selective focus

Lensbaby adds an Android option to its Kickstarter campaign

When manufacturers and purveyors of not-quite-toe-curlingly-expensive optically fun lenses Lensbaby launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring a Sweet Spot selective focus lens and companion app to mobile photographers, a few eyebrows were raised. First, because a well-established company was looking for Kickstarter funding for a project that felt nailed-on to succeed and second, because the Sweet Spot lens and app was iPhone-only. At least, I don't use an Android phone but I felt indignant on behalf of Andoid phone owners. Sweet Spot + iPhone, but now coming to Android (photo by Ben Hutchinson)

It sounds as if Android users have made their demand for an equivalent sufficiently for Lensbaby to take note. It has just announced a $50 pledge for an Android-compatible Sweet Spot lens and app, that will ship and be availble for download in October this year.

You can go lay down your money on Kickstarter now.

Lensbaby turns to Kickstarter to fund a selective focus iPhone lens

There's already an array of additional lenses to augment our mobile phones, and quite a few of them have their origins in Kickstarter, too. There are telephoto and fisheye lenses that screw on or clip on as well as macro lenses on elastic bands, but now Lensbaby, known for its creative optics for dSLRs, is joining the fray with a campaign to fund a selective focus lens for iPhones 4s, 5, 5s, and 5c. It's called the Sweet Spot, and it will render images with a sweet spot of focus surrounded by blur. By pledging $50 to the campaign, you can pick up a Sweet Spot and start composing dreamy, selectively-focused shots. The Lensbaby attaches to an iPhone using both adhesive and magnets. One stainless steel ring sticks to your phone, around its lens, and the Lensbaby is mounted to that using magnets. The Lensbaby lens has magnets on both ends, meaning that it can be combined with other magnetic iPhone-compatible lenses, such as fisheyes and telephotos, for even greater control over your photos.

Sweet Spot + iPhone (photo by Ben Hutchinson)

As well as the lens, there's an accompanying app. It's been developed to provide an optimal shooting experience with a Lensbaby lens. Primarily, it ensures that the image you see on your screen is the right way up, because the optical design of the lens means that it renders upside-down with the iPhone's native camera.

The catch is, of course, that these are only some-iPhone-models-friendly. If you're an Android user, or an iPhone 4 user, you're out of luck.

Lensbaby Sweet Spot for iPhone

The question quite a few people might be asking is why has Lensbaby, a well-established company with a significant turn-over, opted to seek Kickstarter funding for a mobile-oriented version of its product? The answer's in the question: this is a departure from Lensbaby's dSLR stomping ground and it wants to be sure that this is a product consumers want. An iPhone-only offering with a modest $20,000 goal suggests that Lensbaby is using Kickstarter to dip its mobile toes in the water. With 199 backers and over half of its goal achieved within roughly 24 hours, I'd say that people are interested in a selective focus iPhone lens. Android users might even be interested in a version for their phones, too.

If you'd like a Lensbaby Sweet Spot for your iPhone, you can pledge over on Kickstarter.

Gift-giving to photographers

Photojojo's nifty ring flash adapter

Earlier this week I put together a list of sub-£25 ($40) gift ideas for photographers. If you've a little bit more to spend, these suggestions should keep you going. They start at $40, take you up to $550, and there should be something for everyone!

Ring Flash Adapter

Ring flashes don't necessarily come cheap, but a ring flash adapter–which makes use of your existing external flash–is a handy alternative. Of course it was the clever people at Photojojo that thought of this one!

$40 from the Photojojo Store

A compact camera for kiddies

If you've a budding photographer in the house there's no better way to encourage her or him on the path to becoming their generation's Ansel Adams than with a 'proper' camera. It doesn't need to be fancy, but it does need to be suitable for little fingers. I've been consistently impressed with Fujifilm's entry-level compacts, and this year is no different.

Take a look at the Fujifilm AX500. With 14 megapixels of resolution, movie-making capability, digital image stabilisation, and running off of two AA batteries, it's ideal.

£50 from John Lewis or $73 from Amazon US

Lensbaby Spark

Buying lenses for other people is very rarely a good idea, unless you know precisely what they want or need. A Lensbaby Spark, however, is a fun fixed aperture selective-focus option that should get the creative juices flowing.

$80 from Lensbaby

Dropbox subscription

Earlier this year I wrote about the perils of not having a proper back-up protocol in place. If your photographer friend is living dangerously with their digital storage solutions, why not treat her or him to a Dropbox subscription.

$99 for 100GB annual subscription

Adobe Lightroom 4

Adobe's Lightroom 4 is a superb piece of kit. No, it doesn't have the bells and whistles of Photoshop, but then that's Photoshop. Instead it offers brilliant straight-up editing and photo management. If you know someone who has been uhming and ahhing over it, help them out!

£106 from Adobe UK or $149 from Adobe US

A 'serious' compact camera

My dSLR is my camera of choice and I love my iPhone, but it's very rare that I go anywhere without a pocket-sized compact with full manual control in my handbag. I love my Canon S95 and the reviews of the S110 have been very good. Many people have waxed lyrical over Sony's RX100, too. But the one that's really catching my eye right now is the Olympus XZ-2.

£425 from Amazon UK or $550 from Amazon US

And of course, don't forget to check out last year's slightly-more-expensive gift suggestions.