Lensbaby Burnside 35 – First Impressions, By The Sea

Those lovely Lensbaby people kindly sent me a Burnside 35 lens to try out ahead of it’s official launch and I’m very excited to share my thoughts and first impressions, I’ve had the lens for a week or two and have been dying to share some of the images!

So what is the Burnside 35? Below is the description from Lensbaby themselves:

“The first ever wide angle adaptation of the Petzval lens design, this 35mm f/2.8 lens creates images with a large, bright central area of sharp focus and striking color rendition surrounded by variable, swirling bokeh and vignette. It also features an effect slider that operates as a second internal iris that changes the shape and amount of swirl in the bokeh; all while adding or removing vignette and center brightness.”

I know that there are lots of photographers that are going to be so excited at the launch of a 35mm Lensbaby art lens, for me 35mm takes a bit of adjustment since I’m naturally drawn to longer focal lengths. The Velvet 85 has been a firm favourite and is rarely off my camera.

My first opportunity to get out and about saw me heading off to the coast on a bitterly cold day. I decided to visit Crosby, a rather wonderful stretch of beach that is home to Anthony Gormley’s Another Place, 100 cast iron life sized figures spread along the beach and at different distances from the shore.

Before I share any images I must point out the drawbacks of the day and location I’d chosen for this lens – first of all it was cold, bitterly cold with an icy wind that blows right through you. Now I actually love a cold day by the sea so I’m not complaining BUT it did mean that I wasn’t able to take my gloves off. I’d planned to shoot different apertures with and without the vignette and take notes on my phone but that plan went out of the window! Then there was the light, it was beautifully soft and silvery, but not the best to show the wonderful colours of the Burnside. And the choice of location meant that there wasn’t always enough texture and detail in the background to show the swirl of the bokeh.

One of the first things that struck me about the Burnside is how beautifully it renders colours, most of the images in this post have been edited in Lightroom using the presets that I generally use BUT where there is colour in the scene there isn’t always a need for editing.

This image was taken to show the colours of the Burnside, I shoot in RAW and have only made a slight tweak to the contrast and clarity:

Lensbaby Burnside 35

This was shot at either f2.8 or f4 (I have a feeling it’s f2.8) with no in camera vignette added. There’s a lovely softness around the edges of the image and you can see the swirl in the bokeh, especially on the left where there is more detail in the background.

About that vignette slider….

What a great idea! I do like a bit of a vignette and often add them in Lightroom, if you do the same and have created presets with vignettes included you will need to remember to remove them when editing or you will end up with a vignette that’s too heavy. It’s worth remembering that the vignette slider doesn’t need to be on or off, it’s a four position slider so you can have a little or a lot of vignette. The first image below has a full vignette and with a contrast boost it’s turned out a little heavy for my liking, the second image has a slight in camera vignette.

 Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

 Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

It’s worth also noting that the full vignette isn’t as heavy when you aren’t shooting towards the light (below), you’ll need to experiment a little to find out what works for you.

And there’s something about that central sharpness/colour/brightness combination that really lends itself to central compositions, something I’ve never found in any other lens!

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

A further selection of images, some show that central bright area, others show the swirl of the bokeh and some just show what a great location Crosby is!

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

Lensbaby Burnside 35 landscape photography

(All images were taken on a full frame Sony A99.)

I started the post by saying that I’m not a natural wide shooter and that the Velvet 85 is my go to lens, after a few days with the Burnside I’m certainly going to be shooting wide a lot more than I have previously. I’m not sure that it will replace the Velvet 85 as my favourite but it’s certainly got a permanent place in my camera bag and I can’t wait until we have some floral colour around to get out into some gardens with it!

I’ve also been trying out the Burnside 35 for still life photography, you can read that post here.