What is a lens ball? A lens ball is a high-quality, completely transparent solid glass ball/glass sphere made from streak-free crystal glass, which is ideally suitable as a photography accessory of a special kind. For both professional and amateur photographers. It functions with all the common DSLRs and DSLMs (reflex cameras and mirrorless cameras), Smartphones and autofocus, as well as different smart photography modes & support functions. In addition glass balls are available in different sizes: The 90-mm variant for (system) cameras of any kind and the small 60-mm lens ball for photography with a Smartphone. The high-quality processed, polished crystal glass has neither air pockets, nor bubbles and therefore always supplies first-class, clear image quality, with a wide range of creativity. Above all, landscape photographs, photographs with water and architectural photography obtain a completely new atmosphere of breathtaking beauty and sharpness with glass ball photography. With a weight of between 263 g and 945 g you can also stow our glass spheres away comfortably in any bag or any rucksack. Thus, even the large 9-cm variant can be taken with you on trips and photography tours. The scope of delivery also includes a storage bag for the protection of your solid glass ball and a microfibre cloth for cleaning and removing fingerprints and dirt before shooting.
Entering the realm of creative photography with the glass ball is very easy.
- Photography with the Glass Ball Effect - why?
- Conditions & Tips for Glass Ball Photography
- Tips - the Best Subjects for Lens Balls
- Examples of pictures with a Lens Ball - inspiration
- Manufacture & quality of the Rollei glass balls
Photography with the Glass Ball Effect – but why?
With a lens ball from Rollei not only do you have the world in the palm of your hand. It’s also standing on its head. The flawless glass balls reflect their environment and the subject of your choice in an inverted mirror at a 180 degree angle and thus make a completely new range of creativity possible. The high-quality workmanship and surface quality of the solid glass ball prevent the formation of air pockets and blisters. This, in turn, removes disturbing elements, which would reduce image quality and provides in addition for incredible optical clarity and sharpness, formed in a perfect sphere. The effect of photography by means of the glass ball facilitates numerous surreal and imaginative pictures that let your favourite subject shine from a new perspective and in a new light, mostly against an indistinct background (low depth of field). Regardless of how many photographs you have already taken of it. Take a 180-degree view of your environment directly in the palm of your hand. Or from the palm of a friend’s hand because the act of simultaneous recording and photography is probably something for very experienced photographers with a steady hand.
With Rollei’s glass spheres you are holding (in the truest sense of the word) a product in your hands, which fulfills the requirements of professional photographers, but at a price that any amateur photographer can gladly afford. In addition, even beginners and Smartphone photographers will get their money’s worth, because smart photography modes and autofocus work with the glass ball photography as well. So if you are looking for a tool, in order to raise the creativity of your shots ton a new level, then the Rollei’s lens ball is the ideal choice for you.
Conditions & Tips for Glass Ball Photography
- Cleaning & checking the glass ball - the scope of delivery of our glass balls includes a microfibre cloth for optimal cleaning of the ball for shooting. Above all, fingerprints, which soon appear, can best be removed by this means. It is very annoying if you determine that only after you have already spent minutes or hours looking for a subject and the correct angle and distance. Therefore, always check the glass ball before shooting.
- Setup & positioning - if you have identified a subject of your choice, you must set up the lens ball for the shot, if the glass ball is not placed on the hand of an assistant. Often there are irregularities impacting setup such as hollows in the grass, uneven roads or the convenient sandy beach. If the surface is very smooth, then setup with an aid such as a rubber band or a roll of adhesive tape is suitable. However, make sure that these aids are sufficiently large especially in the case of the 90-mm variant, which has an approximate weight of one kilo. Expert tip: you can also strew salt on smooth surfaces, in order to prevent the glass ball from rolling away.
- Lens - the focus in the case of lens ball pictures is naturally on the subject in the ball. In this way the typical effect of glass ball photography is created especially with an indistinct background. Accordingly, a lens with an open shutter is recommended (ideally: 2.8) for low depth of field and a focal length of between 24 and 35 mm.
