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Lensbaby Twist 60 Lens Review

John Riley reviews the Lensbaby Twist 60 a creative portrait lens available for full-frame cameras.


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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Lensbaby Twist 60 Lens Review: Lensbaby Twist 60 Front Oblique View

There are lenses that provide critically sharp images, edge to edge, and sometimes we add soft focus filters or Photoshop work to reduce that sharpness. There are also lenses that remind us that creativity is not always about sharpness and one such range is the Lensbaby. Sharp hotspots, blurred periphery, and now a lens based upon the original portrait lens, the Petzval, originating with a design of 1840 from Joseph Petzval. We are promised something special in terms of a sharp central area surrounded by masses of lovely twirly bokeh, so let's see how it works out in practice.

Lensbaby Twist 60 Handling and Features

Lensbaby Twist 60 Lens Review: Lensbaby Twist 60 Front Element View

The Twist 60 is a nicely made metal bodied lens, manual focus only, and is very easy to focus of the Nikon D810 that was provided for this review. It snaps in and out very precisely. It is Optic Swap Compatible, meaning that the lens itself can be lifted out of the mount and placed in any of the other compatible mounts provided. If used on a mount that twists away from the optical axis, the Twist 60 needs to be used in the straight ahead position. The basic lens is available separately at a lower cost, so for those using Lensbaby already the price is much lower.

This is a full frame lens and the compatibility varies from camera to camera, details of which can be found at lensbaby.com/camera-compatibility – in the case of the D810 the lens can be used in Av or manual modes and the meter does operate normally. It is essential to find the correct orientation when mounting the lens so that it clicks into position and meters properly. It is possible to mount the lens in other positions and it does not lock in, nor does the meter give the correct reading. Operation is at the working aperture as there is no stop down mechanism. Mounts available for the Twist 60 are Canon EF, Nikon F and Sony E and, as mentioned, other Lensbaby lens heads can also be fitted into the mounts.

The Petzval lens was revolutionary in its day, providing a fast portrait lens that enabled shorter exposure times. It consists of two doublets (two element lenses) with the aperture stop in the middle. The result is a fast lens with a sharp central area and rapidly blurring outer areas from residual aberrations and field curvature. Field curvature exists in many lenses but when excessive means that the centre and edges cannot both be in focus at the same time. This new Petzval design comprises 4 elements in 3 groups and exhibits similar properties to the original.  


Lensbaby Twist 60 Lens Review: Lensbaby Twist 60 On Nikon D810

The lens itself is very well made, weighs 204g, has a 46mm filter thread and a 12 bladed diaphragm. The larger the number of diaphragm blades, the more circular the aperture will be, improving the bokeh. Focusing is down to 45cm (18”) which is close enough to provide a decent head and shoulders portrait. The lens head can be removed easily via a fairly woolly feeling bayonet. It does seem disconcertingly wobbly, but actually seats reliably and does the job.

The most critical thing is the ease of focusing and it is beautifully simple indeed. The image is very clear through the D810 and the focus point very easy to judge. 60mm might seem an unusual focal length, but in fact it does make a useful portrait distance. The classic use for such a lens would be portraiture, and there is certainly huge potential in that. Equally well, other genres such as landscape and close up work are there for the taking. There are no boundaries when we are talking about creative lenses and this is a prime example of an optic where a photographer could carve out a style of working to produce very original and striking images.

Lensbaby Twist 60 Lens Review: Lensbaby Twist 60 Rear Oblique View
 

Lensbaby Twist 60 Performance

Once we look at the lens in a technical sense then the performance figures should be seen in the context of the uses the Twist 60 is intended for.

In terms of a conventional look at sharpness, the central figures are impressively high. Sharpness is very good at f/2.5, rising to excellent from f/4 through to f/16 and dropping slightly at f/22 but remaining very good.

Measurements were also made at half way across the frame, where the sharpness is already dropping off, but is good at f/2.5 and f/4, very good at f/5.6, excellent at f/8 and f/11 and still very good at f/16 and f/22. This fits the profile of a Petzval lens and gives an idea of the area of high sharpness that can be expected.

The full frame edges of course are way outside the design parameters, at least in conventional terms, and sharpness is poor from f/2.5 to f/16. It does however slowly improve as we stop down and there is actually a good result at f/22.


 

 
Lensbaby Twist 60 Lens Review: Lensbaby Twist 60 MTF Chart2
MTF

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D810 using Imatest.

 

Control of CA (Chromatic Aberration) is actually excellent. Only at the widest apertures and the edge of the 35mm format frame do we see levels rise. In all other situations CA is unlikely to be a problem.


 

 
Lensbaby Twist 60 Lens Review: Lensbaby Twist 60 CA Chart
CA Chart

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D810 using Imatest.

 

There is no lens hood provided, but it is debatable anyway that it would be needed. The lens resists flare very well, but it can be induced when shooting against the light and may well be considered part of the artistic experience.

Barrel distortion measure -1.81%, very acceptable in that it tends to disappear amongst the swirling twist of the out of focus areas. For once, we have a modest telephoto lens that doesn't tend towards pincushion distortion. This is probably a good thing as it would work against the tendency to twirl.

Finally, we look at the bokeh, the quality of the out of focus areas. In the case of the Twist 60 those areas are also at the plane of focus as we move outwards towards the edges. At wider apertures we see the swirling, twisting effect, and that is quite controllable. As we stop down this effect starts to be lost and the bokeh takes on a different character. The fact that the nature of the bokeh can be changed with aperture and working distance, as well as the part of the frame the main subject occupies, means that over a few days at a few locations the possibilities can only be partially explored. There are so many possibilities and getting to know the lens fully might well take some time.


Lensbaby Twist 60 Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Lensbaby Twist 60, complete with mount, is priced at £249. For those who have an Optic Swap Compatible lens already, then the lens head alone costs £159, a very good saving.

The obvious competitors are the Lomography 58mm f/1.9 Petzval Art Lens, available in black (£639) and brass (£549), or the Lensbaby Velvet 56 (£419).

The Lensbaby scores on cost and it is only when we see the different construction approach that the higher cost of the Lomography lenses can be seen in more perspective. In terms of the end result though, the Lensbaby Twist 60 looks hard to beat.

For more options have a look at the Top 27 Best Portrait Lenses.

 

Lensbaby Twist 60 Verdict

There are so many exciting lenses out there and the new Petzval designs are high on the list. Some photographers may well adapt and use old brass lenses, but here we have the classic 1840 portrait lens in modern livery and with modern convenience.

The ease of use is there, the price is good and the creative potential huge. It won't be to everyone's taste, but if the concept gels then the photographer will open a new and fantastic area of creativity with the Lensbaby Twist 60.

Lensbaby Twist 60 Pros

  • Excellent central sharpness
  • Unusual twirl bokeh
  • Optic Swap Compatible feature reduces costs
  • Well controlled CA
  • Solid metal design
  • Easy manual focus
  • Creative possibilities

Lensbaby Twist 60 Cons

  • Not all camera models fully supported (FF only)

Features4/5
Handling4/5
Performance4/5
Value4.5/5
Overall Verdict

 

Lensbaby Twist 60 Specifications

ManufacturerLensbaby
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon F
  • Canon EF
  • Sony FE Mount
Lens
Focal Length60mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/2.5
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size46mm
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus45cm
Construction
Blades12
Elements4
Groups3
Box Contents
Box ContentsTwist 60, Front lens cap, Rear mount cap, User Guide
Dimensions
Weight221g
Height63.5mm

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