Falling in Love with Lensbaby – How I shoot.

By Posted in - Europe & How I Shoot & Photo Journal & Photography Posts & Photography Tips & Travel Gear & Travel Resources on August 21st, 2012

It’s time for a new How I Shoot article!

I have some great news – this month I am reviewing a new lens – my new Composer Pro from Lensbaby! Yay!!

The one and only Lensbaby Composer Pro! It bends!

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What is Lensbaby you ask?

Well for starters it’s a lens that moves. Yup, you heard me right – it’s bends, tilts, and rolls all around – I’m serious!

The result is the ability to take some truly one of a kind, unique photos. You take a photo with Lensbaby and you can pretty much guarantee that NO ONE else is going to have the same photo as you.

This lens is instant out-of-the-box creativity. I’ve been eying them for several years and I wrote to the folks at Lensbaby to see if they were interested in sponsoring a How I Shoot installment in exchange for a lens. Much to my excitement they said yes and they sent me not only a lens but an entire kit! I’ve been playing with it ever since and I seem to fall more in love with it each time I put it on my camera.

So what do I have to say about this fun photo find?

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THE PROS:

1. It’s Bad Ass

Instant vintage appeal in Vienna.

Seriously, no other lens you own can do what this lens can do. You might be able to replicate some of the effect while post processing and you and I both know that it will take FOREVER. If you don’t know that – just take my word for it. Doing major edits (i.e. creating unique blurs & vintage effects) in Photoshop is not a quick task. Lensbaby takes away all the editing pain and gives you these unique effects right in the camera. I LOVE that. This is quickly becoming my go-to lens for photos that I want to not only look unique but that I don’t have time to do a lot of editing on. The images look so great right off the camera I spend a fraction of the time I normally spend on other photos working on them. It’s saving me a ton of post processing time and who doesn’t like more time in the field instead of in front of the computer?

Rolling in a dream state with Gaudi in Barcelona.

2. Diversity

This kit has it in droves, from Holga style to pinhole optics the looks you can achieve with one lens are vastly different. You can use this kit for years and still find a new way to shoot. In fact, I have barely scratched the surface of it. I’ve been working with one particular optic and just started incorporating some bokeh effects. After months I’m just getting ready to branch into a different optic. The Lensbaby options are endless.

The entire Lensbaby kit – Lens, four interchangable optics, wide angle & telephoto converters, macro filters, bokeh & aperture discs. It’s a camera party in a box!

 

3. Lightweight & Small

This lens is teeny tiny and because the optics are removable it’s extremely lightweight. It’s perfect for travel! It takes up very little room and the light weight means that it’s always in my camera bag for a quick and unique lens change.

The lensbaby is small and compact and the interchangeable optics switch out quickly.

 

4. Manual Interaction

You know I’m a big proponent of Getting Out of Auto and learning to use the manual settings on your camera. If dealing with the F/stops (aka aperture) on your dSLR confuses you, don’t worry – it won’t with the Lensbaby. Why? Because in order to use Lensbaby you have to manually insert your f/stops!

No, you don’t just punch a button on your camera you actually insert a small metal disk into the lens with the f/stop you want. Fantastic and so easy – I love it! Too bright? Pop in a small aperture disk and limit the amount of light entering your lens. Too dark? Use a large aperture or better yet – don’t use any aperture at all! This simple, back to basics technique is 100% hands on and teaches you how aperture affects your exposure and your depth of field. If you were flustered by F-stops before, the Lensbaby will take you back old school and prove to you how simplistic it really is.

Be confused by aperture no more! You can see here f/2.8 gives you plenty of light where as f/22 just a teeny bit. Pick whichever aperture disc you need to make your photo come to life!

Use the small magnetic stick to insert your aperture or bokeh discs.

 

Composer Pro with f/4 aperture disc inserted.

5. Wide Angle or Macro – all in one itty bitty lens!

Lensbaby with telephoto converter attached.

This kit doesn’t lock you into a shooting rut. Simply pop on a converter and you’ve got a brand new look! Go wide for a landscape, macro for a close up. Use the tele-converter filters to get even closer! That’s pretty cool if you ask me.

6. Bokeh Baby!

Included in this kit are tons of cute little bokeh discs that you can manually insert into the lens (just like you would an aperture disc) for whatever effect your little heart desires. In fact there are a couple blanks included so you can even cut out some shapes of your own for total creative control! Love that!

I love the Lensbaby treatment on the photo from Venice! I absolutely love Venice and so I added little bokeh hearts to the glimmering ripples of the Grand Canal. How cool does that look?!

