A lensbaby is a photography lens that is intended for photographers who are looking to get creative, surreal effects for their photographs. The main feature of a lensbaby is the ability to tilt the lens. Shown below is the lensbay composer (before and after the tilt)
In case of a normal lens, the focal plane of the lens is parallel to the sensor plane. After tilting the lens, the focal plan of the lens is no longer parallel to the sensor plan. This gives surreal dreamy effect to the out of focus areas. The effect can also be achieved by using the Tilt and Shift lenses from Canon and Nikon (They cost a fortune though).
Given below is a sample picture. I have taken the picture from the following link (which is a good read for more information on lensbaby)
In all lensbaby lenses (except for the fish-eye optic), there is a sweet spot (area in sharp focus). The sweet spot is normally in the center of the frame. The size of the sweet spot is controlled by the aperture. The wider the aperture, smaller is the sweet spot. The lensbaby (Except for the 35mm optic) does not feature inbuilt aperture blades like a normal lens. The aperture in case of a lensbaby, consists of a number discs with different size openings corresponding to the different aperture values like (F/4, F/5.6, and so on). To change the aperture, a suitable disc needs to be dropped into the lens. The max aperture is F/2.8 (no disc in the lens) and the minimum aperture is F/22. For the pinhole optic, it is F/177. Since the aperture is a disc that needs to be inserted, it is possible to get custom shapes like heart, stars etc. One can also purchase a set of blank disc and punch in the shape of one’s choice.
When the lens is tilted, the sweet spot moves from the center of the frame.
The lensbaby consists of different types holders (these hold the optics) like the composer (shown above), muse and control freak. There different kinds of optics available. These optics give the different effects. Some of the optics are:
- Double glass optic - 50mm focal length, has a sharp sweet spot and the lenses are coated to remove flare.
- Single glass optic – 50mm focal length, no coatings on the glass. Used to create effects of olden time photos.
- Fish-eye optic – 12mm focal length – gives the fisheye effect.
- Pin-hole optic – simulate the effects of the pinhole camera. Has a fixed aperture of F/177.
- And so on.