3 Affordable Specialty Lenses That’ll Wake Up Your Creative Side

Why create images that look the same as everyone else’s when you can use specialty lenses and be radically different.

We as photographers always want images that are super sharp, have perfect color rendition, and have gorgeous bokeh, and while there is nothing wrong with that, ultimately a lot images that are taken end up looking the same. A quick scroll through Instagram will show you thousands of portraits or landscapes for example that are all technically perfect and pleasing to the eye, but honestly they all look the same, and it can be hard to tell one photographers work from another. It’s always nice to nail the perfect shot, but striving for perfection all the time can take the fun out of photography. These three specialty lenses will allow you to channel your creative side, be different from everyone else, and will make photography fun again.

The three specialty lenses that we will be looking at will help you create stunning images that will certainly make your work stand out from the millions of other pictures out there, and they will remind you that not every image has to be razor sharp from edge to edge to be great. The best images have character, they produce feelings of emotion, and they tell a story. These three specialty lenses will help you capture moments and tell stories that won’t be forgotten.


Lensbaby Trio 28mm F3.5


The Lensbaby Trio 28mm is the first of the specialty lenses we’re going to look at. Right off the bat you can tell that this is no ordinary lens. The trio has three separate sets of optics that will all radically alter your image. This lens will definitely turn heads when you use it, and it will create images that you will absolutely love.

In our review we said:

“Overall, I think the Lensbaby Trio is a pretty incredible optic not due to the crazy charts and lab tests, but more because the lens has some character to it. If you embrace this character then you’ll be really happy with the image quality it can deliver.”

This Lensbaby has a plastic body, but it feels really nice in the hand, and doesn’t feel cheap at all. The three sets of optics on the lenses are labeled as sweet, velvet, and twist. Each of the lenses is marked on the body so you can see which one you have selected. The sweet lens is the sharpest of the three lenses, while velvet is dreamy and soft. The twist lens acts as a Petzval lens which is sharp in the center with some pretty dramatic fall off to the sides. The twist lens has four multi-coated optics in three groups. The velvet lens has three multi-coated optics in two groups, and the sweet lens has three multi-coated optics in three groups.

As with all of their lenses, the Lensbaby Trio 28mm f3.5 is a manual focus lens, and it can be a little tricky to gain focus due to the nature of the optics. With modern Mirrorless cameras and their ability to focus peak, your job of focusing is made much easier though. Keep your main object of focus in the center of the frame and you will be good to go. The Trio 28mm lens only has one aperture. No matter which of the three optics you shoot with you’re going to be stuck at f3.5. Like I mentioned before though, this lens will make you think about your shots and will encourage you to channel your inner creative.

When you nail the focus on your main subject you will be delighted with the resulting images. Each of the three lenses produce such dramatically different types of bokeh. The Twist lens will twist and distort the out of focus areas, while the velvet lens will keep things nice and soft. The sweet lens makes thing very sharp, but shoot close to your subject and you’ll be very pleased with the bokeh. Colors rendered are really quite beautiful with all three sets of optics, and the images overall have a very film like appearance.

There is so much to like about this lens. It will certainly give your images character, and it will get your creative juices flowing. Sure, the lens has a learning curve and you’re not going to get razor sharp images, but that’s the point. Embrace this lens for what it is and have fun using it.

Buy now Fujifilm ($299.95): Amazon

Buy now M4/3 ($199.95): Amazon

Buy now Canon M ($279.95): Amazon

Buy now Sony E ($299.95): Amazon


Lensbaby Trio 28mm F3.5 Image Samples



Pro Tip: The winter weather season is upon us. This time of year provides us with the chance to create wonderful images out in the snow, but as we know, not all lenses and cameras are weather sealed. If you want to use a non weather sealed lens or camera out in the elements, keep some cheap, yet effective weather proof covers in your camera bag.


Lensbaby Burnside 35mm f2.8


The second of the three specialty lenses we will be looking at is the Lensbaby Burnside 35mm f2.8. This is one unique, quirky lens, and even that is an understatement. Having said that; this is a lens that will bring you endless amounts of joy when using it thanks to it’s ability to let you control vignetting and quality of bokeh.

In our review we said:

“The Lensbaby Burnside 35mm F2.8 lens is a great addition for any photographer who has an interest in environmental portraiture, food, street, or black & white photography. It produces excellent image quality, surreal bokeh, and accurate colors.”

