Sitting on the shelf alongside the original Lensbaby and a number of its successors, the new Lensbaby Composer Pro II, with its Edge 50 Optic, reminds me of just how far these fascinating selective-focus lenses have come over the years.
A little more than a decade ago, photographer Craig Strong started messing with vacuum cleaner hoses and various optics to create a lens with a different look. Early on, Lensbaby lenses were made of plastic, and required users to tilt and hold the lens to get that perfect (and mostly sharp) sweet spot within a soft-focused image. Over time, the Lensbaby has become easier to use and more refined in its design.For me, the Lensbaby Composer Pro II delivers the most effortless user experience, in part because of its more solidly built body and the ability to more accurately lock in the swivel and tilt position that gives you the "slice" of focus you want within the lens' gorgeous soft bokeh. Part of Lensbaby's Optic Swap system, it's compatible with other lenses but is currently bundled with the 50mm f/3.2-22 Edge 50 Optic. (Check out the Edge Optic simulator and a gallery of images shot with the Edge 50 Optic.)
The lens is available in a wide variety of mounts, including Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony A-mount, Sony E-mount, Pentax K, Fuji X, Micro Four Thirds and Samsung NX. I chose the Sony E-mount for the full-frame Sony a7S II and it works beautifully. As with any lens, the Edge 50 optic delivers an equivalent focal length of about 75mm on APS-C size sensors and 100mm on Micro Four Thirds.
If you're used to autofocus, you may have to hone your manual focus skills a bit with the Edge 50 Optic, but it's actually fun to play around with swiveling and tilting the base Composer Pro II to find just the right look. Early adopters of Lensbabys will note how much easier it is to adjust exposure with a manual aperture ring than switching aperture disks as in the early models—though I often like using the original versions to take advantage of those creative aperture disks with cut-out shapes, just to add a little extra something to images.
I haven't seen too many videos using Lensbaby recently and I wonder why. That's next on my list since the motion work I've seen using these selective-focus lenses have been gorgeous. Maybe a dreamy wedding video with selective focus is the perfect add-on for some of your clients?
Price: $425 (with Edge 50 Optic)