The fine people at Lensbaby were kind enough to loan some of their new line to us during the months of September and October. I know I walked around with the 4/3 Composer for a few weeks and if you trundle over to our YouTube channel, you’ll see me fumbling with Derek’s E3, a Composer, and swappable optics.
More about the babies, and some pics, after the jump…
The Lensbabies are all 50mm objective with a standard aperture of 2 -on your Rebel then it’s got the field of view you’d get from an 80mm on full frame, your D5000 or a380 will give you 75mm, and E series from Olympus (including the E-P1) and Panasonic’s GF-1 give you 100mm. Now, they ship with an aperture kit -each is a ring of magnetized plastic from 2.8 down to 22 which store in a thin film tube with a nifty magnetic stud to swap them in and out. Lensbaby also sells a creative aperture kit which our very Mr. Martin experimented with multiple, little holes making a “buckshot” effect -like the last photo below (also his own custom hand-cut creative aperture),is best used to exploit out of focus highlights.
For a lens constructed of aluminum, plastic, and glass with zero electronics it can be a little complicated to achieve controlga (controlable Holga effects -sort of like tossing a lasso on a tornado but without all the geological impact) and the Composer is the friendliest to work with. See, the key to working with a lensbaby is the Sweet Spot -the area where the optic focuses most clearly and around which things get wonky. Like light vignetting it draws the eye and can work to create tension in your comp. The Composer is worked by a rotating ball with a locking ring and a broad, barrel-focusing ring, unlike the Control Freak (the redesigned 3G) which looks like something Douglas Bradley should be wearing as it uses three screws and a bellows to position the lens. The third type is the Muse, a defanged Control Freak which I would find more pleasing to use in video mode as there’s no way to set the lens and hold the sweet spot.
Each of these newest generation Lensbabies ships with one optic (with the double glass being more expensive than the others) out of the swappable library which I’ll list in order of sharpness -double glass, single glass, plastic, and pinhole/zoneplate. They can be purchased piecemeal or in a bundle. If you refer back to the Tube video you can see how they swap.
My favorite is the Composer -the ball and socket action is easy to manage with only two places your hand will ever need to be, where the Control Freak takes a little more time and rewards you with precision. The Muse, while most classically Lensbaby, doesn’t suit my habit or goals with still photos.
I’m grateful to the Lensbaby people for the opportunity to run around with some of their equipment for a while, and have put the 4/3 Composer on my Gift To Self list for the holiday season.