OllolClip 2X Telephoto lens review

Does one need another iPhone attachment to carry around, on the odd chance of maybe needing it. Besides, I have always believed that my legs make the best telephoto lens. While this may sound like a negative  statement, let us first examine the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens attachment that comes with a rotating circular polarizing lens (CPL).

Mobile photography is very different from using a DSLR/SLR or traditional medium or large format cameras. I am not referring to that mobile artists app their images, rather we use our mobile camera devices differently then a DSLR/SLR and so we must look at the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens not as a traditional DSLR/SLR telephoto lens, but how it applies to mobile photography. Let’s first remember the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens, like our mobile camera lens is not only a fixed focal length, it also has no aperture controls, unlike traditional DSLR/SLR lenses. 

When I first used the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens, it took some getting used to as we see with the first couple exposures I took. This is only natural because one needs to learn to gauge the fixed distances the subjects are brought in closer.

As a photographer I like being close and intimate with my subject matter, regardless if I am doing a table-top still-life, street photography or shooting a landscape and when the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens is applied to any of these styles of genre, the lens attachment brings a new dynamics to one’s work that is not only exhilarating, but also alters the creative process and adds an element of intenseness.

Before exploring the many different applications the lens was tested at, let us look at the lens itself. 

When you open the package you will immediately notice that the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens is solidly constructed of anodized aluminum with a central plastic mount, all of which is well designed and that the rotating circular polarizing lens attachment has multiple functions as a stand-alone item. The 2X telephoto lens is constructed of four elements, all made from coated precision-ground high-quality glass. Both lens comes in a draw-string microfiber bag that also doubles as lens cloth.

When the telephoto lens is reversed on the iPhone, the attachments only function is to enable the polarizer to be used with the native camera or that of any other camera application. Furthermore the circular polarizer can also be used with the OlloClip Three-in-One or the Four-in-One lens attachments.

The 2X telephoto lens is small enough not to appear intrusive to others or an obstacle to one’s use of the mobile device. The OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens comes with a clear lens cover but unfortunately the polarizer is not afforded with any protection when not in use, an oversight I hope will be rectified in the near future. Now let us look at the lens as it is being tested under various conditions.  

When I first tried the lens in a studio setting, it was to photograph a still-life set  of a dead bird on an antique book and while it provided certain advantages, it was also limiting for this type of photography. For there needs to be a certain amount of distance between the 2X telephoto lens and the subject before the subject is in focus. Yet the greater distance between the iPhone and subject that is created by the 2X telephoto lens allows for more control of manipulation of the light with reflectors and gobo’s, including that the iPhone or that of myself no longer cast a shadow, all of which is a major advantage. 

On the other hand, when the 2X telephoto lens was applied to street photography, it excelled and exceeded all my anticipations, especially after learning to gauge the distance for close encounters.

While I like getting real close to my subjects, trying to capture the human activities and conditions on the street and the use of the 2X telephoto lens provides not only that additional edge of visual intimacy of the subject matter, the results offer a different perspective not possible before. One of the biggest advantages of the 2X telephoto lens during street photography is that one can be 5-8 steps or feet further away from the subject and so almost appear invisible to the subject and less of being discovered.

Besides photographing street activities, I enjoy capturing distinctive architecture like ‘Mom and Pop’ grocery or liquor stores. In doing so, you would normally see me standing in the middle of the street, a matter that is not only unsafe, but with the 2X telephoto lens, I can in most cases just stand at the edge of the sidewalk, out of harms way and get the image I am seeking.

We must not forget that the iPhone lens when compared to a DSLR lens, the iPhone’s 4S f/2.4 is equivalent to 28mm and the iPhone 5S f/2.2 to a 33mm DLR lens. So when adding the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens to your iPhone, the enlargement may seem only marginal at first, acting more like a normal 50mm lens on a DSLR. 

But then let’s remember we are adding a telephoto lens to a camera whose native lens is a wide-angle and after you begin using the 2X telephoto attachment, you will find like I did, the real strength of the 2X telephoto lens is to be more for immediate and in-between surroundings.

For example when attending a studio rehearsal with several musicians, the 2X telephoto lens once again proved to be indispensable, even under an extreme low light situation. My presence in such tight surroundings is not only intrusive but also a major distraction for the musicians who are separated from each other and need to communicate visually with one another through a window. By being a respectful distance from my subject, the musician does not feel crowded or like I am infringing on their space, while still being able to get the image I am after.

This dilemma of being too close with the iPhone without the 2X telephoto lens when attempting portrait photography, but by having the 2X telephoto lens attached to the mobile device, there is a respectful distance between subject and photographer that is so necessary.

My colleague Petyr Campos makes use of the OlloClip 2X telephoto lens for when you “want to be close to the action when but can't get close.” This is especially true when Petyr attends concerts/music events. “The 2X optical magnification delivered by the OlloClip telephoto lens allows me to zoom in and focus on individual subjects on the stage, while leaving out distracting elements. I can now turn a stage shot into a portrait.”

Photo by ©2014 Petyr Campos - All Rights Reserved

As for Petyr’s photographs of surfers along the California coastline, he states that the “telephoto lens allows me to get tightly framed photographs of surfers running into the ocean without getting in their way. I'm now also able to capture shots of surfers down the shoreline that were once too far away.”

Now the telephoto lens slips on and off with ease, just like their other lenses and in the past this has meant that one cannot be using a protective camera case, but OlloClip has released their own Flip-Case that also serves as a tripod mount, something that is very important to me. The Flip-Case is well designed and should be considered if you want a case that also allows you to use your OlloClips, while protecting the iPhone.

For me the OlloClip 2X Telephoto lens become a treasured  item and an important part of my mobile photography . It has provided me with the opportunity to fulfill my creative vision more precisely when that added closeness was essential. The additional rotating circular polarizer provided with the 2X telephoto lens and its ability to be used as a stand alone attachment to the other OlloClip attachments like the Three-in-One or the Four-in-One, or just by itself with the camera’s native lens is like icing on the cake, making the 2X telephoto lens a very good value purchase and one, highly recommend this lens.


This article first appeared in the British mobile magazine  MOB Fiction in March 2014. Since the publication this addendum has been added, since the OlloClip 2 X Telephoto lens  was originally tested using only a ratio 1:1 square camera.

Because of this, further  tests images were taken using PureShot camera app from Jag, a 4:3 ratio camera, allowing us to view how sharp the OlloClip 2X is from edge to edge.

Pre-performance lecture, Davis Concert Hall - PureShot camera application

PureShot camera application with the OlloClip 2X attached

While at the San Francisco Symphony, a place I felt was where one would wish to use the telephoto lens to capture the speaker’s presentation, as well as the orchestra members prior to the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas arrival, since photography is not permitted. With the iPhone 4S on a monopod, I took a couple of exposures, with and without the OlloClip 2X lens.

PureShot camera application

PureShot camera application with the OlloClip 2X attached

When we look more closely at the photograph showing where the choir is seated, particularly the upper left corner of the image, we clearly see softness. The degree of softness is not as sever as I have seen with other lens attachments and while any softness is undesirable, one must ask how much softness is acceptable.

Close up the choir showing the image left edge softness

Considering most mobile photographers alter their images into replicating LoFi effects or even resemble early 19th century prints and while I certainly would have preferred edge to edge sharpness, I still feel comfortable to recommend the OlloClip 2X telephoto lens without any reservations.

OlloClip website

All photographs taken with an iPhone 4S by
©2014 Egmont van Dyck - All Rights Reserved

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