Lensbaby Sol 45 review

Back to basics

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Our Verdict

It's certainly a fun way to shoot and for the price, it won't break the bank, but the Sol 45 is essentially a novelty accessory.

For

  • Fun and easy to use
  • Available in all common lens mounts
  • Metal exterior construction

Against

  • Fixed aperture
  • Area of focus could be sharper
  • Limited appeal

The Sol 45 is Lensbaby going back to its roots. The original Lensbaby was launched back in 2004 and its simple, single element design with a flexible housing managing to replicate the 'Holga look' for digital cameras. 

This was thanks to the flexible rubber housing which meant you could tilt the lens and produce images with a 'sweat-spot' which the image was sharp(ish), with the rest of the image a graduated blur. Because the optic was non-coated, images had a soft, dreamy look to them. 

Since then, the Lensbaby range has grown and got more sophisticated. The Sol 45 sees Lensbaby go back to basics and is designed to appeal to those who, as the company puts it, "want to dip their toes in the Lensbaby pool".

Features

  • Fixed aperture of f/3.5
  • Features a circular area of focus
  • No diaphragm blades

Things are kept pretty simple with the Sol 45, featuring a fixed aperture of f/3.5 - you'll want to shoot in manual mode as there's no electronic contacts to feed information back to the camera. This is simple enough, especially if you use Auto ISO and dial in your desired shutter speed. 

Specification

Focal length: 45mm

Mount: Canon EF, Nikon FX, Sony E

Filter size: 105mm

Max aperture: Fixed f/3.5

Angle of tilt: 8.5 degrees

Dimensions: 73 x 39mm

Weight: 123g to 272g depending on mount

The Sol 45 features two 'bokeh blades' that are situated on hinged arms hiding at the edge of the lens. Pull these into the lens’s field of view and these will add subtle lines of texture to your images, though that aperture does drop down to f/5.

The lens is manual focus only with a minimum focus distance of 355mm, with the optical path kept pretty basic too, with three elements in two groups. There's a coating called 'Broadband Multi Coated Anti-reflective', though it's not clear if these is used on all elements.

The lens tilts 8.5 degrees, which means that the sweet spot can always be found on APS-C format cameras as well as full-frame. 

Build quality and handling

  • Available in a range of lens mounts
  • Vary in size depend on lens mount
  • Sol 22 designed specifically for Micro Four Thirds

With the majority of the Sol 45's exterior construction is made up of metal, the lens is available in a variety of mounts: Canon EF, Nikon FX, Sony A, Sony E, Pentax K and Fujifilm X mounts. Our Nikon-fit sample was nice and compact and weighs in at only 123g, while the Canon version is a little heavier at 144g. Mirrorless shooters get a slightly longer design to accommodate the extra flange distance required, with the Sony E-mount version tipping the scales at 272g. If you're a Micro Four Thirds shooter, there will also be a 22mm version (44mm equivalent) known as the Sol 22. 

If you don't want to use the tilt angle effect, then there's a locking mechanism that will fix the lens in the straight ahead position for general shooting.

Performance

  • Easy to use - tilt, focus and shoot
  • Nice falloff to defocused areas
  • Circular area of focus could be sharper

If you're one for pin-sharp optical performance, then the Sol 45 isn't for you. The keyword with the Sol 45 is very much 'fun'. It's easy to use as well. Once you've decided when you want to be the point of interest in the frame, simply bend the lens towards it and then focus manually before triggering the shutter. Lensbaby reckon you should ultimately create a tack-sharp circular area of focus surrounded by bold blur and smooth bokeh. While probably tack-sharp might be pushing it a stretch, you can achieve distinct areas of focus, while the falloff into blur can be nice and smooth. 

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Verdict

The Sol 45 is an enjoyable but essentially novelty accessory. It's certainly a fun way to shoot and for the price, it won't break the bank, but whether you'll tire of this look or embrace it will very much depend on you and the pictures you take.