SLRMagic 26mm F1.4 Toy Lens
Finding a great lens that’s not perfect but creates the emotional effects using natural blur is one of the most satisfying experiences a photographer can discover. Not only that, if you’ve never tried manual focusing a lens then you are missing out on the hidden power of having complete control over how your images develop. Often, auto-focusing limits the control you maintain and you wind up disappointed with the flawed images. Usually the focusing is off on the subject matter because the auto-focus wasn’t accurate and you didn’t notice the problem until viewing the images on a larger screen. Why let a machine determine how your images turn out? It doesn’t matter how advanced the technology is, cameras are still stupid and over-prone to error. As a creative artist you should take complete control over this step in your art.
Over the years as a photographer, I’ve come to realize that slowing down and maintaining manual control over the photographic process creates better end results that wind up more pleasing. There’s so much effort lost in trial and error; if you’re serious about your photography, a cheap manual lens is a good buy to learn the art of manual focusing and selective focusing. I love the SLRGear 26mm F1.4 manual focus “Toy Lens” for a reason. It’s cheap, inexpensive and yields outstanding results. I’ve been shooting with this lens for about four months now and want to include some thoughts on my experience with the toy lens.
The Sweetspot of This Lens
Before purchasing the lens for about a hundred dollars I read reviews that questioned the sharpness and quality of the lens. I can assure you that the “sweet spot” of sharpness that I discovered with this glass is nothing short of impressive. To me, the quality of the images were excellent. This is a specialty lens but is in no way a toy. I’ve been very satisfied with the quality. The sweetspot is great but a little unpredictable. With careful manual focusing on a Micro Four Thirds camera, you can expect to get awesome results. The blur is natural and doesn’t have to be photoshopped to create this haunting effect.
The lens feels very similar to a Lensbaby, but much more intuitive and cheaper! The sharpness is great. I’ve got the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens, and the sharpness is comparable to that lens but with it’s own sweet spot. The notable flaw in the toy lens is the chromatic abrasion and some purple fringing that is hard to avoid in bright light, along occasional lens flare. It’s a normal lens. The truth is I find myself shooting more with this lens than the Panasonic 20mm pancake lens because it is manual. What you do is focus your subject matter and the natural blur from the lens emphasizes the focal point.
It’s All About the Unique Blur
After looking at hundreds of shots online, the blur effect from this lens unique and unpredictable; it’s a very circular bokeh… Mix this with some crazy light falloff when the aperture stopped down, and it creates some hauntingly delicious images.
Shooting Wide Open is Essential
To get the most from the toy lens, shooting in broad daylight is not recommended mainly because of chromatic aberration, purple fringing, and a lot of light fall off when using a smaller aperture. Plus, to maximize the unique blur, you have to shoot the lens wide open in lower light. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend stopping down the aperture unless you have no other choice to avoid overexposure. There have been several instances where I was forced to close down the aperture in order to get the shots properly exposed. I tend to be a guy that likes to shoot in sunny daylight. It’s nice to utilize the entire day to capture as many images as possible. It’s preferable though toy lens wide open because the blur, color, and unpredictable effects are most striking wide open. Going through an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere is a good example of this…
Why I Love the SLR Magic Toy Lens
To put things mildly, I’m madly in love with this lens and it’s effects. Forget about having to manipulate images in Photoshop to achieve similar effects. In fact, I frown on the use of Photoshop to achieve moody blur and other creative effects. It’s nice to have a lens that gives me this extra ability to experiment, goof around and have fun. The lens is cheap, affordable and doesn’t empty the bank account but it gives amazing results. The lens is a little small and awkward to use and makes your camera look funky but the images are overall pleasing and moody. This takes the perfection out of digital imaging and replaces it with intuition. There’s tons of extra creative applications that you cannot do with a traditional lens. This item should be in the camera bag of every photographer that uses a Micro Four Thirds camera.
My vision of photography reflects the moody environments that I explore. When venturing into the desert solo, I want to capture the memories of a time and place. These stories, these feelings are part of a beautiful land. As a tour guide, wilderness guide, and adventurer, I am constantly educating visitors (tourists) about my country and the history of the land. There’s no better way for me to communicate those feelings than with photography. This art has provided me a vessel to communicate deep thoughts and feelings. The SLR Magic 26mm F1.4 lens is a welcome addition to my equipment and it inspired me to write a review.
The SLR Magic 26mm F1.4 Toy Lens has won the position of being the first review for Talking Tree Photo. The main reason; It’s an intuitive lens. There’s nothing about it that makes it a toy. Consider this lens a serious tool with good potential. So I give full kudos to SLR Magic for making a greatly inexpensive product while keeping the quality high. If I get more funds coming in, I looking forward to trying out some more products offered by SLR Magic. They deserve some worthy recognition for their efforts.
This lens is essential for those who want the maximum flexibility and get bored easily using traditional equipment. The time spent with this lens makes traditional photography feel more like real art. With the unique blur and bokeh you achieve from an imperfect lens, it’s more like making photographs instead of shooting snapshots. The manual experience will force you to think harder and when photographing the world.
If you like low light, and wide aperture lenses, this investment is pennies on the dollar compared to most other wide-aperture lenses. You can’t go wrong for a hundred bucks. So I encourage you to support SLR Magic and give their 26mm lens a buy. They are available through eBay. Currently, the only store that they have is on eBay, so go here to find out more about them: SLR Magic eBay Store.
All Images by Nathan Cowlishaw.