Close-up photography with your Apple iPhone

First published on: Thursday, 20 November 2008

The fixed-focus lens on the Apple iPhone allows you to take clear pictures of subjects which are beyond a certain distance from where you’re standing.

Due to the lack of an AF (autofocus) mechanism on the iPhone’s lens, you’ll find that you get images of sub-par quality when trying to shoot objects that are closer to you, say a flower, or food that’s right in front of you, document text, business cards, or even barcodes that you might want to have analyzed by barcode-scanning applications and software (for instance, Snappr).

Macro images taken without the aid of a close-up lens will look blurry and exhibit quite a bit of peripheral distortion.

The good news is that Griffin Technology has just made available Clarifi, an iPhone 3G case which has a built-in close-up lens. I first heard about the Clarifi from the MacBreak Weekly 114 podcast.

The protective case is made of polycarbonate. You can slide close-up lens two ways, for macro photography as well as for taking normal pictures.

Here are some links to Clarifi reviews and photo samples:


  1. Clarifi group / pool at Flickr (here’s an interesting example, photographing a driver license with the Clarifi), and photos tagged “clarifi”.

  2. Before / after snap of a MacBook Pro keyboard, and one of a wristwatch.

  3. Clarifi review by iLounge: This review makes it clear that Clarifi is suited for shooting sbjects that are 6 to 10 inches away from the iPhone, but no closer.

  4. Short Clarifi review at Gizmodo: The comparison photos are worth noting.

Check out also the official web page for the Clarifi.

Alternatively, you could go for a cheaper solution, not pretty, but does the trick and lets you take great images. The answer is a 3-lens magnifier from Radio Shack, and costs only $8.99. I found this product recommendation in a forum post by “yoAlex”, who shared some awesome pictures taken with this accessory (view the entire gallery).

In that same thread, “demiurgical” posted a brief user review of the Clarifi, and linked to a gallery of sample photos.

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