Hands-on review: Olloclip Filmer’s Kit for iPhone 7 and 8
Smartphones stopped being about just carrying a mobile telephone around with you a decade ago. Now, a key focus – no pun intended – for manufacturers is on the quality of the camera.
We’re a selfie-taking, movie-making, Instagram-shaking, visually-oriented culture now. Everyone’s a photographer. TL;DR – just show me the pictures!
Apple is no different in this regard and has actively promoted the iPhone as the mobile photographer’s choice, the Californian tech giant even sufficiently moved to finally open and actively maintain a social media channel – on Instagram, natch – called ‘Shot on an iPhone’, in the spirt of its titular print media and advertising campaign.
As good as the iPhone’s stock lens and camera set-up is (and it is very good), that quality and potential is almost going to waste being used simply as a point-and-shoot camera. Enter Olloclip.
The company has been making additional clip-on lenses for iPhones for several years to extend the creative range of the built-in camera. Now, Olloclip has collaborated with Incase, the protective case and laptop sleeve specialist, to produce the Filmer’s Kit, “a custom kit of curated essentials for mobile videography, photography and live streaming” as a worldwide limited-edition of 2,000 sets.
The Kit features five lenses from the Olloclip range, each one offering a different field of view: an articulating, poseable hand grip for “passive stabilisation” (i.e. loop a finger through the grip, hold it nice and tight and keep your arms still); the lens-holding attachments for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which can also be opened out to create a mini iPhone stand; an Olloclip-branded lens-cleaning cloth, all of which is neatly packed into the PVA-foam-packed, compression-moulded, black and red Incase-branded protective carrying case.
The Filmer’s Kit includes:
- Olloclip Core Lens Set (Fisheye, Super-Wide & Macro 15x lenses)
- Olloclip Active Lens Set (Telephoto 2x and Ultra-Wide lenses)
- Olloclip Pivot articulating mobile video grip
- Incase | olloclip Carry Case
All in all, this is a very nice collection of lenses to open up the iPhone 7 and 8’s camera potential. The Kit price is also significantly less than if you bought all the lenses individually, plus you get the 225° articulating Pivot handgrip and a really nice case to carry it all in.
Using the lenses is straightforward. Olloclip’s new Connect system sees the lenses themselves loaded separately from the main clip housing. The lenses have small spring-loaded legs that allow you to pop each lens in and out of the housing without having to remove the entire thing from the iPhone every time you want to use a different lens. The whole system attaches and aligns neatly and easily over the iPhone camera lens. Thin screen protectors 0.5mm or less in thickness will have no discernible effect on image quality. If you want to keep a couple of lenses close at hand, to quickly swap them around, there’s also a wearable pendant holder that doubles as a small tripod stand in the kit.
Gently clip on the lenses and equally gently remove them and your precious iPhone finish will be preserved. There was an advisory note (in very small print) in the kit literature to the effect that some tiny marks might occur on the special edition Jet Black finish of the iPhone 7. In our experience (this being precisely the iPhone model we used), and treating phone and lens carefully, we haven’t noticed anything yet. Maybe we should use the Macro lens to really inspect it.
The Pivot with its rubberised universal clamp will securely hold your iPhone (or any device 4”-5.5” in fact). It also has a 1/4-20 mount, a GoPro adapter and an integrated cold shoe, for additional accessories such as lights and microphones.
We’ve been testing all the lenses with our iPhone 7: illustrative sample photographs for each lens are included below. All of the lens options bring something new and creative to the table. We particularly liked the Fisheye lens, with its exaggerated, curved, psychedelic effect, but we found there was an ideal time and place for each of the lenses. It is also possible to stack the lenses, to create new (and sometimes unusal) photographic effects. Some will work better than others, but that’s half the fun.
This isn’t to say that all our picture results were perfect. There is a degree of experimentation and experience required to get the best out of each lens. You also have to be sure they are fitted correctly, as even the slightet misalignment over your phone’s built-in lens can cause blurring or barrelling.
Also, it’s worth noting that some of the lenses produce results that can have a great central image, only with less optimal edge detail. This is not a strong criticism, more a heads-up for users to frame their subject sympathetically with this in mind. You can trim the edges later with your image-editing software of choice.
The lenses are also compatible with the iPhone 7 and 8 Plus models, with their 56mm telephoto dual-lens set-up. The optics of the Olloclip lenses have been optimised to perform best with the iPhone’s rear Wide-Angle and front FaceTime cameras. To align with the Plus model’s 56mm telephoto camera, you just need to flip the lens base within the clip. Olloclip recommends using a third-party photography app – such as the excellent ProCamera app, which we also used for our sample photographs in this review – for greater control over the camera and lens selection than that provided by Apple’s native Camera app.
With a degree of comic timing on the part of the universe, our Filmer’s Kit for iPhone 7 happened to arrive on the same day as the Apple Special Event that saw the launch of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. However, given the obvious similarities between the camera lens size and set-up on an iPhone 7 and an iPhone 8, it seemed likely that these lenses would work just as well on either handset.
Turns out this is true. We conducted limited fit and testing of all the lenses in this kit with an iPhone 8 and everything is as fine and dandy as cotton candy. Olloclip has since officially confirmed that this lens kit works with the iPhone 8, which gives the whole set greater longevity. It won’t work with the iPhone X, as the camera position has changed on that model.
The company also sent us its standalone Macro collection of lenses, which offers different close-up, magnification lenses than that included in the Filmer’s Kit, ranging from 7x to 21x. Get ready for your closer up. While not a part of the core Filmer’s Kit, we’ve included a few sample photographs here that we took with this Macro kit. If you do find yourself enjoying the Ollolip photography experience, you’re sure to like this Macro collection, too.
There is, of course, a Macro 15x lens included in the Filmer’s Kit, so consider this additional Macro collection as an expansion pack waiting for you if you get into macro photography (warning: it’s addictive fun). The inclusion of the ‘InstaFocus’ hood (a flared attachment) with the Macro collection really helps in finding the right focal distance, as well as balancing and diffusing light.
Without reservation, we would recommend the Filmer’s Kit to anyone who enjoys iPhone photography, whether enthusiastic hobbyist or professional. The whole package does exactly what it was created to do: inspire. There are iPhone apps that aim to replicate some of the effects post-capture, such as Fisheye lens, but none that can replace having an actual Fisheye lens on your camera.
The Filmer’s Kit is approximately £219 and is available from Apple locations worldwide now.
The following photographs were all taken on the same day, using an iPhone 7, the Filmer’s Kit and the Macro collection.