I see a common thread amongst the Lensbaby reviewers, it’s that none of us are really into them at the beginning. That trend continues with me, I had never used a Lensbaby before testing this kit. I have never really been into things that are gimmicky, like Holgas, Lomos or Lensbabys. I have used and own a Holga, but I couldn’t tell you when the last time was or even where it is right now for that matter. I do own a couple of the Canon tilt/shift lenses and use them very sparingly and often you can’t tell it was used. I feel that unless you have a complete body of work using these types of lenses, ala Vincent Laforet among others, then it will probably look out of place in your book.
So it was with this background that I tried out this newest Lensbaby Pro Effects Kit. I had heard that it was much better than its earlier versions and even knew some photographers who have tried them, so I was looking forward to using something that I normally wouldn’t use. I had trouble finding the proper assignment for this test, so I made my own and took a trip to my dad’s ranch, the Circle T.
The kit I received had 5 parts, 2 lenses, 2 macro converters and the composer mount. They arrived in a nifty little Lensbaby branded bag with a waist strap, yes, a small fanny pack! I actually found it useful as a sling bag to hold all the parts while I ran the lenses through their paces. The lenses and the composer all felt pretty good. The build quality is there, they don’t feel like toys or plasticky. The first lens I popped on was the 35. I found it difficult to focus and it just felt weird. I spent about 15 minutes trying to figure it out when I took a good look at it and realized that the previous reviewer had left the 8mm macro adaptor on. Once I figured out how to change the lens and get the adaptor ring off (not quite intuitive, but real close) I was back on track. The lenses and the adaptors all snap into place with a little twist. Sometimes, to me, it felt like I was pushing too hard. The kit arrived with no instructions, but none were needed. Anyone who is a photographer should be able to pick this kit up and start shooting right away.
I decided to try and use the lenses mostly with the maximum amount of swing. To me, if you use these as a normal lens, then why not just use a normal lens. The trick with these, is the trick itself, the minimal line of focus. It took me a good amount of the day to get used to these and I had a LOT of out-of-focus shots. I think it was a combination of the Lensbaby, operator errors and working with moving subjects. Once I was in the groove, I moved around and even found myself going back to some of my earlier places to redo some shots.
I put both lenses through multiple tests and think they both performed as they should. They are pretty sharp, I mean these are not ‘L’ glass, but certainly sharp enough. They feel like they could kick around in your bag and not be hurt. I can certainly see where someone might want this kind of effect in their bag and this is a good affordable kit.