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Refractique Lensball Review

We've been playing around with a crystal sphere known as the Refractique Lensball to find out just how good they are for creative photography.


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1/400 sec | f/7.1 | 22.0 mm | ISO 200
 

Quick Verdict

The Refractique Lensball is a fun accessory that's entertaining to use but won't be something you use every day. Having said that, Instagrammers will love it, as too will those who 'snap and share' from their smartphones. But, do be cautious when using it as you can make items burst into flames if not careful!

+ Pros

  • Fun
  • Creative
  • In-expensive 
  • A great way to get smartphone users interested in photography
  • Conversation starter

- Cons

  • It can start fires! 
  • Not for use in direct sunlight so some shots can be tricky
  • Fiddly to get the right angle at first 
 

 

If you're a regular visitor to Instagram you'll probably have seen many photographers, bloggers and those who are lucky enough to regularly travel the world capturing wanderlust-filled images where the centre of the shot is focused on a crystal sphere. The glass shape is known as a Refractique Lensball and they can be used to give images of exotic shores, or even photos of a back garden in Yorkshire, a creative and eye-catching twist. 

As those followed by thousands of people on social media use these clear, crystal spheres to create awe-inspiring shots, we thought we'd find out how much they cost, how easy they are to use and how much pushing of levels and curves in Photoshop you really need to do to create images that'll get you all of the likes/votes you could ever dream of. 


Refractique Lensball Features

Lensball Pro
 

There are two Refractique Lensballs available which measure 80mm and 60mm and we've got the larger of the two in for review. Both Refractique Lensballs are made from K9 crystal: A lens-grade, optically clear crystal mostly used in optics and lenses giving you the sharpest possible image. As the Refractique Lensball is spherical, you get a 180-degree view of the world through it which, when combined with bokeh backgrounds, can create really cool and unique images. 

The Refractique Lensball comes in lovely packaging and is supplied with a black pouch which you need to store the Refractique Lensball in when not in use so it's protected and doesn't accidentally set your surroundings on fire (more on this later). 

You can use any camera you like to capture images of/with the Refractique Lensball but we imagine it's particularly popular with smartphone shooters just because they're the kind of images you want to share on social media. 

As well as the Refractique Lensball, we were also sent the Brushed Gold Lensball Stand (see the top photo) which you have to purchase separately but we really highly recommend it as it makes it easier to hold the Lensball or you can attach it to a tripod. 

Key Features

  • Constructed from K9 crystal
  • 80mm or 60mm sizes available 
  • Suitable for all - from DSLR to smartphone users 
  • 180-degree view on the world 

 

Refractique Lensball Handling & Performance

 

Lensball Pro
 

As mentioned, the Refractique Lensball is a clear crystal sphere used for creative photography. It gives a 180-degree view of the world and really, the only limit you have to its uses is your imagination. 

The Refractique Lensballs are available in two sizes and which you purchase will depend on how far you travel and what you want to photograph. Weighing 650g, you know you're carrying the 80mm Lensball around (the 60mm Refractique Lensball weighs just 250g in comparison) but as it's made from solid crystal, it was never going to be light. 

In the hand, the Refractique Lensball feels well built and it's very resistant to scratches (ours accidentally rolled along a path and it was completely fine). As it's glass, fingerprints and smudges can be an issue but if you carry a microfibre cloth around with you, these can soon be removed. 

 

Lensball Pro
 

Another major point you can't ignore is that the Refractique Lensball has a strong magnifying effect which when positioned in direct sunlight can actually start a fire! It also burns A LOT if you're holding it and sunlight shines directly into it (trust us, we know!). So, take Lensballs' advice and DO NOT work in direct sunlight as you don't want to be the reason a forest has burnt down. This can make outdoor photography with the Refractique Lensball on a sunny summer's day a bit tricky and it does make us wonder how some Instagrammers have captured such lovely images on sunny beaches and in other locations without needing to carry a fire extinguisher with them. You can, of course, shoot in the shade and if your shots appear to be too dark, adjust the exposure in post-production. We also found that working quickly when it's sunny helps!

