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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?

iphoto lens comparison
Left: Photo taken with the iPhone 5s's built-in lens. Right: Same scene taken with the Olloclip 2x telephoto lens attached.

The Olloclip lenses work by sliding over the iPhone's built-in lens. This means that each time you want to use a different lens (such as going from wide-angle to telephoto), you need to take off one lens and put on the other. Similarly, even when using one lens, you have to take it off and put it back on to compare compositions. This is especially problematic when you need to act quickly to capture a shot. Too often, by the time I got the lens out of my pocket and out of its bag and mounted on my iPhone, the shot I wanted was gone.

Making matters worse, the plastic clamp that holds the lens to the iPhone grew looser over time. At one point, the lens fell off as I was getting ready to take a shot. Luckily, it landed softly and didn't break. I found that I could squeeze the plastic back together and restore the grip—at least until the next time it loosened. Still, it's a bit unnerving.

As you've probably guessed, the lenses don't fit over most iPhone cases. Assuming you already have an iPhone case, you have three options: (a) remove the case whenever you want to use a lens, (b) give up on using a case, or (c) get the Olloclip Quick-Flip case. With this case, you swing away a hinge-connected piece to expose the spot where the lens attaches. I decided to go with the Quick-Flip; it's worked well and I now keep it on all the time.

Of necessity, Olloclip lenses are designed to fit the shape of a specific iPhone. In my case, the lenses only fit an iPhone 5 or 5s; this also means that each time a new iPhone comes out—assuming you plan to upgrade—you may have to give up on your lenses and potentially purchase a new set. This can be a significant and continuing financial burden. That's why, if you are currently considering buying iPhone lenses and also plan to get an iPhone 6, you're probably best off deferring any lens purchases until after the dust settles.

Through a new lens
So, after weighing the pros and cons, which way does the balance tip? For me, the telephoto lens has proven its worth, if only by a narrow margin. I'll probably get a new one to work with an iPhone 6. As for the wide-angle, fisheye and macro lenses ... no. There's nothing wrong with the other lenses; they do what they claim. I just don't have a strong need for them and I certainly can't justify paying to get new ones after upgrading to a new iPhone. Clearly, others may disagree here. More generally, I found working with multiple iPhone lenses to be sufficiently inconvenient that it would be preferable to return to a point-and-shoot camera.

 

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