In the Field with the Lensbaby Sol 45


Lensbaby lenses are like chicken. There are dozens of ways to prepare chicken—you can bake, fry, grill, broil, or smoke it, and each method is unique, but different. Lensbaby lenses are like chicken recipes in that they are basically variations of a common theme with each new model being unique, and similarly different. Lensbaby lenses and chicken are dissimilar in that unlike chicken, you can’t toss a Lensbaby into a pot of water with carrots, onions, garlic, and dill and expect to sit down to a tasty bowl of soup.

The Lensbaby Sol 45 is a 45mm f/3.5 selective-focus, manual focus lens designed for full-frame and APS-C (67.5mm equivalent) DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Sporting an all-metal housing, the forward portion of the SOL 45 lens barrel tilts upwards of 8.5° on a 360° axis, enabling you to position the sweet spot of the lens selectively anywhere across the image plane. The tilting portion of the lens can be locked into a zero position when you want to keep the sharper sweet spot of the lens in the center of the frame.

A pair of what Lensbaby calls bokeh blades, attached by hinges on the edges of the lens barrel, can be tilted into the light path of the lens, which alters the nature of the image’s out-of-focus specular highlights. These blades can also be rotated horizontally, vertically, or diagonally for maximum image control. Although they’re called bokeh blades, to my eyes the blades create more of a ripple effect than the natural rounded specular highlights photographers typically associate with bokeh.

Photo taken without bokeh blades in place
Photo taken with one bokeh blade in place
Photo taken with both bokeh blades in place

In use, the lens can be a bit awkward to use, most notably when reaching around the front of the lens barrel to focus the lens and when adjusting the bokeh blades, which invariably requires refocusing the lens. It’s not the end of the world, but it is a bit of an annoyance.

The Lensbaby Sol 45 mounted on a Sony AR7 II

The Lensbaby Sol 45 weighs 9.6 oz, contains three multi-coated glass lens elements in two groups, accepts 46mm filters, and focuses down to 14" for a 1:6 maximum reproduction ratio.

Lensbaby’s newest lens comes with front and rear caps, and is available in Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony A, Sony E, Pentax K, and Fujifilm X lens mounts.

Are you a Lensbaby enthusiast? If so, what do you think of the newest addition to the family?