Which size lens ball is best for crystal ball photography?

24 Jan 2019

Add some creativity to your photography with a glass lens ball. Smartphone, mirrorless and DSLR photographers are all welcome. It reflects and flips your subject matter for original perspectives – experiment with sweeping landscapes, intricate architecture and peculiar portraits. Focus on the image inside the ball and take the photo… it’s that simple.

Lens ball by Nagy Arnold

Consider your subject matter when choosing between a long or wide-angle lens. Longer (over 50mm) lenses compress a small area of the background (and display as a larger scene in the ball), while wide-angle lenses better showcase the background in your frame. For added visual interest, you can even fill in an object behind the ball, like a flower.

For free-hand shooting, we recommended shooting on a focal length of anything between 24 and 35mm, maximum exposure time of 1/250 – 2/125 and aperture of f/2.8 to achieve a typical low depth of field that blurs the background. (If you’re using a DSLR, switch to manual focus.) For longer exposure times, place the ball on a stand, bottle cap, rubber o-ring, or in a natural divot. Keep a safe distance so that neither the stand nor the photographer is reflected in the glass ball. 

When composing your shot, the texture beneath the ball is not only practical but also aesthetic. Use it to create visual interest (e.g. foliage), contrast (colour) or brilliant reflections (when placed in water). TIP: Keep the ball in the shade to avoid distracting reflections from the sun or sky.

WARNING:

  • The lens ball poses a rolling risk, so take care to prevent damage to people and things!
  • Store your crystal ball out of the sun. The glass can act as a magnifying ball that may result in smoke or lead to a fire. It can also burn your hand while holding it.

Pocket-sized 60mm lens ball

Pros:

  • It’s light enough to hold between your finger and thumb.
  • It doesn’t take up much space in your bag.
  • It’s small enough to position in and on things like fences and ice-cream cones.
  • It’s a fun size to get you started.
  • An ideal companion for smartphone photography.

Cons:

  • It has a smaller sweet spot for focus, leaving a greater proportion of the image distorted, however, using a macro lens will help fill the frame and a small aperture will keep the image in focus.
  • Since it’s lighter, wind and other natural elements can move the lens easier.
Lens ball by Rye Jessen
Lens ball by Hanson Lu

Tip: You can always flip the image in post-production flip the image in post-production that works best in the really close-up views.

Lens ball by Derek Thomson

Even though you should avoid touching the ball with your bare hands, some great shots will require you to do so: rest the ball in your hands, hold it between your fingers or throw it up in the air. Afterwards, a good wipe-down with a microfibre cloth should take care of the fingerprints.

Comfortable 90mm lens ball

Pros:

  • A larger sweet spot for focus lets you be a bit more creative (distortions at the edge are much less noticeable).
  • It fills a nice portion of the frame, whether using a long or wide-angle lens.
  • It’s a nice all-rounder that’s easy to handle without taking up too much space in your bag.
Lens ball by Hosea Georgeson

Pro optics 110mm lens ball

Pros:

  • Since a larger proportion of the ball will be in sharp focus, it offers the best optics for high-quality pictures – think fish-eye effect.
  • It’s easier to fill the frame with the ball and even hide some background elements behind the ball.
  • The size is a natural fit for the palm of your hand – a classic lens ball composition.

Cons:

  • With a weight equivalent to carrying an extra lens, it’s too heavy for casual use.
  • It takes up considerable space in your gear bag.
  • It can cause considerable damage if not kept stable.
Lens ball by Florian Gagnepain
Lens ball by Nigel Radyanehondoh

For architecture, find repeating patterns or leading lines to direct the eye to the ball and place the ball at the centre of the infinity point.

Lens ball by Morgan Linfield

Remember that picking the right crystal ball depends on what you feel drawn to. Consider whether you’re willing to sacrifice size for greater optics and creativity and that you can always use more than one!

About the Author:

Anna is a content strategist who enjoys pouring her creative juices into the Outdoorphoto Blog.

One Comment

  1. Suzy De Beer 15 Feb 2019 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Nice explanation

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