Pro Review: Kubota Creative Tools Lensbaby Pak
By Betsy Finn, Cr.Photog., CPP
The Kubota Creative Tools Lensbaby Pak, a set of Actions for Photoshop offered by Kubota Image Tools, offers photographers an easy way to enhance images created with the Lensbaby lens system. The effects were designed by Kevin Kubota specifically to complement the soft focus effects captured by various Lensbaby Optics.
The Lensbaby Pak comes with 15 different actions, or effects, that you can apply to your images. You’ll also get Kubota Dashboard 3, a floating toolbar palette that makes it extremely simple to select and apply various action effects. The palette features a search bar that allows you to quickly find your actions (particularly helpful if you own more than one Kubota Action Pak).
The Kubota Action Paks make adding and removing filters very simple. Rather than running the action on your base layer in Photoshop, it creates a new layer (usually an adjustment layer) for each action or filter that you choose to apply. Then you can fade out the opacity at will, or even remove a particular effect from the image entirely, just by deleting the layer. I appreciated this design feature, as I am all for non-destructive image editing.
While not a Lensbaby lens owner myself, I was able to get my hands on a few lenses long enough to create some test images for this review. I started out by creating a few images using the soft focus lens, and then with the fisheye lens.
For this first image, I just applied one action: Fisheye Lens - Spectacle. In the before/after comparison, you’ll see that the action added nice contrast, and the image gained overall sharpness, but it does not do any favors for close-up skin tones and texture.
I then tested out the filters for the soft-focus lens. While this lens isn’t something I would normally use myself, I was curious to see how the Kubota Image Tools would optimize the image. Ginger, my kitten, wouldn’t really sit still for this image, so I did have a tough time finding an image with sufficient crispness. But once I located this image, I applied the Soft Focus Lens - Snap Up action, followed by the Wake Up Call action. This combination of filters definitely improved the image quality.
Finally, for my last example image, I decided to play with another fisheye capture.
I applied three filters:
- Faded Memories
- Pinhole ZP - Zippy
- Fisheye Lens - Spectacle
I played around with filter combinations for a bit and used the non-destructive layers to toggle on and off the various effects I applied. While it might take you some trial and error to find a combination of effects that suits your image style, once you know which effects you like, applying the effects quickly is a piece of cake.
Overall, I thought that the Lensbaby Pak did help improve the straight out of camera images created with the various Lensbaby lenses. If you are going to invest in a set of Lensbaby lenses for client work, why not add a set of actions to your arsenal in order to efficiently process those images? It sounds like a no-brainer to me. As with all actions I’m sure, given enough time, you could create similar action effects on your own. But time is money, as they say. And, the Kubota Dashboard 3 makes it really easy to browse, search by keyword, and locate the actions you want to use, rather than having to manually scroll through a given list of actions in the built-in Photoshop action palette.
Kubota Image Tools provides a very helpful PDF of before/after images using the Lensbaby Pak.
The Lensbaby Pak is available for $39 and works with with Adobe Photoshop CS3 or higher. While compatible with both Mac and PC, Mac users will need to have OS 10.5 or higher.