DIY selective focus lens (freelensing)

Here is an idea on what do to with an old/broken/unused lens: you can turn it into a selective focus lens (similar to Lensbaby). The included videos below came from Sam Hurd, the included images are by Francesco Spighi - visit his website for more information and sample images. Here are the step by step instructions:


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  • RMJ

    Why not do it right and put some flexible sping tube between the lense and the mount (yes, you can still remove part of the lense to make the lens not to be too far away).

    • Sam Hurd

      true, you can definitely do that but my version has light leaks and I love utilizing that in some of my work… It’s not something you ever see in digital cameras these days unless it’s added in post.

      • RMJ

        Didn’t meant to be rude or anything. Just shared a thought that it can be done better. 🙂 Yes, light leaks can certainly give kinda of effect that might work time to time.

        • Sam Hurd

          no worries 🙂

      • Luovahulluus

        Instead of using spring tubes, you can make a similar dust cover from cut plastic bags. If you attach the objective flange to the camera, you can tape plastic along it’s rim and around the objective. You can choose between clear and black plastic, depending on how much light you like to leak.

    • Francesco Spighi

      Moreover, the flexible spring limits the movements and I don’t want this. Than, as Sam said, light-leakages can be wonderful! I mean, something like this:

    • Börje Dahrén

      I was just thinking about trying something like that! Approximately what length of spring tube do you recommend?

      • RMJ

        The longer the tube is, the darker the lens becomes (think of extension tubes for macro photography). So, if you want to keep it fast, make the spring short. If you find flexible enough, it can compress to few mm, and extend much longer (1 – 3cm). If you use more rigid (will last longer and more safe for the lense) but also takes more space at the compressed position.

        The most flexible ones are probably those steel reinforced (very thing spring and around it rubber/plastic skin). More rigid ones are thicker plastic/rubber, a bit like vacuum cleaner (but you can find much more flexible ones). Go to store that sells all kind of tubes and you’ll find the one you like. Or can try couple. Might even get for free as you only need couple centimeters. 🙂 (I got all my tubes from work before so I never really needed to even look for)

        Btw, before you cut your vacuum cleaner’s tube, ask your wife/gf’s permission. They tend not to like our hobby…

        • Börje Dahrén

          Thanks for your advice! now, lets see which lens to sacrifice… 🙂

          And, sorry for nitpicking, but for the record, I’m the one in charge of the vacuum cleaner at home. Secondly my soon to be wife is a great photographer herself. And thirdly, how did you even know I am straight? I’m sure I didn’t mention that above…:-)

          All the best!

          • RMJ

            Haha, I was just kidding anyways 🙂

  • Spy Black

    It’s just me, but it seems like a waste of a perfectly good optic. A cheap plastic lens, maybe. I suppose if the lens is busted for some reason, that’s a different story.

  • JimAbels

    Use a cheap Helios 44-2 lens for this. They are russian made 58mm f/2 manual focus lenses with m42 mounts. Excellent for this kinda thing. You can also modify the lens elements to create unique effects. I reversed the front element which offers some unique effects. However, the focus is stuck dead center so a tilt/shift modification would do wonders with this setup. I got the idea from this video.

  • Lfber

    I’d NEVER try anything like that on my decades old, trusty 50mm f/1.4… I still use it, even on my D800, and its quality is superb!

  • whisky

    there are many ways to be creative. light leaks, sand papered (abraded) elements, forced vignettes … all fads which have gone in and out of fashion.

    to me, there’s nothing more or less “stupid” or “fake” or “free” about doing it live, or in post — as the photographer is still trying to “control” the outcome — whether by live view, chimp approved, or on a large screen monitor in post. to me it seems just like any other graffiti— but with different tools, and under a different name — “free lensing”.

    have fun, but you can do this less destructively by building your own optical triplet out of a toilet paper roll, some close up filters, and lots’a love. 🙂

  • Jed

    Just never do this. thanks.

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