Before I bought the Edge 50 optic earlier this year I did a bit of online searching to find out how people were using it, what their thoughts were and what sort of images they were creating with it. I found a few “proper” reviews but struggled to find any “this is what I’m doing and how I’m feeling about it” sort of posts.
If I’m honest “proper” lens reviews send me to sleep. Once I know the widest aperture and closest focus distance I just want to know what I might be able to create with it. Instead I find I’m reading phrases such as “eight elements in six groups” or “nine blade aperture diaphragm” and my attention rapidly starts to wander.
So if you are like me and just want to know about the experience of using the Edge 50 this post is for you, but it is not a review! I haven’t yet used it extensively but I don’t expect my initial thoughts are likely to change.
The bits that you might need to know are that it’s a 50mm focal length with a widest aperture of f/3.2. There’s a pull-out bit on the front that lets you focus closer when you need to, with that pulled out you can focus as close as about 8 inches away. It has a slice of focus rather than the more common Lensbaby sweet spot and it can create a miniature effect.
And then there are the magical powers.
They don’t seem to get a mention in other reviews, but the Edge 50 definitely has magical powers that can transform the very ordinary into something a little different.
The miniaturisation effect can be really interesting, I haven’t yet had the chance to shoot somewhere busy and make lots of people look tiny so instead I’ve experimented with empty spaces.
Below the effect isn’t so obvious but it has changed the feel of the scene completely, it’s a vast open space but the Edge 50 has sort of pulled the sky down and made it feel heavy and oppressive—or maybe that’s my imagination in overdrive.
And I love the effect on Blackpool Tower, even though I couldn’t fit it all in. I’m a big fan of 50mm as a focal length, I’m not naturally a wide shooter so this is the only time I might have found a wider lens useful.
So far I’ve been shooting mostly at f/3.2 or f/4.0, as I would with any lens; however, tilting the composer allows the direction of the slice of focus to be changed, changing from a horizontal to an almost vertical slice of focus (below) transforms the image without changing the aperture.
Alternatively you can leave the direction of the slice of focus unchanged and simply shift the focus along to a different part of the image.
(Which is especially useful for giant plastic parrots)
Some things I’ve worked out and you should be aware of…
If you bend the composer too far you can get a heavy vignette to one or two corners depending on the bend direction. You soon learn to avoid it but sometimes the dark shading in the blur just adds to the moodiness. I’m shooting on a full frame and I’m guessing it wont be as bad on a crop sensor.
You can get some distortion in horizons in the blur, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest but I can imagine some people might be frustrated by it.
Shooting into the sun can produce some interesting lens flares, if you are a fan of flare you will love it.
In contrasty light, there’s a sort of haziness that can make focusing a bit tricky. The portraits below were captured in a dark barn with light streaming in through a couple of openings. The haziness isn’t too obvious in the final images but it did make it difficult to focus and there is a softness about them.
You need to be really aware of where your slice of focus is falling in portraits, you might have focused on the face but because it’s a slice and it can be angled you might also have some unwanted background in focus. Like the hinge below.
The same problem arises with still life photography, it’s tricky to separate subject from background and so far I’ve only managed one or two images that I’ve been happy with. I’ll keep on experimenting but I might decide that it’s just not a still life lens.
And one final thing you must be aware of…
Those magical powers.
With the right light and a sprinkling of Lensbaby magic something that looks quite ordinary can suddenly look a little bit more special. So be prepared to shoot lots, and photograph things that you might normally ignore because you might just see it in a totally new way.
About the author: Janet Broughton is a UK-based photographer, blogger, and copywriter. You can find more of her work on her website, or by following her on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.