A pouch is provided to keep the Lensball away from direct sunlight when not in use and it also keeps it safe during transportation. Most of the time, we had the Refractique Lensball in a rucksack when walking to locations but it easily fitted in a coat/jacket pocket, too. 

When shooting indoors you don't have to really worry about sunlight but windows and other reflective objects can appear in the Refractique Lensball, spoiling your composition until you figure out where to stand to remove them. It's quite easy to capture your own reflection, too, so just be mindful of it. 

 

Lensball Pro
 

We used both a smartphone and a mirrorless camera when capturing images of the Refractique Lensball and both produced pleasing results. The autofocus didn't have any trouble on either device when focusing on the Lensball and after some practice, framing and creating bokeh became a doddle. 

If you do want to use a smartphone, you need to stand closer to your subject then you might first think as everything in the Refractique Lensball appears to be much further away than it actually is in real life. The iPhone 8 Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note10+ created lovely blurred backgrounds so if your smartphone has a second telephoto lens - use it. 

As for manual controls on DSLRs and so forth, you'll need an aperture that's a bit higher than you might first think is suitable and again, stand closer to your subject. You might also want to use a polarising filter to cut down on reflections and if you have a friend to hand, enlist their help as holding the Refractique Lensball with one hand while you hit the camera shutter with the other can be tricky (even more so as the Lensball soon feels heavy when holding it with just your fingertips). However, it's not impossible and you can always use a tripod if you have the Refractique Lensball stand. 

Talking of the stand, it features a vulcanised rubber suction mount which sticks to the Lensball securely. You can then either hold the stand in your hand or thanks to the 1/4 screwing thread, fasten it to a tripod/monopod. You can also use the stand as its own support as the base is flat. It's definitely an extra accessory we'd recommend purchasing as we used it a lot and at £14.95, it doesn't break the bank. 

 

1/400 sec | f/7.1 | 31.0 mm | ISO 200
 

When it comes to composition and getting your image just right, it can take quite a bit of trial and error to get everything right but that's part of the fun of photography, isn't it? Depending on the look you're trying to create, you're going to have to play around with focal lengths, depth-of-field, angle, how you hold the Refractique Lensball (fingers can really spoil shots when they appear inside the Refractique Lensball) etc. which, at first, some might find a little frustrating but the results you can create mean the process is worth persevering with. It's also a great way to get someone who might not be that interested in photography snapping more photos and you'll probably find it's a conversation starter with others who are out and about as we were asked a few times what we were using and what the photos look like when using the Refractique Lensball. 

Practice is definitely key as is playing around with compositions. We're not saying you're going to be capturing shots like you see on Instagram accounts straight away but with time, you will get better at using the Refractique Lensball creatively. Of course, it helps if you have breath-taking scenery around you and awesome sunsets but if you don't, you just have to use your imagination to think that little bit harder about how you can make what's around you, work. In fact, that's the beauty of the Refractique Lensball as it makes you seek out locations or angles you might not have considered before rather than just getting your smartphone out, pointing it at something and clicking the shutter button almost without any thought. It's taking the instant out of smartphone photography and replacing it with a little time to think, and actually, really enjoy the process of creative photography. 

 

1/400 sec | f/6.3 | 30.0 mm | ISO 200
 

To really make your Lensball images stand out, you're going to be spending some time in Photoshop or playing around with editing apps on your smartphone but hey, who doesn't edit images nowadays? 

Darkening backgrounds slightly, adding a bit of lens blur and brightening the Lensball so it 'pops' were the main edits we applied to our shots. We also found that gritty black & white looks along with a bit of colour-popping and, of course, retro filters also worked well. Flipping the image so what's captured in the Lensball is the right way around can also improve the shot. 

