Thoughts & Ideas

Lensbaby Composer

Note: Reposted because of a trigger-happy finger and a delete button. D'oh!

The LensBaby Composer is the third iteration of the LensBaby concept – a lens that you can tilt to achieve all sorts of creative effects. You can drop in different optics – from double-glass optics (relatively sharp), to plastic optics (think lomo), and even pinhole or fisheye optics. Needless to say the variation you can get out of this is amazing, as long as you’re willing to experiment.
I bought my Composer on Saturday, and so I haven’t had a lot of time to play, but of course, it was a new toy, so I had to play a bit. It was really cold & windy outside, so instead I coerced my puppy stuffed animal to pose for me:
Lensbaby Meets Stuffed Animal
Pose #1 (Double-glass Optics, f/2, 1/125, ISO 100)

Lensbaby Meets Stuffed Animal
Pose #2 (Double-glass Optics, f/2, 1/125, ISO 100)

 lensbaby_20100206 (82 of 102)
Pose #3 (Pinhole Optic; 25 seconds; ISO 400; look closely and you can see that my sensor needs cleaned!)

 lensbaby_20100206 (74 of 102) lensbaby_20100206 (76 of 102)
Pose #4 (Plastic Optic, f/2, 1/125, ISO 100)                            Pose #5 (Plastic Optic, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO 400)
(Just like regular lenses, stopping down can often dramatically increase sharpness!)

Lensbaby Meets Stuffed Animal
Pose #6 (Double-Glass Optic; f/2, 1/125,  ISO 100)

Ease of Use

The LensBaby Composer itself is very easy to use. Make sure that the front element is centered (pointing straight forward), then focus using the focus ring. Once focus is achieved, you can move the front element around (you may have to loosen it first by rotating the second black ring on the mount).
Switching apertures requires the use of a magnet to lift out the aperture in the optic; the Composer comes with the necessary tool. It’s not hard to get out, and then you can just drop in a new aperture ring.
Switching optics took a bit of work the first try; in any new optic package, a tool is provided that you use to press in and rotate to unlock the existing optic. Once unlocked, you can drop the old optic out into your hand, put the new optic in, use the tool to lock the new optic in place, and put the old optic in a safe place. It’s not hard to get used to, but that first couple times might be a bit of work trying to get the original optic to budge.
Each optic provides very different effects based upon the position of the front element, aperture in use, and lighting conditions, so while the lens itself is very intuitive to use (focus, move, shoot), it will take experimentation to be able to repeat, to any significant degree, what you come up with the first time around.
If you’re used to auto-focus, you’ll have to get used to focusing manually, without AF assist (at least for Canon). You’ll need to make sure your diopter is set correctly; a few pictures at various focus settings provide mine was set right and when it looked in focus, it was.
There’ll be more to come in the future as I get acquainted with this lens and its optics and characteristics. So far I’ve had a blast with it, and look forward to shooting all sorts of subjects with it.
Until then, keep writing with light!

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