In my prior review of the Lensbaby 3G I said, "Every once and a while a product comes along and you really misjudge it. It may be that you are too hasty, or that you just don't understand the potential that it really brings. Or it just may be that it, over time, has matured into a really great product." Well, the Lensbaby line continues to mature and grow. They have released a number of new lenses and accessories that I am planning on looking at. This first one is called Composer.
The 3G was a bellows style of lens. That is, it is focused by moving the lens to the sweet spot and manipulating the bellows device to gain focus. The Composer is a completely new style of lens that is based on a ball and socket configuration. This provides a much smoother selective focus and affords much more ease in movement. With the 3G you had to use two hands, one to manipulate the bellows, and one to focus the sweet spot, in the Composer, you simply tilt the lens to a desired angle and focus with a traditional barrel ring.
The Composer stays in the proper angle without having to use the screw locks to hold it in place. It also is capable of using the new Lensbaby Optic Swap System which is a series of add-on lenses that can give you additional looks for your Composer. I will cover some of these in a separate review.
While I loved the 3G, the Composer is so much easier to use because of the ball joint architecture. You just push the front element of the lens one way or the other to focus your frame. There is a black ring on the mount that will allow you to adjust how tight the ball joint is and therefore how much wiggle room it has. This one you basically set it and forget it.
Once you have your frame set, you then twist on the focusing ring on the front of the lens to sharpen your focus. This is truly simple. It appears to me that the precision quality has improved since you are not trying a balancing act with two hands, but it also seems to have a sharper focus as well.
To change aperture, which will change the effect of the blur, you have these small magnetic disks that you place into the lens. The openings on the disks range from f/2 to f/22. You have a magnetic tool that is supplied which helps you remove the disk.
Because there are no electronic contacts on the Lensbaby, you have to set your camera to aperture priority mode and then let the camera set the shutter speed to get the correct exposure. You can also shoot in manual mode and handle it all yourself as well.
The lens that I worked with is for the Canon line of cameras, but they make mounts for Nikon, Sony Alpha, Minolta Maxxum, Pentax K, Samsung GX, Sigma SD Mount, and Olympus 4/3. The focal length is 50mm with a minimum focus around 18" and maximum focus at infinity. The lens itself weighs 5.5 oz (155.9 g).
As with all of the Lensbaby line, the Composer lens is geared for the creative mind. It is not something that you will use all of the time, but it certainly has created a place for itself within the professional photographer's tool kit. Sure, you could mimic some of this in Photoshop or another graphic application, but kind of like mom's pot roast and the kind you get at a diner, they are just not the same. If you want to get that home cooked creative shot, then I very highly recommend the Lensbaby Composer.