Understanding the Uses of Special Effects Lenses
Special effects lenses allow photographers to achieve special effects in-camera, like those achievable in digital editing suites. These include shallow depth of field, selective blur, and soft focus. Other lenses allow you to change the focus plane, or take extreme macro photos. A key characteristic of special effects camera lenses is that they're completely manual, and you manually set the aperture and focus.
What Are Art Lenses?
Art lenses are for people who want to create artistic photographs. These lenses deliberately simulate optical qualities of earlier lens designs to create special effects such as soft focus, shallow depth of field, and pleasing bokeh. An example is the Petzval lens design, which is sharp at the center but blurred toward the edge. The Lensbaby Twist uses this to create strong circular blurring away from the center of the lens. Other lenses, such as the Lensbaby Burnside, have extreme vignetting, while Lomography Neptune's removable aperture plates create different bokeh effects.
Art lenses are best when used with full-frame Nikon, Canon, and Sony A-mount cameras. When fitted to an APS-C camera, such as the Fuji X mount, the larger image circle means off-center effects aren't always as pronounced. You can use some special effect lenses with medium format lenses.
Special Effects Camera Lenses That Change the Plane of Focus
Sometimes, there's a need to focus on objects that are different distances from the camera while blurring others. While this ability exists with large format lenses fitted to cameras with tilt and shift mechanisms, lenses such as the Lensbaby Composer Pro and Canon EF lenses allow the object lens to tilt, which achieves similar results.
Conversely, some photographers want everything in focus, which is possible using pinhole lenses that have very small apertures. Pinhole photography requires long exposure, so it's best suited for film cameras such as the Nikon F-mount range.
Adjusting the Angle of View
Although wide-angle lenses provide a great field of view, fish-eye lenses such as mirrorless system lenses like the Lensbaby 5.8mm, take this concept much further. Offering more than 180 degrees of view, the photos are circular in shape. It's also possible to take 360-degree panoramas using this type of lens and stitching the results together.
Macro lenses are at the other end of the spectrum, and special effects macro lenses offer up to five times magnification, so it's possible to capture tiny objects in detail. Special macro lenses are available for all mounts, including Sony E-mount full-frame lenses.
Convertible Lens System Kits
A combination kit is a great way to start. Lomography's Convertible Neptune System includes three different focal lengths and several aperture plates offering great flexibility. Lensbaby's similar kit is based on the Composer Pro system, while its Pro Kit includes three different lenses for most camera mounts.
Choose from the great selection of special effects lenses at B&H Photo and Video and take your creativity to a new level.