The Lensbaby Sweet 80 is a quirky little lens which allows for a sweet spot of focus and the rest of gorgeous swirly blur and bokeh. It’s a completely manual focusing lens and has an aperture dial. This little optic is designed to fit in the Composer Pro II, which attaches to your camera like a standard lens.
What is the Sweet 80?
The Sweet 80 is an optic produced by Lensbaby, which creates a gorgeous range of creative optics for various camera makes. I have the Sony E mount version for my Sony a7R III. The Sweet also comes in 35 and 50 versions.
It’s designed to spotlight your subject in a sharp, round sweet spot of focus while surrounding that in super smooth blur and bokeh.
How to use the Sweet 80
From the outset, the Lensbaby Sweet 80 is a quirky, funky little lens. It sits in the Composer Pro II, which then connects to your camera like a normal lens. Here is the cool thing — you can actually tilt and swivel the end of the optic to move the sweet spot around your image, to get it exactly WHERE you want it. When you are first starting out, it is recommended to leave it in the middle, until you get used to it.
The Sweet 80 has a manual aperture ring that ranges from f/2.8 to f/16. The f/2.8 has a very small depth of field, so to make things easier I recommend sticking to around f/4 or f/5.6. It also has a pull out macro setting, but it doesn’t really magnify. It just lets you focus a little closer.
You need to throw out some of the rules and possibly some of your ingrained thoughts about photography. While there is lots of definition (especially at f/2.8) it’s not exactly super sharp. But it’s the creative blur you are after here.
This really is an artistic, creative lens, where you can feel the emotion of your subject or scene. Play, create and feel free to experiment. It is also a totally manual focus lens, with no autofocus here.
When and where to use the Sweet 80
The Sweet 35 is probably more of a landscape lens, whereas the Sweet 50 is a mid-range versatile lens. The Sweet 80 is also a fabulous portrait lens. It is nice for landscapes, flowers and such as well. It’s also pretty good for video too, but it does take a little bit of getting used to it.
I found my first few portraits were hit and miss. But if I stopped down the f/stop (f/8) I had better results. I feel I need some more time and practice to really nail the focus on portraits.
Looking for macro on the Sweet 80?
Even though you can pull the lens out for the macro effect, and it does get you a little closer. It does not seem to have the magnification of the Velvet 56 or a traditional macro lens. But do not fear — there are some screw-on macro filters that allow for 1x, 2x and 4x magnification, which can really can get you much closer. This of course does alter the depth of field dramatically, and focus can be a little softer and harder to pinpoint on the Sweet 80.
Lensbaby has a large range of creative optics, from the twist, swirl, tilt and of course the Velvet 56. I love both the lenses I own. I am finding that the Lensbaby Sweet 80 has a large learning curve, but at the same time I am having fun with the creative freedom it represents.
Lensbaby Sweet 80 Optic
Characterized by its distinct sweet spot of focus, the Sweet 80 Optic is an 80mm f/2.8 lens for the Lensbaby Optic Swap System. Designed for use with a tilting Lens Body, this optic’s merits lie in its curved field of focus that allows you to place the area of sharp focus anywhere within the image frame and have the rest of the image shrouded in a smooth, ethereal blur.