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Griffin Clarifi lets the iPhone take close-up shots

The Griffin Clarifi is a protective polycarbonate case for the iPhone with a built-in close-up lens, providing the iPhone with a macro mode.

One of the more common complaints about the Apple iPhone is that the 2.0-megapixel camera on it isn't that great. There aren't a lot of camera settings, there's no auto-focus, and not much image editing in general. You can get third-party image editors via the App Store, but you can't fix the lens hardware itself.

Or can you? Enter the Griffin Clarifi, an ingenious protective case for the iPhone with a built-in close-up lens. At the face of it, it looks like a normal black polycarbonate case for the iPhone. But on the back is a sliding close-up lens that you can slide over the iPhone's camera for a better close-up shot. Simply slide it back out if you would rather take a wider shot.

We got the chance to play around with the Clarifi for several weeks, and we're overall very impressed. The case itself is nice and sturdy--it's a black polycarbonate case that fits the iPhone 3G like a glove (Only iPhone 3G compatible though--older iPhones are out of luck). Griffin even supplies a protective film/screen protector that you can slap on the iPhone's display. We found it hard to apply the screen protector without any air bubbles and dust, so make sure you clean the display thoroughly before applying it.

My watch; without and with the close-up lens of the Griffin Clarifi.
Before and after the use of the Griffin Clarifi Nicole Lee/CNET

As for the sliding close-up lens, it works like an absolute charm. We tested it out on business cards, print documents, and everyday objects, and as you can see in our little slide show gallery, the Griffin Clarifi works as promised. Blurry text becomes legible, and fuzzy objects turn sharp. The image quality itself probably still needs some color adjustment, but for sheer clarity on macro shots, the Griffin Clarifi delivers.

We can see how this is very useful beyond snapping nicer photos. As we said earlier, using the Clarifi to capture business cards means you may never have to forget a contact. And with note-organizing applications like Evernote, it's easy to find your contact with Evernote's text recognition abilities. There's also a third-party application called Snappr, that lets you scan barcodes for cost-comparison. Without the Clarifi, it's almost impossible to scan the barcodes because the iPhone doesn't have macro focus. With the Clarifi, it can be done.

Perhaps my only complaints are my aforementioned problems with the screen protector, and that it's only available in black. The Griffin Clarifi is available for $34.99 and would probably make a great gift if you know someone who likes taking photos with his iPhone 3G.