The iPhone has proved itself to be an excellent little pocket camera, but what if you want to do something a bit more adventurous than the usual cat photo or selfie shot? That's where the Olloclip Active comes in to give you a bit more flexibility with both wide-angle and telephoto lenses.
Coming in at $99 or £89 (about AU$135), Olloclip says the Active was designed for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners with an active lifestyle. To this end, users can attach the ultra-wide angle lens for the "action camera" look as well as a larger field of view for panoramas. Conversely, flipping the Active lenses around will give you a bit more zoom.
Just like all of Olloclip's older attachable lenses, the Active is a double-ended accessory that you slip onto your iPhone with the aid of a non-included phone case. While you don't need the special Olloclip case in order to perfectly line up the lenses with the iPhone's camera, the added shell helps keep the Active firmly attached to the handset.
The case itself is nice enough, a tinted polycarbonate shell that still lets you see your phone while adding a protective and grippy rubber bumper around the edge. Most of your phone will be safely encased, bear in mind there's a large window left open around the camera lens to accommodate the Active.
The only sore omission found on the case is a tripod mount. Without any mounting points, calling these lenses part of Olloclip's Active line feels like a bit of a misnomer, as you can't securely mount your smartphone to the front of a bike, helmet or other sports gear.
Aside from mounting a lens in front of the iPhone's rear snapper, the Active is conveniently designed to cover the iPhone's front iSight camera. This allows you to get more people into your selfie shot without relying on a sordid selfie stick. Alternatively, you could use the telephoto end to zoom into your nose hairs – if you so choose.
Usage and handling
Using the Active lens system is pretty self-explanatory and intuitive. Slot your phone through the middle of the attachment, and you're ready to go. In case the lenses don't seem to be lining up perfectly with the iPhone 6's rear camera, you may need to remove the plastic bumper inserted inside the accessory slot.
There's also a few things you should note as to how the different focal lengths will affect your photos. For starters, the telephoto end will essentially magnify your field of view by a factor of 2x, giving you extra reach but at the same time making camera shake more noticeable. Any small movements you make while taking the photo will intensify and possibly leave you with a blurry picture.
With the wide-angle lens you'll have to watch where you put your fingers. Because the lens increases your field of view to the point where you can see pretty much anything that's right next to the lens, it's easy to accidentally get your fingers in the shot – depending on how you're holding the phone.
Expect the images you take with the Olloclip Active to look starkly different compared to those shot with a naked iPhone camera.
The wide-angle attachment will enlarge your entire field of view, letting you capture a wider scene, like the full height of a skyscraper.
However, this expanded frame comes with the consequence of adding plenty of distortion. For example, if you were take a snapshot of a brick wall it, would look almost pregnant with a bulging middle. With portraits of people, this can result in some goofy-looking proportions between giant heads, hands or whatever happens to be closer to the lens.
Other than the added distortion, both chromatic aberration (a green and red border that forms along the sharp edges of the subject) and purple fringing (a magenta outline that appears at dark and bright edges) are well controlled. Better yet, there's no significant loss of sharpness or color depth when you throw on the wide-angle lens.
The telephoto end of the Active is fairly straight forward and simply gives you 2x zoom on the iPhone. Unfortunately, this added reach noticeably degrades the quality of the images you can take. When in use, you'll notice that your images are a tiny bit softer and lacking the deep contrast the iPhone's default optics usually resolve.
The Olloclip Active is a fun, simple way of adding a bit more flexibility for your "iPhoneography" habit, but it feels far from refined. While the wide-angle lens adds a bit of silliness through a new perspective to play with, the telephoto end of the Active feels like an afterthought that ends up dragging down the overall package.
Compared to other, more fully-featured systems, including Olloclip's own 4-in-1 lens accessory bundle, the Active is overpriced at $99 or £89 (about AU$135). Especially when you consider that this price does not include the cost of Olloclip's practically necessary $29 or £24 (about AU$39) iPhone case.