Lensbaby Composer Selective Focus SLR Lens

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At the last Pepcom show of 2009 I met with the folks from Lensbaby who were kind enough to provide technogog with a few samples to review. Today I will be looking at the first of these products – the Lensbaby Composer, which is a DSLR lens housed in a ball and socket configuration. This design allows the photographer to shoot selective focus photos with just the tilt of the lens. It includes a locking mechanism to keep the lens in the desired position.

Lensbaby is a company founded by photographer Craig Strong whose goal was to “to bring a more organic look to his digital SLR camera” with the creation of his Lensbaby Flexible Lens Mounting System. The Composer is one of the latest lenses from the company using this technology.

It can be controlled with one hand similar to traditional lenses and can be used with numerous DSLR mounts including Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta and many others. The Composer is a manual lens that has a 50 mm focal length that is designed for smooth and precise shooting style

Now if you are a neophyte photographer and not willing to mess around with manual exposure settings, changing aperture plates and dealing with a steep learning curve, then the Composer may not be for you. But for the adventurous amateur or the season pro, the Composer may be the lens that stirs the creative juices.

In addition to the tilt ability of the Composer, it also works with the Lensbaby Optic Swap System. These optics can be purchased separately and offerings includes Double Glass, Single Glass, Plastic, Fish Eye, Soft Focus and Pinhole/Zone Plate. technogog will be reviewing the Fish Eye and Soft Focus in the coming weeks.

Inside the Lensbaby Composer package we find the Composer lens, Instruction booklet, a black velvet satchel, eight Aperture disks, Aperture Disk Tool with attached disk storage case. As I mentioned previously the Composer is available for a large variety of DSLR camera mounts.

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The lens rotates 360 degrees through a ball and socket configuration. The outer ring is designed to adjust the focus while the locking ring sits closest to the body of the camera. Lensbaby includes eight aperture plates ranging from f/2 to f/22. These disks drop into the lens and stay in place via magnets on the disks themselves. The included aperture changer tool is used to remove the disks. On the opposite end of this tool is a storage case for the unused disks.

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Specifications:

Composer Selective Focus SLR Lens

With the Composer, Lensbaby introduces a completely new lens, based on a ball and socket configuration that delivers smooth selective focus photography with unparalleled ease. Photographers simply tilt the lens to a desired angle and then focus with a manual focusing ring. The Composer stays in the desired bent position without requiring a locking mechanism and features the new Lensbaby Optic Swap System.

The Composer comes with the Double Glass Optic installed.

The Composer is a breeze to use. Simply bend the lens to move the Sweet Spot and then focus.

The Composer stays in its bent position without needing to be locked. If you want to ensure the Composer will not move during an extended shooting session, you can lock the lens’s position by rotating the Locking Ring. This locking feature makes the Composer ideal for studio photography or for longer or repeated exposures.

Specs:
-Available in mounts for Canon EF (EOS), Nikon F, Sony Alpha A / Minolta Maxxum, Pentax K / Samsung GX, Olympus E1 / Panasonic Lumix DMC cameras.
-Double Glass (Multi-coated Optical Glass Doublet) included.
-Focal Length: about 50 mm
-Focus Type: Manual
-Aperture Type: Interchangeable, magnetic aperture disks
-Apertures: f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22
-Minimum Focus: about 18″ (45cm) / Maximum Focus: infinity
-Size: 2.25″(5.7cm) h x 2.5″(6.35cm) w / Weight: 3.7 oz (104.9g).
-No electronic communication between the lens and the camera body.
-Automatic light metering is possible by shooting in aperture priority mode for almost all digital and film SLR camera bodies except certain Nikon bodies including the D40, D50, D60, D70, D70S, D80, D90, D100, N50, N65, N70, N75, N80, Kodak 14N and ProN, & Fuji S1, S2, and S3.

For today’s review I will be testing the Composer with my Canon EOS 400D. Now for those photographers used to using the Auto mode when shooting, you can forget about it with the Composer. This is a totally manual lens with no communication with the camera; this is old school photography folks.

Besides not being able to use Auto mode, the Composer also negates using most other modes including shutter priority mode. Some cameras can use aperture priority such as the Canon line. Using my Canon Rebel XTi I was able to shoot in Aperture Priority Mode and Manual Mode.

Thankfully with digital cameras you can see your results instantly allowing exposure corrections on the fly. For folks not adept with the manual settings on their DSLR, using the Composer will provide a crash course; otherwise you will not get good pictures. Remember the key to taking great photos is practice, practice, practice.

Using the Composer I noticed that it had difficulty focusing up close (less than 18”) but otherwise it was easy to get my subject into focus. Moving the sweet spot from the center by adjusting the tilt of the lens caused the edges of the shot to blur. This can provide an ethereal like photograph and other times it can just make a blurry mess.

The Optic Swap System allows the use of some additional optics such as Soft Focus and Fish Eye. Used in conjunction with the Composer these types of pictures can have variable sweet spots as well.

So, what do the images taken with the Lensbaby Composer look like? Here are a few shots taken with the Composer with the different sweet spots.

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Conclusion:

The Lensbaby Composer Selective Focus SLR Lens is a specialty lens designed for photographers who are comfortable shooting under manual settings. Neophyte users should be aware of this fact but should not be afraid to try the Composer. It is an easy lens to figure out and through trial and error; fantastic photographs can be captured.

Working with the ball and socket configuration of the lens allows the user to manipulate the “sweet spot” of the shot to create some unique photos. Taking pictures with the Composer allows the photographer to create unique shots and help foster one’s creativity.

I would recommend becoming familiar with the manual settings on your camera before investing in the Lensbaby Composer so you can get the most from this lens. For more interesting and unique photos using the Lensbaby system, go check out their gallery on their website.

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Pros:
+Solid build
+Simple to use
+Helps stir the creative juices

Cons:
-Expensive
-Need to be able to manage manual DSLR settings

Grades:
Overall score-9-10
Design score-10-10
Performance score-9-10

This product was given to technogog for review by the company for review purposes only, and is not considered by us as payment for the review, we do not, and never will, accept payment from companies to review their products. To learn more about our review policy please visit this page HERE.

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