Are you a fan of Lensbaby lenses but not a fan of carrying a lot of different lenses with you when you head out to make photographs? The Lensbaby Trio 28 might be just what you did not know you have been dreaming of. The Trio 28 is a single optical housing that contains three different 28mm lenses for the Lensbaby aficionado—the Velvet, Sweet, and a new Petzval-like lens, the Twist. The Trio 28 is designed for Lensbaby fans who use a variety of mirrorless cameras and comes in Canon EF-M, Canon RF, FUJIFILM X, Nikon Z, Sony E, and Micro Four Thirds mounts.
All photos © Todd Vorenkamp
The Trio 28 is all manual—a smooth, satin chrome-finished, metal manual focus ring with engraved markings covers the entire outside barrel of the lens. The three optics are mounted at the front and can be selected individually by twisting the inner ring. There are no aperture adjustments and each lens is fixed at f/3.5. The 28mm focal length of each lens gives an APS-C 35mm equivalent of 42mm, and a 35mm equivalent of 56mm on MFT cameras. Minimum focus distance for all three lenses is 8".
The lens system is lightweight at 4.9 ounces, but the large diameter of the lens housing really dominates the business end of a smaller mirrorless camera. I won’t claim that the Lensbaby Trio 28 is a super-stylish addition to your camera, but if you are a fan of Lensbaby, you probably think there are more important elements in your photography than how your gear looks to others—you might like the funky three-eyed look of the Trio 28.
Modeled after the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f/1.6 Lens available for Canon EF, Pentax K, Nikon F, Sony A, Sony E, FUJIFILM X, Micro Four Thirds, and Samsung NX), the Trio 28’s “Velvet” option gives an overall etherealness to your images. The center is sharp(er), but the edges melt away with, as Lensbaby puts it, a “delicate glow.” The Velvet 56 lens proves to be much more versatile than its distant Trio 28 cousin. Because the Velvet 56 has an adjustable aperture, the photographer can dial back the dream-like personality of the lens toward the look of a more of a traditional optic. The Trio 28’s Velvet has three multi-coated glass elements in two groups.
The Trio 28’s “Sweet” gives a central sweet spot for sharp focus with a progressively increasing blur as you work toward the edges. On a mirrorless camera, focus peaking will emphasize how the Sweet lens emphasizes a central focus region—bringing the central sweet spot into and out of focus with a twist of the Trio 28’s focus ring. The Sweet has three multi-coated glass elements in three groups.
Here we have Lensbaby’s take on the swirly bokeh fashion (or fad?). The Trio 28’s “Twist” is a miniature Petzval-like optical design that gives the photographer a large central sharp focus area surrounded by a circular bokeh pattern. The Petzval first appeared in 1840, designed by Professor Joseph Petzval of Vienna, Austria. Lensbaby’s take on the Petzval with the Trio 28 is another foray into the world of swirly bokeh, following the Twist 60 (also available for the Nikon F, Canon EF, and Sony E mount). The Trio 28’s Twist has four multi-coated glass elements in three groups.
The Lensbaby Trio is certainly easy to use. The focus motion is clean and has a good feel to it. The engraved markings on the lens might benefit from being polished a bit to give a really smooth feel to the barrel, but that might happen over time, with use. The focus throw (dare I say?) is a perfect distance—a quarter turn takes you from the 8" close-focus distance to infinity.
If I had one complaint about the handling of the Trio 28, it is that switching between the three lenses is not as easy as I would like it to be. The feel is good, and the detents are solid and confident, but the amount of surface area you have to grip to turn the lens barrels is on the small side and it is not textured in any way.
In real life, the three lenses feel more similar than they feel different. They all have their special characteristics, but if you were shooting on the fly and did not have the time to dial up a particular lens, you’d likely be happy with whatever result you got from the lens you had selected. In fact, looking back through my images, it became clear I should have taken better notes about each image to help my mind recall which Trio optic I was using.
One interesting trick that I discovered was the ability to perform a simulated double exposure by snapping an image while I had the lens selection ring turned in between two of the lenses. I am sure that interesting photos are waiting to be captured when creative photographers try this experiment.
If there are common threads connecting the Lensbaby lens family, they are creativity and fun. As someone who spends his photographic life in the constant search for sharpness while attempting to recreate simply what the eye has seen, mounting the Lensbaby Trio 28 on my camera lets me see and capture the world in a very different way. Spending a weekend with the Trio 28 was fun, but I will admit that I did pack a “normal” lens in my kit just in case I saw something that really didn’t work with the Lensbaby aesthetic.
In the world of Instagram filters and special digitally manipulated camera modes, the Lensbaby Trio 28, and the rest of the Lensbaby lineup, for that matter, is still unique in the way that it delivers distinctive effects without the magic of digital help. Because we are so used to seeing “creative” images online these days, Lensbaby finds itself almost mainstream, in a sense.
Lensbaby has its share of devoted followers. I predict that the Trio 28 will definitely be a popular addition to the Lensbaby lineup due to its optics and the mere convenience of having three creative lenses in one lightweight package.
Are you a Lensbaby devotee? Please tell us about your favorite Lensbaby optics in the Comments section, below.