward. As with all sub-$100 optics, it doesn't have the sturdy, metal construction of, say, a $2,000 professional-class Canon L-series lens, but for a pocketable accessory with a potentially limited shelf life, we're more concerned with the device's performance than we are with how it feels in our hands. The plastic lens mount is also less likely to damage the glass body of your iPhone 4, so we don't mind that the clip itself isn't made of metal.

Ease of use

The Olloclip is incredibly easy to use. You don't need to install any software, though it's compatible with any and all iPhone apps. And mounting or swapping lenses just takes a second, as you can see in our hands-on video. We did have some trouble using one hand to remove the wide-angle lens to expose the macro, as we were using the other hand to hold the iPhone, though unscrewing the lens while it's mounted on the phone is less of a challenge. It's also important to note that because of the iPhone's higher multiplication factor in video mode, the wide-angle and fisheye lenses will present a completely different perspective when shooting video than they do when capturing stills. Don't be discouraged, however -- the video crop factor actually eliminates much of the distortion we experienced with the wide-angle lens

Image quality

Since the optic functions simply as an extension of the iPhone's existing lens, the quality of the images it captures are limited by the sensor itself. Fortunately, the iPhone 4's camera offers a huge improvement over its predecessor, enabling the Olloclip to capture some pretty fantastic photos. Pics we shot with all three lenses were sharp and vibrant, and were clearly distinctive from those captured with the iPhone's native lens. Most wide-angle lenses suffer from minor barrel distortion, but unfortunately we found distortion with the Olloclip's wide-angle lens to be far more noticeable than what we've experienced with a wide-angle lens on a DSLR. These distortion issues are clearly visible in our gallery of sample images. As with any fisheye lens, you'll notice some significant barrel distortion here, too, but that's to be expected -- after all, that stretching is kind of the whole point of fisheye photography. [src engadget]

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