Today, Lensbaby introduced the newest addition to their creative lens line at Photokina 2012: the Lensbaby Spark. It’s geared toward the photo enthusiasts, but at $80 it allows more advanced photographers to invest in a fun creative tool without blowing their budget.
The Spark is a lightweight, manual focus, 50mm optic featuring a f/5.6 fixed aperture. The focus range is about 13 inches to infinity. For the purpose of shooting images for this review I used the in camera metering system on my Canon EOS-1D X and no difficulties obtaining proper exposures with this lens.
The Spark’s focus range is about 13 inches to infinity. This image is taken at about 15 inches from the subject.
The build quality of the Spark is lightweight, sturdy and low on frills. The resulting images with their softness and blurring are impressive considering that Spark seems like a simple and straightforward tool. The Spark creates images with the familiar Lensbaby sweet spot of focus surrounded by beautiful, gradually increasing blur with the benefit of built in vignetting. I captured the images for this review at dusk in mid-September and found the quality of color and contrast straight out of camera to be what I normally expect during this time of day. I shot these photos in raw format and only modified them in Adobe Camera Raw 7.1.
Because Spark is a manual focus lens, you have to manipulate it (and sometimes yourself) to find that sweet spot of focus. Finding the sweet spot can be tricky, but after you've given it a few tries to finesse the movement it becomes more second nature.
You’ll find the sharp area of focus by pushing or pulling the outer part of the lens. Your may also need to move your feet to get further or closer to your subject as necessary to obtain some of that sweet focus, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As you can see, the resulting images can be oh so sweet. If your preferred style is tack sharp you’ll find that this lens is best suited for non-moving subjects.
However, if you want to create a sense of dynamic movement with your images, I believe that Spark can be the tool for you.
While the target market for this new offering from Lensbaby may be young photographers looking for a new fun tool, I do think the working pro could easily find uses for Spark. Having Spark in your camera bag could be a fun option for end-of-session outtakes …
or for creating fun textures straight out of camera …
and even creating some personal works of art.
Working pros like myself will appreciate the visual thrills this lens affords and will welcome the opportunity to think outside of the usual portrait box.
Marianne Drenthe, Chicago Children’s Photographer— marmaladephotography.com