Lensbaby Twist 60
This week we're featuring our first off-brand lens review with the Lensbaby Twist 60!
The Twist 60 is Lensbaby's response to consumer demand for the Petzval signature style. It offers a very unique effect in the out of focus (a.k.a. "bokeh") areas, that create a bit of a twisted circular distortion. However, as with many lenses with unique features, it comes with its own set of pros and cons. Let's dive right in!
Single Sentence Summary
A fun and convenient and relatively cheap gimmick, but still a gimmick.
Why I Bought It
I wanted something to add a unique optical quality or effect that would draw more without being tacky or distracting like many of the other techniques and equipment I've seen wedding photographers use. The Lensbaby Twist 60 offers a very unique bokeh element at a relatively low price, and it suits the genre of wedding photography really well.
What I Like
I was shocked at how sharp the images out of this lens actually can be. It's a low priced lens, so I wasn't expecting anything above and beyond when it comes to sharpness, but let me tell you: when it nails it, it nails it. Check out these images that were shot wide open at F/2.5.
I like that it's relatively cheap compared to the other lenses I use. It frees me of the apprehension I have of travelling with it, and it also means I don't feel so bad if I have to be a little rougher on it than I am with other lenses like my default F/1.4 lenses.
I'll openly admit it, I like having something that most people don't have. The wedding photography field is inundated with shooters who offer more or less the same products, so anything you can do to stand out really makes a big difference.
What I Don't
The effect only shows up dramatically on certain types of backgrounds. You really need to exploit the bokeh to see the effect, so things like Christmas lights, candles, etc. really show well, but in general surroundings it doesn't really show up much (See the images above).
Also, naturally the effect is maximized at the shallowest depths of field, to that end I've found the lens fairly sub-standard once I shoot anything past F/5.6. Once you start shooting at F/8 and beyond the effect is minimal, and worse, the sharpness at the outer edges is low. At that point I'd rather shoot with my 58mm F/1.4, or even better grab the 85mm F/1.4 and simply take a few steps back.
When the lens is wide open the lens is still kinda muddy around the edges where it appears the effect spills into objects even when they're well focused. That blows. I shoot more often with subjects off center, and that means I need sharpness across the full width of the frame. The lens really restricts your composition options as a result. Also, if you're any kind of fan of photo stitching then sorry about your luck. The bokeh will not blend well, so kiss your Brenizer method goodbye for this one unless you're willing to do a lot of work.
I personally love manual focus lenses, so I had no problem with buying this one. However, it seems almost like this one shifts a little too fast and I wish it were designed so that the user has to rotate the focus ring further, adjusting the focus slower when rotated. If it did then it would be much easier to fine tune the focus when you're shooting shallow.
On the subject of focusing let's talk about how despite the Nikon mount it clearly isn't designed for Nikon. By that I mean everything is backwards to Nikonians, like the rotation directions for focus. On any Nikon lens I'd adjust focus clockwise to focus further away and vice versa; whereas on the Twist 60 it's the opposite direction. It reminded me of when I shot with Canon products, which is what I assume the design is intended to support. Even the focus feedback in the camera points the triangles in the opposite directions, which is very confusing if you're switching back and forth between the Twist 60 and branded lenses. I generally don't shoot in situations with a lot of forgiveness, so this one is a tough one to swallow.
Another thing is that the aperture ring doesn't stick out far enough depending on how it's focused. This means at points if you have larger fingers you may struggle to adjust it. Kinda a bad design. Then add to that the fact the lens cap is VERY unique, you really need to keep track of it well as you can't just drop another Nikon lens cap into it.
I do like the lens, but it's probably only because it's cheap enough for me to look past the drawbacks. I'll probably use it more for engagement shoots than weddings, as I need something substantially more responsive and intuitive than this. That being said, I'm very happy with it when I view it for what it is: a one-off lens that should only be used for a couple of shots per shoot at maximum. Anything more than that would likely grow old quick.
It's the first off-brand lens I've ever bought, and I'm glad to have it, but realistically I'm sure if you read the full review you can tell I'm clearly not sponsored to tell you that.