Cheap plastic lenses for DSLR cameras have been all the rage lately. Sparked in part by iPhone apps like Hipstamatic, and Instagram there has been a rush of fun play lenses on the market. One of the recent entries is Lensbaby’s new Spark which is effectively replacing the Lensbaby Muse as the entry level lens in their line of inexpensive tilt shift lenses.
Just in time for the Christmas season I think this Lensbaby will be on a lot of photographers wish lists.
The Spark is similar to its predecessor in many ways. It has a fixed aperture of 5.6 and is focused by bending and squeezing the lens with your fingers instead of using a traditional focusing ring. This techniquemeans it takes a bit of getting used to.
Focusing becomes a bit of an acrobatic trick as you hold your camera body in your palms and adjust the front of the lens with the outstretched fingers of both hands place on the front lip of the lens. With a bit of practice it doesn’t take long to get decent semi repeatable results. Even so I found that focusing was not easy. In practical terms these means you might need to take the same image 3 or 4 times to get a keeper. This may have been even tougher for me as an eyeglass wearer. If your diopter is not set well it can really impact your chances of getting a good image.
The lens itself is a bit soft, but that is to be expected for something that is under 100 USD. The lens is a heck of a lot of fun to play with and opens up some amazing creative opportunities. I have to admit I bought the Spark because I am cheap. At the same time I was eyeing the more sturdily built Lensbaby Composer Pro model but thought I should try out the cheapy Spark before investing in the more professional level Composer Pro. Not to say the Spark’s build isn’t appropriate. I think the build quality is in line with the price not great, but it works well.
- Opens up amazing creative opportunieis
- Extremely fun
- Image quality matches the price
- Difficult to get repeatable results
- Focusing is hit or miss
Here is a small collection of example photographs taken with a Lensbaby Spark.
The Final Word
The Lens has been a blast and I regret not going with the Composer Pro from the start. The Spark isn’t going to get you many images you want to print poster size but the quirky results allow creativity levels I haven’t felt in years. I would absolutely recommend picking one up if you have any interest in exploring the world of tilt shift.