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Lensbaby Spark Review

We test Spark - the latest creative lens from Lensbaby it is available for under 80.

|  Lensbaby Spark in Interchangeable Lenses
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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.

Lensbaby Spark Cut out

Lensbaby Spark Features

The Lensbaby Spark is a lightweight lens available in Nikon and Canon SLR lens mounts. The Nikon version tested here weighs just 71g. It has a multi-coated glass doublet (two element lenses paired together) and a flexible tubing that allows a focusing range of approximately 33cm to infinity.

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.


Lensbaby Spark Handling

Despite the plastic construction (including lens mount) the Spark attaches to the camera firmly and is easy to handle. The front lip with engraved logo is used to push or pull the lens into position. Unlike the more advanced Lensbaby you cannot lock the position, but it does mean its quicker to aim and shoot, so you are likely to be more spontaneous with results.

The filter thread is plastic so care needs to be taken to avoid stripping the thread when attaching metal threaded accessories.

Lensbaby Spark on Camera

Lensbaby Spark Performance

Getting good results from the Lensbaby Spark takes some practice. The point of focus, known as the sweet spot, can be varied by pushing, pulling and bending the Spark while looking through the viewfinder. The lens is fixed at f/5.6 so depth of field is limited and when you angle the lens you can control where the focus falls off and by how much. It's a technique that does take a while to master, but once you start to become more confident it's easier to get good results. Certain subjects work better than others too.

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.

Lensbaby Spark with Series VII Super Wide attached
Lensbaby Spark with Series VII Super Wide attached

Lensbaby Spark Tribe Straight | 1/160 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320 Lensbaby Spark Tribe Bent | 1/200 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320
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.

Lensbaby Spark Horse Shoe | 1/60 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320 Lensbaby Spark Lace | 1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320
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.

Lensbaby Spark Bovril Unextended | 1/750 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320 Lensbaby Spark Bovril Extended | 1/160 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320
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!

Lensbaby Spark Zip | 1/40 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320 Lensbaby Spark Red Vase | 1/40 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320
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.

Lensbaby Spark Fern | 1/60 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320 Lensbaby Spark Leaf | 1/100 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320
Two shots taken at a similar distance show the lighter background to be working slightly better.

Lensbaby Spark Fairy Bokeh | 1/50 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320 Lensbaby Spark Red Berries Bokeh | 1/60 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320
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.

Lensbaby Spark Pen | 1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320 Lensbaby Spark Pen2 | 1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320
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.

Lensbaby Spark with Series VII Macro attached
Lensbaby Spark with Series VII Macro lens attached.

Lensbaby Spark Bottle | 1/1000 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320 Lensbaby Spark Bottle Seriese | 1/1000 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 320
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.

Lensbaby Spark Verdict

The Lensbaby Spark is certainly a fun lens to use. It can take a while (or a certain frame of mind) to achieve results that you'll be proud to share, but once you get into the flow anything's possible. Combined with the right subject and light, Spark does indeed spark the creativity and well worth considering. Its round aperture is perfect for really clean bokeh and something that would normally cost far more to achieve.

  Combined with the right subject and light, Spark does indeed spark the creativity and well worth considering.

Lensbaby Spark Pros

Easy to adjust
No locking so quick and resposive
Threaded to accept accessories
Circular bokeh

Lensbaby Spark Cons

Harder to get good photos than a normal lens
Plastic filter thread could easily be cross theaded


Lensbaby Spark Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AF
  • Canon EOS
Focal Length50mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/5.6
Min ApertureNo Data
Filter Size37mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus33cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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Rab90 9 1 Scotland
17 Oct 2012 6:31PM
You know, the best pictures were the ones of the equipment . Stunning.

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