Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review January 2017
My Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review is based on my experiences using a Lensbaby Composer mounted on an Olympus Four Thirds Camera, the E400.
What’s in the bag?
The Lensbaby Optic Swap System comprises of three interchangeable optics as listed below
- Plastic Optic
- Single Glass Optic
Included with this are the aperture discs in a case which incorporates the magnetic tool to remove them from the optic.
Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review
The Composer works on a simple idea of a ball and socket. You manually focus using the focussing ring on the Composer, to then adjust the angle of the lens you simply twist the locking ring and start to swivel and tilt until the desired effect is obtained. You then rotate the locking ring to secure the lens and take the photo.
By adjusting the angle that the lens is in relation to the camera body alters the area of focus, creating a small ‘sweet spot’ (as Lensbaby aptly named this) of focus. You are bending light! This relies on the lens fitted, as the lens focusses the beams of light onto the camera sensor.
The Composer is a hybrid of aluminium and plastic and was designed as the mid-range entry into the world of Lensbaby, with the Muse being the entry level and Control Freak as the high-end mount. Subsequently the Composer has been replaced by the Composer Pro II mount with an all metal body and improved swivel/tilt capabilities. The Muse came with the plastic optic as standard, the Composer Pro II and Control Freak are supplied with the double glass optic.
Each optic comes supplied in its own sturdy plastic container, complete with protective lens cloth. The lid of the container is the optic swap tool, having 3 lugs that lock into place to remove the optic from the Lensbaby mount.
Simply take the lid of the container, adjust the Composer so that the optic is sitting flush, whilst holding the mount securely, locate the 3 lugs into the 3 corresponding slots. Apply light pressure and twist gently – the optic will be loose of the mount. To fit another optic, simply drop it into the mount and use the optic swap tool to lock it into place.
The Plastic Optic is the basic lens in the range, giving a very soft focus effect on the images. The clarity of this can in all honesty be a little disappointing to photographers new to Lensbaby. I would recommend starting out with the Single Glass Optic to gain confidence and experience.
As mentioned above, the Single Glass Optic is (in my opinion) the better optic to begin your journey, as the glass lens gives a much clearer image. The closest you can focus with these lenses is 50mm, the maximum is infinity. The depth of field is dependent on the size of aperture disc inserted, the larger the hole, the shallower the focal point is in the image.
Pinhole/ZonePlate has an ethereal effect and is best used in brightly lit controlled environments, using a tripod for long exposures to allow enough light for the image. This can take a little time to get used to and work with, but the results are very worthwhile.
As this is not a true optic or lens (see images below) you cannot use the swivel/tilt that the Lensbaby system is known for. As described earlier, to bend the image, a lens is required for the effect.
The name Pinhole is reminiscent of the early days of photography, with pinhole cameras and long exposure times/slow shutter values.
Pinhole gives an effective aperture of F/177, ZonePlate works at F/19. It is possible to take photos using ZonePlate whilst out walking, best effects are created using a tripod and in more controlled conditions.
Changing the Aperture
(Or how to adjust your Depth of Field)
Insertion/removal of aperture discs is also something which is easily done whilst you are outdoors, but again with great care. Inserting the discs is simple – select the aperture you require and drop the disc in front of the optic, F number face up.
They plastic coated and magnetised. Inside the optic body are 3 metal ‘retainers’ which secure the disc in front of the lens. To remove, first take the end cap off the removal tool to expose the magnet and then place the magnetic tool onto the aperture disc and gently withdraw.
The larger the hole, the smaller the ‘F’ number on the disc resulting in a shallow depth of field. The smaller the hole, the larger ‘F’ number on the disc resulting in an increased depth of field. In simple terms, if you have an increased depth of field, more of the image is in focus. The shallow depth of field results in lots of beautiful blurring.
The Lensbaby Optic Swap System is an introduction into the world of Lensbaby, there are other optics available for this system, listed below.
- Double Glass Optic
- Sweet 35
- Edge 50
- Edge 80
- Fisheye (complete with bespoke aperture discs)
- Super Wide Angle 0.42 X
- Wide Angle/Telephoto Kit
Lensbaby also have the following range of accessories to compliment the system.
Creative Aperture Discs
With the Creative Aperture Disc used, you are able to create images with stunning bokeh, in the shape of hearts, stars and swirls to name a few.
Macro Adapters +4 and +10
These are designed to fit on the optic allowing for extreme close up work, allowing for magnification of the subject by +4 and +10. Coupled with the shallow depth of field and sweet spot, some very amazing photos can be created at this magnification level.
Lensbaby System Bag
Designed to allow you to attach additional bags to as your Lensbaby Optic and Accessory collection grows. Each bag holds up to 4 of the Optics in their containers and has a zip fastener, shoulder strap and secure pockets on the inside of the top of the bag.
Composer Protective Case
Simply a toughened case, which has a clamshell opening to protect your Composer and Optic. This has a zip fastener and is padded on the inside. Highly recommended.
Lensbaby have also written a book on this niche in photography which is available to buy from many online retail stores.
Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review – in Summary
Although updated by Lensbaby, I am more than happy with my pre-loved Composer, proving the build quality of the mount, locking into position as you would expect. I have no plans to replace this for the foreseeable future; the reliability of this illustrating how good the Lensbaby brand is.
I am a little unsure why Lensbaby made the plastic optic, as I have never been completely satisfied with the results from this lens. The Optic Swap System is an affordable, fun way to grow your creativity and skills with whilst you are taking photos that stand out from the crowd.
This system is very lightweight, therefore easily carried whilst walking/hiking, swapping lenses is very simple to do on the fly, just be careful not to allow any dust or debris to enter the camera. It is a very well made, durable system.
To grow my creativity and further my understanding of the Lensbaby Optic Swap System, I have just purchased a Control Freak mount to further feed my passion for that elusive ‘sweet spot’ within the world of macro photography. This will be fun and I will be sure to share my adventures with you.
For further inspiration please see my previous article
Thank you for reading my Lensbaby Optic Swap System Review.