Lensbaby have three new arrivals in their selective focus lens line-up: the Composer, the Control Freak and the Muse. All three lenses produce a distinct sweet spot of sharp focus surrounded by gloriously smooth blur; yet the mechanics for composing and focusing each lens are quite dramatically different…
The Composer – Smooth & Precise
Lensbaby have added a dash of innovation to their already quirky product selection: a lens based on a ball & socket mechanism. This allows you to angle the front of the lens towards your subject in a smooth gliding action. Once your image is framed to perfection you can then focus The Composer with a barrel focusing ring.
The original Lensbaby and Lensbaby 2.0 relied upon bending the plastic barrel to angle the lens and then squeezing or pulling the barrel to focus. Adding the ball & socket mechanism and focusing ring allows you to be more precise in any adjustments, plus The Composer stays set at the desired angle without any locking mechanism.
Part of the fun of Lensbaby photography are the results: Unique. Individual. Usually unrepeatable. Because the earlier Lensbaby designs required so much manipulation from the user it was often impossible to achieve exactly the same result. The Composer offers smoother control and repeatable results to a degree. Usually free-style composition guarantees a little spark of excitement - unless the moment passes and you realise the camera has no memory card. In which case you may need the more methodical Control Freak…
The Control Freak – Step-by-Step
The three metal posts of The Control Freak remind me of a miniature Millennium Dome. Luckily the metal posts are far more useful than their architectural look-alike: They lock The Control Freak precisely in place.
After bending the barrel to produce the desired effect, a simple press of a button locks the angle of the lens. Fine-tuning can then be applied with the barrel focusing ring and rotating the metal rods. The level of meticulous control available grants this Lensbaby the ability to excel at macro photography and use on a tripod. Lensbaby offer an optional macro kit which contains two screw on filters, in +4 and +10 dioptre strengths, to reduce the minimum focus distance.
The Muse – Unlimited Variety
The Muse is an upgrade to the original Lensbaby, without losing any of its charming formula for success. The simplicity of twisting the flexible plastic barrel to produce unique results is preserved, but The Muse is available with two types of optic: Plastic (for dreamy Holga-esque photos) or Double Glass (for sharper, defined images). To sweeten the offer these optics are inter-changeable, even on the The Control Freak and The Composer too!
All three new Lensbabies are based around the new Lensbaby Optic Swap System. At any time you can simply replace the optic in the lens with another in your armoury. The optics available are Double Glass, Single Glass, Plastic and Pinhole.
Double Glass: The multi-coated optical glass doublet provides a tack-sharp Sweet Spot of focus with minimum diffusion at all aperture settings.
Single Glass: The simple Single Glass optic is an update of the Original Lensbaby’s primitive optic, ideal for fine art, portraiture, black and white images, and any shot requiring a subtle, soft, dreamy effect.
Plastic: Lensbaby’s Plastic optic is for plastic fanatics. The softest optic overall, this creates very ethereal photos with abundant chromatic aberration.
Pinhole: The Pinhole/Zone Plate optic lets you shift easily back and forth from pinhole to zone plate mode with your digital SLR by simply sliding a toggle inside the optic. In pinhole or zone plate mode, this optic insert achieves softer focus, dreamy images that are equally sharp from edge to edge.
Lensbaby have a useful Optic Comparison page on their website. It allows you to preview each of the different optics at various apertures.
If you’re left wondering “How on earth do I use these unpredictable little creations?” then point your browser towards the Lensbaby Photo Gallery. My fave is the photo of tumbling sugar granules by Kai Godehusen. What’s yours?
Try our full Lensbaby Composer review for further information!