It’s a Lens Baby…

Warning: this article gets a bit more technical than usual. I will be showing more photographs in a future post

I used to use large format cameras[1], so I studied scheimpflug and depth of field. I missed this control when using a smaller camera, such as a DSLR, but not the cost of large format film. I always wanted a tilt-shift lens, but, again the cost was a deterrent.

Enter Lensbaby. Lensbaby makes a number of different optics, but since I like control, and wanted the most versatility, I looked at the composer pro system, and since I tend to prefer longer lenses, I went with the edge 80 optic. This lens is decently sharp in the middle, and not as soft as some Lensbaby lenses in the edges. In other words it is a decent quality 80mm f2.8 lens.

The composer pro part lets you adjust the wedge of focus and lock it in place. If the system is centered, the depth of field acts the same as any other fixed lens, fading in front and behind the subject. Tilting the lens away from the center creates a depth of field wedge defined by the Scheimpflug principle. Adding this extra dimension (to a completely manual lens) can be a bit confusing, but you can see the effect in the viewfinder or by using live view.. Using a tripod helps a lot. Since it is a fully manual lens (with stop-down metering) the viewfinder does get darker, but, in terms of depth of field, what you see is what you get.

Again, since it is a fully manual lens, you must use manual exposure, or possibly aperture priority. I did find that, especially with extreme movements, the exposure meter was a bit off. Review your images and use the histogram. Shooting raw also gives more leeway in exposure.

All in all it is a fun lens. Build quality is not really “pro” level, but you can create effects impossible without a much more expensive lens/system. If you want to try a tilt lens without spending over $1000, this is a good compromise. Whether it will stand up to long term use, time will tell….

Footnotes    (‚ÜĶ returns to text)

  1. Large Format is kind of a poor descriptor. Yes, I used cameras that used 4″x5″ film which is larger than medium format/120 film but I also used “medium format” view cameras that used 120 film. The real advantage of a view (or field) camera is the ability to¬†interdependently move the film plane and lens plane relative to each other. The lens (or film) could move up/down and left/right (called shift and rise) as well as rotate away from parallel (called swing and tilt). The swing/tilt, usually simplified to “tilt”, is what controls the direction of the plane of focus, and is what the Lensbaby can change.‚ÜĶ

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