Take a look at what we captured with the Lensball below and for more inspiration, check out the Refractique Lensball website. If you have any images captured with a Refractique Lensball, we'd love to see them in the comments section below. 

 

1/400 sec | f/7.1 | 31.0 mm | ISO 200
 

1/400 sec | f/7.1 | 29.0 mm | ISO 200
 

1/320 sec | f/5.6 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200
 

1/400 sec | f/6.3 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200
 

1/320 sec | f/6.3 | 16.0 mm | ISO 200
 

 

1/400 sec | f/6.3 | 16.0 mm | ISO 200
 

1/400 sec | f/6.3 | 29.0 mm | ISO 200
 

1/400 sec | f/7.1 | 31.0 mm | ISO 200
 

1/400 sec | f/6.3 | 29.0 mm | ISO 200
 


 

Value For Money

The Refractique Lensball Vivid is priced at £34.95 and the Refractique Lensball Mini is a little cheaper at £24.99. Other Lensball style accessories are available over on Amazon, with pricing ranging from £3.99 to just over £30 but as we've not had these in our hands, we can't confirm how good they are or if they're better/worse than the Refractique Lensball. Looking at the price range of other glass ball accessories on offer, the Refractique Lensball Mini sits in the middle of it which makes it reasonably good value for money while the Refractique Lensball Vivid sits towards the top of the price range but it is a quality optic.

Plus, you can currently save 12% on your Refractique Lensball purchase by using the code: ephotozine at the checkout which makes them even better value for money. 

 

Refractique Lensball Verdict

The Refractique Lensball is a great accessory that makes photography fun, engaging and a challenge. Like anything, practice makes perfect and it might take a while for you to get to grips with it but you'll have fun while doing so. 

Not everyone will see the point in purchasing a Refractique Lensball but we reckon it will continue to be a big hit with Instagrammers and it's a brilliant way for those who can't put their smartphones down to really start thinking about photography and what they capture with their smartphone camera. It really made us think how we could use the Refractique Lensball creatively and others may like the challenge, too. Plus, it might encourage people to learn about creating bokeh and how photo editing can really make images stand out from the crowd which can only be a positive thing. The Refractique Lensball also makes you slow down and actually think before hitting the shutter which is a rare thing for some nowadays. 

Yes, you do have to play around with levels, dodge/burning, filters etc. to really make something less ordinary but as we said, it's something most of us do with all of our images so isn't a negative. It's just worth noting that the images you see on Instagram can't be achieved by just holding the Refractique Lensball up in the air and clicking your shutter button. 

The Refractique Lensball can be used with all types of cameras but actually, we think it's probably more suited to those who capture images with smartphones and regularly share them with friends and followers on social media. However, this shouldn't put you off purchasing one if you're into more traditional forms of photography as it's good to try something different and to be a little more creative. 

One slight downside is how easy it is to set things on fire or to burn yourself if you don't follow the instructions so please do make sure you don't use the Lensball in direct sunlight! 

As for how the product is manufactured, it's well made, weighty and is packaged beautifully. 

Overall, the Refractique Lensball is a fun accessory that challenges you to capture creative images and think a little more out of the box - highly recommended. 

 

Refractique Lensball Pros

  • Fun
  • Creative
  • In-expensive 
  • A great way to get smartphone users interested in photography
  • Conversation starter

 

Refractique Lensball Cons

  • It can start fires! 
  • Not for use in direct sunlight so some shots can be tricky
  • Fiddly to get the right angle at first 

Features & Handling4/5
Performance4.5/5
Value4/5
Overall Verdict

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Comments


altitude50 16 20.1k United Kingdom
16 Sep 2020 7:41AM
21670_1600238248.jpg


This was taken just before the lockdown, I have an intention to go back and repeat to improve it in the Winter when the holiday makers have gone.
Not something to use every day and I have not had much success with it indoors for patterns etc.

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