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Lensbaby brings ‘sweet spot’ focusing to the iPhone with new lens accessory

[Updated on April 23, 2014: Lensbaby announced it’s developing a version for Android, backed by popular demand. Click here to read more.)

DSLR and compact system camera users who desire the analog effect have turned to Lensbaby, the maker of interchangeable art lenses that create a soft focus effect that gives photos a unique look. The company is now bringing its “sweet spot” focus to the masses, with the new Sweet Spot Lens for iPhone (LM-10), its first lens made for mobile devices. The magnetically attached accessory now allows iPhone photographers to capture images with depth of field – a point of sharp focus surrounded by gradually increasing blur – with hardware, rather than a software filter. (We wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing more #lensbaby photos made with iPhones added to Instagram.)

“Our customers have long been requesting a Lensbaby for their mobile devices,” wrote Craig Strong, Lensbaby’s co-founder and Chief Creative Officer. “It is time to give them what they want – a way for them to push the boundaries of their creativity and produce depth-of-field effects on their iPhones.” The lens was developed in-house, and the company sourced all the materials itself. Strong also wrote that the company has other mobile-related products in development, but the success of this campaign (and customer feedback) will determine if the company pursues more of them. With more people choosing to use their smartphones for photography, we’re thinking the responses will be positive.

Photos taken with a 2x telephoto accessory lens, on top of the Lensbaby Sweet Spot Lens (Image by Ben Hutchinson)

Photos taken with a 2x telephoto accessory lens, on top of the Lensbaby Sweet Spot Lens (Image by Ben Hutchinson)

The accessory lens attaches over the iPhone’s lens easily using strong magnets that keep it secured, as oppose to a clip-on lens such as those from Olloclip. Because the lens requires physical contact, you won’t be able to use it on iPhone with non-metal cases. Because the Sweet Spot Lens has magnets on both ends, you can also attach other magnetically attached lenses on top (like fisheye, macro, and telephoto), giving your Lensbaby images an even more unique look. The lens will come with an app by Kurt Ward of binarysignal.com, which provides composition and editing tools, as well as turn the image right-side up (the iPhone’s native camera app sees the image upside down, due to the Sweet Spot Lens’ optical design). Technically the lens could work with non-iPhones, but the companion app is iOS only, so Lensbaby is only supporting the iPhone right now; an Android version of the app will be made if there’s enough demand.

Sweet Spot Lens App for iOS, made by Kurt Ward.

Sweet Spot Lens App for iOS, made by Kurt Ward.

For now, the lens, which works with iPhone 4S and higher, is being sold only on Kickstarter during a 30-day funding campaign, beginning today. After that, it’ll be available via Lensbaby’s website and retailers, but by getting in on the Kickstarter offer, you’d be one of the first to own this new lens, and most likely at a lower price. The $40 early bird special is sold out, but there are a few left for $45, and plenty for $50. Backing the product at $125 will get you the iPhone lens and the Spark lens for Canon or Nikon DSLRs, while a $250 pledge will also snag you some locally made goodies from the Portland, Oregon area (where Lensbaby is based) and $750 will get you a special tour of Lensbaby HQ (including meet-and-greets and special delivery of the new lens by co-founder Strong) plus a two-night stay in a downtown Portland hotel (airfare not provided). 

“Once our funded Kickstarter projects ends on May 2nd, we’ll kick off tooling for the lens caps, and production for the aluminum body, glass optics, magnets and stainless steel rings,” the company says on its Kickstarter page. “Then we go through a part approval process, and in June we’re on to full production for all parts. After parts arrive at Lensbaby in mid July, we will assemble them and ship both earliest bird and early bird orders. In August, we expect to build and ship the remainder of the orders,” provided they make their $20,000 funding goal.