Selective-focus lenses let you get creative with how you frame your subject. Lensbaby lens systems are an interesting and affordable alternative to conventional tilt/shift lenses. Our favorite Lensbaby is the Composer—its simple, intuitive design makes selective-focus photography easy. You simply tilt the lens to your desired angle and focus manually. The best part of this system is the ability to choose from several unique optics and swap them to achieve different effects. There are currently four options, including a plastic lens for a “Holga” look and a Pinhole/Zone Plate optic. Other accessories include telephoto and wide-angle adapters, a new 0.42x lens for ultrawide shots, a macro kit and a Creative Apertures Kit, which lets you transform out-of-focus specular highlights into shapes like a star or heart—or create your own. List Price: $270 (Composer with Double Glass optic installed; additional Optical Swap System lenses and accessories available separately). Contact: Lensbaby, (877) 536-7222, www.lensbaby.com.
Mirror lenses are an affordable alternative for extreme telephoto. The Pro-Optic 500mm ƒ/6.3 mirror lens sells for about $159 and can be used with a wide variety of SLRs via a supplied T-mount. While it can’t compete in sharpness with a $7,000 500mm ƒ/4 prime lens, the manual-focus Pro-Optic lens is compact (4.6 inches long and 24.9 ounces) and focuses down to 6.1 feet—at a price that’s easy on the budget. Contact: Adorama, (800) 223-2500, www.adorama.com.