Review: 3-in-1 smartphone camera lens kit for Android, iPhone, iPad, etc.

3-in-1 mobile lens kit 07I own a Canon EOS 60D, which I bought second hand a couple of years ago. It’s a cracking camera and it was an absolute steal on the second hand market. But it’s not very portable. Not when you take into account the other things I stuff into my camera bag: my three main lenses, the filters, the remote shutter release, the lens hoods and so on.

Of course these days, many people carry a half-decent camera with them at all times, in their phones. These cameras aren’t very versatile, but they’re convenient because they’re almost always at hand. And because of this, there’s a healthy phone camera mod market. One of the leaders in this field is the Olloclip.

Olloclips are great. The trouble is, each Olloclip is designed for a particular phone (or small family of phones). So it’s not really transferable. And with prices in the order of £60, you can buy a pretty competent compact point-and-shoot for not much more than that. It’s clever, good quality, but not exactly a bargain. Not like today’s review kit at least.

3-in-1 mobile lens kit 01This 3-in-1 camera kit, like many other Chinese gadgets can be found for sale on a few shopping sites, under various different “brand names”. Our example was sold as a “Yarrashop”, but we suspect that’s just the current trade name of this particular seller. The kit arrived in an anonymous box, with no manufacturer claiming responsibility. And we think that’s a shame, because as we reckon you’ll agree, it’s rather extraordinary.

In the box, there are three lenses, a bag and a clip. The bag doubles as a lens cleaning cloth. The clip, with rubber pads, enables you to attach the lenses to virtually any mobile phone or tablet.

One of the lenses is a fisheye lens. The other two can be used in combination, to form a wide angle lens, or you can use the smaller component on its own as a macro lens. The lenses and the clip are all sturdy metal, with a solid feel. They can be purchased in different colours, but we went for silver, which we think suits this kind of equipment.

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The clip attaches securely on the phone or tablet. You do have to position it carefully – this is hardest with the fisheye lens; with the other two, you can see the phone’s camera lens underneath – but once it’s situated, taking photographs is no harder than usual.

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With the fisheye lens, the photograph appears as though within a circle cut out from black card, so the photo would need cropping afterwards. The wide angle lens – I’m not sure there’s that much use for it; there’s some barrel distortion at the edges and in any event, most smart phones can stitch shots together into a panorama, which would be far superior. The macro lens, well that’s a cracker. You have to be be very close to the subject, so you’d be unlikely to be able to use this on nervous insects. And you probably don’t have a tripod for your phone, so you need a reasonably steady hand. But in spite of all that, the effect of the lens is impressive.

Here are some example shots, taken with the lens attached to a Samsung Galaxy S5. Click through for the full resolution images.

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As long as you don’t compare this with DSLR quality, this is not bad at all, right? But then we get to the punchline. These lenses, clip included, will set you back less than £7. That’s unbelievable Seven quid. No matter who I’ve shown this to, when I’ve told them the price they have been incredulous. I still can’t believe it, to be honest. But the truth is shown in my Amazon orders history and on my bank statement.

Under close inspection, there is some loss of clarity and marginally less light hitting the sensor. But if you’re starting out with a very good phone camera, this slight degradation is we think more than acceptable, especially given the increased versatility. A few shots more:

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You’d think there has to be a catch, wouldn’t you. It’s hard to find one actually. Separating the wide angle lens from the macro lens is s bit fiddly – and counter-intuitive too because it’s reverse-threaded. But not too difficult. And it would be nice to have a case for the lenses – the bag doesn’t do much to protect them. But given the price, we’re really splitting hairs. I dug out an old cufflink case and that was perfect for the job.

I’d say to anyone who takes the slightest interest in phone-based photography – get this kit. You won’t regret it. It’s an absolute bargain, well made and practical. As this price, what do you have to lose?

[easyreview title=”Geek rating” icon=”geek” cat1title=”Ease of use” cat1detail=”Very slightly fiddly. But otherwise extremely simple.” cat1rating=”4.5″ cat2title=”Features” cat2detail=”The kit lacks only a case.” cat2rating=”4.5″ cat3title=”Value for money” cat3detail=”Phenomenal value for money at this price.” cat3rating=”5″ cat4title=”Build Quality” cat4detail=”Well made. I wouldn’t be surprised if the odd unit has burrs on the thread or seams, but I saw no evidence of that here. Not the best optics, unsurprisingly.” cat4rating=”3.5″ summary=”All in all, an outstanding kit. Great as a gift, stocking filler, whatever. Or treat yourself, without really any feeling of guilt. You’d spend more on a couple of pints of beer and you know what happens to that. ;-)”]

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