Outlandish lensesFreelensing

Ingredients

  1. Any interchangeable lens camera.

    DSLR or mirrorless, but mirrorless is the most versatile.

  2. Any lens.

    A classic manual focus SLR lens used with a mirrorless camera will offer the most flexibility, but you experiment with almost any lens.

Method

At the minimum, all need to do is dismount your lens and hold it a little way from the lens mount. Move the lens nearer and further from the lens mount to acheive focus, and try tilting the lens to get a tilt-shift type effect.

You could try simply using you camera's kit lens. You will need to set the lens to infinity and the aperture to its largest setting. Different cameras will have different ways of doing this (with some camera systems this will happen automatically). But using your normal lens will mean the lens is a further away from the sensor than it should be, so you won’t be able to focus on an object more than 1-2 meters away from your camera.

This technique really comes into its own when you use a classic manual focus SLR lens with a mirrorless camera. You will be able to easily make sure your lens is at infinity focus and wide open (or indeed experiment with other apertures). This combination allow you to focus to infinity as an SLR lens is normally further away from the sensor then a lens designed specifically for your mirrorless camera. You can also try using lens that weren’t designed for camera at all! In fact my favourite freelensing images have come from using a 35mm slide projector. You can find slide projector lenses easily on eBay. I found an Enna München MC Ennalyt 1:2.5/90mm on eBay that cost £10.

I also like using color profiles on my freelensing images, often one of Adobe Lighroom's 'Artistic' or Modern' colour profiles.

Examples

Click on images to make them bigger.

Freelensing gallery - Image 1

Lens: Enna München MC Ennalyt 90mm f/2.5 slide projector lens

Because your lens maybe 2 or 3cm away from your camera, a great deal of extraneous light will reach the sensor. This will reduce the contrast of your images to very low levels indeed. This isn't something to worry about though... this is part of what will give your images a very distinctive character.

This low contrast looks very much like fog or haze, so in Lightroom the same tools you might use to deal with haze can be used with great effect on ytour freelensing images, in particular the de-haze slider. I often set it far higher than I would with a normal photograph... +70 or even higher. On my Sony A7II this causes ugly horizontal bands of blue pixels. These can be dealt with using equally high levels of noise reduction. Normally this much noise reduction would look awful and completely destroy the sharpness of your image, but it seems to work quite well with freelensing images as we're not trying to create boring old conventionally sharp photos anyway!

The strange colours are largely from all the extraneous light, but I have used the Lightroom 'Artistic 07' colour profile to enhance the colours further.

Freelensing gallery - Image 2

Lens: Enna München MC Ennalyt 90mm f/2.5 slide projector lens

I used much less de-haze on this one (+20). You can see I have also used a greater degree of tilt so the columns fade out more strongly towards the bottom of the image. For this one I used the Lightroom 'Vintage 07' colour profile for muted colours.

Freelensing gallery - Image 3

Lens: Enna München MC Ennalyt 90mm f/2.5 slide projector lens

And here we have a similar low level of de-haze to the above image (+25) and just the standard 'Adobe Color' colour profile for a look that is fairly close to how the image looked out-of-camera.

Freelensing gallery - Image 4

Lens: SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2

For this image I switched to a classic manual focus SLR lens in the form of a Pentax 50mm f/1.2. The combined effect of the very shallow of depth-of-field at f/1.2 and a large degree of tilt have given a fairly extreme effect, including some vignetting. I use a fairly high level of de-haze (+40) and the 'Modern 08' colour profile.

Freelensing gallery - Image 5

Lens: SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2

This time a conventional SLR manual focus lens was combined with a black and white conversion in Silver Efex Pro. This, plus fairly low degree of tilt has given a fairly modest, but still distinctive, effect.

Freelensing gallery - Image 6

Lens: SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.2

A very similar treatment to the above image, but with a greater degree of tilt.