I bought an iPhone in part because I'd heard good things about the camera. I'm hoping to be able to use it as a compact camera, as a backup on trips where I'm not able to pack a full-sized dSLR. My old phone was a million miles away from being good enough for that role, and I'd often end up pocketing a separate compact camera - something I feel should be unnecessary these days!
So I was excited when I heard about the Olloclip 4-in-1 lens, which is an external lens (actually, four of them) that clips on to the iPhone, giving the phone camera a wider range of options. I was even more excited when Olloclip offered to send me one to try out.
The actual lens unit is tiny, only about an inch long. It has plastic lens caps that fit over the lenses when not in use, and it comes in a tiny pouch to protect it from dust and dirt. The lens unit fits onto the phone both ways round, to give access to the different lens combinations. It's a little fiddly to change lens while on the go, especially if you want to use the macro setting, which requires unscrewing one of the outer lenses. I did spend a lot of time worrying about dropping the lens in the dirt, although thankfully I've so far managed to avoid doing any serious damage to the kit.
The accompanying Olloclip case is specially designed to make it easier to take the lens on and off the camera, with a corner that flips round to make a shutter release button (while freeing up the corner of the camera to fit the lens). On first impressions, I found the case a little flimsy. My phone felt less well-protected than in its previous case, and I'm also slightly concerned that the flippable corner will break off at some point, as it feels so fragile! However, the design is so clever that I had to give it a try. There's also an extra clip-on piece to connect a tripod.
I really love the macro lenses, which give you the opportunity to get in really close to a subject. You have to be a bit careful with the lighting, or you can end up casting shadows with the phone - easy to do when the focal length is so short that you have to hold the lens just a few millimetres from the subject.
The wide-angle and fisheye lenses definitely enable you to fit more into the shot, but obviously at the cost of a little distortion around the edges.
All in all, I think this is an excellent idea and a very neat little gadget. It is a little fiddly, and takes a while to get used to, but it gives a range of possibilities beyond the built-in camera. It will certainly become a regular travel companion of mine.