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Lensbaby Composer lens review (Nikon mount)

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Overview

Lensbaby's Composer model is a 50mm lens where the glass elements can be swiveled around just like a ball head and achieve selective focus only in portions of the frame. Some of the results produced with the Composer are similar to a real tilt shift lens. The box contains the lens with front and back lens caps, lens pouch and the interchangeable, magnetic aperture disks:

The Lensbaby Composer has manual focus and... a real manual aperture - you change it by swapping the magnetic disks on the front of the lens:

The lens comes with a special magnetic tool that lets you replace the magnetic aperture rings varying from f/2.8 - f/22 (f/2 aperture is when there is no ring attached to the lens):

The Lensbaby Composer lens has a metal mount:

In addition to the manual focus ring, the Composer has also a second ring that lets you tighten the position of the lens. The lens has extra space in the front that is used for additional accessories/lenses and serves also as a lens hood:

How it works

After you attach the Lensababy Composer, you can set your camera to aperture priority or manual mode and use the TTL metering to make the necessary adjustments.

After playing with this lens for few weeks, my recommendation is to first focus and then take multiples shots while you are "swiveling" the lens in all direction. Make sure you make any focus adjustments if needed between the different exposures. The results will be unpredictable at the beginning until you get used to the lens, so it is good idea to cover all possible "angles". I also noticed that extreme "tilts" (where you push the lens to the maximum movable position) on a DX camera usually do not bring good results, because the whole frame becomes out of focus (unless you want something really abstract).

What I like

  • Inexpensive (for a full frame lens), small, light, fun, unpredictable.
  • The Lensbaby Composer is unpredictable, which is part of the fun.
  • Compatible with the Lensbaby Optic Swap System.

What I don't like

  • Lack of built-in aperture ring (how much more expensive will be to add a real aperture ring?)
  • 50mm focal length is ok for full frame, but it is a bit "tight" on DX format. It would be nice if Lensbaby creates a wide angle version of the Composer (they do have a separate fisheye product called Scout and other accessories that are compatible with the Composer).

Specifications

  • Double Glass (Multi-coated Optical Glass Doublet) included
  • Focal Length: about 50 mm
  • Focus Type: Manual
  • Aperture Type: Interchangeable, magnetic aperture disks
  • Apertures: f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22
  • Minimum Focus: about 18" (45cm) / Maximum Focus: infinity
  • Size: 2.25"(5.7cm) h x 2.5"(6.35cm) w / Weight: 3.7 oz (104.9g)
  • No electronic communication between the lens and the camera body (automatic light metering is possible by shooting in aperture priority mode for almost all digital and film SLR camera bodies except certain Nikon bodies including the D40, D50, D60, D70, D70S, D80, D90, D100, N50, N65, N70, N75, N80, Kodak 14N and ProN, & Fuji S1, S2, and S3)
  • Available in mounts for Canon EF (EOS), Nikon F, Sony Alpha A/Minolta, Pentax K/Samsung GX, Olympus E1/Panasonic Lumix DMC cameras
  • Price: $269.95

Samples gallery

Related links:

If you have shot with a Lensbaby before and have some pictures online, please add the link as a comment to this post - I am just curious to see what other people have achieved with this lens.

Disclose: Lensbaby is a sponsor of nikonrumors.com. The reviewed product(s) were loaned from B&H who is an affiliate sponsor of NikonRumors.com.
This entry was posted in Nikon Lenses, [NR] Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • texasjoe

    At 269 it’s a steel.

    • texasjoe

      *steal. Not steel. It’s plastic.

      • Global

        Hm… thanks for the review. Not liking it for my tastes.

        • I Am Nikon

          same.

          Bokeh™ can do this easily. And that cost like a little compared to this.

  • Paul
    • texasjoe

      Those portraits look cool.

    • MLWadester

      I like these quite a bit. Impressive.

  • Ronan

    Way overpriced.

    Add $100-$150 and you can get a real tilt & shift made by the Russians.

