Olloclip Macro 3-in-1 Photo Lens for iPhone gets you ready for your close-ups (hands-on)

For iPhone photographers who want to get closer to the world around you, this is the lens to do it with.

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
3 min read

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If you've found yourself taking more close-ups of flowers, insects, and food than selfies these days, Olloclip has something you'll want to check out.

The iPhone camera accessory manufacturer took the macro lens from its original 3-in-1 photo lens and split it off into a separate solution just for shooting close-ups. The Macro 3-in-1 clip-on photo lens gives anyone with an iPhone 5/5S the capability to shoot about 0.5 inch from a subject with up to 21x magnification for seeing the finest of details.

Like Olloclip's other lenses, the Macro model has lens elements on both sides of a slide-on clip. In this case, one side has a lens for 21x magnification, while the other has a two-piece lens with 14x and 7x magnification. Just slide on the lens over the iPhone's rear camera lens and you're ready to shoot.

Carpet fibers at 7x, 14x, and 21x (from left to right). Joshua Goldman/CNET

The 7x macro gives you some breathing room between the lens and what you're shooting, allowing more of your subject to be in focus and giving greater flexibility with shooting angles. The 14x and 21x macro lenses, however, zoom you right to whatever tiny detail you're trying to get a closer look at.

In fact, between the iPhone's 8-megapixel resolution and the 21x magnification lens, it basically turns your iPhone into a low power microscope. (The sample image above gives you a rough idea of what the Olloclip Macro can do. You can click on the image to view at a much larger size, but they were shot at high ISOs, so details aren't as good as they can be. I'll post more images shortly.)

With the Olloclip on, your subject will only be in focus at a specific distance from the lens. Get a hair too close or too far away from what you want to focus on and, well, it won't be in focus. This can be particularly tricky when shooting something that's moving slightly, such as a flower blowing in a breeze or an insect, or if your hands are a little shaky.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

To make things easier, Olloclip came up with InstaFocus hoods that pop onto the 14x and 21x lenses. They're designed to diffuse light, but also place the lens at the correct distance for focusing (they're also not a bad way to trap a bug).

The hoods make it easier to steady the camera, too, assuming you're shooting straight down onto a relatively flat surface. Any subject that is slightly above or below the bottom of the hood won't be entirely in focus, such as in the center and far right pictures above of the carpet fibers. But even if you can't use them for what you're shooting, they still give you a good visual for just how close (or far) you'll need to be for the iPhone to properly focus.

The Olloclip Macro 3-in-1 lens is available now for the iPhone 5/5S and the fifth-gen iPod Touch. The $69.99 package includes the lens, two hoods, two lens caps, an adapter for use with an iPod Touch, and a microfiber pouch. That's not exactly impulse pricing, but the lenses are all precision ground, coated glass optics housed in aircraft-grade aluminum and made in the US.

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