Shooting with “Creative” Lenses

In this week’s blog post I wanted to write about something more on the creative side of photography, so I am writing about using “creative” lenses. The two that I am talking about today are the Lensbaby 2.0 and the Holga “toy” camera lens.

These two lenses can be fun to play around with and can help you create some interesting shots to say the least but they are not for the faint of heart. Since these are third party lenses and fairly inexpensive, they don’t come with all the “luxury” items you are used to with your standard Canon or Nikon lenses or even third party lenses such as Tamron and Sigma, which are engineered to work with your camera. These lenses have no aperture blades and no auto focus so you need to be fairly comfortable using your camera in full manual mode to play with them.

Looking at the Lensbaby, this lens is all manual and is designed to create blur effects. There is no focus ring and instead you squeeze the lens to get your focus. You literally grab both sides of the front ring plate on the lens and pull back towards your camera body to create your focus. At the same time, the lens will create neat looking blur effect to everything else that is not in focus. As you can see in my sample image, I didn’t get the focus totally spot on, but to be honest, I wasn’t trying to. The Lensbaby also comes with removable aperture discs, and each one is for a fixed aperture, depending on the size of the hole in the center of the disc. The discs are inserted into the front of the lens using a special tool that comes with the Lensbaby and mine is called the Lensbaby 2.0 as that is my widest aperture if I leave the disc out. Lensbaby has become fairly popular with people that like to create the “effects” that it can give you and Lensbaby makes a few different model lenses with different focal lengths, from 35mm to 50mm to 80mm. The Lensbaby also varies in price depending on which model and focal length you want. I bought mine used on Craig’s List for $30 but they can run as much as $500 new. This image was shot with the LensBaby 2.0 @ F/2 with my Canon 5D Classic.


The second lens I am writing about is the Holga “toy” camera lens. This lens you can buy new from around $20-$30 on Amazon and various other sites and it’s designed to give you the “old camera” look to your photos. The Holga only comes in a 60mm focal length and a fixed aperture of F/8 so you will need plenty of sunlight or very high ISO to get your images to come out at all. The Holga does have a slight focus ring but it only has three positions, portrait, small group and landscape and they are marked with little white icons. The Holga does have decent focus in the center so that is where you want your subject, but because it’s plastic, there is quite a bit of distortion and purple color fringing but you can remove that in post processing. This second image I shot with the came Canon 5D Classic using a Holga lens @ F/8.


Both of these lenses are for more creative, “artsy” photography and you can take some really amazing photos with both lenses but as I mentioned earlier, you have to do EVERYTHING manually. There are actually groups and clubs out there where all the members shoot with a Lensbaby all the time. I personally think it’s silly to go to that extreme and I refer to those photographers as “One trick ponies”. It’s also sad as I have seen some Lensbaby photos that would have been a million times better with a regular 50mm lens. The silly distortion that you get with the Lensbaby is in my humble opinion cool at times, but not something I would use everyday. I love to shoot landscapes and it saddens me to see something shoot a beautiful lake scene with a cabin, etc and ruin the whole shot because they used the Lensbaby.

So, what do you the readers think? Is the Lensbaby or Holga “toy” camera lens something you’d like to play around with? If you want a Lensbaby, you can head over to but as I mentioned at the beginning of my post, I would pick one up off Craig’s List for way under the $300-$500 they cost new. A lot of people buy them, then hate them and dump them on-line cheap. The Holga lens you can easily buy on