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May 2, 2018

Olloclip’s new iPhone X system makes it painless to swap out lenses

by John_A

Olloclip is bringing its mobile lenses to  the iPhone X, but unlike other add-on lenses, these support all three built-in cameras — the two on the back, and one on the front. The Olloclip mobile lens system for iPhone X consists of a spring-loaded adapter that easily clips onto the top-right corner, and uses interchangeable modules for swapping lenses between the front and rear cameras. Olloclip is offering a variety of lens systems that are priced between $60-$100, while individual lenses cost between $45-$60.

Each lens module is swappable, simply by popping it out.

Pressing a button expands the adapter to easily clip onto (or remove from) an iPhone X. The adapter has two lens mounts, one positioned horizontally over the front camera, and another vertically over the rear cameras. Olloclip calls the lens modules Connect X, and each can be removed from the mount, allowing you to switch lenses or “flip” a lens from the rear camera to the front. A button easily removes or locks the lens into the mount. For the rear camera mount, you can also rotate the lens to cover over either the iPhone X’s standard lens or telephoto lens. (To use the telephoto lens, you have to switch to Portrait mode in the native camera app.) Once the adapter (Olloclip refers to it as the Expanding Lens Mount) is clipped onto the phone, it perfectly aligns over the lenses, and depending on the camera you’re using, you can swap the Connect X modules without needing to remove the adapter. For the user, you now have creative options for shooting selfies (front camera) or portraits (rear telephoto camera), not to mention videos.

Olloclip sells different Connect X systems. The Mobile Photography Box Set ($100) includes the adapter, super-wide lens and macro (15x) and fisheye combo lens (to use the macro lens, you simply twist off the fisheye lens; this will be familiar to existing Olloclip users). Customers can also opt for systems just the adapter with a super-wide ($60), macro-fisheye ($60), ultra-wide ($60), or 2X telephoto ($80) lens. The super-wide is a four-element lens with 120-degree of view, while the ultra-wide pushes that to 180-degree view (the latter captures more, but you get some distortion). The fisheye gives you the rounded, 155-degree “action cam” view. All optics are made from glass elements, but the rest of the construction is plastic.

You only need to buy a system once, since you can purchase additional lenses to build out your system. Each system also comes with a “pendant stand” that you clip the adapter onto when it’s not in use; it splits open to function as a smartphone stand (ideal for FaceTime sessions), and a carabiner lets you hook it onto a keychain ring, zipper pull, etc. (Olloclip will also sell a Macro 14x + 7x and a Macro 21x lens, but both aren’t yet listed on its website).

The Connect X is an evolution of an existing Olloclip patent for interchangeable lenses, so it isn’t entirely new (unfortunately, the lenses are unique, so you can’t re-use Olloclip lenses you purchased for an older iPhone). But the Expanding Lens Mount is new, and unlike previous mounts, you don’t need to fudge with aligning over the camera lenses. Although the iPhone X system is compatible with phones that have screen protectors, it suffers from the same problem that all add-on lenses face: it will not work with phones that are inside a case. That means you need to remove the phone from a case every time you want to use it, which is annoying — especially if you use a really tight-fitting case, like an Otterbox. In fact, the frequent removal of our phone from an Apple silicone case caused it to crack in multiple areas. Although it fit over a slim case from Incase, it wasn’t secure.

For people who carry their phones “naked,” it isn’t an issue, but for those who protect their phone with a case, it’s something to consider. Olloclip does sell the Slim Case for iPhone X ($30) that is compatible with the system. The rubber bumper case has a scratch-resistant back and raised bezels to protect the phone from touching the surface. It’s an option, but you’ll have to decide what’s more important: a case that works with these lenses, or another that better matches your personality.

Olloclip Slim Case is compatible withe new Connect X lens system. Olloclip

Olloclip sent us a pre-production version of the Mobile Photography Box Set to try, prior to the announcement (the only difference from a production version is that it doesn’t have Olloclip’s new logo). Compared to original Olloclips, the iPhone X version has a construction that feels well-made, even if it’s plastic; the optics, however, look like quality glass. It lacks the luxury and refinement of a Moment lens, but Olloclips are much more versatile and affordable for a multi-lens system. We do wonder if the spring-loaded mechanism will loosen over time: We often found the adapter had removed itself from the Pendant Stand when we stashed it in our pocket or bag — maybe it’s a pre-production issue, or just carelessness on our part. Overall, it feels solid, but we can see breakage due to the plastic build and moving parts.

Image quality is quite good. While add-on lenses won’t improve a smartphone camera’s technical performance, they should degrade image quality either. Overall, the Olloclip lenses maintained quality when compared to the standard lens. Coloring seems slightly softer, but it’s hard to tell. The distortion from the super-wide lens isn’t terrible, although photos shot with the fisheye lens look washed out and isn’t as sharp as we would like. However, we’re viewing our images at 100 percent, which most people don’t; at smaller sizes, they look fine for sharing purposes. It’s cool that with we can also shoot creatively with the front (selfie) camera.

In addition to the iPhone X system, Olloclip also announced single-lens systems for the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, 7, and 7 Plus. The Connect Lenses were all previously available in packs of two or sets like the Filmer’s Kit. By offering single-lens sets, Olloclip lowers the price for iPhoneographers who only want one lens. Pricing ranges from $60-$80.

Olloclip lens systems for (from left to right) iPhone X, iPhone 8Plus/7 Plus, and iPhone 8/7.

The Connect X systems are available at Olloclip’s website. The Mobile Photography Box Set is also available now via Amazon, and Apple retail stores in June.

Les Shu contributed to this article.

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