An f/161 pinhole lens that costs $280? Meet Lensbaby's latest crazy creation

Lensbaby Obscura
(Image credit: Lensbaby / Charlotte Johnson)

Lensbaby has announced its latest uber-creative, ultra-crazy product: the Lensbaby Obscura, a three-in-one pinhole, soft focus and extreme bokeh lens with a maximum aperture of f/161.

The Lensbaby Obscura comes as a 50mm DSLR lens or 50mm Lensbaby Optic, both with f/32, f/64 and f/161 apertures to deliver the trio of different effects, along with a 16mm mirrorless body cap lens with f/22, f/45 and f/90 apertures to achieve the same purpose. 

• Read more: Best Lensbaby lenses

So, what is the Obscura? Well, Lensbaby itself isn't very helpful in explaining that: "Lensbaby Obscura isn’t a lens, Obscura is an extraordinary experience crafted in the origins of photography. 

"… Lensbaby Obscura envelopes photographer and lens in an elegant dance between light and dark while bringing unique flare and image artifacts that aren’t possible to achieve in-camera with any standard camera lens."

Thankfully, Lensbaby ambassador Jen Strongin has a more coherent explanation.

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Jen Strongin)

Of the Zone Plate (soft focus) setting, she says: 

"This setting gives you this beautiful glow across the frame with some sharpness underneath, and when you shoot into the light, or you're shooting things that reflect light, you get these really crazy beautiful flares and artifacts that really show that shape with that circle with the concentric rings around it."

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Jen Strongin)

On the Sieve Plate (bokeh) setting: 

"This one gives you a little more detail, although you still have some of that glow, and this one is like the Swiss cheese setting where you have a center hole, and then lots of little holes around it. And this also creates some really unique flare and artifacts when you're shooting into light or shooting things that reflect light, and it just creates these really starry looking artifacts."

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Jen Strongin)

And finally, on the Pinhole setting:

"It gives you a lot more detail across the entire frame than the other two settings, and I find that f/90 really creates these beautiful vintage looking images, that I love."

The two lenses appear to be 'dumb', with no electrical contacts, and there's no focal ring to focus it – which is unsurprising, given the extreme apertures. When you're shooting between f/22 and f/161, pretty much everything is going to be in focus! 

Here are the three versions of the optic: 

Lensbaby Obscura 50 (DSLR) 

Lensbaby Obscura Optic

Lensbaby Obscura 16 (mirrorless)

The Lensbaby Obscura 50 comes in Canon EF and Nikon F mounts and is available for $279.95 (approximately £201.18 / AU$372.54), while the Lensbaby Obscura 16 comes in Canon RF, Sony E, Nikon Z, Fuji X, Micro Four Thirds and L-mount options for $249.95 (£179.62 / AU$332.65). The Lensbaby Obscura Optic, compatible with all Lensbaby Optic products, costs $179.95 (£129.31 / AU$239.48). 

Swipe through the gallery below to see how the three settings affect images – and to decide whether this really is Lensbaby's wackiest lens ever!

Read more: 

Best Lensbaby and Lomography lenses
Lensbaby Velvet 28mm review
Lensbaby Spark 2.0 review

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.