    Way better than that Lensbaby…

    • Jimmy Lamont

      Ronan, which lens are you referring to? I’d like to see a link.

      • Ronan

        Sure thing, get yourself a MC ARAX 2.8/80mm Tilt & Shift lens.

        Its up to $400 on ebay, new.

        I have had mine for awhile, for the price you CAN’T beat it. It’s a couple times better than that Lensbaby crap, and works very similarly to the Canon tilt & shift.

      • baked bananas

        @ jimmy. Google arax lenses.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/7904589@N02/ Zenndott

      The Hartblei lenses, perhaps? (Spelling?) I’s love one of the Super rotators for Nikon, but not at $4000 a pop. (I wish Nikon tilt-shifts were constructed like the newest Canon ones. Who knows when they will refresh these, as the present versions are only a few years old. Ahhhh…….)

      • PHB

        There is probably more hope of getting the mount changed – they don’t need to change the lens formula, just fix the mount.

        It should be possible to tilt /shift in independent planes. Would not be hard to do, I could knock up a solution for them.

        • Drab

          Please do. ;)
          The Nikon offerings in T&S (should say T/S) are weak.

  • http://micahmedia.com Micah

    How about mit video? : D

  • KOK Yoon Lee

    Here are some photos I took yesterday with a Lensbaby Control Freak on my D200.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kokyl/sets/72157625759657273/

    Yoon Lee

  • SLRist

    It’s not that unpredictable really. If you were shooting with a D700 instead of a D300, you’d be able to compose the shot far more easily, as the viewfinder is far larger. I’ve used this lens successfully on my D700 with no problems.

    • Eric

      Admin :

      If you tilt the lens to the right, you’ll only be able to achieve focus on the right part of the frame. Using the focus ring or changing the distance to the subject won’t change this fact.

      So :

      * compose
      * tilt the lens to the appropriate direction (if the subject in the upper third part of the frame, tilt the lens upwards etc…)
      * focus with the focus ring
      * shoot

      • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

        I couldn’t get anything in focus if I tilt all the way in either direction even if I re-adjust the focus after the tilt.

        • randy

          did you test it with a dx camera? if so, when you push the lensbaby to the far ends, the focus point will be out of range. on an fx camera, the ends of the range will sit near the edges of the frame. since these areas are outside the dx frame, everything is going to seem out of focus, no matter how much you fiddle with the focus ring.

          • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

            yes, on a DX camera – that’s probably the case. This means also that you can get much more interesting shots on a FX camera

  • http://www.BogdanSandulescu.Ro fotograf nunta Iasi

    Very interesting lens. Thx for review. ;)

  • http://www.truphotos.com gnohz

    Thanks for the review. Nice effects :)

  • http://steven.at Steven

    Thanks for the review! I still have a 2.0 version Lensbaby that I like to take out for a photo walk once in a while. I really love the effect, going away from super perfect digital photographs …

    so slow & Electricity

  • http://steven.at Steven

    Electricity & so slow

    I really like my 2.0 version of the lensbaby, going away from the super perfect digital photos

  • Mike

    Interesting review, I’m considering to get a lensbaby for a while. However, the article states that the lens is similar to a tilt-shift lens – it doesn’t look like this lens allows shifts, correct?

    • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

      You are correct, it’s only a “tilt” lens – I said “tilt-shift” because this is how those lenses are known.

  • Richard Ball

    Why waste money on these carnival novelties when these kind of effects can be produced by software?

    • Nicola

      You are correct.It’s not the tutorial,its the lens itself which is a total nonsense.
      Pick any between 50 1.8D or 35 1.8G(or *whatever* lens you like) then Start->Photoshop->Filters and you can tune your effect however you like,and go back and try again infinite times.
      And you can do that also with GIMP,which is free.
      And by using a real lens,you’ll keep all the optical qualities and features of a REAL lens.

      • Eric

        Not the same, just for the reason that it’s fun to shoot with the Composer, less so to fire up PS for every picture.

