Gerri Jones & Sol 45
Gerri Jones is photographer from Western New York who enjoys shooting a range of different subjects including portraits, weddings, nature, landscapes, architecture and events. She shares her experience and thoughts on the powerful in-camera creative control of the Lensbaby Sol.
I had the privilege of beta testing the new Lensbaby Sol – a 45mm prime lens with a constant aperture of f/3.5. As with all Lensbaby lenses, they are created with a modern blend of vintage beauty and creative effects. Similar to the sweet spot lenses, Sol has the ability to place a sweet spot in a desired area of the frame to highlight your subject in sharp focus with a surrounding swath of directional blur – but this lens also has two arms with a textured design that can be moved in any direction around the area you wish to highlight. It literally allows the photographer to create an effect similar to a texture or painted strokes surrounding your subject.
I wanted to take this lens to the Botanical Gardens across the border to Canada and try my hand at “painting” some floral compositions with my camera. The gardens are really a horticultural school and a Butterfly Conservatory which is located north of Niagara Falls.
Here I didn’t engage the arms on Sol – It’s your choice to use the lens as you would a sweet spot type lens or engage the arms to create the textured effect.
In this example, the arms were used. Because you have the ability to move the arms in any direction, you can change the position of the effect, such as diagonal, vertical, horizontal or anything in between. This gives you flexibility to create your own desired custom design, so that even the same subject can look different depending how you position the arms.
I found that the constant aperture of f-3.5 was really the perfect amount of sharpness between your subject and background. I didn’t have to think about changing apertures and this allowed me to concentrate on creating art, which is what this lens is all about – a fun and creative experience.
If you are wondering if the lens is sharp, this is an example below of my subject with the arms used to create that wonderful subtle texture on the blurred background.
Sol can be locked into a straight forward position or unlocked to move your focus anywhere in the frame (similar to a sweet spot lens). Focus is easy, once you have chosen where to place your subject in the frame. The day I was at the gardens, I had to contend with some winds throughout the day – my thought was comparing using my regular macro lens, I could not have gotten as sharply focused images that I was able to get with Sol.
I found a patch of small lilies and I liked the way the arms rendered a painterly design surrounding the main subject. The background would have been fairly busy with a regular lens but creating the textured design with Sol’s arms really worked well, when the subject is placed close to surrounding foliage or background. In a busy garden where you can’t always isolate your subject, you now have the option to “paint” the surrounding area into your main subject using the texture arms on Sol.
In the image below, I had the main subject elevated and separated from the background, which gave me a more subtle look with the texture arms.
The gardens have a new area since I had been there last. It is a “natural prairie” with grasses, pathways and this bee exhibit – the bees were busy making a hive. In this image below, I locked the arms for center focus to infinity – really easy with this lens to obtain focus in that scenario – no texture arms used here but note the great bokeh on out of focus highlights.
With focus on one subject, when two are close together, you can get great sharp focus on your main subject and a beautiful painterly look on the other that is unique. These two blanket flowers were nestled close together and I engaged the arms to see how that would work. Because the surrounding foliage and background were close to the subjects, I love the way you can create a painterly look without having the ability to isolate the subjects. You just can’t do that with a regular lens in camera.
An example of looking up gave me a unique perspective using the Sol lens on these pine cones in the tree.
I think Sol will be a fun creative lens for all types of photography. I found it to be really user friendly. I think focus was really easy to obtain on this lens and because of the combination of moving your sweet spot anywhere in the frame and combining the texture arms in different positions, the creative possibilities are endless. The lens is super light to carry – you really feel free to explore your subjects without any restrictions. I hope you all love it as much as I do and can’t wait to see what you create.