I wasn’t expecting as much fun and I surely wasn’t expecting to be impressed, but Lensbaby delivers on the affordable Spark.
It’s likely lighter than any lens you’ve put on your DSLR and functions in a similarly unique fashion, the Lensbaby Spark is a selective focus wonder with a paired down feature set. Coming in at a 50mm focal length, you literally has to squish and pinch to focus, veering side to side in order to gain focus on what you want in the frame.
While the pros and cons are fairly obvious right off the bat, I was given a surprise after the first few times of use. Being a long time user of manual focus lenses, I thought this was going to throw me a slight curve ball, but no. Gaining focus was relatively quick and easy, with only a few misses. (Not that it matters all that much as this lens should be about play and not technical prowess.)
Whether it was near or far, I could more of less hone in on what I wanted and snap. Playing with what you could actually get out of the lens is another story.
With a rough minimum focus of 12″ you can get nice and close to things or keep some distance, the only limit really is how you’re able to keep focus and where you want it.
Here’s another unexpected twist (get ready, there are more): The lens is actually decently sharp! It might even contend with other glass in your kit, but for $90, you absolutely can’t complain. The “Sweet Spot” will always be as such, with other areas going into complete blur.
The effect is subtle enough to compliment general pictures but you can play with abstractions just as easily. On a flat plain, the blur becomes dramatic and adds some cool and sometimes, much needed drama.
In all, the Spark is an impressive package, especially for the money. You get a sharp 50mm that handles lots of different type of light, with the added benefit of extra creativity.
Who will love it? People who like to play with their images will immediately love the Spark’s general lack of control, at least compared to other lenses. The blur is actually useful, but let’s you let go just enough for a creative challenge.
Who should avoid it? Tech heads and pixel peepers; basically anyone who needs ultra sharp, high performance mojo BUT I’d encourage those types to give it a try and see what happens. You don’t have much to lose and a lot to gain!
Disclosure: Lensbaby sent me a copy of the Spark for review purposes. All opinions are my own and honest.