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Spark is the latest creative optical lens from Lensbaby. Like other Lensbabies, it has a flexible bendy tube that you push and pull (they say squeeze) to distort the focus points in your photo and create whacky results. It appears to be aimed at the youthful and adventurous photographer, so epz oldie, Peter Bargh, takes a look to see if he can be rejuvenated by the lens.
The front has a wide lip with the word Spark and Lensbaby cut out. This makes what could be seen as a toy lens far more attractive looking.
There's a 37mm filter thread on the front too, so filters or Series VII accessory lenses can be attached to increase the creative options.
The filter thread is plastic so care needs to be taken to avoid stripping the thread when attaching metal threaded accessories.
I also tried attaching an old super-wide / macro converter with a 37mm series VII ring. These can be picked up on second hand sites or auction sites. As a combined unit this widens the view so the Spark's 50mm focal length becomes nearer a 24mm and with more distortion.
If you point the Spark at a subject without bending the front you get results similar to normal lenses (above left) with sharp focus across the photo and, due to the simple optical design, a quick and strong fall off at the edges. By bending the front you can make the focus change plane so in this case (above right) the background figure is now thrown totally out of focus.
The ability to change focus point is the key reason to use a Lensbaby and in the right hands it can produce really cool shots. I still have a lot to learn! ePHOTOzine has several members using Lensbabies well including Bliba.
In the Spark's relaxed state its closest focus is shown on the left and by pulling the front away from the camera you in effect create an extension so the close focus point becomes closer. When pulled as far as it will go the magnification is over twice its natural state (right). When you push or pull it's difficult to have the front parallel to the sensor so there will always be a softness to part of the photo, but that is the reason you're using a Lensbaby anyway!
Here are a couple of examples taken with the front bend quite dramatically. Both have elements that have been totally blurred even though they are the same distance from the camera as the sharp parts.
Two shots taken at a similar distance show the lighter background to be working slightly better.
The fixed f/5.6 aperture is a hole and not created using blades. This results in pleasing circular out of focus highlights (known as bokeh) You normally pay a lot more for lenses that have such clean bokeh.
Adding a macro lens to the front allows you to get much closer and the focusing sweet spot becomes even more exaggerated. Left is with the macro lens attached and right is with the Spark at closest focus.
This is a test to determine difference between the Spark (left) and a Nikon 50mm Series E (right) which you can pick up for a similar price. As the Spark is fixed at f/5.6 I set the Nikon 50mm to f/5.6 too. The Spark was at its relaxed position and the Nikon Series E was set to its closest focus. You can go close with the Spark by pushing and extending the tube. Notice the E- Series has a slightly warmer colour balance.
|Combined with the right subject and light, Spark does indeed spark the creativity and well worth considering.|
Lensbaby Spark ProsEasy to adjust
No locking so quick and resposive
Threaded to accept accessories
Lensbaby Spark ConsHarder to get good photos than a normal lens
Plastic filter thread could easily be cross theaded
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
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