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Handheld Devices

Olloclip 4-in-1 iPhone lens: Creative possibilities times four

The iPhone's camera is plenty capable on its own, but a few well-chosen accessories can make a huge difference, especially if you want to get fancy. Even a cheap little tripod allows you to experiment with time-lapse images, for example. A remote shutter lets you take selfies from clear across the room, and a specially designed waterproof case even lets you shoot underwater.

But the easiest way to make your iPhone feel more like a real camera is to add another lens--or four.

Olloclip's 3-in-1 lens was great, but the company's new 4-in-1 lens (which replaces the 3-in-1 completely) is even better.

While it keeps the wide-angle and fish-eye lenses from the older version, it now provides not one, but two macro lenses: a 10x lens that gets you, um, 10 times closer, and a 15x lens that puts your subject almost too close. They're great for taking photos of tiny details like the fuzz on a peach, or the pattern in a leaf.

The closer you get, however, the more you'll notice any bit of camera shake. At 10x it's tricky, but still possible, to get a nonblurry shot by bracing the phone against your hand or a solid object such as a table. At 15x, it's much harder--a tripod or a tabletop is all but required to keep the phone still, which can be a bummer if you're trying to take an image of, say, tree bark or a flower petal.

The fish-eye lens on one side unscrews to reveal the 15x macro lens beneath it; on the other side, unscrewing the wide-angle lens uncovers the 10x macro lens. Ingeniously, the two screw bases are just different enough that you can't accidentally mix up which lens goes where. Each lens will reattach only in its proper place.

What won't stay in their proper place are the little plastic lens caps that Olloclip includes. I lost those after a couple of days. The microfiber pouch stuck around, though, and it's ideal for wiping away the fingerprints the lenses' glass covers attract.

Worst case scenario

The Olloclip fits on the iPhone 5s, the 5c, and the plain old 5, and comes with an included adapter that lets it slide onto the fifth-gen iPod touch. You'll find a version for the iPhone 4 and 4s, too. The fit is perfectly snug--it's not hard to slide the Olloclip on or off, but once it's in place it feels sturdy and doesn't move a bit.

The Olloclip does cover the sleep/wake button, but that isn't a big deal since you'll have the Olloclip on only when you're shooting photos, and when you're done you can just yank it off and put your phone to sleep. It also half-covers the iPhone's flash, which might annoy some people. I avoid using the flash at all costs, so that didn't bother me a bit.

The major drawback for most users will be the Olloclip's inability to fit over any case. (The lone exception is Olloclip's own Quick-Flip Case, which has a corner that rotates out of the way to make room for the Olloclip lens.) It works over a plain screen protector, but you will need to remove any kind of snap-on or slide-on case.

Bottom line

Fish-eye lenses are a hoot to shoot with, giving you distortion that no photography app can properly mimic. They make fun videos, too. The wide-angle lens is less important since the iPhone's camera has a pretty wide angle already, but when you are trying to photograph something huge like a building and you can't physically back up, the wide-angle lens is a lifesaver.

And the macro lenses, aside from being handy pocket magnifying glasses for reading small print, are great for getting a totally new perspective on the things you see every day. Combined, the Olloclip 4-in-1 is a solid package, and it goes a long way in making you think of your iPhone as a real camera instead of just a phone that takes pictures.

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