Review: Olloclip Multi-Device Clip
Not satisfied with your smartphone's camera? Olloclip has a new, universal lens system that attaches to most any phone. The company has also overhauled its collection of lenses. If you want fisheye, wide-angle, telephoto, and other lenses that are easy to swap, Olloclip's new system is more flexible than most.
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There's a reason today's high-end phones now include three, four, or even five cameras. One of the most useful tools when composing a picture is zoom. Zoom, as used on traditional, standalone cameras, uses moving lenses to crop out unwanted scenery and focus on something specific, or back way up to get the big picture, all with 100% quality. There's no room inside phones for those kind of moving lenses (optical zoom).
That's why companies like LG and Huawei have recently introduced devices with three rear cameras, each with a different lens. The LG G40 ThinQ and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, for example, have a wide-angle lens, a normal lens, and a telephoto lens. The wide-angle is for tight spaces or when you want to capture a huge scene. The telephoto gives you 2x optical zoom for clean, detailed shots from a distance.
If your phone only has one or two cameras on the back, Olloclip makes and sells lenses of its own that attach to your phone's camera and greatly expand its creative potential.
Olloclip Multi-Device Clip
Olloclip has largely targeted only the Apple iPhone over the last few years. Given the huge number of Android phones in the market, Olloclip decided perhaps a more universal product was in order. Thus we have the Multi-Device Clip.
The Multi-Device Clip itself is a simple plastic construct that's compatible with a fairly decent number of phones. The design couldn't be more basic. Just open the spring-y clamp mechanism, slide it over your phone, and center the lens over your phone's camera.
The plastic pieces themselves all feel solid, but I'm not sold on the strength of the spring. The spring should have way more tension so it can affix to your phone with more authority.
One of the fork-like tongues has a flat grippy surface on the inside so it won't slip against the glass face of your phone. I wish this surface were softer; I'm concerned it might scratch the glass. The other tongue has an oval-shaped opening to accept Olloclip's lenses. There's no rubber on this side at all and I wish there were, to prevent slippage.
Finding the proper fit is tricky. Olloclip's previous designs, specific to iPhones, fit naturally and securely. With this universal clip, you have to carefully align the lens over your phone's camera. It's best to eyeball it for the basic fit, then use the viewfinder in your phone's camera app to adjust and properly center it.
The list of devices the clip is fully compatible with, meaning it reaches the front and rear cameras with no obstructions, includes the Samsung Galaxy S7, S8, S9, and Note9; Apple iPhone 6/Plus, 7/Plus, 8/Plus, and 5/SE; the LG Premiere Pro LTE, Rebel 3 LTE, Stylo 3, Stylo 3 Plus; and the Huawei P9 and P20. It's partially compatible with the Galaxy S9+, and not compatible at all with the OnePlus 6/6T; Sony Xperia XZ2, XZ3; Huawei Mate 20 Pro; LG V40; and iPhone Xs/Max. (Olloclip has a seperate clip system for the iPhone X range.)
I tried the clip with the Google Pixel 3 XL and Note9. It worked with both. It handled the Note9 well, but was useless with the newer iPhones.
It will cover the flash on most phones.
The lens system itself is pretty neat. The lenses are all mounted to a plastic sled that you drop into the opening of the clip. It then locks it into place. It takes two seconds to swap out lenses.
My biggest gripe is that the Multi-Device Clip is only compatible with Olloclip's newest "Connect X" range of lenses. If you have any older Olloclip lenses, they won't fit. This kind of sucks.
(Olloclip says our review unit is pre-production and that issues with the spring/clip strength should be mitigated in production units.)
Placing any lens in front of your phone's camera changes how much light reaches the sensor. Olloclip doesn't say how many f-stops the lenses add, but your camera may require a longer exposure or higher ISO to compensate. A longer exposure can lead to less-sharp images, and a higher ISO may add grain.
I checked out the fish-eye, super wide-angle, and 2x telephoto lenses.
The fisheye effect lets you capture nearly 180-degree images that look like a bubble. The middle of the frame is grossly enlarged, while objects around the rim of the bubble are minimized. Fisheye photos are nearly circular in shape, not rectangular. This is the nature of the fisheye effect.
Your mileage will vary. Properly fitting the lens over your camera is absolutely vital. If you center it perfectly, you'll get neat fisheye images that are generally sharp in the middle and a bit softer around the edges. The fisheye lens doesn't work well in the dark.
The super wide-angle lens lets you capture a much wider field of view than the stock camera. Olloclip doesn't say what the new field of view is, but the difference is quite obvious when you compare wide-angle and normal shots. This lens can be helpful when trying to capture a group selfie via your phone's front camera. It also lets you cram more into the frame if you're in tight quarters, such as indoors, or on a narrow street.
Like the fisheye lens, I saw some focusing issues. It was hard to get my phone to focus through the lens due to the narrow depth-of-field. It definitely requires longer exposures. The super wide-angle lens also introduces optical distortion, though it's not nearly as severe as the fisheye.
Many of today's top phones offer a second camera with 2x telephoto lenses. Olloclip's 2x telephoto lens brings optical zoom to single-camera phones. It's significantly bigger and heavier than the fisheye or super-wide. I found this lens was more prone to slide out of position thanks to the weakness of the clip's spring. That's a bummer, because you often need two hands to get the sharpest photos when zooming.
As for the images, they were not as good as what you'll get from a phone's built-in 2x zoom lens. If you're shooting outdoors on a sunny day you may get good results every once in a while. Keep in mind that 2x zoom isn't that much. It definitely helps get you closer to your subject, but we're not talking massive zoom here. I like that you benefit from combining the 2x optical zoom of the lens with some digital zoom on your camera. This is where the lens really helps.
The thing I liked so much about Olloclip's earlier clip systems for the iPhone 6, 7, and 8 series was how firmly they locked into place. It was dead simple to snap the clip onto the phone and find that the lens was instantly and properly aligned.
I'm glad that Olloclip decided to branch out and target the 1+ billion Android phones in the market, but the Multi-Device Clip doesn't quite get the job done. I appreciate the simple design of the clip, but the spring isn't strong enough to hold the clip in place when using heavier lenses. Combine that with the painstaking process of lining the clip up with your phone's camera, and I find that it takes a lot of effort for not much in the way of reward. Olloclip can fix this. It needs to do a little more work on the clip.
The lenses each have their own character. Your results will depend on your creativity, and your patience.
The Multi-Device Clip itself costs just $20. That's with no lens at all. Olloclip sells the clip by itself, or with one or two lenses bundled in. It's up to you to select the lens combination you want. The cheapest bundle, which includes a wide-angle lens, runs $45. The priciest combo, which has a 2x telephoto and ultra wide-angle lens, runs $120. Most clip+lens kits cost $60 to $80.
I'd only recommend the Olloclip Multi-Device Clip to those who own the compatible phones specifically named by Olloclip, and even then, only for some light-bending fun rather than serious work.
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