Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

Test Drive: Lensbaby Spark 2.0 Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

29 January 2021

When you stop worrying about exposure and start thinking about focus, you are becoming a photographer. With today's autofocus lenses, that usually restricts you to considering depth of field. But with a Spark 2.0, your fingers find focus anywhere in the scene and the aperture can expand or contract it.

It's a liberating experience that Lensbaby CEO Craig Strong compares to dancing. And it's just as fun, too.

We've used both the original Spark design and the 2.0 revision. The price has gone up to $200 from $80, making it a little less affordable to experiment with directed focus of this type. But the improvements to the optic alone are well worth it.


Version 2.0 brings several significant improvement to the original Spark design.

The first is that the new design eliminates the original's tilt limiter that prevented cameras with small sensors from over-tilting the Spark optic. The limiter can cause issues when trying to maximize the tilt on most of the optic swap optics when used on full frame cameras and can cause a scraping noise when shooting video footage.

Details. Mouse over or tap for captions.

The other is that the lens is now available on a variety of mounts including mirrorless with the same metal mount used on all of Lensbaby's standalone and optic swap lenses. The original came in Canon EF or Nikon F mounts only and it was a plastic mount.

Finally the Sweet 50 optic swap module is itself an upgrade with built-in apertures from f2.5 to f22 rather than the disc apertures of the original. Being able to change apertures as you compose is a significant enhancement over have to pull the module and swap the aperture disc.


Our pre-production Spark didn't come with any documentation, a situation we've been told has been remedied with production models. Lensbaby has always written very good documentation so you won't have the trouble we had removing the Sweet 50 optic swap module.

And boy did we have trouble.

The Sweet 50 disengages unlike any other optic swap module we've used. It locks with three pins like the others but because it has an aperture ring on the front element, it does not unlock those pins by pressing the module into the housing slightly.

Instead of pressing in to release the pins and turning the module so it pops out, the Spark requires you to turn the module to the open icon and press very hard until it clicks and releases.

"I'm afraid I'm going to break it," we confessed when Strong told us the secret.

"You can't break it," he reassured us.

He was right.


While the Spark 2.0 mounts like any other lens, it does not allow the camera to control its aperture. That fun is reserved for you.

If you want the camera to autoexpose the image, set the shooting mode to Aperture Priority so the shutter speed compensates for whatever aperture you use.

Selecting apertures is what the fun is all about, since aperture controls how wide the focus spot is. The housing merely directs that focus to any part of the scene.

Some cameras also require you to change a menu setting to allow you to Shoot Without Lens.


Handling the Spark 2.0 takes a little practice.

The first problem is handling. How can you position the front element with one hand?

We used our focusing hand (our left) and put our two first fingers on either side of the glass on the nice, wide convex ring. That's the noon and six o'clock positions. That allowed us to comfortably move the front element in every direction.

Strong likes to use four fingers at the 1, 5, 7, 10 o'clock positions, more or less.

User Guide. Using the Lensbaby Spark 2.0 with Craig Strong

The smaller the aperture you set, the smaller the sweet spot. So f22 keeps most of the scene in focus while f2.5 narrows focus to a very small spot.

The 12 diaphragm blades create a lovely round bokeh in the out-of-focus areas of the image. We've included some Christmas ornaments on a lit tree in our slide show below to show that off. See the news story for the full Spark 2.0 specs.

Without compressing the housing, focus will be in the center of the frame and at infinity. You focus closer by squeezing the front element toward the camera body.

You can focus on even closer subjects by stretching the front element out. Slipping our two fingers behind the ring let us do that too.

Tilting the lens moves the focus spot around.

slide show

Sample Shots. We start with a 2x extender and end up using a variety of apertures.

We had a pretty stiff housing but Strong assured us shipping units are a bit more flexible. That's a good thing because it can otherwise be hard to actually maintain focus when you press the Shutter button.

The housing tilts easily enough but it does not shift at all. It's just too short to do that. So abandon all hope of perspective control, which you can do easily enough in software these days.

We also mounted the Spark 2.0 on a 2x teleconverter, making it a 100mm optic with a crop factor of a 150mm prime on our APS-C camera.


The experience of shooting with the Spark is not as limiting or disorienting as it may sound.

We found it a little like using a flashlight. Except instead of aiming a wider or narrower beam of light into a dark scene, the Spark lets you widen or narrow or shift focus in a scene. What a flashlight does with light, the Spark does with focus.


If nothing else, the Spark 2.0 promises a fresh perspective on your photography. No other lens sees what it sees.

It is not in any sense a general purpose lens. Nor is it a specialist tool for capturing a particular subject like a perspective control lens or a portrait lens.

It's a different way of photographing the world. In fact, it's a different way of seeing the world.

We can't say that about many things, so we're awarding it all four corners.

BackBack to Photo Corners