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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It’s The Lens, Baby!

By The Editors Published in Lenses
Alternate Angles. "I often use a Lensbaby for details—it adds so much creativity and helps bring the eye directly where I want it. This image has become a signature image for the company, as it shows the creativity and beauty of the lens and pushes our 'think-out-of-the-box' philosophy."
Alternate Angles. "I often use a Lensbaby for details—it adds so much creativity and helps bring the eye directly where I want it. This image has become a signature image for the company, as it shows the creativity and beauty of the lens and pushes our 'think-out-of-the-box' philosophy."

Axel Heimken

"This picture was taken with a Canon EOS-1D Mark III and a Lensbaby 2.0 during a competition of athletes in Portugal. The athletes like the style of the Lensbaby because it shows them in a way they see themselves, a little bit rough and edgy. I use the Lensbaby in sports photography because it creates a more live atmosphere. It 'paints' the typical scenes at a start or before a race; that's the reason I used it in this picture. The imperfect technical aspect of a Lensbaby—a picture wide away from glossy high-tech pics—characterizes athletes and sports perfectly, in my opinion."

The Gear

The Lensbaby system is essentially two components—the lens itself and the swappable optics. Three different lens models are available to accommodate different shooting styles.

Composer, Control Freak, Muse
Our favorite is the ball-and-socket-design Composer, which offers a solid balance between simplicity and control. Tilt the lens to position the "sweet spot" and tension keeps it in place.

For even more precision, the Control Freak lets you lock the lens tilt, then fine-tune it by adjusting three screw posts, making this lens a great option if you plan to do a lot of macro setups.

If you'd rather shoot fast and flexible, the Muse, an evolution of the popular Lensbaby 2.0, doesn't lock down, allowing you to quickly change your sweet spot for sports and action subjects fast (though you have to manually hold the lens to keep its angle).

Once you've selected the right lens design for you, you can start thinking about which optics you'll want to use. The Lensbaby Optic Swap System currently includes three optics for selective focus and three additional optics for other cool effects. There are also accessories for macro and wide-angle photography.

The Lensbaby website has a cool optical comparison tool that previews the effects of the different optics at a variety of apertures. Go to www.lensbaby.com/optic-comparison.php.

1. Double Glass Optic The sharpest Lensbaby optic, with minimal diffusion.

2. Single Glass Optic Lensbaby describes this optic as similar to what you'd find in an antique camera, with a soft effect.

3. Plastic Optic Holga and toy camera aficionados will love this optic, the softest in the system, for really dreamy images.

4. Pinhole/Zone Plate Optic This switchable optic lets you experiment with pinhole and zone plate effects.

5. Soft Focus Optic Unlike the other optics in this system, which have a "sweet spot" of relative sharpness, Soft Focus produces even softness throughout the image.

6. Fisheye Optic Get an expansive 160-degree field of view. Designed for the Composer lens, it can be used with the Muse and the Control Freak with an optional adapter.

7. Macro Kit This kit includes two filters for +4 or +10 magnification. Focus from 2 to 13 inches.

8. Wide Angle/Telephoto Kit Two converter lenses—a 0.6x Wide Angle and a 1.6x Telephoto—expand the creative possibilities of the Lensbaby's standard 50mm focal length to 30mm (wide) or 80mm (tele).

Super Wide Angle (not shown) Want to go even wider? This 0.42x converter lens gives you a 21mm equivalent.

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