Freelensing or Lensbaby?


As promised, here is a follow up post after my recent Freelensing article in the February 22nd 2014 issue of Amateur Photographer Magazine (link below). To recap, the term ‘Freelensing’ is when you take the lens off your camera and hold it with your hand in front of the camera body. You focus your images through the viewfinder as normal but you will need to set your camera to ‘M’ manual mode. You may also need to go into your camera menu and select ‘operate W/O lens attached’ (or similar) setting. You dial in your aperture and focal distance on your lens beforehand using the approximate hyperfocal distance. Note, older lenses work better where there have an aperture ring. For example you cannot use Nikon G series lenses for freelensing (as easily) but Nikon D, Nikon AI-s and older lenses work no problem as they all have the aperture ring.

Why would you want to take the lens off the camera you ask1? When the lens is attached it is at the same plane of focus as the sensor. When you take off the lens you can tilt the lens with your hand (similar to a large format film camera lens on bellows) in front of the camera thereby altering the plane of focus hitting your subject.

Here are some freelensing example images using various medium format film legacy lenses on my Nikon D800 last year. Any lens that requires a deep adapter to fit to your camera body will give you the ability to tilt the lens a greater amount than one designed to fit the camera. I rarely used Nikon mount lenses for freelensing for this reason but it is possible. Keep reading..
Freelensing Portraits – Model Katie

Katie SOOC
Katie in the Studio!  ..with Mir-26b
Bells are ringing.. Everyone is waiting..  I should go...
D800 6x6 with Biotar 80/2.8
Retro SOOC
Smiles in the Studio
Retro SOOC
Katie SOOC with Mir-26B (45mm/f3.5)
Katie, SOOC

Freelensing Portraits – Model Emma
Emma SOOC (+ tag)

Freelensing Portraits – Model Harriett
Harriett SOOC
Creative Studio Lighting
Harriett - Is that the Time
Harriett SOOC
Harriett SOOC JPEG
Harriett SOOC JPEG
Harriett SOOC - Peeking out
Harriett SOOC JPEG

Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s for freelensing with the Nikon D800.You have very little tilt ability for portraits and it is very easy to catch the DSLR mirror inside the camera with the back of the lens where the metal protrudes as you take your shot as you have to hold the lens so close to the body.

Zsaklin (3)
Zsaklin (2)

Freelensing Landscapes
Morning Lights, Hungary
Autumn Colours, Hungary
Nikkor 24mm/f2
City Lights, Bydgoszcz

Freelensing Macro (Close up). Macro is very easy with any lens if you are freelensing as you mimic the effect of macro extension tubes by holding the lens further from the camera for a greater magnification.

Autumn Leaves, Hungary
Freelensing is possible for film photography as well as digital photography. The biggest difference is you have the expense of the film cost while you practise where with digital it is of course free. Here is a portrait of Zsaklin taken in Hungary with my Contax.

Contax 645 Medium Format Film camera.
Zsaklin with Contax 645


Freelensing creative photo look using a Lensbaby Edge 80. If you would like an easier way to get a similar look to your images you could get yourself the Lensbaby tilt lens, the Lensbaby Edge 80 optic. The advantage of using a Lensbaby lenses is you camera sensor remains clean and dust and moisture free. This is particularly important out of the studio when shooting on location. I had the Edge 80 mounted on a Lensbaby Spark mount on my Nikon D800 for these images.

Lensbaby Edge 80 Optic
Katie with Edge 80
Katie Candid - Lensbaby Edge 80
Katie with Lensbaby Edge 80
Bridal Photography
Sarah with the 'Edge 80'
Galyna with Edge 80
Yuliya, Ukraine
Roxana SOOC
Lensbaby Edge 80, Ukraine
Alyona & Robert Engagement Shoot (2)
Roxana by Arri Light ;) - SOOC
Lensbaby Edge 80

Lensbaby Film Photography – Nikon FM SLR 35mm film camera

Lensbaby Edge 80 Film
Vintage film photography
Dubai Airport
India Highway..
I want to ride my bicycle
Little India


As you can see you it is easy to get creative using freelensing photography or a Lensbaby Edge 80 lens. Both have their advantages and both have their limitations. On my Nikon D800 I used both techniques as and when I wanted a different look. I now shoot mostly with a 35mm digital rangefinder camera, a Leica M9. The rangefinder focus system is different to the through the lens DSLR style focusing and so is not compatible with freelensing. This wont stop me from getting creative with my Leica. I just think of new ways to get the edited look straight from my Leica M9. One of the things I loved the most about freelensing is your images can look photoshopped straight from the camera. Many of the photos shared here probably had little or no editing.

Happy shooting! – Leica Photographer

Related Posts

Amateur Photographer Magazine – Freelensing

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