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Taking a look at the Kickstarter funded Lynny Lens system, it would be churlish to ignore the similarities to the Lensbaby system, which has been establish for some time now. In this review we will look at the major features, performance, handling and image quality of each system, comparing them side-by side.
For purposes of the comparison we will be using the Lensbaby Spark against the basic Lynny lens. They are similarly priced in the US with the Lynny being available for $75 including shipping and the Lensbaby Spark costing around $80. UK customers will be stung with import duties and taxes if importing a Lynny lens, raising the price to just over £100, whereas a Lensbaby Spark can be picked up from a UK supplier for just under £70.
Lynny lens, we received it packaged in a large padded envelope around six week later. No other packaging or instructions were supplied, which instantly had me checking to ensure the product hadn't been damaged in transit. Conversely the Lensbaby comes protected inside a small protective cardboard box fitted with front and rear lens caps. A small black velour-like pouch is also supplied in the package for keeping the lens clean and protected when not in use.
Where the Lynny lens excels is with its fast aperture, which is roughly equivalent to f/1.4. Although this fast aperture makes shooting in low light conditions possible, it also makes it difficult to control the selective focusing effect, as the sweet spot is very small and not very well defined in the viewfinder. The Lensbaby Spark's aperture is equivalent to f/5.6, which results in a dimmer viewfinder image and will require higher ISO settings when shooting in low light conditions. However, the limited aperture makes the sweet spot of focus much more pronounced, making this lens easier to get to grips with.
When ordering a Lynny lens you can specify which camera you want to attach it to. The lens then comes supplied with a metal T mount for your camera. The advantage of this system is that the lens can easily be adapted for different camera formats, unfortunately the screw mount makes attaching and removing the lens to and from the camera tricky, as the Lynny prefers to unscrew from the mount. The Lensbaby Spark has an integrated plastic lens mount, which makes attaching and removing the lens easier, but it cannot be easily adapted for other camera systems. This will only be an issue for owners of more than one camera system though.
The Lynny lens has a focal length roughly equivalent to 85mm, which may be a little too telephoto for photographing general scenes. Kits that include wide angle and telephoto converters can be purchased at extra cost and the adapters screw into the 37mm filter thread. The Lensbaby Spark has a focal length roughly equivalent to a 50mm lens, which may be more useful for general photography due to its wider field of view. The Spark also has a 37mm filter thread for filters and adapters to be attached. Lensbaby also offer a range of different optics which can be switched with those supplied in the spark, offering many more creative options.
The lens barrel on the Lynny lens is made from a curved rubber tube which require a fair amount of effort to compress and even more effort to stretch. The amount of effort required can result in shaky hands, which in turn makes focusing very difficult indeed. Saying that, compressing the tube is much easier as fingers can be placed on the front of the tube to compress it in a squeezing motion. Stretching the tube is made more difficult by the lack of anything substantial to hold onto, and although the rubber material used is soft, it isn't the most grippy due to its smooth finish.
The lens baby spark has a large plastic grip around the front of the lens and the optics are suspended by concertinaed rubber bellows. The bellows are much easier to make fine movement with as they provide just the right amount of resistance. The plastic grip makes extending the bellows for close focusing a relative pleasure also, making it much easier to control the effect.
Both lenses allow the optics to be tilted to change the plane of focus and although the range of off-axis movements offered by the Lensbaby are more limited than with the Lynny, is is still enough to move the sweet spot of focus from one extreme to another of the picture area on a full frame SLR. The Lynny can be moved further from the centre, but controlling how much tilt is achieved can be tricky due to the nature of the rubber tube, which tends to jump from when position to another as pressure is applied. It has to be noted that both lenses can be tricky to master, but I believe most people will gets to grips with the Lensbaby quicker, with less frustration.
Images from the Lynny lens have low levels on contrast and a general hazy, soft appearance across the frame. If this is the effect you prefer, then it could well be suited to you. The Lensbaby Spark has a clearly defined sweet spot of focus that can easily be moved around the frame. As the in-focus area is more clearly defined, it makes the overall effect of the lens more pronounced, rather than just appearing blurry.
Images produced by the Lensbaby Spark have better colour and contrast than those produced by the Lynny lens too. Colour fringing around high contrast edges is present with both lenses, but more pronounced with the Lynny. Photos were taken with a Nikon D700.
Lynny lens, or the Lensbaby Spark will be down to subjective judgement. I'm sure as many folks will like the effect produced by one as much as the other.
In separating these two optics it really comes down to the design and handling of each lens. The spark feels like a better designed product, made with ease of use in mind, whereas the Lynny always feels a bit home-brew by comparison. As the Lynny was conceived as a DIY project, this is hardly surprising, but work needs to be done on making the effect more controllable and the design more refined before it can expect to commend a similar price to the competition.
Lynny Lens ProsBright aperture
Metal T Mount
37mm filter thread
Lensbaby Spark ProsEasy to control
37mm filter thread
Clearly defined sweet spot of focus
Supplied with lens caps and pouch
Lynny Lens ConsPoor packaging
Difficult to control
Sweet spot of focus not very well defined
Rubber tubing not the easiest to grip
Lensbaby Spark ConsAperture is on f/5.6
Range of movements more limited than with the Lynny lens
|Lynny Lens||Lensbaby Spark|
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Lynny Lens Specifications
|Angle of View||No Data|
|35mm equivalent||No Data|
|Min Focus||No Data|
|Box Contents||Lens, Adapter|
Lensbaby Spark Specifications
|Angle of View||No Data|
|Min Aperture||No Data|
|35mm equivalent||No Data|
|Box Contents||No Data|