Snapping photos in the wilderness is more common than ever thanks to the advent of smartphone cameras.
But cell phones lack the wide-angle and telephoto options of “real” cameras. Enter Olloclip, an add-on lens that can be clipped on to your smartphone to give your camera a little extra oomph.
We tested the Olloclip Active, a slim, scaled down version of some of the other lenses that the company offers. Equipped with an extra wide and telephoto lens, it gives your phone camera more width (or zoom) to help you capture creative images. The lens can be used on cameras on both the front and back of the phone.
The ultra-wide lens gives your photos that slightly bulbous Go-Pro fish eye view. While helpful for capturing selfies or getting shots in a tight space (it improved our campsite photo a lot), it has significant distortion common with wide-angle lenses. It created more fish eye effect than we cared for.
The 2x telephoto lens magnifies photos, providing something of a telephoto view. It also creates a shallower depth-of-field, which is nice for isolating a subject. It also helps compress the background and has other benefits for the skilled shooter.
But ultimately, the lens added a lot of grain to the images. It’s also only useful in bright sunlight, as a telephoto lens on such a small camera is hugely prone to lens shake.
The 2x telephoto just didn’t seem that practical unless you were trying to capture wildlife from a distance.
The big downside we found was how bulky the phone gets with the lens attached. It was difficult to fit in a pocket while hiking and barely fit in the hip pockets on our backpacks.
It also proved a daunting task to get on and off. We had an iPhone 6 equipped with the Olloclip phone case and, although we eventually figured out how to get it on and off, it took a few minutes of cursing and choice words in order to get it.
There are also several small lens caps and clips that are just asking to be lost.
The Olloclip works as promised, and for those who really care about their phone photos (we’re looking at you Instagram junkies) it might make a useful and easy to carry upgrade.
But for $100, you can find better ways to upgrade your smartphone. Although the wide lens gave us an extra large selfie range, the telephoto lens proved not to be very useful and the extra bulk of having it attached made the phone difficult to carry.