Taking the LENSBABY Sweet 35 for a Spin

Gearing up for PDX Squared on May 17th I joined a group of photographers preparing for the event by trying out some new gear.  I borrowed a LENSBABY Sweet 35 and Macro adaptors for my Canon 5D Mark III.  Since the folks at LENSBABY really wanted to make sure we put these lens through their paces they conjured up a scavenger hunt and dangled a Lens Baby Composer Pro with Double Glass lens for the winner.  I love free stuff as much as the next gal so I took on that challenge.  Here are some of the shots I took this past week.

I posted my scavenger hunt pictures at the beginning of the gallery below.  Just got notice today that I WON!!!  Woot!  Woot!

There was a lot of discussion around the studio about whether what LENSBABY lens do could be reproduced post production.  Probably the soft focus and even the radial blur could be achieved but there is something special about the way the light is manipulated. I always prefer to compose in camera and it's interesting to shoot in away that forces me to be creative with my focus by finding that 'sweet spot' when I take the picture thinking about how the f-stop on this lens will effect the bent/blurred edges.  

The wider the depth of field (f2.8) the smaller the sharp sweet spot will be in proportion to the overall image.  I really tried to push it to shoot at f11 or f16 to see the most minimal amount of blur I could achieve too.  This became difficult as the optics become darker and darker - through the viewfinder - as the f-stop became narrower so it becomes increasingly hard to focus.  LENSBABY would probably argue you that's not the point of this lens and I would agree although I seem to prefer a wider plane of focus in my images for a lot of my work.  

LENSBABY tips.  Make sure the diopter (the little wheel next to your viewfinder) in your camera is focused to your eye.  I'm a little nearsighted so this is essential to me - if you've been relying on auto focus lens you may never have noticed that you could make your viewfinder adapt to your eyesight.  Because you are going to be focusing manually it's imperative you are able to visually see when things are really in focus.  The second thing you need to practice is to identify where the sharp focus 'sweet spot' is.  The easiest way to find it is to make sure your lens is pointing straight ahead and not pivoted on the ball/socket mechanism either to the left-right or top-bottom. Get it straight on.  Focus manually then start moving the lens (without moving your camera) and you can see with your eyes where that 'sweet spot' is moving in the frame.  You'll find the more photos you take you'll start feeling creative and want to move the 'sweet spot' out of the middle in the interest of your composition.  If you lose the 'sweet spot' as I did over and over I'd simply physically reset the lens by getting it to point straight forward once again. The 'sweet spot' probably got pushed all the way out of the frame.  Put it back to your eye and VOILA - ready to go again.

Overall, I was very pleased with the results of the LENSBABY Sweet 35. Now, I'm tickled to add one of these lens to my photo kit.