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Product Review: Optic Kit From Lensbaby, Inc.

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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. It also 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 third one is the Lensbaby Optic Kit.

Unlike the prior two reviews, this one is not so much about a lens, but rather about a set of accessories for the prior two lenses as well as upcoming Control Freak, the evolution of the Lensbaby 3G. In this kit you get three different items: a single glass optic, a plastic optic, and a pinhole/zone plate.

Lensbaby ComposerThese are available as a kit as I am testing, but they can also be purchased separately. As a set they really add to your toolkit of specialty tools ranging from a dreamy look, to a rough and raw, to a vintage camera feel. As with everything Lensbaby, they are easy to use.

Since my Composer and Muse came installed with the Double Glass optic (the green stripe) I used the extraction tool to remove it from my Composer. To do this, you extend the lens till it is flush with the body, insert the extractor's feet into the slots and turn counterclockwise which loosens the Double Glass lens. Tilting it forward it slides out easily. I then put the replacement optic into the housing, again using the extractor, tightened it clockwise and was ready to go. You can also see a demo video on how this is done by clicking on the "how-to-use" link and then "watch video".

Like the Double glass system, the plastic and the single glass system also are capable of using the aperture rings for adjusting the aperture. The Pinhole/Zone lens, as one would expect by name, has its own preset apertures and therefore do not accept the rings.

Single Glass Optic is similar to the primitive optic that you would find in an antique camera. It is great for doing fine art, portraiture, black and white images, and any kind of shot that requires a subtle, soft, dreamy effect. This lens is 50mm focal length, it is an uncoated double convex optical glass singlet, ships with a clear plastic case, is compatible with the Composer, Muse, and Control Freak, and sells individually for $34.95.

Plastic Optic is made for toy camera plastic fanatics. This is the softest optic of the Lensbaby line and creates ethereal photos with abundant chromatic aberration. This lens is 50mm focal length, it is an uncoated double convex plastic singlet, it ships with a clear plastic case, and is compatible with the Composer, Muse, and Control Freak and sells individually for $34.95.

Pinhole/Zone Plate will let you create pinhole or zone plate photos. In either mode you capture softer focus, dreamy images that are equally sharp from edge to edge. The Pinhole aperture is f/177, and the Zone Plate aperture is f/19. It too is 50mm, ships with a clear plastic case and is compatible with the Composer, Muse, and Control Freak, and sells individually for $34.95.

If you want to get a better feel for what the different lenses of the Optic Kit can give you check out the Optic comparison on the Lensbaby Web site. You can also check out the online photo gallery at Lensbaby to get an idea of what others have done with the Optic Kit and lenses. Also keep in mind that to use this Optic Kit you will need to own one of the new lenses that come with the Optic Swap system which include the Composer, the Muse, and the Control Freak.

As with all of the Lensbaby line, the Optic Kit 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 other 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 Optic Kit.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.