- Camera settings - here they can vary a little. As the subject in the relatively small glass ball and not the glass ball itself, let alone the background should be focussed and sharp, it makes sense to select an additional macro mode. If the ball is not in the centre of the picture, but positioned rather on the edge, e.g. on the palm of your hand, then the focus must be adjusted manually. A close-up setting limit of between 0.2 and 0.3 metres is appropriate here. In this way, you can hold the ball itself in one of your hands and take photographs with the other one. The ISO value should be as low as possible so that the image doesn’t become “grainy”. Depending on the ambient light, of course, things can vary here. However, the noise becomes definitely visible starting from an ISO value of 750 - 800. The exposure time and distance from the glass ball vary, depending on whether you are taking photographs by hand or with the use of a stand.
- Shooting by hand - if you would like to photograph the glass ball freehand, then it is advisable to set the shutter speed to 1/250 or 1/125 depending on the ambient light. With a longer exposure time there is also a threat of blurriness due to your hand’s shaking. Thus, in the case of longer exposure times, e.g. for photographs at night or in the twilight a stand is urgently recommended. Be careful with freehand glass ball photography: the balls are not only relatively heavy, but they are also slippery. If you are concentrating too much on the camera, they can quickly fall down and get broken.
- Shooting with a stand – above all, a stand has the advantage of enabling you to expand the creativity, which is provided by a lens ball, further by the use of filter photography, e.g. with ND filters und CPL filters. Thus, for example, you can achieve velvety smooth effects with ND64 or ND1000 filters, e.g. in shots where the lens ball is in the water or else when you are working with long exposure shots at night in order to produce mobile light. However, exposure times of several seconds are scarcely feasible freehand, since the picture soon loses sharpness due to the shaking of your hand. Hence, shooting with a stand is also suitable so that you, yourself, are not reflected in the glass ball. This is particularly successful with telephoto lenses
- Checking the reflection for the last time before shooting - positioning and discovering the optimal camera angle are occasionally very laborious. If you have found the correct position, then you should check very precisely once more that what you are supposed to see is really what is to be seen. Pay particular attention to: what is underneath the glass ball (e.g. a rubber band or the like), unwanted mirror images and reflections on the surface of the ball, not only inside the ball and on the background. Also: avoid pictures with the use of flash. This will be reflected as a bright spot in the ball.
- WARNING: The glass ball is a kind of super magnifying glass. In sunlight you can burn yourself very fast. In addition flammable items such as dry plants, fabric and paper can even be ignited. That should be borne in mind.
Tips - the Best Subjects for Lens Balls
You can actually take great shots everywhere with your lens ball. Creativity is almost without limits. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the natural world, in your studio, in cities, in the water or taking photographs of objects and people. But there are some tips and subjects that particularly emphasise the effect and the surreal atmosphere of a glass ball.
Wonderful subjects for glass ball photos:
- Extensive surfaces with isolated high points (for example: the Taj Mahal, market places with church towers, a ship on the open sea and forest clearings)
- Sunset on the water
- Geometrical shapes and architecture
- Interior photographs in long corridors with high ceilings
- Suspension bridges
- Buildings on mountain summits
- Expert tip: Lights produce wonderful, round blurry areas on the glass ball (bokeh effect)
Our sample pictures with the glass ball/lens ball provide still more inspiration.
Inspiring sample pictures with a lens ball
Manufacture & Quality control of the Glass Balls from Rollei
- The raw material is melted in a furnace first to form a long, rectangular glass rod.
- Whilst it is still glowing and thus malleable, cuboids are cut from this and put into a hydraulic press. In this press, they obtain their blank spherical shape.
- After pressing, the balls are stored temporarily and cooled down fully to room temperature (approx. 20 degrees Celsius). This cooling must take place very slowly, in order to avoid bubbles and other defects in the glass ball.
- After cooling, the first quality inspection of the raw material is performed to check for damage, e.g. cracks.
- In special grinding ad polishing machines, using a specific process, the balls are ground until they attain their absolutely spherical shape.
- There is a renewed interim inspection for damage and inadvertent air pockets
- If the glass ball exhibits only a single deficiency, it is discarded.
- The glass balls receive their final finish using a specific process until the surface is absolutely smooth and transparent
- Final inspection of the glass ball: If anything else is noticeable here, then the ball is discarded.
It is only by means of continuous inspection and the use of high-quality components that we can guarantee that not only is our lens ball free of defects and inclusions at the end but also that it does not negatively impact the refraction of light.