  • http://xn--dobo-j6a.eu Jozef Dobos

    Describing a product (i.e. by copying in specs) and writing a bullet-point list of what one likes and dislikes is not a review. Admin, you’re devaluing your own website.

    • Nau

      haters gone hate

    • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

      I was thinking to do the whole sharpness test chart, light falloff, etc. but this lens is for effect, not for high IQ. I used to call those “hands-on”, not sure why I called this one a review.

  • farb.rauschen

    Here some pics I did the past couple a years with that lens
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/27467013@N08/tags/lensbaby/

    Regards
    Mike

  • http://www.botikario.net Botikario
  • eric yip

    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=602091741&aid=311969

    Here are some with a variety of lenses that came with the promo creative pack in Singapore – fisheye, single lens, pinhole etc.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephanrudolph D700User

    Here are my examples with the Lensbaby Composer:

    http://www.flickriver.com/photos/stephanrudolph/tags/lensbaby/

    great toy, works very nice with the D700.
    Nice review.

  • Albert

    Hi, here are some of my Lensbaby shots. Still getting the hang of it…
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fi_chince/tags/lensbaby

  • http://tysonrobichaudphotography.wordpress.com Tyson

    Actually, one of the best benefits to the Lensbaby system is being able to add on different optics. The review incorrectly mentions that the “Scout” is the fisheye, which is incorrect. The Scout is a fixed barrel that comes with the fisheye optic. The fisheye optic (along with the soft focus, plastic, pinhole/zoneplate, and single glass) can all be used with the Composer which ships with the double glass optic. They have other add ons like macro filters, creative apertures, etc that can all be utilized as well.

    It might not be something for everyone, but I use a couple different LB’s and with the various optics, the system is a very cheap, kitschy and fun way to diversify any set up. I just reviewed the new Tilt Transformer for the NEX system which is also cool in that it doubles as an F mount adapter allowing any F mount lens to be used as a tilt lens on a NEX or micro 4/3 camera. Unfortunately, the Tilt Transfomer F mount adapter is only available for the MILCs and not for any standard mounts… My article is on my blog linked above :)

  • Dennis Marshall

    I agree experimentation is needed. I’ve got a Composer on my D300S and while I find a low percentage of photos are successful, the ones that are make the time invested worthwhile.

  • http://BLOG.UNIQUEPHOTO.COM MIKE

    Nice review admin, I agree 100% about the aperture ring. I did a similar review on our blog including all the other accessories and it quickly became a pain in the ass trying to keep all the aperture rings together and switch them while shooting. It’s a fun little toy, but a wee bit expensive IMHO.

  • http://bpowersphotography.com Brian

    Here are a few I did in the studio with the original lensbaby with an f4 ring in it. It was challenging shooting a moving target and then trying to hold the focus at the same time, but I also liked being able to adjust on the fly without having to loosen and re-tighten the lens.
    http://bdpowers.blogspot.com/2010/03/mvps.html

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/speednutdave/ Dave

    Recently started playing with the aperture rings in my Lensbaby Composer and had some fun with light painting over the Holidays. Yields very creative results that I’d never get with my sharp pro glass.

    Some examples:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/speednutdave/5387104658/lightbox/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/speednutdave/5387104514/lightbox/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/speednutdave/5386499901/lightbox/

  • SDiggity

    @ NR – I agree, the 50mm lens on the Composer would be tight on a DX format camera. But doesn’t the Tilt Transformer rectify the situation by allowing the photog to use a 35mm lens? Can the Tilt Transformer perform all the same effects that the Composer delivers?

    • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

      the Tilt Transformer is available only for m4/3 – basically it lets you use Nikon lenses on cameras with m4/3 mount, the crop factor will be even bigger in that case

      • SDiggity

        Ahhh…I guess this seemed like a silly question. Hopefully they will offer the Tilt Transformer for Nikon DSLR bodies. I know I’d buy one. Thanks for the reply NR!

    • Drab

      Maybe to use FX lenses on DX, but the image circle of the typical lens is too small to allow in in-line tilt addition.

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