Jim Nix & Sol 45

Jim Nix is photographer, traveler, blogger, writer, poet and wanderlust-sufferer.  He photographs mostly landscapes and cityscapes in an expressive and colorful style. He hopes to “motivate people to travel and take photographs; to inspire creativity in others by sharing what I create, how I create it, and even what I use to create it with”.

Bridge and river at sunset

I had the pleasure of testing out the Lensbaby Sol 45 before they launched it. Being a fan of Lensbaby products, I knew I was going to enjoy the lens. Like their other products that I have used (Trio 28, Burnside 35) it immediately put me into a somewhat different mode of shooting – a different frame of mind, if you will – and that is a good thing. I feel more free in terms of my creativity when using a Lensbaby, and that tends to open me up to new possibilities and allow me to explore more. I think less about the “rules” of photography and instead just embrace the freedom I feel when using this lens.

Plus, it’s a lot of fun to walk around and shoot with this little thing. It’s small and light and it works really well as an all-purpose walk-around lens. I never even used my tripod – I just wandered and shot without any reservations or restrictions. It was quite fun!

Forest trail

Street art mural

There are a couple of unique things about the lens that I had to get used to (bokeh blades, focal length) but they are minor and are not a stumbling block as much as a creative differentiator and a learning opportunity. I’m not historically a user of prime lenses, but I have embraced that over the last year or so. That means that when I first start using the Sol 45, considering that it’s a prime lens, I had to adjust to it a little bit. I’ll explain all of that in a moment.

I really enjoyed wandering around with this lens and firing away. As I mentioned already, while using it I felt free of the constraints and conventions of photography. I felt free to see and envision scenes differently, and to approach them in a different manner than I might normally do. It was also a lot of fun!

In short, this is a well-built lens with interesting creative effects that is really fun to walk around with. It’s reasonably priced, solidly-made, and creatively inspiring.

Waterfall

Inside a bar at night

Austin Texan mural

Bridge and city at night

Here are some bullet points about the Sol 45 that you may find helpful:

  • As far as quality goes, this thing is built like a tank. It’s very solid and well-constructed. You can feel that when you first pick it up.
  • Despite the solid build, it’s not really heavy, and it’s not large either. This can easily slip into a camera bag and come along on your adventures.
  • It’s a fixed focal length of 45mm on a full-frame camera (I used it on a Sony A7 series). This is not a typical focal length for me, as I generally shoot a bit wider, but I grew to really like it after a while. One great thing about a prime lens such as the Sol 45 is that you have to zoom with your feet, so to speak. This is part of how the lens causes you to really engage with your environment and what you are framing for the shot.
  • It’s a fixed aperture of f/3.5 so once again the need/desire to adjust this setting is out the window, and I find that refreshing because it’s one less thing to think about when crafting a photo. This is the same as on my Trio 28 and actually one of the things I really like about using these lenses. Less decisions to make = more time for creative thought.
  • Focusing is manual only like other Lensbaby products I have used. This is not a problem for me, and is actually one of the reasons I like using Lensbaby. Instead of the fast-firing autofocus “spray and pray” approach that some photographers employ (including myself, at times), the manual focus causes you to slow down, engage in the creation of the photo, and be deliberate. That’s a good thing.
  • Unlike the Trio 28 for example, with the Sol 45 you can actually move the focal area around a bit by tilting the end of the lens. This is a nice additional feature to have and gives you the creative flexibility of not having to always center your subject.
  • The bokeh is significant and beautiful, while the focal area is tack sharp. The result is a beautiful and sometimes dreamy-like photo.
  • The bokeh blades are an interesting addition to this lens. They can be moved into position and adjusted to your liking. Essentially they add a little texture to the bokeh which can be quite cool. However I found that I didn’t use these that much, as generally speaking I am shooting in cities and I find that I prefer my bokeh to be much more smooth.

Forest trail

Blue flowers

Willie for president street art

City freeway at night

Waterfall and rocks

All in all, the Sol 45 is a great little lens to have in your kit. It offers up some interesting, beautiful and creative effects which can transform even the more mundane subjects into eye-catching works of art.

All images shot with Sol 45.

To find out more about Jim and his work, check out his website, YouTube, and Instagram.

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