Taking the Lensbaby Sweet 35 for a ride…


Totally out of focus silhouette.
Totally out of focus silhouette.
Taking the Lensbaby Sweet 35 for a ride…
Please click on the thumbnails for a bigger image.
A few years ago I had a love affair with the Lensbaby. It was only the 2.0 version, that you had to bend to find your sweet spot and the only available extras were the 4X and 10X filters to stick to the front.
They liked and used one of my images, a peacock in display extensively for advertising.
LensBaby gift card 2010
LensBaby gift card 2010

Then life got in in the middle of our relationship in the way of long and heavy lenses, getting up at the wee hours and traveling to far away places in search of exotic bird species.
Atlantic Puffin with sand eel. Skommer, Wales, England.
Canon 1d4, 70-200/4 with two 25mm extension tubes.
Atlantic Puffin with sand eel. Skommer, Wales, England.
Canon 1d4, 70-200/4 with two 25mm extension tubes.

Well, we are a bit tired of that, let’s say that our light does not shine there anymore.
At least for now.

We have gotten rid of most of the heavy duty stuff, keeping only the 7D and the 100-400L that would be enough for our birds needs, should they arise.
And as part of our replacement equipment, I turned my head back to old trusty Lensbaby and was very happy to see how much the company has improved their lenses, much better build quality and a lot of optics to choose from.
Got us the Composer Pro with the Sweet 35 installed, the Edge 80 and the Macro converters.

Sony Nex 7, Lensababy with macro converters.
Sony Nex 7, Lensababy with macro converters.

I must say Lensbaby has come a looooooong way and I still have a learning curve to get to be familiar with the new system. Now you can dial in the f/ stop instead of changing the ring inside and with the live histograms, no more guessing at the exposure, since there is no communication between the camera body and the lenses.
In our NEX-7 camera, there is a setting that will let you release without a lens attached, and it needs to be enabled to be able to shoot.

Tilting the optic for slanted bokeh.
Tilting the optic for slanted bokeh.

We went to Epcot Center for a few days right before Christmas, and got a chance to use the Sweet 35 in a lot of creative ways. Creativity is not an option, but a way of life, they say. And there is nothing more liberating than not to have to live up to your old standards and have the freedom to experiment without pressure and be as free as a child in expressing yourself as an artist. I don’t have to fill my shoes anymore.

Tilted to side optic.
Tilted to side optic.

I wished I had used the optic for people more often than I did, just decided to do so on the last day and loved the effect. I can see myself really liking the effect, exaggerating the focusing ring effect and only working wide open, at f2.8.
Mind you, taking candids and getting used to a creative optic at the same time is a learning curve and not always easy. But there is lots of room for improvement and the road to getting there is going to be a lot of fun.

Going for impressionistic feel.
Going for impressionistic feel.

I think I’m going to like the Edge 80 too, but one optic at a time, please. Their behavior is different. Sweet 35 , as described by the manufacturer:
Handholding, focusing on hands.
Handholding, focusing on hands.

“The Sweet 35 Optic is a 35mm selective focus optic with a 12-blade adjustable aperture that creates a tack sharp Sweet Spot of focus surrounded by blur. Experience an unprecedented level of creative control over the size of the Sweet Spot.
The Sweet 35 Optic boasts the widest focal length of any selective focus Lensbaby optic and features close-focus capabilities.”

Really slanted optic.
Really slanted optic.

In this article, I will only use images taken with it and will try to get more familiar with the Edge, which has a flat plane of focus, more like a Tilt and Shift, and is supposed to be great for posed portraits. I haven’t gotten that far. I should say YET.
Edited to soften the harsh midday-light.
Edited to soften the harsh midday-light.

One of the most amazing things with this lens is the bokeh, an I love to use it backlit for maximum effect. If you keep the optic straight, the bokeh is beautifully rounded. But if you bend it, Oh la la, you get crazy slanted effects. Up to you. Will also try to experiment with other apertures to get more defined point of focus.
Backlit slanted.
Backlit slanted.

As for editing, you can do as little or as much as you can. Most of them require very little, Clarity works well, or maybe getting rid of a distracting white spot. Or sometimes go all they and mix two exposures. Whatever fits you, you are the one in charge.
Two exposures blended in CS6
Two exposures blended in CS6

18 thoughts on “Taking the Lensbaby Sweet 35 for a ride…

  1. Very nice read and images Fabs. I always followed your CS skill “courses” on the Nature photography websites like Birdphotographers.net I thought they were well explained ..shame they are not there to be found anymore! Have a fab(s) 2013. Rene de Heer

  2. Fantastic write up… boy i really never understand this little jewell…. Hope you are able to return to the cs skills… fabulous ,and priceless!! Happy new year!!!

  3. I remember way back when you wrote the article for the PSA Journal on the lensbaby, Fabs. You have come so far (in so many ways) since then and I’m very pleased to see you back in the creative mode. I love the two large images–the first because at first I think it is an OOF face till I scroll down enough to see it as a silhouette; the second because of the awesome beauty of the bokeh and the flowers. I’m hungry for more!

  4. Jim, I pasted the flower image on top of the bokeh image, created a layer mask and erased the original image to let the bokeh come through.
    Hope this helps, if not, please feel free to ask again. I had an out of focus image where I burrowed the bokeh from.

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