If you’ve ever wondered what effect a specific Lensbaby lens has or if you’ve ever wondered how that compares to other lensbaby lenses or even standard lenses then this article is for you.
I took the same image of a model using a wide variety of Lensbaby lenses as well as standard prime lenses and compared the results. All images were taken with flash with an ISO 100 at 1/125 second and all at f4. You should notice that the model stays a similar size in the frame when using a variety of focal length lenses, that was to create ‘real-life’ look to the test. I have taken the images as I would do normally regardless of focal length and they all appear here completely un-cropped.
Standard 50mm Lens
This is your standard 50mm lens and probably the most common prime lens you’ll use. You should be very familiar with how this image will look but it’s good to have this shot as a baseline to compare the subsequent Lensbaby lenses against.
Standard 85mm Lens
Again, you should be fairly familiar with how the images should look taken with the 85mm lens. The only significant point to make is how the background looks compared to the standard 50mm and other 50mm lenses. You can quite clearly see that the background is far softer as a result of the extended focal length at a similar aperture to the 50mm.
This is probably the most well known Lensbaby and just to be clear, the Sweet 50 is an optic that is situated in the Composer Pro cradle. What that means is that the ball-joint and focusing part of the lens called the Composer Pro can hold other Lensbaby optics like the Edge 80 for example. The Sweet 50 creates a radial type blur that emanates from a user defined epicentre. The user can dictate where the in-focus area is and then the lens blurs the image the further you get from that.
I use this technique a lot in portraits as I can get the subjects face in focus and then blur the surrounding shot to create a sense of depth and movement. It’s also worth pointing out that the aperture also affects the blur. At f16 for example the blur is very subtle and at f2.8, the blur is very strong. For more examples of the image this lens takes, take a look at one of my previous photographic projects ‘The Moving Portrait‘.
The Edge 80 optic, like the Sweet 50, sits in the Composer Pro cradle and that controls focus and tilt. The Edge 80 is an incredibly powerful lens that has the ability to creates very clean slices of focus at any angle in your image.
This effect is often seen in those ‘toy-town’ photos where a drastic illusion of forced depth of field gives a false impression of scale. The slice of focus can be placed in any way the user wants, from vertically to horizontally and everything else in between. I have used this lens to create a sense of an incredibly narrow depth of field in portraits and you can see some more of those results here in the close head shots from this shoot ‘Lucid Dreams‘.
This is one of the few Lensbaby lenses that creates an effect that can’t be heavily influenced by the user. The Twist 60 creates a swirling pattern towards the edge of the frame leaving a cleaner, more untouched centre. This lens is a little trickier to use in a studio as composing your shot with a sharp subject requires you to place them in the centre of the frame. In the image you see here, you should notice that the subjects eyes are a little soft because the effect can’t be kept off them.
I took another image where the subjects face was in the centre of the frame and the eyes were pin sharp so a little care and thought is needed when composing your images with the Twist 60. The effect this lens creates can be increased with shallower f numbers like f2.8 and reduced with higher apertures like f16. A full review of this lens can be found here.
Lensbaby have released two Velvet lenses, a 56mm and a 85mm. This Velvet 56 is one of the first lenses that Lensbaby released that produced a more subtle effect. Their previous lenses have been very popular for their very defining results whereas the Velvet lenses explore a more refined effect. They have been called art lenses that create an almost ‘vintage’ lens effect.
Although this is a quick and easy way of explaining what they do, it falls a little short as there is a lot going on in the making of the resulting image. The best way that I can explain is that there’s almost a sharp image nestled underneath a soft and creamy image. The effect is more dramatic towards the edge of the frame and can also be increased further by opening up the aperture to f2.8 and beyond. For a more comprehensive look at the lens, take a look at my review.
Like the Velvet 56, this is another of the Lensbaby lenses that creates a more subtle effect. The 85mm is almost identical at the 56 apart from the obvious focal length difference. If you’re a portrait shooter you may prefer this longer focal length over the 56 but it’s also worth pointing out that the Velvet effect seems to be stronger on this lens compared to the 56. The reason of this is simple; like other 85mm lenses, the depth of field blur is more pronounced on longer focal length lenses and the same is true here.
Like other Lensbaby lenses, the signature lens effect is often more pronounced with wider apertures so when shooting the same shot at 56mm at f4 and 85mm at f4 the lens appears to create a stronger effect. Take a look and compare the backgrounds in the two Velvet lens shots and make your own decisions. If you’d like to know more about the Velvet 85 then check out my complete review here.
For more information on these lenses, take a look at the Lensbaby website for the full descriptions and specifications via the links below.
About the Author
Jake Hicks is an editorial and fashion photographer who specializes in keeping the skill in the camera, not just on the screen. For more of his work and tutorials, check out his website. Don’t forget to like his Facebook page, follow him on Flickr, Instagram and Twitter, and subscribe to his YouTube channel. This article was also published here and shared with permission.