The Spark 2.0 is a new and unique lens in the Lensbaby line-up with a very spontaneous, organic and dance-like feel. The lens is based on the design of the original Lensbaby 2.0, introduced in 2004. The accordion-like base of the lens allows you to bend or squeeze to get your focus where you want it. It is sold with the Sweet 50 optic, but any of the optics in the optic swap system are compatible with the Spark 2.0. Just as with the Composer Pro II system, to remove the Sweet 50 optic from the Spark 2.0, gently twist the optic counter-clockwise. To add another optic insert and twist clockwise until it clicks into place.
I have received many questions from people struggling to understand the lens and how to use it, so I decided to write a blog post with some tips I have learned as I experiment with the lens. With continued closings due to Covid, all the local conservatories where I normally photograph during the winter are closed. I am seeking the beauty and grace in the dying flowers and plants outdoors during winter. This has been a fun and creative project and the Spark has been a perfect lens for this new adventure.
When starting with the Spark, shoot with the sweet spot in the middle to practice understanding how near or far you need to be from your subject. Don’t worry about bending yet. The close focusing distance of the Sweet 50 optic is 15 inches. If you want to be in closer to your subject you will need to add the 46mm macro filters or macro converters to the optic. A good place to start is to use the +4 macro filter or one of the macro converters and begin to experiment. Start by moving your body and camera to figure out how close or far away you need to be to get focus. Move your body and camera further from or closer to the subject until it’s in focus.
After you’ve gotten a feel for distance you can also combine squeezing to attain focus. Try backing up a bit and gently squeezing the lens straight back to see your image come into focus. For shooting close-up subjects, I use a combination of moving my camera and body in and out with the gentle squeezing to focus.
To focus subjects further away, as in a landscape shot, squeeze the Spark toward you until your subject comes into focus. The more you squeeze the lens, the further away it will focus. It will focus all the way to infinity. Try this without bending the lens first and just practice focusing on things in a distance by pulling straight back and watching the center come into focus. Later you can add bending and moving your sweet spot.
Once you feel you understand finding your focus in the center, start to practice by composing the area you want in focus in other parts of the frame. Use the grid in your viewfinder to help you know where your sweet spot of focus is going to be placed and what direction you are going to bend. If you want to focus on something to the right of the frame, bend the lens a little to the right (don’t bend too much - a little will do it). If you want to focus on something in the left, top or bottom of the frame bend in those directions until you see it come into focus. If you have focus peaking technology in your camera, use it to help you know what area is in focus in your frame. When you feel like you’ve found your area and the correct bend of the Spark, hold it steady while you take the photo. It might feel a bit awkward at first to hold the Spark and try to release the shutter, but it will become intuitive and easy with practice. I personally find that I hold and bend the Spark with my middle and ring finger on the right side of the lens, leaving my pointer finger on the right to reach up and press the shutter button. On the left side of the lens I use my middle and pointer finger to bend. You’ll find the positioning that feels best for your hands.
The Sweet 50 optic has an aperture range of f/2.5 - f/22, so experiment with a range of apertures. The lower apertures will give you a small sweet spot of focus surrounded by a lot of blur and the higher apertures will give you a larger sweet spot and less blur. I love to use this lens wide open to get the beautiful blur and a smaller sweet spot of focus, but it depends on my subject as to how I make that choice.
Remember to keep your shutter speed high enough to counter any camera shake or movement. If your shutter speed dips down too low, you will get blurry photos. Raise your ISO as needed. Also, remember that when you are shooting closer than the 15 inch minimum focusing distance of the Sweet 50, you may have to add or subtract those macro filters or converters to find the right focus, or use in combination with squeezing to bring your subject into focus.
If you are interested in purchasing the Spark 2.0, please feel free to use my affiliate link and put in the discount code WBELMONT at checkout to receive an additional 10% off. As always, if you have questions, please reach out to me at [email protected].