I really like the pictures my Sony K800i with its 5.2mm lens takes and I use its lofi quality to creative effect and woud like to know the 35 mm lens equivalent to this little piece of plastic.

I looked at pictures from the Ricoh GR Digital with its fixed 28mm lens, but it doesn't have the same flatness or shallowness.

Since its a 5.2 mm lens, can there actually be a 35mm lens equivalent that captures everything this way? Or do angles, light and what not just get bent in a very unique way when using such a small lens - that a bigger one actually could not reproduce the exact same look?


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    Can you clarify exactly what you're looking for when you say "35mm equivalent"? I'm assuming what you're looking for is a larger, fancier camera than your camera phone, but you want to get a similar aesthetic? – Please Read My Profile Sep 12 '12 at 12:41
  • Maybe useful background reading: photo.stackexchange.com/q/139/5551 – forsvarir Sep 12 '12 at 14:07
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    If you want poor image quality I have a drawer full of lenses I'll happily sell you. – Matt Grum Sep 12 '12 at 14:32
  • @mattdm digital cameras that have a smaller sensor usually give a crop factor - so one can determine what kind effect the lens produces compared to a 35mm (or digita fullframe i guess) camera produces. For Example: The Sigma DP2 has a a fixed 24.2mm f/2.8 lens but review say its a (41mm equivalent). So what I want to know is what kind of lens I would have to buy for a Fullframe camera, that would produce the same pictures from a "perspective" point of view (of course noise, color rendition, sharpness and so on will all be better/different). – Roland Sep 12 '12 at 20:08
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    I think the question is, assuming that on a full frame camera, a 35mm lens is the equivalent of this 5.2mm lens on the Sony, will the 35mm full frame give a similar result in terms of perspective, field of view etc. OR can the 5.2mm, being much physically smaller, produce quite different images to its full frame "equivalent" – MikeW Jan 2 '14 at 18:34

I think what you might be after here could be provided by something in the Lensbaby lineup. This is a series of interchangeable lenses for SLR and mirrorless cameras which have a "lo-fi" look. Particularly, the plastic optic may appeal to you. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "flatness or shallowness", but you can see some sample photos in the sample gallery or on flickr.

This optic gives a narrower field of view than your cameraphone lens. The Lensbaby plastic optic focal length is roughly 50mm, so on a typical entry or mid-level DSLR, combining it with the Lenbaby Super Wide adapter will give you approximately the same framing you are used to. (The K800i has a field of view of about 50°; depending on the exact sensor size of the camera body you choose, the plastic optic + super wide will be between 45° and 60°. Plus, of course, you'll have the option of not using the adapter to get a longer focal length, in the traditional portrait range.)

Lensbaby produces what they call "lens bodies" to hold various swappable optics, each with a different look. The entry-level "Muse" used to be available for $100 with the plastic optic, but it looks now like they're only selling a $150 pair with the double-glass optic, and then the plastic optic as a $40 add-on. You might enjoy both, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. (You might even want the whole selection of single glass, plastic, and pinhole/zone-plate.)

The lens bodies come in versions for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax (which will also work on Sigma), and Olympus/Panasonic Four Thirds mount. So, you could pair this with any entry-level dSLR, but it's also worth considering the mirrorless options — I think Lensbaby plus Olympus Pen is a pretty sweet setup, and you can get, for example, the EP-2 for under $250.

On the issue of whether you can get exactly the same look, in short, no. Generally, every lens design has a different rendering, regardless of size. Specifically, the small lens and small imaging circle result in a large depth of field, and relatively pronounced limitation on sharpness due to diffraction — roughly like a wide-angle 35mm full-frame lens stopped down to f/22.

Using the Lensbaby plastic optic, dropping in one of the smaller aperture disks should give a similar effect. You'll need to either increase shutter speed to get the right exposure, or — actually — probably both. But one of the advantages of using a larger camera system for lo-fi photography like this is that you get to make more choices about where you want to make those compromises.

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  • thanks for the advice and explanation matt! So its a combination of field of view, lens width and depth of field that produces the look I suppose? I looked into the Lensbaby, but I don't really like the vignette effect and find don't find it pleasing to artificially downgrade a system to look worse. – Roland Sep 14 '12 at 20:17
  • @Roland: the cool thing about the Lensbaby is that it's not artificially "downgrading" the system, like Instagram or something like that. It's getting the best possible out of a non-typical type of lens. – Please Read My Profile Sep 15 '12 at 12:25
  • Also: if you use one of the smaller aperture rings, there will not be a significant vignetting effect. – Please Read My Profile Sep 15 '12 at 12:26
  • But given your answers here, I'm still puzzled by exactly what you're looking for. Sounds like you really like the look of your K800i photos; why not just stay with that? – Please Read My Profile Sep 15 '12 at 12:27

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