There are different kinds of tools for different kinds of jobs. And the lenses being offered by Lensbaby are certainly one of those photographic instruments, that can serve you very well, if only you know very well what you are trying to achieve. For the last two weeks I have had a chance to test the Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Sweet 50 Optic attached to my Fujifilm X-T1 and here are my findings.
If you are nor familiar with the Lensbaby system of lenses, here is a short summary from the Lensbaby website:
“Lensbaby offers several interchangeable optics for the Composer Pro lens. Each optic produces a different creative effect. Start with a sweet spot of focus surrounded by dynamic blur then swap your optic to experiment with a sharp slice of focus bordered by smooth blur, a soft focus, or fun bokeh.”
Basically, what you have to do is attach the Composer Pro Optic Swap lens body to the lens mount on your camera body (finally a couple of Lensbaby products are also available as Fujifilm X-mount versions!!) and then, attach one of their Optics on top of the Composer Pro. The final configuration (in my case with the Sweet 50 Optic) will look like this:
I was testing the Sweet 50 Optic, which is an f/2.5 50mm lens, allowing you to control the amount of blur surrounding your subject by adjusting the aperture ring. The aperture ring is located on the very front of the optic. After focusing on your subject (and please keep in mind that Lensbaby lenses are manual focus only lenses!), you decide what amount of blur you want to apply to the out-of-focus areas. The bigger the aperture (lower f stop number), the smaller the area being actually in focus. Have a look at the photograph below, I chose the lowest f stop (f/2.5) to achieve this particular effect.
Another crucial feature of the Composer Pro is the fact that you can actually bend the lens itself and decide where in the image you want to locate the in-focus area. It really opens a whole new way of composing your photos. After using a Lensbaby system for a while I started thinking in a very different way: I was not only considering the depth-of-field factor when planning my photos, but also the “horizontal” importance of all the elements creating any particular scene.
In my humble opinion the Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Sweet 50 Optic is a perfect combination for someone enjoying nature photography. I got really attracted to its visual possibilities, when it comes to rendering details of plants, separating them from the rest of your image. You can achieve some pretty amazing effects and approach your photography from another angle. It is not something everyone will enjoy, but if you are this kind of photographer, who is constantly looking for new ways of expression, who is open for new creative impulses, Lensbaby can really impress you.
You will need some time to learn and understand how the Composer Pro / Sweet 50 Optic works. It is very different from a “standard” lens, after all. But once you master the principle, you will really start enjoying it. Me, personally, I found that I was getting the best results when setting the Sweet 50 at the f/4 – this was the most pleasing proportion between the in-focus-area and the blur area in my images.
As I mentioned above, Lensbaby lenses are working only in the manual focus mode. You have to switch your X-T1 to the manual focus mode (you will find the switch on the front side of the camera) and activate one of the focus assist modes (my favourite being focus peaking – red-high).
I like the Lensbaby Composer Pro / Sweet 50 Optic combo a lot. It is not the lens I would be taking out from my bag every day, but the idea of having it as an addition to my Fujinon XF arsenal sounds very appealing to me. I would be certainly taking it with me when going out photographing in the nature (woods, fields, parks etc.). For me these are the areas I can see mounting it on my camera most often. Optically it is not the sharpest of all lenses, but it really is an non-issue, as this certain smoothness (even in the in-focus-areas) only adds to the beautiful effect this lens is giving you. I can also see portrait photographers having it at hand and I will be certainly giving it a try with people’s portraits another day as well. Nicely built, it fits the black X-T1 body perfectly and balances very well. I was really impressed with what I could achieve by using this lens and I am convinced that any creative photographer would share my impressions. I can very well imagine working on a project using only Lensbaby lenses. They boost your creativity and make you thinking in a whole new way when working on your images.
There are currently four Lensbaby lenses available for the Fuji X mount: Composer Pro with Sweet 35 Optic, Composer Pro with Sweet 50 Optic, Circular Fisheye 5.8mm f/3.5 and Velvet 56mm f/1.6. There are available for purchase from the Lensbaby online store.
And here a few more test images I took during the last couple of days: