Very first impression of the Lensbaby Sol 45?
I laughed! I unwrapped the packaging, took out the lens and laughed. I laughed because straight away I knew it was going to be fun to shoot with. And I laughed because I couldn’t imagine what sort of a mind would come up with an idea for a lens like this one.
So what is the Sol 45?
Its a small and lightweight lens that feels like it goes back to Lensbaby’s roots. It has a focal length of 45mm and a fixed aperture of f3.5. As with most Lensbaby lenses it has a circular sweet spot of focus that falls off into a lovely blur with smooth bokeh. And as you might expect you can bend it to change the area of focus (see the first two images for an example).
What you will be surprised by are the “bokeh blades” two slotted plastic blades that can be pulled in front of the lens to add some texture and and interest to the bokeh. To quote the press release “The Sol 45 also features bokeh blades to give users even more control over their in-the-moment creative experience. Situated on hinged arms that hide at the edges of the lens, these blades add subtle lines and texture to the bokeh. To use them, simply bring the blades into the lens’s field of view and then rotate them in any direction – horizontal, vertical or diagonal.”
I’ve had the Sol 45 for a few weeks now and have had the chance to use it quite a few times. The first outing was a wander around an old boatyard and I found that the Sol really suits black and white.
Since that first outing I’ve also used it for still life and been very impressed with the results, I love the soft blur in these images!
And what about those bokeh blades?
I’ve found that a lot of the time I’ve just left them over the lens, either partly or pulled further over. Depending on the subject and the light the effect can be very subtle, there’s just a little bit of texture evident in the grass here:
(I love the edge distortion in this scene!)
And here I had the blades pulled quite a way across and you can really see the effect with all the lines in the background bokeh!
It flares rather nicely too!
I’m very lucky that Lensbaby send me lenses to try out but what is most important to me is that I have absolutely no obligation in return. I don’t have to share these blog posts or any images and I’m certainly under no pressure to voice a positive opinion about the lenses (if I was I wouldn’t accept them).
But honestly, I have yet to find a Lensbaby that I don’t love! The Sol for me is a really liberating lens, I can’t change the aperture so all I need to think about is what goes in the frame and whether I want to bend it or pull out the blades, it really is that simple! It’s plastic so it’s very lightweight, and although it has some similarities to the Sweet optics I find it much easier to use. It’s a perfect walkabout lens and very affordable so would be a great introduction to anyone that is new to Lensbaby. It’s definitely going to be a regular in my camera bag.
(All images taken on a full frame Sony A99).