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Should you get extra lenses for your iPhone?

Ted Landau | May 5, 2014
Adding any lens requires some sacrifice in convenience from carrying around just an iPhone. The big question is: Is the sacrifice worth it?

And that's where things stood for several years—until I got an iPhone.

For the iPhone's first several iterations, my habits didn't really change; my iPhone's camera mostly sat idle. I used it only for occasional situations where all I cared about was having a record of the content (such as taking a picture of a sign in a store). Or when I didn't have my Canon with me and had no alternative. For everything else, the iPhone camera's image quality was simply too poor for it to be my preferred choice.

But with the iPhone 4s, the balance began to shift. Back in 2012, I wrote an article asking whether the iPhone 4s's camera was good enough to replace my point-and-shoot. The answer was "not quite—but almost." The following year, with the arrival of the iPhone 5, that answer became a definitive "yes." The quality of the iPhone's photos was now so good that it no longer seemed worth carrying an extra device. Plus, with the iPhone, I could easily edit photos on the fly and post them to the Internet. And, via Apple's Photo Stream, my photos were instantly accessible from all of my other Apple devices. None of this was possible with my point-and-shoot.

The iPhone 5 had the first camera good enough to convince me to drop my point-and-shoot. 

Sure, there is sacrifice involved. The iPhone lacks manual controls for film speed, exposure, and other advanced features. Most of all, as I noted at the top of this article, it doesn't have a zoom lens—and I especially wanted that telephoto capability. There were just too many situations where the iPhone prevented me from getting as "close" to my subject as I wanted.

Still, I decided to go with just the iPhone. And that's where matters stood when I began field-testing the Olloclip lenses.

Working with iPhone lenses
I quickly determined that the only one of Olloclip's lenses I would use regularly was the telephoto, so I left the others at home, except for special occasions where I knew in advance that they'd prove useful. The telephoto lens is sufficiently small that it's almost no bother to carry it around in my pocket and, while I don't take the lens with me all the time, I try to take it whenever I expect to be using the iPhone's camera.

In truth, I was even initially concerned about the value of the telephoto lens. At only 2x magnification, I wasn't sure it would be worth the trouble. There's good news on that front, though: even a 2x zoom can make a big difference. While it's obviously not enough for every situation, there have been many times when shifting to the telephoto lens has brought my desired subject front and center. The lens's image quality is excellent overall, except that the left and right edges of shots are frequently blurred. You can see this in the comparison photos below.


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