Lensbaby Composer & Fisheye Optics - Using the Lensbaby

Article Index
Lensbaby Composer & Fisheye Optics
Lensbaby Fisheye Optic
Using the Lensbaby
Photographic Examples and Final Thoughts

Using the Lensbaby:

While the uses of the Lensbaby are wide and varied, it is its usage that is a bit more tricky. First off, this is a 100% manually focused lens.  This means that you will be focusing every shot yourself so be absolutely sure that your diopter is  spot on.  The instruction booklet makes a special point of emphasizing this because an incorrectly adjusted viewfinder will result in blurry shots. An unfortunate side effect is that the Lensbaby is not that great for taking pictures of fast moving objects, such as small children or pets.

The second thing that a new user will find a little disconcerting is the light metering.  Now some cameras are a bit smarter than mine and will provide light metering in aperture priority mode but the lower end Nikons are not in that group.  With my D90 I had to use full manual mode without even a light meter readout to hint as to the efficacy of my parameters.  It was a bit awkward at first but after a while I began to develop a sense of the appropriate settings. It would still take me a few shots to zero in on the right shutter speed though. A camera that provided better light metering would have helped this situation immensely. Perhaps I'll have to consider this factor for my next body upgrade.  (Come on Nikon get with the video thing!) 
Lensbaby Composer w/f4 Aperature
Lensbaby Composer w/f4 Aperature

Another interesting thing about these lenses is the way that they handle aperture.  The discerning reader will have noticed that each optic element comes with its own set of aperture disks. Now, some of you old salts will laugh at me, but I've been using n00b lenses for my entire sojourn with the SLR so the idea of changing aperture manually came as somewhat of a shock. Of course I'm familiar with the concept of aperture (mostly with depth of field) but the Lensbaby employs this part of the optical triad with a slightly different twist. For the double glass optic, aperture controls the size of the focal area. The smaller the aperture (larger F number) the smaller the sweet focus spot will be. For the fisheye optic, the aperture controls how sharp the image will be overall.  The larger your aperture the softer the image will be. In some senses this is not so different from ordinary lenses which tend to start off soft but sharpen up as you step them down. Changing the aperture disks is a fairly simple - but time consuming - affair involving a magnet which is used to extract the existing aperture disk  and to place the new in its place.


As mentioned before, one of the unique aspects of the Lensbaby composer is its ability to swap optic elements.  The bottom of optic case serves as an extractor tool which is used to rotate the existing optic releasing it and allowing for the insertion of a new one.  This procedure is not complicated but the same care must be observes as when replacing a lens. A missing optic element leaves your camera's sensor open to the elements, a situation which should be minimized.

In case you haven't gotten it by this point, the Lensbaby is a very manual affair. While I would consider this one of its' downsides,  it did have the benefit of forcing me to get used to all aspects of my camera. It was a time consuming process but in the end I am glad for the betterment of my knowledge that it provided.

On the last page we'll show some examples of the Lensbaby Double-Glass and Fisheye Optics in use on the Composer.  Finally, we'll wrap up with our thoughts.