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Get creative with this lens — My quick Lensbaby Composer Pro review

There are very few additions that you can make to your camera bag that spur your creativity as much as a Lensbaby lens does.

I’ve bought my first Lensbaby for my full frame DSLR in 2006. Today, 10 years later I still enjoy using my (latest version for APS-C Fuji X-Mount) Lensbaby Composer Pro Sweet 35 lens. But the lens has really grown up compared to the early version from 2006.

Instead of the flexible rubber tube that you had to manually turn and hold in place with your fingers, the new versions come with a flexible stepless locking mechanism that gives you just the amount of control that you’ll need with a lens like this. And the early version drop in magnetic aperture plate days are long gone, too. Today you can set the aperture via the aperture ring at the front of the lens.

Why should you buy a Lensbaby Composer Pro lens? Here are my top 3 reasons:

  1. You can create amazing effects right inside of your camera without working hard in post processing to give ordinary photos a more interesting look. And seeing the creative options of the lens right inside your viewfinder may give you completely new ideas right on location.
  2. In my opinion, the major drawback when shooting compact APS-C or m4/3 sensor cameras is the partial loss of depth of field control, especially outside the tele-lens region. The Lensbaby will not only recover some of that DOF control that larger sensor cameras can offer, it’ll also go far beyond singling out objects in your image through the tilt blur sweet spot effect.
  3. All of us photographers have days where we feel like there is nothing interesting around us to capture anymore. On those days, we feel like we have seen and captured it all and don’t even feel like taking a camera with us. A Lensbaby will be a tool that will make you look at your everyday life and ordinary objects in a different “light”, no matter how often you have captured them with a standard lens.

The amount of distortion that you can create by tilting the lens up and down and manually focusing at the main subject of your composition will instantly get your creativity flowing.

The lens is an all manual focus lens, so it does help to have focus peaking or focus magnification enabled if you have that option on your camera’s electronic viewfinder/LCD. I use this lens either in aperture or manual mode, depending on the situation that I’m in. The lens is not electronically connected to your camera mount, so you don’t get any of the lens info Exif data shown in your file. But with a creative lens like this the aperture information loses a bit of meaning if you don’t record the amount and angle of tilt that you have applied to the lens when capturing the image.

Play this short video animation to see the movement range of the tilt lens element.

I may be old school because I enjoy to create my final images as much as possible right in camera instead of delaying many of the creative decisions to post-processing sessions in front of the computer. This way I get to spend more time out with my camera. And seeing the results of your creative use of a Lensbaby in the viewfinder instead of imagining the layers and filters that you would have to add to an ordinary image to get a similar result is almost priceless for me.

To give you a little example of what I’m talking about I’ll share some images that I recently took during an afternoon out with my Lensbaby Composer Pro Sweet 35mm (XF-Mount version) lens attached to my Fuji X-Pro 2:

Lensbaby Composer Review 1
Get creative during a portrait or fashion shoot without spending hours of post processing. Shooting wide open into the sun at f2.5
Lensbaby Composer Review 2
Simple stairs with shadow lines created by the railing go well together with the Lensbaby blur.
Lensbaby Composer Review 3
Tilting the lens can give ordinary objects a more interesting look than taking a simple head-on photo.
Lensbaby Composer Review 4
Tilting the lens can also give buildings a motion blur look – this image can represent the insanely fast building boom in many cities, without ever touching Photoshop.
Lensbaby Composer Review 5
Shallow DOF look on distant objects with wide angle lenses on APS-C or M4/3 cameras is hard to achieve without a Lensbaby.
Lensbaby Composer Review 6
Shooting an agile scene wide open with tilted lens against the sun. I love how the blur fades out the sides of the frame. Look at the bicycle driver on the far right.
Lensbaby Composer Review 7
Into the sun at f16. This is the kind of architecture photos that I enjoy taking with my Lensbaby.
Lensbaby Composer Review 8
Each lens test needs a brick wall photo? Here you go – Lensbaby style.
Lensbaby Composer Review 9
I’m always amazed at how selective I can be with my focus area on the Lensbaby. This makes it so much easier to guide the viewer to what I found most interesting in a photo.
Lensbaby Composer Review 10
Yours truly in a window reflection selfie with a narrow sweet spot.
Lensbaby Composer Review 11
Ordinary objects of daily life with an extraordinary look and effect.

I’ve captured all of these images in a half square mile area in less than 2 hours. Most of these images are JPG straight out of the cam with minor contrast adjustments. Instead of collecting months worth of staged and carefully selected images I wanted to show how easy it can be to create interesting images with this lens even in a short amount of time.

Lensbaby makes the Composer Pro lens with as Sweet 35mm, Sweet 50mm, Edge 50 and Edge 80 Optic for Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Sony Alpha A, Fuji XF, Micro 4/3, Olympus 4/3 and Samsung NX -Mount. You can check the compatibility chart to see which lenses support your camera.

And once you have bought a Composer Pro lens, you can add some of the other focal length Optic inserts without having to buy the whole Composer lens again.

As you can tell, I am (and have been) a happy Lensbaby user. The lens is a piece of gear that had a bigger impact on my creative exploration and joy than any other lens that I have bought so far. And that I still use a Lensbaby after 10 years is a pretty strong sign that this was one of these additions that did not collect a lot of dust in my house.

Feel free to share your Lensbaby experiences and images with me. You can post to the comments or contact me via Twitter.

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