Dreamy Film Look or Blurry Mess? Lensbaby Sol 45mm review

Getting a dreamy film look, like a memory or flashback can be done in two ways. The first method is to shoot video and add a blur, distortion or diffusion effect in post. The second method involves a special effect lens with distortion so you can see immediately while shooting how this effect looks like.

The Sol 45mm F/3.5 is such a distortion lens that blurs most of the image with a unique bokeh. It’s an all manual lens that has a fixed aperture, so it’s always stuck at F/3.5. The ring at the very front is a focus ring and the bigger one behind serves a special function. It changes the blur effect. By tilting the ring in any direction, the area that is distorted changes. The part that is in focus can be a little tricky to make out when using this lens for the first few times. Because the area that is in focus isn’t very big. Having focus peaking in-camera is a very helpful feature to determine the focus area. The Sol 45 cannot replace a regular prime lens but rather is an addition for special shoots. For shooting these types of dreamy sequences this lens does a good job especially when considering the price of $200.

I also used this lens to create sort of a miniature effect in one of our night timelapse videos. But it’s not really meant for this type of effect. There are more dedicated lenses to get a proper miniature effect such as tilt-shift lenses which are quite expensive and usually used for architectural photography. So overall it’s best to only use it for flashbacks or dream sequences.

A good fit in terms of size and ergonomics: The Lensbaby Sol 45 on the Fujifilm X-H1

It’s not easy to simulate the same look in a video editing software but it’s definitely possible to create a dreamy look with blur and distortion effects when using masks, even though it’s not going to look the same. So the real question is: How much time do you want to spend filming outside or in front of the computer editing and applying such effects?

I don’t think this is a lens for a lot of people or a lot of use cases. Even I had this lens for 18 months and only used it five or six times. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad lens. It’s best to be used for portrait photo shoots or narrative storytelling and for that, this type of lens can be fun to use.

You can purchase the Lensbaby Sol 45mm F/3.5 by using our affiliate link, which doesn’t add any extra cost for you supports our blog.

Written by filmmaker Moritz Janisch on September 7, 2020

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