This weird lens filter traps the world in a sphere in front of your camera

Nov 15, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

This weird lens filter traps the world in a sphere in front of your camera

Nov 15, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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This is one of the weirdest, but at the same time coolest, lens filters I’ve ever seen. There have been a lot of filters purely for one-off effects over the years, and some of them are still commonly available today. Most of them are kind of gimmicky and, well, this one is, too, really.

It’s the Soratama from Zenjix, a 72mm filter that actually has a glass sphere right in the centre of it. It’s designed for use with macro lenses or extension tubes to let you focus in on the close glass ball to see the world while throwing the actual shot outside of the sphere out of focus. And, it’s kind of interesting.

YouTube video

Yes, it’s definitely a gimmick that isn’t going to see a lot of daily use from just about anybody who chooses to buy one. It’s also not a new concept. People have been photographing and filming the world through glass spheres for years. But this is the first time I’ve seen one attached to a filter that allows you to do it so cleanly.

With the sphere slap bang in the centre of a plain sheet of filter glass, it essentially looks like the sphere is floating in mid-air in front of the camera, which offers a unique twist to this classic, if not commonly used, technique.

The filter itself is available to buy for around $90-95 on Amazon, although you do need to purchase the Zenjix extension tubes to go along with it (which are another $85). These screw onto the filter thread of your lens, and then provide a 72mm thread for the filter to go onto. You need to get it further away from the lens than your typical filters (hence the need for the tubes) because the glass ball actually lives on the side of the filter that faces your camera. So, without the tubes, the glass ball would hit the front of your lens before the filter threads even get close.

That is a little pricey for a gimmicky filter you might use twice to test it when you initially get it and then never touch it again, butou can get both items for a little less according to the manufacturer, with the filter itself at $59 and the tubes at $49. This is a little more reasonable, but at the moment there don’t appear to be any outlets selling at the manufacturer’s recommended prices.

It is an interesting filter and one I might pick up for myself at some point. It’s definitely not something I’d use regularly, but I can also definitely see it coming in extremely useful from time to time. For now, though, I’ll wait until they’re more readily available and the prices drop to match those of the manufacturer.

[via Photo Rumors]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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22 responses to “This weird lens filter traps the world in a sphere in front of your camera”

  1. Duncan Knifton Avatar
    Duncan Knifton

    OK….I like that,,,probably only use it once…but still looks cool…

  2. Paul Ford Avatar
    Paul Ford

    If it actually is like that it would foul on front element.

    1. Robin Mascall Avatar
      Robin Mascall

      I do wonder why it’s not facing out instead

      1. Kaouthia Avatar
        Kaouthia

        I suspect it’s probably to hide the join line between the sphere and the front element. You don’t see it if the larger side of the sphere is closer to the sensor, but going the other way, you’d likely see it around the edge of the sphere (and it’d probably result in a smaller view on the world).

    2. Jacob Jensen Avatar
      Jacob Jensen

      It depends. Lots of macro lenses have the front element inset plenty far enough for that to fit.

    3. Paul Ford Avatar
      Paul Ford

      Jacob Jensen but why would you want to take a spherical shot with a macro lens?

    4. Jacob Jensen Avatar
      Jacob Jensen

      Why wouldn’t you? Most macro lenses aren’t restricted to macro-only use; they make pretty great all-around lenses.

  3. Mark Stevens Avatar
    Mark Stevens

    No interest…. Sorry

  4. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
    Tj Ó Seamállaigh

    Creative. But how does it fit on lens and the sphere facing inward? is there a special casing to be placed between the filter and the lens front?

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      That’s what the tubes are for, to extend the distance between the filter and the front element.

  5. Joe Hoddinott Avatar
    Joe Hoddinott

    Almost $200 for it and the tubes needed to mount it on your lens? Lol… no.

  6. Michael Chastain Avatar
    Michael Chastain

    $93 for the filter itself doesn’t seem so bad. $85 for the extension is just dumb though. Include it or cut the cost of the extension tube by 2/3 to 3/4 and I’ll consider it.

  7. Chester Kher Avatar
    Chester Kher

    Lol, such shots can’t really sell. I’ll only do such “playful edits” via phone apps. No ROI.

  8. Mark Wiles Avatar
    Mark Wiles

    This would be so fun if it were $5 and I could throw it away after the one time I would ever use it

  9. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
    Jolyon Ralph

    This has been around for 5 years or so. Works better on a macro lens of course because of the minimum focusing distance, then you don’t need the extension tubes.

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      The extension tubes in this instance aren’t to reduce the minimum focus distance. They’re to stop the ball hitting the front lens element. They screw onto the filter thread of the lens, not the mount side.

      1. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
        Jolyon Ralph

        Sorry, didn’t make myself clear. Not *those* extension tubes – I mean the ones on the camera mount side of the lens. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a3c2ee743b0da459d495b1d6539eb1f034c59ee8026e60640e250a15ac63586e.png

        As in this example with the Sony FE 28mm lens and some extension tubes thrown on *both ends* in this case.

        1. Kaouthia Avatar
          Kaouthia

          Ah, yes. The photo with the Canon shows a macro lens. And I mentioned it in the article, too. :)

          1. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
            Jolyon Ralph

            Yes, the EF-M 28mm macro, lovely lens, I have one here!

  10. Ferry Passchier Avatar
    Ferry Passchier

    LOL…. That price tag ?

  11. John Beatty Avatar
    John Beatty

    To me it is just another gimmick that has a very finite use. So, use factor and price seals the deal for me. Pass.

  12. Henry Heerschap Avatar
    Henry Heerschap

    Given how many articles I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks about this filter, I expect that images made this way are going to be as common as cat photos in the next few months. I also expect to see knock-off versions available in the $20-30 range by mid-2021.