The Lensbaby Burnside 35mm is a well built lens. The aluminum body feels really nice in the hands, the focusing ring is large and easy to use, while the aperture control ring and vignetting slider have a nice tactile feel to them. Like the Lensbaby Trio 28 though, this lens is not weather sealed which is a real shame. Unlike the Trio, the Burnside 35mm does have a variable aperture from f2.8 to f16. Inside the body you’ll find six multi-coated elements in four groups, and six aperture blades. The lens is relatively light at 0.82lbs.

The unique feature of this lens is the ability to control vignetting and the quality, and amount of bokeh. The vignette slider sits in front of the aperture dial and you simply slide it add or detract vignetting from your image. When you do this you also change the shape of the bokeh. Crank the vignette slider all the way up and your bokeh will have a octagonal appearance; use less vignetting and the bokeh will be more rounded. The Lensbaby Burnside 35mm is a manual focus lens, but thanks to the nice focus ring, acquiring focus through focus peeking and live view is made easier.

Images from this lens are beautiful when you get it right. There is a crazy amount of sharpness in the center of the frame. Thanks to the Petzval like nature of this lens, the sharpness drops off towards the edges, and you’ll find your bokeh as a light swirling effect. Again though this can be controlled via the vignette slider. Colors rendered are accurate and neutral, and while not over saturated the colors aren’t flat either.

Thanks to the focal length, this lens is perfect for many genres of photography. If you want to dive into the world of specialty lenses, don’t mind having a small learning curve, and have the patience to get the most out of this lens, you’ll be delighted with its overall performance. You’ll be able to create images that will really stand out from the crowd.

Buy now Canon EF ($499.95): Amazon

Buy now Sony E ($499.95): Amazon

Buy now Nikon ($499.95): Amazon

Buy now M4/3 ($499.95): Amazon

Buy now Pentax K ($499.95): Amazon


Lensbaby Burnside 35mm F2.8 Image Samples



Pro Tip: Using a tripod will really help you get the sharpest possible images from these specialty lenses. Incorporate a sturdy, yet affordable tripod into your workflow and you’ll be even more amazed with what these lenses can do.


Lensbaby Composer Pro II Sweet 80mm F2.8



The third of the specialty lenses we’re taking a look at is perhaps the most unique of the three. The Lensbaby Composer Pro II Sweet. This 80mm f2.8 lens is a tilt-shift style lens that will yield some truly incredible shots if you put the work in to it. It’s not a lens for the feint of heart, but when you work at it you’ll be rewarded with stunning images. This lens is truly all about you exploring your creative side.

In our review we said:

“If you’re a bit more experimental and you believe that photos are art and not a thing to pixel peep, then you’ll genuinely appreciate the Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8. It can give you great bokeh, lots of versatility, and great images.”

This lens is unique in that it comes in two parts. You have the optical elements in one housing, and then the Composer Pro II houses everything else such as the focus control rings, and the tilt-shift mechanism itself. We tested the Composer Pro II out with 80mm optics, but you can buy other focal lengths to use as well.

The 80mm focal length has a fixed aperture of f2.8 so keep that in mind. The build quality is good overall but due to being in multiple parts it’s a little more fragile than most lenses. It goes without saying that there is no weather sealing. It will survive being in your bag just fine, but exercise safe hands and just be gentle. Trust us, you’ll be rewarded greatly for your gentle touch.

The optics are comprised of four elements in two groups, and 12 aperture blades, while the tilt-shift mechanism features 15 degrees of tilt. As with all Lensbaby lenses, the 80mm Sweet is a manual focus lens. You will need patience to find focus and we highly recommend using a tripod with it. If you’re using it for portraiture make sure you have a model who can stay incredibly still, or who is very patient. Using this lens for landscape photography is a joy though, and it brings a ton of fun into this genre of photography.

This lens is capable of producing some truly jaw dropping results. Images are super sharp in the center, and then you will see the usually Lensbaby effects off to the sides. Colors rendered are again natural and very nice overall. They have a matte tone to them, and an overall film like quality.

This lens is all about being creative. It’s not about creating images in the moment. Take your time with this lens, embrace it, love on it, and it will deliver results unlike anything you have seen before. Know these things going into it and you will really enjoy one of the most unique specialty lenses out there.

Buy now Canon ($369.95): Amazon

Buy now Nikon ($369): Amazon

Buy now Fujifilm ($379.95): Amazon

Buy now Sony E ($379.95): Amazon

Buy now Pentax K ($379.95): Amazon

Buy now M4/3 ($379.95): Amazon


Lensbaby Composer Pro II Sweet 80mm Image Samples