I got a new unconventional lens this week to play with. The Sol 45… from the Lensbaby company. It hasn’t been that long since my last unconventional lens purchase and I was lamenting the fact that I have most of the ones I already wanted and was wondering what would excite me next – so I was kind of surprised this past week when this new lens dropped!

I spent today at the botanical gardens putting this lens through its paces and I feel like I have a really good handle on how this lens performs and how it differs to the other lenses they offer.

This lens is a stand-alone lens and is not part of their optic swap system. As with all of their lenses – it is manual focus and has a fixed f3.5 aperture setting with a tack sharp circular area surrounded with soft pretty blur. It is a flat pancake type lens that takes up very little space in your camera bag. This lens has a slight tilting ability but not nearly as dramatic as the composer pro system. Becuase of the less dramatic tilting – you get a softer, less distorted blur with this lens. One really cool feature on this lens is the bokeh blades – these are plastic parts in front of the lens you can close down to get some really creative texture in your background. (After playing with this feature – I really wish these blades were interchangeable with other patterned blades! Wouldn’t that have been cool? UPDATE – I have found the solution to this problem in my latest blog post!!)

The focus spot is larger than the sweet spot lenses – making it much easier to find your focus. I’d say the focus is significantly easier with this lens actually. The sweet spot lenses cause such distortion depending on the amount you tilt them that sometimes you can’t find any spot in your photo in focus. I didn’t have the problem with this lens at all.

I was a bit miffed at myself when I got to the gardens when I realized that I forgot my extension tubes! This lens doesn’t offer any macro capabilities and I was wishing several times to get closer. I won’t make that mistake again – I’d love to see how this lens performs a bit closer so I will be going back soon to play again!

In all – I was very happy playing with this lens all day. I think they have simplified your choices on this lens compared to their other lenses. With less setting choices to think about as you are shooting – you could spend more time getting creative with what it offers. If you find some of the other Lensbaby lenses a challenge to work with – then this might be the perfect one for you.

*These photos were processed with the Euphoria preset collection.

Sol 45

Sol 45 With bokeh blades

15 Comments

  1. Hanny

    This looks great Denise. Thanks for doing this and I think it will help more people deciding to buy it now.
    Hope you had a great time trying it out.
    Looking forward to the next lot with extension tubes.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad you enjoyed this post! I am a bit obsessed with the manual and vintage lenses – so I love that a new unique one came out! I’m looking forward to testing it out with the extension tubes too!

      Reply
      • ooms307

        Me too, I have 2 vintage lenses. Love it. I like most things who are different!!!
        Ordered my Sol45 today.
        Do you have an alternative for Euphoria? I don’t have Photoshop/Lightroom!
        I do have On1 Raw and Topaz. Thanks Denise

        Reply
        • Denise Love

          No alternatives for the presets at this time. On1 and Topaz have kept changing their programming so dramatically each year for several years – that I gave up trying to keep up. Maybe in the future, I’ll revisit them.

          Reply
  2. Wendy

    I learn so much from reading your posts Denise. I also sometimes find it difficult finding the sweet spot with my sweet 35 and thought it was my short sightedness that was making it impossible to see it at times! I really love my sweet 35 but believe the Sol could be a better fit for me perhaps re: finding the sweet spot.

    Can’t wait to see this lens perform with your extension tubes.

    The blades produce interesting results as well. Love that bottom image both with and without the bokeh blades.

    This is the most practical and helpful review for this particular lens I have read (and I’ve read a few these past few days). It answers all the questions I had about it. The most beautiful image samples as well. Truly.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad you found it helpful!! I am looking forward to going out with it again… preferably when it is a bit cooler. This hot weather is a killer when you are out shooting all morning. Might not be so bad if it wasn’t so muggy out – days like this make me glad to have a tiny set up inside I like to shoot at! I still need to play with this lens in my tiny studio – but I haven’t gotten to it yet. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Wendy

    Know you will make it sing!

    Reply
  4. Ron Hoeltge

    The price point on this lens makes it interesting, but I must admit I can’t make up my mind how I feel about what it does to the image with the bokeh blades. Part of me likes it… another part of me not so much.

    I like your idea of interchangeable blades, but wish they’d go even further and make interchangeable bokeh blades as an add-on for the whole line, perhaps as a slip-on attachment or something similar to a lens hood. (Please engineer this over the winter and release it as a 2LO’s product… lol!)

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      Oooo! Love your idea of the bokeh blades being in a slip-on attachment! (I’ll work on that over the winter for sure – LOL!!)

      I like that it is easier to focus compared to the other tilt lenses they have – so someone new to Lensbaby or someone having trouble with the manual learning curve – would find this lens much easier to use.

      Reply
  5. Vickie McEnroe

    Thanks Denise. It is always helpful to see examples. I just got my SOL and solved the close-up problem by using the Lensbaby 46mm Macro Filter Kit. I haven’t tried the extension tubes yet. I agree, this little lens is easier to focus and I came home with a higher percentage of saves than discards.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad you liked the comparison! Hope you love the lens. I don’t have the macro filters from Lensbaby since I like using the extension tubes so much – I just didn’t justify the purchase of the other yet. 😀

      Reply
  6. Diane McCauley

    Thinking of buying this lens, it would be my first Lensbaby lens, but not sure if I should buy to go with my Sony A6300 or my Canon 6D Mark ii which would also work with my older Canon 5D Mark ii…what are your thoughts?

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      Really depends on what camera you expect to walk around with the most. They are making this lens for both – so which camera do you have with you most often? I’d go with that one.

      Reply
  7. Lois Mauro

    Thank you for the review. I’m still having difficulty understanding the tilt focus. Am I understanding the focus has to be in the middle of the frame unless you actually tilt the lens off center? If I want to focus ⅓ higher than the middle, do I have to use the tilt feature? I own the 2 velvets, but no other tilt lens. Thanks, Denise.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      That is correct. Sharpest focus is in center of lens on these tilt lenses. It is a specific feature of the lens that they created on purpose. Tilt to move that sharp spot.

      Reply

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