We as photographers are always looking for new ways to inspire ourselves and others with our creativity. Particularly because we can take and share our photos instantly. A Lensbaby can give you that extra creativity. But what is it, and how does it help?
A Lensbaby is a lens attachment for your DSLR camera. It attaches in the same way that a normal zoom or prime lens does. Currently, they have products compatible with Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony Alpha A, Pentax K, and Olympus 4/3 DSLR cameras. But check, as not all products are available with mounts compatible with all brands.
The unique features with a Lensbaby lens is essentially this: it has a spot in the middle that is in focus and an intense outward blur from there. In some instances it behaves much like a tilt-shift lens, especially when you are photographing architecture. At other times, it just adds an unexpected element to what might not be an altogether uninteresting photograph otherwise.
Lensbaby currently offers a few different models. They start at $90 and go all the way up to $500. They currently have six different models falling into three categories: straight, squeeze, and swivel.
The Scout is the only lens in the straight category and unlike the majority of other lenses, it is completely stationary and does not pivot. It comes equipped with a fish eye optic to give a new shape to your photographs. It should be noted that the fisheye effect is much more pronounced on a full sensor camera. The Spark is compatible with Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony Alpha A, Pentax K, and Olympus 4/3 DSLR cameras and retails for $250.
At $90, the Spark model is the economy option. It is one of the two squeeze choices. The squeeze lenses are operated by squeezing and holding the lens in place as you take your photograph. It is the least expensive but offers none of the frills found on the more expensive models. It is only available for with Canon and Nikon mounts. The Spark has a fixed aperture of f/5.6 and a focal length of 50mm. This is a good inexpensive way to decide if you are interested in what the Lensbaby family has to offer.
The Muse is essentially the Spark plus. It is the other lens available in the squeeze category and unlike the Spark which is only available for Canon and Nikon users, the Muse is also available for Sony Alpha A, Pentax K, and the Olympus 4/3. Deluxe features include interchangeable aperture disks which allow you to manually change your aperture by removing and replacing a metal disk that sits behind the optic insert. It retails for $150.
Composer Pro versions
The Composer Pro with Double Glass Optic is the least fancy of the swivel options. It is the step up from the Muse and is also has a 50mm focal length. The difference between the squeeze and the swivel version is in the bend. The Composer Pro rotates on a smooth ball joint and can be locked into place which is especially useful when doing work with a tripod or work that needs to be repeated such as composite shots. The change the aperture, you have to take the optic out and manually change the aperture disks. This lens retails for $280.
The Composer Pro with Edge 80 Optic has a lens with an 80mm focal length. The main difference between this composer pro and the double glass version is the 80 mm focal length on the optic insert and the fact that you can change the aperture without taking the optic insert out. Instead of having to stop, take out the optic insert, pop the aperture disk out, replace it, and put the optic insert back in before you can shoot at a different aperture, all of that work can be done in lens. The Composer Pro with Edge 80 Optic is compatible with Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony Alpha A, Pentax K, and Olympus 4/3 DSLR cameras and retails for $500.
The Composer Pro with Sweet 35 Optic has all the features of the Composer Pro with Edge 80 Optic. The only real difference between these two is the 35 mm focal length and the price. The Compose Pro with Sweet 35 Optic is compatible with Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony Alpha A, Pentax K, and Olympus 4/3 DSLR cameras and retails for $380.
Beyond the lenses themselves, Lensbaby also has a laundry list of accessories to help you further customize your Lensbaby experience. Most of the lenses available give you the option to remove the current optic insert and replace it with another. Additionally, they also sell super wide optics, creative aperture disks, and macro converters to give you even more control over the images your camera and lens combo produces.
The Lensbaby lenses and accessories have a learning curve which is best mastered simply by taking pictures, viewing the results, recomposing and trying again. The manual focus requirement is also an interesting twist for digital photographers used to the speedy automated focus systems in our high tech lenses. For photographers who can’t afford a legit tilt-shift system or those of us who love to have an arsenal of gadgets at hand, the Lensbaby is a unique and relatively affordable option which can add a special brand of drama and whimsy seldom seen elsewhere.
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