By Bob Coates
My wife tends to refer to any new lens purchase as “adding another toy to my collection of lenses.” The Lensbaby was the first lens I brought home and actually admitted that it belonged in that category. Within a couple of days I was using it for a totally different look for some of my clients and … began using it to make money.
The Lensbaby sounds like something you might wrap around your lens for protection. Instead, it’s an inexpensive piece of gear that protects you from getting bored with your photography. Think of the Lensbaby as a cross between a Holga and a Diana that’s been put on steroids.
The Lensbaby is a small lens suspended in a piece of flexible rubber tubing. Focus is achieved by applying pressure with various fingers to move the lens closer or further from the capture plane. The beauty of this is the infinite tilt and shift capabilities, which throw certain areas out of focus with some chromatic aberration thrown in for good measure. With just a little bit of practice you can control the area that is in focus.
Changing various sized rings on the front of the lens fixes the aperture. With the Lensbaby 2.0, the rings are magnetized for easy changing yet doggedly stay in place no matter how much you move or shake your camera.
With most cameras you will need to shoot in manual mode, setting the aperture and shutter speed yourself. Having a handheld incident meter will be a great help with this. Some cameras will allow you to shoot in aperture priority with the camera setting your shutter speed. If you shoot digital, you can take a shot and check out your exposure and effect right on the camera's LCD and make adjustments from there.
(The Lensbabies FAQ page lists camera bodies that do and don't support metering in Aperture Priority.)
I’ve found some wonderful uses for the Lensbaby in my commercial work for clients, in my wedding work when it’s time to do the detail images and the venue leaves a little something to be desired (as Bambi Cantrell calls it, “The church of the Holy Cinderblock”), and in my portrait work after I’ve captured the regular images. Even if the Lensbaby images don’t sell they help separate me from the other photographers in town.
By the way, if you see my wife, tell her that the Lensbaby turned into a tool too!
Look for Professional Photographer's review of the new Lensbaby 3G in the March issue of your magazine!