The Lensbaby 2 is a selective focus SLR camera lens making it pretty unique for the interesting effects that can be achieved with ease.
Lensbaby 2.0 Muse review – Specifications:
- Focal Length: around 50mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/2.0
- Other apertures: 2.8, 4.0, 5.6, 8.0 with aperture disks
- Construction: high refractive index, low dispersion optical glass doublet
- Minimum Focus Distance: about 12″, 0.30m
- Filter Size: 37mm
- Dimensions: 2.25″ high x 2.5″ wide, 57 x 64mm
- Weight: about 3.7 oz., 105g
- No electronic communication with cameras
The Lensbaby is available for a variety of lens mounts: Nikon F, Canon EF, Canon FD, Sony Alpha (Minolta Maxxum), Minolta manual focus, Pentax K, Leica R, Olympus 4/3rds, Olympus OM, Contax/Yashica, 42mm screw mount, so you can get one for virtually any 35mm film SLR or digital SRL camera.
The Lensbaby 2.0 Muse comes with a 37mm all metal screwing lens cap and a rear cap, along with 4 aperture disks in a carrying case and a Lenspen™ for removing them from the lens.
There are available Wide and Tele adaptors and Macro lens kits which will further extend the field of use of this lens.
Lensbaby 2.0 Muse review – Appearance:
The Lensbaby consists in a flange with the dedicated lens mount, a strong flexible plastic barrel and the front flange in which is mounted the optical system, a magnetic system for sustaining an aperture disk of your choice and the 37mm filter screw.
The lens mount is purely mechanical, used just to secure the Lensbaby to the camera, no communication is taking place between them.
The construction is really strong and the Lensbaby is practically a “solid state” affair, so it should be pretty much indestructible, apart from running over it with your car.
The Lensbaby has no focusing ring, this is done by simply collapsing or extending the flexible barrel.
The aperture is modified by changing the aperture disks in front of the optics. The shielded magnets system used to keep them in place is very well thought and made and makes changing the aperture disks a very simple maneuver.
Due to the well thought design, the front element is well shielded from the stray light, so a lens hood is not necessary.
Lensbaby 2.0 Muse review – In use:
What makes the Lensbaby unique is the center sweet spot where the sharpness is very good, surrounded by a “dreamy” area.
The diameter of the sweet spot is determined by the aperture in use, being larger with smaller apertures (from F 2.0 to F 8.0). The image quality increases also with smaller apertures as you could expect.
Due to the flexible barrel, this sweet spot can be moved inside the frame by simply bending the lens barrel, to suit any off center composition you want or any creative effect you desire.
The Lensbaby barrel is flexible enough to allow you to perform both tilt and shift of the optical system, or both at the same time.
The Lensbaby 2.0 Muse is a full frame lens so it can be used on both film and digital SLR cameras, regardless of the sensor size.
Even if the manufacturer says that the focal length is around 50mm, I think it is more like 55mm.
This makes the Lensbaby a normal lens on full frame cameras or a short portrait lens (equiv. 80mm) on APS sized dSLRs.
I played with the Lensbaby 2.0 Muse on my Fuji S3 Pro, which is a Nikon based, DX size dSLR, with a multiplication factor of 1.5.
Actually I preferred to use the lens with the multiplication factor because I think the most interesting applications are in portraits and close up photography for which the 80mm effective focal length is very useful.
The lens is quite small but since the front flange is prominent enough, the focusing and the tilt/shift maneuvers are easy enough to perform.
Basically, using both your fore fingers for added control, you focus the lens by collapsing or extending the barrel and than bend it in the direction you need to move the sweet spot in the frame.
The viewfinder feedback is quite good and because you will operate the lens at the actual aperture you chose you will be able to visually appreciate the final effect.
The Lensbaby is very well suited for a lot of uses:
- you can keep sharp only a very small portion of the face, like the eyes, or only one eye in extreme cases.
- using the Lensbaby you can easily get blurred backgrounds due to the special construction of the lens. This make taking portraits easier because you do not have to pay the usual attention choosing an appropriate background.
- you may get more interesting portraits with more common subjects 🙂
- all the considerations from the portraits apply here, just emphasized
- a wedding is the perfect place for dreamy images
- you will be able to easily deliver some unique images – just imagine the combination of a bride dress, the bouquet in the middle and nice colors from the blue sky and the green grass.
- bending the lens in the right direction can help you move the plane of focus in the position you need to achieve very creative effects.
Low light photography:
- with a maximum aperture of F 2.0, this lens can be used for available light portraits, wedding ceremony images and low light landscapes in a very effective manner.
Lensbaby 2.0 Muse review – Performance:
The Lensbaby 2.0 Muse is surprisingly sharp in the center, probably due to the “high refractive index, low dispersion optical glass doublet” claimed by the manufacturer.
Outside the center, the “dreamy” effect is very nicely rendered and I have no doubt that the perfect circular apertures are of great help here.
I would recommend to first time users to choose a moderate aperture (F 4.0 or 5.6) for the first images, since at F 2.0 the effects are pretty hard to control.
In fact, the “all manual” control you have on the strong and flexible barrel, which have to be “forced” into the desired position makes every image you take unique, meaning that it is almost impossible to exactly replicate an image taken with the Lensbaby.
Lensbaby 2.0 Muse – Conclusion:
The Lensbaby 2.0 Muse is a very welcome addition to the portrait and wedding photographer kit, offering the possibility to get unique images with very little effort.
But due to its “uniqueness” this remains a specialty lens and can not be used to replace any other lens in your arsenal.
If you will take the time to experiment, you will be rewarded with strong visual impact images, and if you are in a business of photography or just sell some week-end images you may pleasantly surprise your clients with some special images.
Compared to any prime or zoom lens in the market worth having it is quite good.
Very sharp in the center, and the well defined distinction between the “sharp” areas and the “dreamy” ones will make the impression of sharpness even stronger.
If you only have 3.5-4.5 zooms or slower, you will definitely appreciate a “special effects” F 2.0 lens and maybe the next lens on your list will be the Nikon 50/1.8, a small, very sharp, normal or small portrait lens, the only good lens which is cheaper than the Lensbaby.
Small and light:
If you find yourself using the Lensbaby quite often, you can keep it always in the bag and you will not notice it.