Lensbaby Zoneplate vs Pinhole

One Lensbaby lens I haven’t used much is the pinhole, so I thought I’d give it another try for this short post (inspired by http://janaobscura.com).

This comes with the Zoneplate on the same attachment, but at f177 the pinhole is probably the ultimate ‘slow’ lens.

Zoneplate Doing it’s Stuff

Since it’s sunny today in Dorset I thought I’d do a comparison of the two. All shots on a Canon 60D, shot in raw with centre weighted metering, and for the comparison, converted to JPEG, auto levels and colour then resized.

There are few techie things to say before the images come up :-

Firstly, the small apertures of the Zoneplate and the Pinhole are going to show any dust on your sensor mercilessly – so be prepared for some unpleasant surprises. Also high ISOs are required even though it’s sunny – up to 5000 ISO today for the pinhole, and 2000 ISO for the zoneplate.

Don’t be overly concerned about noise when using a Lensbaby – you can aggressively reduce noise without any noticiable loss of sharpness, as there’s very little sharpness there in the first place.

Secondly, looking at shots taken with these lenses is initially disappointing – they only really ‘appear’ from the image with some post-processing, so it’s quite time consuming to assess a large batch. One solution might be to use the ‘Process Multiple Files’ option of Photoshop to generate optimised  ‘Auto Levels’ and ‘Auto Colour’ JPEGs.


First Shot – a rather uninspiring shot of a white bench, but you can see the ‘pinhole’ look quite clearly. No ‘depth of field’ as such – everything is ‘sort of’ in focus but not really.


Here’s the same shot taken with the Zoneplate. The ‘Zoneplate glow’ around the bright white bench is shown nicely here. If it becomes too much it can overwhelm the image. It’s similar to the ‘diffuse glow’ filter in photoshop – except it’s completely uncontrollable.


Another shot of a stairway – for comparison with approximately the same shot with the Zoneplate :-


This is quite interesting as there’s not that much difference between the two when there’s no very bright elements in the shot. At full resolution the differences are still minimal, so under these circumstances the Zoneplate is more useable as it’s got a wider effective aperture (f19 vs f177).

Finally one which shows how unusual the Zoneplate ‘look’ can be. This was just a pale ‘mush’ before post-processing (some might say it’s the same now) and looked terrible on the LCD. This one also needed a bit of manual levels adjustment to brighten it up a little.

Maybe these lenses are best thought of as a ‘digital Holga attachment’ for your DSLR, as the results are unpredictable. However they occasionally produce a very nice surprise if you’re prepared to put in the post-processing effort.


2 thoughts on “Lensbaby Zoneplate vs Pinhole

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