I’ve covered many Olloclip accessories over the years, starting with the pioneering three-in-one lens attachments it released six years ago for the iPhone 4 and 4S. A lot has changed since then. Today’s smartphones are closer than ever to standalone DSLRs in quality — minus the ability to switch lenses, but adding their own unique non-DSLR features. For instance, Apple’s iPhone X includes a depth-sensing front camera and a dual-lensed rear camera. How do you build lens attachments for such a beast?
The Connect X system is Olloclip’s answer, and I had the chance to take an early look at the Mobile Photography Box Set, which bundles a Super-Wide lens, a Fisheye & Macro 15X lens, and something Olloclip calls the “Pendant Stand” together in a $100 package. There are pros and cons to this initially super-impressive bundle, though your personal lens needs might compel you to consider other Olloclip options.
What you’ll like
The single most impressive element in the Mobile Photography Box Set is how well everything works together — both the integration of Olloclip’s parts and how they fit with the iPhone X. Built like a small Transformer robot, the Box Set includes four primary parts that come together to form an oversized keychain you can carry anywhere.
Most important is a black plastic and metal clip that attaches to the iPhone X’s top. Installed correctly, it positions one of the two attached lenses directly in front of the front-facing camera, while the other sits firmly in front of one of the two rear-facing cameras. A spring-loaded black button expands and releases the clip to hold snugly to your phone.
Olloclip’s genius design element here is enabling each of the included lenses to attach and detach from the iPhone X clip with their own spring-loaded buttons. Because the lenses are on pill-shaped mounts, they can each be rotated 180 degrees, enabling each attachment to sit in front of either the iPhone X’s rear 1X or 2X lens. It takes only a moment to detach and reattach a lens in the correct configuration — a really, really smart solution to accommodating the iPhone’s dual lens system.
Olloclip’s Pendant Stand initially looks like a clear piece of plastic with a metal carabiner hook dangling off one side of a hinge. Gently pulling the plastic’s left and right sides together turns them into a V-shaped stand, capable of holding your iPhone for selfies and other stationary shots. Good news: The stand is super easy to carry with the lenses, and I would tote it around every day in a heartbeat.
Optical quality: Good
Since its earliest lenses, Olloclip’s optical quality has been at least pretty good, and that’s again the case with the two lenses I tested here. I was generally pretty satisfied with the results from the Fisheye & Macro 15X lens, though it’s an odd compromise package, giving you the general results you’d expect from a circular ultra-wide-angle fisheye lens, plus the ability to zoom in really close on objects with — fisheye-distorted — 15X magnification.
The shot above is of a bush at a distance of roughly 2 feet from the iPhone’s rear lens, unassisted.
This shot is the same bush from the same distance with the Fisheye lens, revealing much more of the bush as well as the sky and ground. Not surprisingly, sharpness is very good in the center, but softer at the edges. Colors popped a bit more on all of my Olloclip shots, perhaps because of a lens coating.
This is a shot with the exact same lens, an inch or so away from the bush, demonstrating its extreme 15X magnification and macro capabilities — as well as its fisheye distortion. Depending on your photography needs, you may find this to create beautifully artistic macro shots or unusably distorted images. The center sharpness up close is excellent, even at pixel-peeping magnifications.
These two shots show off the expanded field of view offered by the super-wide lens, a four-element lens with over 120-degree visibility. Again, there’s mostly good news here. Both shots were taken using the iPhone X’s front camera, the top with no assistance and the bottom with the lens attached. On a positive note, you can see how much wider the bottom shot is, and the color balance is arguably even better. But because the iPhone X’s depth sensor is obscured by the accessory, focusing can get messy, and at full resolution the second image here is very blurry in the center. Similarly, Face ID detection is blocked when the accessory is attached.
When used on the back camera, the super-wide lens had no focus issues, and it’s optically clear throughout all but the very edge of the frame. The top shot above is without lens assistance, the bottom with lens assistance.
What you won’t like
Case compatibility: Limited options
There’s some bad news with the Pendant Stand. It’s only modestly iPhone X case-compatible, not very grippy, and, due to its loose hinge, susceptible to sliding closed when it’s moved just a little bit on a flat surface. Even if my iPhone were made entirely out of metal, I’d find the prospect of it slipping out of a stand to be unsettling, but with an unprotected, glass-bodied device, slipperiness is a disqualifier for a stand.
Olloclip has known for years that the majority of iPhone owners use cases, so releasing something that’s not case-compatible is going to be a problem for most people. To that end, it will be releasing its own $30 case called the Slim Case for iPhone X, which I didn’t receive for testing. I can only hope that it works perfectly and protects well, unlike the Spigen case I use, which is highly protective but didn’t fit the Olloclip system properly.
As a long-time photographer whose aspiration is to have no reason to continue using my wonderful but huge DSLR, I’m directly in the target market for Olloclip’s Connect X accessories for the iPhone X. I don’t need to be sold on the promise of detachable lenses that are easy to carry around and attach as needed — I understand the appeal. And I’ve really liked and in some cases loved past Olloclip lenses.
That said, I have somewhat mixed feelings about the Mobile Photography Box Set. My favorite feature — the modular but beautifully unified design of the clip, lenses, and stand — is undone by the limited case compatibility and the slipperiness of the stand. I’m glad that Olloclip is offering an iPhone X case that is supposed to work with its lenses, but without having tested it, I can’t know for sure whether it’s as well-designed as the case I already use every day.
Additionally, the Box Set doesn’t bundle the lenses I would personally prefer to see included in a package: The Super-Wide’s fine, but a combination Fisheye-Macro isn’t super useful from my standpoint. I’d prefer to have Olloclip’s Telephoto lens and circular polarizer attachments instead. Olloclip says that it will be offering six different iPhone X lenses, including a 155-degree Ultra-Wide ($60), a 2X Telephoto ($80), a Macro 14x/7x ($60), and a Macro 21x ($60) in addition to the two $60 lenses in this package. Those prices include the plastic clip, and are each $15-$20 lower if you only purchase the lenses.
If the other lenses are as impressive in quality as the ones in past Olloclip sets, they could be worth revisiting. This particular bundle may be somewhat limited in appeal, but if you either use your iPhone X bare or are willing to buy into both this Box Set and the Slim Case, it could be worth checking out.
Olloclip provided us a unit for this review.