I’m a fan of tilt shift. I am not a fan of how Instagram has bastardized the aesthetic. I am also not a fan of the high costs typically associated with EOS tilt lenses. Enter the Lensbaby Pro Effects Kit, the ostensible solution to all of my tilt shift concerns.
The kit is relatively cheap at $750 and comes with a number of lens options with 2 pieces of glass and a number of macro adapters. It also comes with a handy bag and confusing hard plastic holders for the glass, think 35mm film canisters but clear and for lenses.
Casey used the Lensbaby in this video for tilt and micro effects
Most tilt lenses tilt on an X and Y axis, the Lensbaby is built around a ball joint enabling tilting in any direction. It goes around and around, not just up and down. This is great for finding your focal point and adjusting it quickly. It also makes focus possible at a single point in the frame rather than on a plane. The build is solid, the materials feel sound, and it’s well put together. I shot mostly video with the camera locked off on a tripod, no camera movement, taking my time with focus and aperture. It was my first time on the lenses so this was necessary, but I could see these processes becoming much quicker as I see myself getting used to using the Lensbaby.
The results are pretty amazing. The 35mm lens (dubbed Sweet 35) was dynamic and in my well lit studio enabled a wide focal plane. Again, the focus ring was smooth and true. The kit also came with a 80mm lens (Edge 80) which, along with the macro adapters, yielded some stunning results. I’ve never been able to shoot macro like this before without using an expensive macro lens. Using this set up, I was able to shoot a quarter and have only half of the coin in focus. The look was sharp and fresh.
The design of the lensbaby is unlike traditional lenses in that there are 2 pieces; the glass optic and its housing (the Composer). To swap lenses you change the glass, not the housing. This, no doubt, is why the price of the kit is so reasonable but proved a bit difficult for me to use. The glass clicks into the housing similarly to the way you open a child proof bottle of asprin; push and twist. I was never entirely sure if the lens was properly secured or not and half way through my shoot I accidentally failed to secure the 35mm glass properly and it slid out of the composer. The 12 blade adjustable aperture broke when it hit the floor. I should have been more careful, but this was something I struggled with throughout my shoot.
All in all I recommend the kit. There is nothing else on the market that gives you the options that Lensbaby does for the low price. The results are stunning and the kit is well built. You need to take your time with it, so it may not be perfect for an on-the-run photographer, but when used as it was meant to be used, it is a great product.