Lensbaby 3G Review
For a lot of people, getting into photography is all about creativity and imagination while trying to find unique ways to express yourself. However, take a look through Flickr and most pictures are boring and bland. One of digital’s greatest strengths is that it’s simple, fast, easy, automatic, and doesn’t require much thought or effort to take a picture with a modern DSLR. While those are digital’s greatest strengths, it is also its biggest weakness. When something is too easy to do, the quality of the end result can often suffer. In this article we are going to take a look at the Lensbaby 3G. Not only does it add a very unique effect to your images, it also makes you slow down and really think about the image you are making. Because of its design, it also makes using your camera a much more interactive process. So let’s get into it and see what the Lensbaby 3G is all about.
What is a Lensbaby?
From the lensbabies.com website:
Lensbabiesâ„¢ are selective Focus SLR lenses that bring one area of your photo into sharp focus, with that “sweet spot” surrounded by gradually increasing blur. You can move the sweet spot to any part of your photo by bending the lens.
It’s pretty hard to beat the explanation right from the source, the Lensbaby attaches to your camera like a normal lens and has a lens mounted to a flexible bellows. You make coarse focus adjustments by pushing or pulling the lens back and forth and then adjust the “sweet spot” by moving the lens up and down and left to right. The 3G model adds the ability to lock the movable element in place and then make fine tuning adjustments as well as focus tuning. This allows you to mount the camera on a tripod and take the same shot repeatedly or to take long exposures.
Why not Photoshop?
While there are some really good Photoshop filters and actions that seemingly come close to the Lensbaby’s look, its complex three-dimensional physical movement doesn’t just provide for selective blurring, it’s gradually increasing blur seems to slightly distort the blurred areas. Jim DiVitale describes this not as “blurring” but as a “slurring” effect. Whether or not “slurring” ever makes it into the dictionary or not it does somehow capture the essence of the Lensbaby effect. It’s this mysterious slurring effect that just makes it virtually impossible to replicate in software.
So, why even use it?
We typically use a short depth of field in order to blur out the background of an image in order to make the subject stand out more. The Lensbaby takes this concept to another level by not only blurring the background, but by allowing you to select a “sweet spot” of the image and then the blur effect moves outward in an increasing manner away from the sweet spot. This helps to guide the viewers’ eyes towards a more specific point in the image.
How does it work?
The basic functionality is quite simple, to set the main focus you pull the lens element in or push it out. This will get the pretty close with the focus and then you can fine tune the focus like a manual focus lens by turning the focus ring. There will actually somewhat of a learning curve for most people as there is no automatic focus, or automatic anything for that matter. Learning to use the Lensbaby 3G to its full advantage will simply take (heaven forbid) shooting a bunch of pictures until you get the process down. I found that after a dozen or so images I was starting to get the basic feel for how to work the lens and after a few dozen more I was turning on some pretty neat images. Fortunately for me I was able to go tag along on a wedding shoot and then we did a large group TTD shoot both just days after getting the Lensbaby so I had lots of opportunities to learn how to use it well.
- Coated Optical Glass Doublet (Same optic as Lensbaby 2.0)
- Focal Length: 50 mm
- Focus Type: Manual/Fingertip, with barrel fine focus
- Aperture Type: Interchangeable levitating aperture disks
- Aperture: f2, f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f/11, f/16, f/22
- Minimum Focus: about 12″
- Maximum Focus: infinity
- Size/Weight: 3″ (6.72cm) high x 3″ (6.72cm wide / 5.7 oz. (161.6 grams)
- Note: a Lensbaby does not communicate electronically with your camera body
You cannot set the aperture from the camera body, you have to replace different aperture disks that come with the lens.
So, what do I think?
During the two shoots that I had just following getting the Lensbaby, I kept two cameras on me in order to take shots of the same scene with two different lenses. Here are some side by side results that I was able to get.
I’ll be honest, there is a distinct learning curve to getting the best results from the Lensbabies lens. I had tried the original before and the 3G is a vast improvement over the original design. Being able to lock the lens into a position and then fine tune the effect in as well as fine tune the focus makes it a lot more versatile than the original or the 2.0 version.
The Lensbabies are not for everyone but if you are more serious about your photography and looking for that “something extra” when doing weddings or portraits then you should consider adding a Lensbaby to your lens collection. Priced at $270 it’s not a very expensive lens in comparison to buying some uber-sharp L series lenses.
In the next few weeks we are going to dig into some more creative uses and other applications as well as look into the differences between the Lensbabies and a regular tilt-shift lens.
Company Website: http://www.lensbabies.com
Author: Kerry Garrison