A Bad Day With A Camera

Zoning Out

I purchased a Lensbaby Obscura last year. I wanted it for the high-quality pinhole lens function as I have seen my friend Rick McGinnis doing some mind-blowing pinhole work with his kit and I needed in on the action. The Obscura also has two other settings called the Pinhole Sieve and the Zone Plate in addition to the standard Pinhole setting.

I buzzed out after work with my wife to see if I could get a pinhole image of the frost that built up on the trees today. Here is my favourite image and it is not using the pinhole setting like I expected it to be:

Frost in the failing light, Gray Park, Strathmore, Alberta, 2024-02-07 (Zone plate)

It was the dreamy, soft zone plate image with just a subtle hint of detail that I fell in love with, despite not having any idea how I would use this function when I originally purchased the lens. Here are the other two images I captured this evening. The left was taken with the standard pinhole and the right was taken with the pinhole sieve.

Pinhole version (click to embiggen)
Pinhole sieve version (click to embiggen)

I would have to say that the standard pinhole version suffers from not being sharp enough but also not being soft enough. The pinhole sieve version is softer and retains some beautiful detail, but doesn’t quite have the soft, otherworldly aspect of the zone plate image. The Pinhole Sieve version has its own strengths and I could have almost as easily chosen it as the featured image for this blog post.

Each Obscura setting is at a different speed. Zone Plate is the fastest at f32. Pinhole Sieve is the second fastest at f64. Pinhole comes in at dead last at a very light limited f161, but it is a pinhole after all. You may get away with hand-holding your camera using the zone plate, but good luck doing that at the pinhole setting, not that you would. Well, not that I would. It’s possible (but unlikely) that there are people out there who are more dysfunctional than I am.

Lensbaby Obscura on Zone Plate Setting

I am suddenly very excited about the Obscura as I just realized I can breathe new life into old subjects using both the pinhole sieve and zone plate settings. Perhaps I’ll also fall in love with the pinhole setting, but that did not happen today.

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© 2024 Sean D. McCormick

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