7. Dual Functionality

The tops of the plastic cases for the optics double as the key you need to remove the optics although I’ll admit it took me a while to figure this one out! There’s also a little magnetic stick used to insert (and remove) the f/stop and bokeh discs. The end of the magnetic stick comes with a special place for holding the discs and it’s topped off with an old fashion film canister top – so nostalgic! It’s small and fits right into your bag or pocket for quick changes. I am a softie for anything with a dual functionality and adding this little perk to the Lensbaby just makes it that much more unique and fun.

The black tops of these canisters are the keys for removing the optics from the lens.

THE CONS:

I’ll admit there really aren’t many. I love this thing.

1. It Takes Time

It takes a good bit of playing with this lens to understand it so expect to spend some time playing with it. A lot of lenses are like this so it isn’t really a con but I wanted to point it out. Yes, you will get creative shots the minute you put it on your camera but plan to spend some time fiddling with it so you can get GREAT creative shots that you love. Some types of images look better than others and getting a feel for all the options can take a while to figure out. You can’t really complain about having a lot of options though can you?

2. It’s not a Precise Lens

It’s not the most precise lens on the block by any stretch of the imagination but it isn’t supposed to be. Coloring in the lines is NOT the point of this lens – the idea of the Lensbaby is to experiment, have fun and GET CREATIVE. This isn’t the lens to use if you want minutely exact shots. In fact if you’re the type of person who likes being exact with your photos you might get more use out of the Muse Lensbaby instead of the Composer Pro. The Muse is designed to be more precise. In any case, the lack of precision isn’t a con of this lens. In fact, I think it’s actually a perk. The Composer forces me to be a bit more flexible in how I shoot and to think more about what and how I’m shooting. It also helps me think about the bigger picture about how having a certain look can go a long way in creating unity in your images. The nature of the Composer Lensbaby isn’t technical precision it’s creative fun and any lens that forces me to go outside the box a lot more often than I normally do is a friend of mine.

I don’t really believe either of these things are cons but I wanted to point them out for anyone who is thinking of buying the Lensbaby Composer or the full kit because I know everyone has different aspects of photography that appeal to them.

I’m Loving the Lensbaby!

It took a bit for me to get shots I wanted from the Lensbaby but it was this photo from Cappadocia that started my full on love affair with this lens.

It was in the middle of a hike in Cappadocia, Turkey when I truly started to fall in love with my Lensbaby. I couldn’t believe the cool images I was getting out of the camera and I actually had to force myself to remove it at one point to take a more typical landscape style shot. I didn’t want to!

This lens is so much fun to use and there are so many options that it just gets the creative juices flowing in ways you can’t imagine. You start seeing ordinary objects in a new light saying to yourself “I bet that would look really awesome with the Lensbaby!”

One word of warning though – if you’re traveling with a friend or partner tell them to bring a book! They will undoubtedly get bored watching you shoot the same thing over and over and over again with different results. Randy learned this lesson the hard way and whenever the Lensbaby comes out now he sits down and pulls out a book or starts taking his own Iphone photos. It’s addicting for sure.

Ever since I received the Lensbaby this lovely little lens has been taking pictures with me everywhere. I shot an entire cruise down the Bosphorous River in Turkey with this lens and tomorrow I have a photo essay coming out of Lensbaby photos from Europe so stay tuned for more unique photos taken with this lens.

I really love my Lensbaby and highly recommend it if you are looking for a fun lens that will help you shoot creatively.

If you’re curious and you want to learn more or purchase your own, I highly suggest you visit the Lensbaby website and watch some of their fantastic online tutorials.

Lensbaby making magic out of a local tram and crowded streets in Istanbul.

 

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*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!

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(8) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • RyukyuMike -

    August 21, 2012 at 2:41 am

    One awesome looking lens, photos and review. I can see you’re having a blast with the kit and I shared to word all the way around for ya.

  • Angela -

    August 21, 2012 at 2:42 am

    Wow – lovely effects with this lens..

  • Susan @ Travel Junkette -

    August 21, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Wow – this looks like a lot of fun! I may just have to try one out. Thanks for the review!

  • Rachel -

    August 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Loved your photos and loved the review! Heard about the lensbaby a few years ago too 🙂 but it was quite expensive plus I am not that great a photographer. Hah.

  • Andrea -

    August 21, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    How fun! I want one!!

  • Stephanie – The Travel Chica -

    August 24, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Wow! I had never heard of Lensbaby before. I might be adding this to my Christmas list 🙂

  • Keith -

    September 3, 2012 at 3:46 am

    Your craze for phtography and the camera is seen through this post, you have got this amazing collection of various lenses which can be used to capture some really beautiful pictures. I like your post very much and thanks a lot for sharing it.

  • Helen -

    April 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Need that right now!
    My photography needs some real work and I think this will help me make it more interesting.
    Great review, thank you for sharing!