Lensbaby Field Trip with the New Fisheye and Soft Focus Optics
Photo by Rey Santiago and J.P. Regalado
It was Christmas day, circa 1983. Underneath the warm air of a comfy blanket, despite droopy lids, I sprinted to the Christmas Tree in fuzzy blue feet pajamas and proceed to voraciously unwrap the coveted Thundercats Lion-O action figure, followed shortly by every other gift in sight. The same child-like anticipation was echoed a few days ago when our friendly postman buzzed our apartment. "Package for Regalado…" Sign here. Proceed to rip open box and pesky tape. Underneath crumpled brown paper was the complete line of Lensbaby optics to play with. YYyYes!
Lensbaby optics bring the playful do-it-yourself aesthetic of toy cameras--like the Lomo or Diana--to the digital realm. Quick, simple mounts are available for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, and Olympus digital SLR's, and you can start building your Lensbaby system with one of 3 distinctively different SLR camera bodies - The Muse, the Composer, and the Control Freak (available in 2010)
The Muse allows you to literally "bend the rules", with a slinky-dink, accordion bellows for complete freedom. Conversely, the Composer's ball and socket, pivot and focus ring allows for smooth and precise blur manipulation in your images. The newest evolution of the Lensbaby line--the Control Freak--will be released in 2010. Touted for tabletop or macro photography, this is the ideal lens to use for 'precision' Lensbaby imaging. Just compress and bend the lens, then lock, load and fine tune with 3 screw metal posts.
Six different optics can be switched out of the Muse, Composer or Control Freak to "reflect your individual personality and shooting style". Each optic offers a "sweet spot of sharp focus surrounded by graduated blur", which can be switched out of the Muse and Composer.
The Lensbaby Fisheye Optic is a fun, cost-effective option to the more precise autofocus fisheye lenses. An ultra-wide 12mm focal length and 160° field-of-view gives you the classic round fisheye image with black vignette. Magnetic aperture disks ranging from f4 to f22 can be swapped out to control the amount of blur, but you can't switch apertures on the fly. You'll have to use shutter speed to compensate.
Ideal for velvet soft images, this lens keeps an even, smooth image, heralding a departure from the typical Lensbaby optic Sweet Spot focus with graduated blur. Vary the amount of softness by changing or stacking the magnetic aperture disks. We used an f4 magnetic aperture disk on this optic again. Mounted on the Muse lens body, the soft optic presented a few surprises
These Lensbabies were a welcome respite from zoning out in front of a computer screen's hypnotic blue glow. Instead of manipulating the minutiae of Photoshop's curves, sharpness tweaks, and blemish erasers, the Lensbaby system gave us free reign to just experiment and play again. Free from the cerebral constraints of apertures, shutter speeds, and megapixel counts, we could simply focus on making images, embrace the imperfections, and let the Lensbabys do their thing.
With the holiday season coming up, Lensbabies are an ideal stocking stuffer for any photographer who wants to play and throw things up to the wind. With video capture capabilities on DSLR's becoming more ubiquitous, the Lensbabies also offer another option to explore creative image making with moving images.