In my prior review of the Lensbaby 3G, I said, "Every once in 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 its potential. Or it may be that over time, it 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 examining. This second one is called Muse.
The Lensbaby 3G was a bellows style of lens. It is focused by moving the lens to the sweet spot and manipulating the bellows device to gain focus. The Muse is a similar style of lens; it also uses a bellows configuration. Like the 3G, you bend the Muse to find the sweet spot, but instead of locking it down, you let your personal muse take control of what comes out of the camera.
Like the Lensbaby Composer, the Lensbaby Muse (pictured at left) comes with the new Optic Swap System that gives you an unlimited range of looks. This one includes two different options. One is with very clear glass and the other has a plastic lens to give a dreamier look to your image.
You install the Muse on your camera as you would any other lens, but 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.
To change aperture, which will change the effect of the blur, you have small magnetic disks that you place into the lens. The openings on the disks range from f/2 to f/8. There is a magnetic tool supplied to help you remove the disk.
Once everything is set, you set your thumbs behind the camera and use your fingers on the bellows to set the sweet spot (the focus point), and then you shoot. It is really just that easy.
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 12" and maximum focus at infinity. The lens itself weighs 2.7 oz (104 g). Apertures are f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, and f/8.
Like the rest of the Lensbaby line, the Muse 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. You could mimic some of this in Photoshop or other graphic application, but 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 Muse.