Good smartphone photography and video requires a steady hand, a good eye and, just maybe, a bag of tricks.
That’s more or less the concept behind Olloclip’s and Incase’s limited-time mashup: The Filmer’s Kit.
It’s a black, compression-molded, 9-inch-by-6-inch-by-3-inch case packed with the majority of Olloclip’s iPhone 7 add-on lenses (the Core Lens Set and Active Lens Set) and Pivot, a nifty, articulating hand-held mobile phone grip with a universal clamp that accommodates most smartphone sizes. There’s also a cold-shoe mount on the Pivot for a microphone and light source and an adapter so you can use Pivot with your favorite GoPro style camera.
And the whole thing costs $199.
Since a single Olloclip set with three lenses can costs as much as $119, the Filmer’s Kit is a decent savings.
It’s also pretty darn good.
Olloclip’s been making add-on lenses since the iPhone 4, using high-quality, multi-elements optics to add everything from wide-angle to zoom and macro capabilities. The biggest changes, year-over-year, have been how you attach the lenses to the phone.
Early additions slipped onto the corner of the iPhone 4 and 5, but as the iPhone slimmed down, screens got bigger, and the cameras moved around on the device body, Olloclip developed increasingly ingenious methods for positioning its lenses over both the rear and front-facing cameras.
The significantly larger iPhone 7 lens (and dual lenses on the iPhone 7 Plus) forced the biggest Olloclip system change to date.
The new Connect system, which is well-represented in the Filmer’s Kit, separates the Olloclip attachment hardware from the lenses, allowing you to use a spring-loaded system to place and remove the lenses in the molded Olloclip frames, which are designed to position the lenses over either the front or rear-facing cameras.
I must admit that, at first, I wasn’t a fan of this new, more complex strategy. The lenses snap in securely enough, but I worried about the wiggle that remains even after you put the lens in the frame. That bit of give, however, comes in handy when you put the Olloclip on your phone, keeping the lens loose until it’s sitting right over the iPhone 7 lens.
The other benefit of this system is that you can swap out lenses without removing the Olloclip frame. The more I did this, the more I got used to the Connect system.
With my new comfort level with Olloclip’s iPhone 7-friendly lens system, I turned my attention to the wide variety of lens choices in the Filmer’s Kit.
There’s the Telephoto 2x optical zoom, 155-degree Ultra-Wide angle, 120-degree Super-Wide Angle, a near 180-degree Fisheye, and 15X macro (for super-up-close shots), which you access by unscrewing the Fisheye lens.
While you can create arresting effects with the fisheye and ultra-wide, they also add a lot of curved distortion to your images. My favorites are the Telephoto (which puts you twice as close to your subject) and the Super-Wide Angle, which, by pulling in significantly more visual information without noticeable distortion, is capable of transforming stills and videos (on the rear or FaceTime camera).
I took stills and videos with all all the lenses and am generally impressed. My only criticism is that the Telephoto has a tiny bit of fuzziness around the edges of my images. At first, I thought it was a result of how I seated the lens on my iPhone 7, but then noticed the same hint of blur on the far edges of shots that I took after I carefully removed and reseated the lens.
This isn’t a show-stopper, since 99 percent of the frame is sharp, but it’s also not in line with Olloclip’s typically exemplary optical quality.
The only other downside to the 2X optical zoom lens is that it cannot be used on the iPhone 7 Plus’s built-in 2X zoom camera to double that zoom.
Whenever I used the Olloclip lenses, I also used the new Pivot grip. It’s a lightweight, plastic adjustable iPhone holder that made it easy to take selfies and shoot first-person videos. First, there’s the grip that flairs out to fit comfortably in your palm. It connects to an open circle where you can place your index finger for further stability.
There’s a button right before the circle. Press it and you can adjust into 12 different positions. You can also rotate the spring-loaded camera grip to virtually any angle (it also unscrews so you can swap in the GoPro attachment).
The grip is strong, but you do have to be careful about where you put the phone. More than once, I placed my iPhone in the rubberized grip and set it up to take photos, not realizing that the grip was squeezing the iPhone 7’s down-volume button and taking hundreds of pictures.
Olloclip claims the grip has “passive stabilization,” meaning that the act of you holding your iPhone with a handle on it makes it more stable. This is true, but it should not be mistaken for the kind of active stabilization you’ll get from far more expensive holders like DJI’s OZMO.
As for the black case from Incase, it’s sturdy and large. True vloggers and photographers who try to make the most out of their iPhone photographic capabilities, will appreciate it. For everyone else, it’s overkill. I emptied it and carried the lenses and Pivot in my backpack for a few days.
Apple has spent considerable time making excellent iPhone cameras and, over the years, Olloclip has consistently found a way to improve upon them. The new Filmer’s Kit with its wide collection of lens choices maintains that pattern, plus, with all the lenses, pivot and even the case, it’s an exceptionally good deal. Too bad it’s for a limited time only and only at the Apple Store and Apple.com.
Olloclip I Incase Filmer’s Kit
A great value • Excellent lenses • New attachment system is ultimately a good fit for the iPhone 7 • Pivot grip is flexible and easy to use
Telephoto gets you close, but loses something on the edges
The Bottom Line
If you want better iPhone 7 photography and vlogging, the Filmer’s Kit is a good place to start.