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Beginning photography with the Lensbaby system

Lensbaby Composer

I am often asked “What new lens should I buy?” and more often than not I recommend a nifty fifty, an f/1.8 or better. There is another I forget about, a fun and creative lens system that changes the way you see. I am speaking of the Lensbaby system, for beginners I highly recommend the Composer Pro with the Sweet 35 Optic and if the R4200 price is a bit steep, the Composer with the Double Glass Optic is cheaper at about R2300 but a bit harder to use with it’s aperture disks.

Lensbaby Fisheye Optic (f/4)
Lensbaby Fisheye Optic (Canon EOS 5D Mark III)

Why would I recommend a lens system that I dubbed “the purposeful degradation of photographs system”? Simply put it is 100% manual and fits all major camera manufacturers and there is more than one optic – “lens“ – that will fit the “housing”, it is also light and versatile from 12mm Fisheye to 80mm the is something for everyone. Additionally, the Double Glass optic is capable of f/2 and is as sharp as any entry-level 50mm lens when not bent – in fact I find it puzzling that Lensbaby does not supply the Scout with a Double Glass or a Sweet 35 as an option rather than the Composer or Composer Pro which would make it ideal for beginners.

Peaches – Double Glass Optic
Peaches – Lensbaby Double Glass Optic (Canon EOS 7D)

The advantage of the Lensbaby is that it forces you to think about the choices you make and shows you through the lens the outcome of your choices. The aperture disk system will show you the depth of field immediately through the viewfinder showing you exactly how aperture works. Through time, the appropriate speed for the given light and aperture will come to you without thought making you a better photographer. It also creates an environment where experimentation is not an option but rather essential.

Nuts – Single Glass Optics
Nuts – Lensbaby Single Glass Optics (Canon EOS 7D)

What the basic Lensbaby kit does is improve vision through mistakes and the same mistakes will improve your photographic vision through a fun process. I certainly found it beneficial to my photography as I learned how a lens works from the inside out.

Lensbaby Sweet 35 with 8 & 16mm Macro Convertor
Lensbaby Sweet 35 with 8 & 16mm Macro Convertor (Canon EOS 5D Mark III)

The system also has a few other tricks up it sleeves, there is a very efficient macro convertor kit, these are basically extension tubes, once you have the basic kit and extra R700 and the macro world is yours.

One of my favorite is the Sweet 35 Optic simply because there is not need for those pesky aperture disks and the effects are great.

Lensbaby Soft Focus Optic
Lensbaby Soft Focus (Canon EOS 5D Mark III)

The possibilities are endless and the system is growing every year, the Edge 80 being one of the more recent additions allows for pronounced tilt-shift effects and has a macro mode to boot.

The Lensbaby system is a good addition to any photographer’s bag.

Recommended prices (South Africa):

More of my Lensbaby photos here

Lensbaby on television and in the cinema here.
Lensbaby Edge 80 Optic & Macro Converters where kindly supplied by MPhoto.

Pascal Parent

Pascal's day job is as a technologist but you can mostly find him behind a camera after hours. As a passionate photographer he regularly shares his experiences with the world. From how-to to reviews you will find it all in his regularly updated blog and other places.

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