Olympus Dramatic Tone meets a Lensbaby Plastic Lens

After messing about with the ‘Dramatic Tone’ on the EPL5 using a conventional lens, I resurrected the idea of using a Lensbaby. Rather than using the Sweet 35, the beautifully soft, single element plastic lens was given a chance to show what it could do (remember to hover your mouse pointer over the shots to get a proper level of contrast).

This is something like what I’d hoped for – that fence is surprisingly in focus!

I’d hoped that the interaction between the Dramatic Tone filter and the vague blurriness of the plastic lens would produce something a bit different. All shots taken in RAW using the f4 aperture disk, the lens was mounted in a ‘Composer’, the results post processed in DXO Optics 9 and Filmpack 3.

This is a difficult lens to focus (there’s no autofocus here!), as it never really looks sharp even using focus magnify. The best approach is just not to  worry about it – just get close enough to give some sort of idea what the subject is! If you’re going to have a try at this, take lots of shots and expect lots of failures. When it all works though it’s worth the effort….

The Dramatic Tone seems to automatically extend the contrast of what are very low contrast images, which saves a bit of post-processing.The ‘dark glow’ around the branches and rooftop is very nice.

Simple, bold compositions work best – any complexity just ends up as a mushy mess, so keep it simple.

The only slight niggle I have is that the this is a 50mm lens, making it a 100mm equivalent on the EPL5 – and using a moderate telephoto for every shot isn’t ideal. A 0.42x wide angle converter is available but what would be perfect would be something around the 12mm mark, which would mean a 24mm equivalent.

This looks like it’s been layered – but it hasn’t. The odd texture behind the railing seems to be lots of out of very soft focus highlights crossing each other.

So quite a successful experiment which yields some interesting results. The overall softness of the images interacts nicely with the strange Dramatic Tone effect, producing images which are very different from those of the glass lenses. I’ll use this more often!

All taken for the book cover market – hope you like them and thanks for looking!


14 thoughts on “Olympus Dramatic Tone meets a Lensbaby Plastic Lens

  1. These are excellent, Rob–they exude mood for sure. Love the combo of contrast, plastic and sepia. You are so right about keeping the compo simple with the plastic, too. Less is so much more with this lens. I unfortunately lost my f4 disc. Guess I need to order a new set….

    • Hello Johnny – thanks for the comment from a like minded photographer. Luckily the aperture disks aren’t too expensive, but f4 is certainly the optimal aperture. I was going to suggest cutting a wider circle out of the f5.6 disc but it’s way too fiddly!

      • f4 is definitely optimal–with more than one optic!
        I still have some aperture blanks from the Creative Aperture kit around somewhere and had thought about just cutting myself an f4 disc but that involves some kind of higher math to get the whole the right size I’m pretty sure….oh yeah, and power tools. Also thought of using just a piece of black cardboard glued to the f2.8 disc as I hardly ever use that one but…doesn’t sound like it would last very long.
        I think it’s time to do some xmas shopping a la LB.

      • Just in case you haven’t splashed some cash on a new aperture set, the F4 aperture diameter is 13mm – which sounds about right (1/4 of 50mm is 12.5mm). I’d have a crack at the f11 or f16 disc, using a pair of compasses (just keep scoring the circle until it falls by by itself). Sounds like a fun way to spend a wet Sunday afternoon!

      • Hey thanks Rob! I do have some of the CrAp blanks so I might use one of them. As to cutting the hole, I may just use a drill. Especially now that you did the math for me–plus we’re knee-deep in snow here right now. Somewhat socked in.

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