If you remember the first time you used a telescope or telephoto lens, then you probably also remember the way it made you feel. It is a bit like lassoing things in the distance and pulling them close. Taking pictures with your smartphone often has an opposite effect: Things that appear close to the naked eyed become small and distant in mobile photos and videos.
Until the arrival of multi-megapixel smartphone cameras, this was an untenable situation for most photographers. Now, with 8 MP on products like the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S3, you can blow up (or crop) your pictures until achieving a simulacrum of the naked eye.
For all the lens quality and digital smarts of mobile cameras, smartphone manufacturers have never really tackled zoom. Please, do not try and equate digital zoom with the optical option. Digital simply takes available pixels and, more or less, doubles them to achieve the effect of zoom. The result is usually a grainy mess. Instagram can help: It offers enough filters and controls to make the grainiest pictures look like a planned composition.
I wanted real zoom on my iPhone 5. Now I have it.
Olloclip, the company that brought you the 3-in-1 iPhone lens attachment (macro, panoramic and fisheye), introduced its first telephoto lens for the iPhone 5 (as well as the 4 and 4S). The $99.99 clip-on also adds a polarizing lens (more on that later). Zoom attachments for the iPhone are not a new development, of course — but most are single-use, higher zoom and considerably larger. Some even require a special case to hold the lens in place.
This aluminum, all-back 2X zoom lens attachment from Olloclip is built almost exactly like the 3-in-1 and fits snugly over the corner of your iPhone. The telephoto lens is one side and the circular polarizer lens (CPL) on the other. The latter slips off and can be attached to the front of the telephoto — or, if you own a set, the 3-in-1 lens (there’s an included adapter).
Olloclip’s telephoto solution is big; the lens is actually longer than the iPhone 5 is thick. And while I can leave the 3-in-1 lens on my iPhone 5, it feels positively awkward to do the same with the telephoto. Even so, I love what the Olloclip telephoto attachment can do.
The lens, which is expertly made with multiple lens elements and “a precision-ground glass lens,” according to Olloclip, is easy to use and essentially puts you twice as close to your subjects. I used it to take some typical New York City shots and was instantly pleased with the results. Even when I was dropping photos into Instagram,
I found that I only cropped half as much, and the end product was far less grainy.
The lens comes with another benefit: a shorter depth of field. You iPhone’s depth of field is long by default, which means objects in the foreground and background are all in focus. As a result, images can look flat, uninteresting and even silly (why does that flag in the distance look like it’s coming out of your head?).
Olloclip’s telephoto changes the visual equation. Now, even objects relatively near your closer-up subject are gently out of focus. I was thrilled with the effect.
The attachment’s other feature is a wide, adjustable polarizing lens, which pro photographers usually have on all their lenses. They help remove stray light to cut down on unwanted reflections and allow for truer colors to come through in their photos.
While I find the iPhone 5’s color capture quality quite solid, I noticed that with Olloclip telephoto, unfiltered colors popped a bit more, and I had fun using the rotating outer ring on the filter to cut out unwanted reflections on screens and store windows. In one instance, I corrected the white balance on a photo by twisting the outer ring and forcing the iPhone to recalibrate on a too-yellow screen.
The Olloclip Telephoto Lens for iPhone is probably not for everyone: It runs at $99.99 and is a bit bulkier than I’d like. But if you take a lot of pictures and know a bit more than the average person about photography (or maybe you’re part of a newspaper crew that’s been ordered to use iPhones for photography), it’s worth adding to your bag of photographic tricks.
The Low Down
If you’re a pro or hobbyist photographer frustrated by the limitations of your iPhone 5, 4, 4S or even iPod touch, the Olloclip Telephoto Lens attachment is a good, multi-talented investment.
Photo by Mashable