Lensbaby has a new lens out today, and it is delicious. The Sol 45 creates the yummiest background blur that looks like painterly brush strokes, straight out of the camera. I've been fortunate to have my hands on a beta version for several weeks now. (It has been HARD keeping my mouth shut and not posting any of the photos I've taken with it!)
The Lensbaby Sol 45 is a fixed aperture, manual focus lens with a tack sharp "sweet spot" of focus and a painterly blur effect that resembles brush strokes.
For those who are new to Lensbaby land, the company makes a line of selective focus and creative effect lenses. Many, like the Sol 45 tilt and bend, much
like a tilt-shift lens but without the shift. You tilt the lens towards your subject and then focus. The fixed f/3.5 aperture creates a shallow depth of field, so the rest of the photo falls out of focus, and that's where the magic happens.
The unusual painterly effect of the Lensbaby Sol 45 is created when you push a pair of "aperture blades" in front of the lens. These have a pattern cut out of them and that is what gives the out of focus parts of the image the appearance of motion or brush strokes. Definitely very cool. Without the aperture blades closed, the image has a typical, softly blurred out of focus area that is also quite pleasing. Closing the blades will cut down on the amount of light that gets through by one full stop, making it an f/5 aperture. You will have to adjust exposure time or ISO to compensate.
With the aperture blades open, the background is soft, with a circular bokeh effect typical of a wide aperture lens.
For a completely manual lens, the Lensbaby Sol 45 may be easier to use than most, especially for those who are just learning photography. With the choice of aperture eliminated, there is one whole corner of the exposure triangle that you won't have to worry about. The price point also makes it quite painless for beginners or for those who have been on the fence about experimenting with creative effect lenses. At $199 USD, this is the most affordable standalone Lensbaby to date.
The Sol 45 is light and tiny. The Nikon version weighs in at just 143g (5oz) and the behemoth Canon version tips the scales at a whopping 166g (5.9oz). It is wafer thin, as well - when mounted on my Nikon D750, it sticks out less than an inch further than the hand grip. There is no reason not to have it in your bag, or even your pocket! (If you stuff it in your camera bag, it won't cause it to explode, promise.)
As of today, the Lensbaby Sol 45 is available in mounts for Nikon F, Canon EF, Sony A & E, Pentax K and Fuji X. The Lensbaby Sol 22 for micro 4/3 mirrorless cameras will be available in September.
I normally spend a lot of time in Photoshop editing my images, but I love how Sol 45 photos look, straight out of the camera.
Lensbaby's selective focus lenses are great tools for boosting your creativity or getting past a creative slump. The Sol 45 might actually be their most fun, easy to use, AND affordable product to date.