Why We Like the New Olloclip Smartphone Lens Kit

There’s a certain thrill in shooting objects up close with a macro lens. One snap and suddenly a coin, a chess piece, a drop of rain, or a caterpillar seems larger than life.

Traditionally, macro photography required a SLR camera and a specialized lens that could cost anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars up into the thousands. But recently, smartphone add-on macro lenses have come on the market, and they are affordable enough to serve as a holiday gift or spontaneous splurge.

Now, a new option from Olloclip provides multiple magnifications that let smartphone owners push further into macro shooting.

The company is one of several that arm photographers with a range of easy-to-use lenses that clip onto their smartphone cameras. (Competitors include Photojojo and Moment.) Olloclip has already offered macro photography in two magnifications in its 4-in-1 lens kit, which also includes wide-angle and fisheye options.

But now the company has expanded its arsenal to include a $70 Macro Pro Lens kit that triples down on this kind of photography. The package provides three magnifications: 7x, 14x, and a truly powerful 21x.

Tips for Macro Photography

When you use macro lenses, you get a very shallow depth of field. That means only a thin section of the photo will be in focus. But you can use this to create some dramatic effects. For instance, if you’re shooting someone’s face with a macro lens, you’ll want to make sure the most important features—like, say, the eyes—are in focus. You may need to experiment to see what works best with different shots.

In the days of 35mm-film cameras, a 1x magnification (or 1:1 ratio) meant the resulting image would be the same size as the real-life object. If you shot a dime, it would look just like a dime. As you moved up to 2x or 3x magnification, you doubled or tripled the size of the object. Suddenly, the word LIBERTY really begins to stand out.

Instead of a standard 35mm frame of film, though, camera phones capture images on sensors of varying sizes. So one phone may produce different images than another, even with the same Olloclip lens. But regardless of the phone you use, you’ll end up with a dramatic effect.

Of course, the big benefit of shooting digital is that you can fire off hundreds of photos at a time. Take your time and experiment a lot. Just be sure to back up your smartphone photos—preferably after deleting the ones you don't like.

Shooting with a macro lens outside can be a challenge, particularly if you’re shooting flowers on a windy day. The slightest hand movement or breeze can alter the focus. So you'll want to keep your phone stable, ideally on a tripod. Sometimes it's better to bring your subjects indoors. In a pinch, though, you can try to block the wind with a large sheet of cardboard.

Overall, I found the Olloclip kit to work very well. The Macro Pro Lens features an updated design that lines up with the phone’s front- and rear-facing cameras so you can quickly shift from one to the other. The kit also comes with a light diffuser that fits around the lenses and illuminates your subject, which is another nice extra.

The Olloclip is compatible with most iOS phones and tablets. It's also compatible with some Samsung Galaxy S phones.

For more tips like these, check out our pieces on how to take great photos with a smartphone and smartphone camera apps.

Copyright © 2005-2015 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.