For those not familiar with Lensbaby, the company makes lenses for DSLRs with a bellows lens that provides a small in-focus area, with the rest of the image out of focus. It’s not the same effect as the shallow depth-of-field achieved with a wide-aperture lens, but a less-controllable effect designed to provide fun and unusual images …
The company’s iPhone version works a little differently from the DSLR versions. There is no bellows, with the free accompanying app used to select the area in focus – the ‘sweet-spot.’ This is achieved simply by moving the sweet-spot around the screen with your finger. (In reality, what the app is showing is a cropped view of the image, and you’re actually moving the crop around the fixed sweet-spot.)
It has to be said that in practice, viewing your iPhone screen on a bright day, achieving the kind of precision this suggests isn’t easy. But then that’s not really what the Lensbaby is all about – it’s a fun, experimental tool where getting unexpected results is kind of the point. You do, though, need to adopt a bit of a spray-and-pray approach – something that goes against the grain for those who take their photography seriously – shooting a number of variations and then looking afterwards at which one worked best.
The lens attaches to any iPhone magnetically. You attach one of two supplied self-adhesive rings around your iPhone lens (with a cutout to avoid covering the flash), then simply place the lens against the ring, where it is held very securely.
You can attach the lens either way around. One way gives a very small sweet-spot, the other way a larger one. I have to say the small sweet-spot is so small I don’t think there are many situations it would prove useful:
And another angle on St Paul’s Cathedral, this time with the larger sweet-spot:
You have both exposure and focus lock buttons in the app, though they can be fiddly to use. They do, though, allow things like shooting into the light.
Though I did notice that highlights blow out very easily:
But this is not a lens for those who worry about technicalities, and you can definitely get some fun results.
It’s small and light enough to slip into your pocket on the off-chance you might want to use it, and the elasticated end-caps mean you don’t have to worry about it getting scratched. When it’s not in use, the ring around your lens doesn’t look out of place.
At $69.95, it may be cheap in DLSR lens terms, but it’s a pretty hefty price for an iPhone accessory. Ultimately, whether it’s a worthwhile purchase is going to come down to how deep your pockets are and how much use you think the lens will see. But if you’re a dedicated iPhonographer, I can definitely see this having appeal.