Jul 17 2014, 11:28am CDT | by Forbes
Apple's i-devices actually have quite good cameras by default. The iPhone 5S for example offers a class-leading camera and I expect the iPhone 6, in whatever varieties it turns up in, to further push the envelope of smartphone image capturing. However, they’re still fairly limited when it comes to versatility. There’s no optical zoom and many of the features compact cameras offer such as wide angle and macro aren’t there either.
Thankfully Apple accessory manufacturer olloclip has a rather nifty device that any budding iPad photographers will be very interested in. It’s simply called the iPad 4-in-1 Photo lens and brings together a three-piece system to give you four new ways to use your iPad’s camera. It’s also compatible with the iPad Mini, iPad Air and iPad Mini with Retina display.
Specifically, there’s a fisheye lens, wide-angle lens and two macro lenses. Fisheye refers to the obvious dome-shaped lenses that allow for an extreme field of view. Wide-angle does the same, but in a less spectacular and more natural way, while macro lenses allow you to focus on objects much closer than normal.
The main section clip slips onto your iPad and provided a 10X and 15X macro lens – one on either side. You just flip the clip round to use each one. The clip provides a snug fit so it won’t fall off but isn’t tight enough to scratch your device either. Also included is a carry pouch and lens caps.
The separate lenses are the fisheye and wide-angle, which screw on to a specific side of the clip and cover one of the macro lenses. You can have both fitted at the same time so all you have to do is swap round the clip to switch lenses.
So what are they like in practice? To start with I used the macro lenses on my iPad Mini to see just how close we could get to our subject – in this case a 8mm screw. We used the maximum 15X lens first and you can see the result below.
There’s quite a shallow depth of field although this is partly due to the iPad’s lens but even so, the detail and magnification are amazing – you can see the real screw sitting on the screen. At 10X zoom the image gains some depth of field and looks a little sharper as a result.
For some direct comparison shots I focused on a flower before switching to 10X macro and then 15X macro. Again, the 10X macro looks a little fuller and was easier to work with too – you need to get so close to use the 15X lens that you end up touching the subject. Even so, it still pics out a lot of detail that’s simply not visible through the normal lens and is a lot of fun to use.
Switching to the separate lenses now and first up is the wide-angle lens. Our first subject was a bench of flowers and in the first image you can see the standard iPad capture. The second shot using the wide-angle lens gives a much wider picture that’s still quite sharp except for some distortion at the edges.
I then switched to the fisheye lens for the third shots in the comparisons and this provides a super-wide field of view although the downside is that the image is heavily distorted at the edges as you can see. However, if you’re standing close to a tree or building it can provide a useful means of getting the whole subject in view.
olloclip also offers an app, which is free to download from the iTunes App Store. This includes a host of useful tools for getting the most out of the lenses. With regards to the distortion, particularly with the wide-angle and fisheye lenses, the app includes an editor that allows you adjust the image to even out much of the distortion.
The images above show the difference the app can make to an image taken through the fisheye lens. On the left is the original photo and on the right is the corrected one. The app also gives you manual control to reduce the curves you see. This can do the same for the macro mode too plus there’s a software stabilizer that can help to get sharper photos.
I’m actually pretty impressed with the iPad 4-in-1 Photo lens. The macro modes in particular are a lot of fun to use and the results are quite amazing. They’re not going to be up to most modern dedicated digitial cameras’ standards but they’re not far off and of course you have the social media world at your fingertips when shooting on the iPad. With very effective wide-angle and fisheye lenses thrown in too, the asking price of $69.99 is pretty reasonable, especially compared to a dedicated camera. You can purchase the kit from www.olloclip.com
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