The "lensbaby" is a simple, single element lens mounted in a flexible housing
which allows it not only to be focused, but tilted as well. Yes, it's a tilt lens
too. That should make those Holga owners green with envy! The aperture can be
varied from f2.8 to f8 via the use of a series of fixed aperture stops. You
change stops by removing a rubber retaining ring, changing the stop (which looks
like a washer) and replacing the rubber retaining ring.
"lensbaby" consists of two machined, black anodized, aluminum assemblies. The
rear assembly is either an EOS or Nikon-F mount. The front assembly holds the
lens and aperture stop and comes with a machined, screw in lens cap which is
probably sturdy enough to stop a rifle bullet. None of your cheap plastic lens
caps here! The two assemblies are joined by a flexible, corrugated, black plastic
tube - something like a short section of vacuum cleaner hose. This flexible
coupling allows the lens to be focused by compression and also allows the lens to
be tilted by compressing one side more than the other. You can't really simulate
much of a shift function since the coupling is pretty resistant to lateral
shifting. Infinity focus is possible when the coupling is fully compressed, but
when it's fully compressed you can't tilt it. The focal length is approximately
Being a single element lens, the image is very soft, especially away from the
center, when used at full aperture. You can change the plane of "focus" and move
the "sweet spot" of the lens by simultaneously tilting and compressing the lens.
As you "stop down", the lens gets sharper and the "sweet spot" gets larger.
Focal Length: right around 50 mm
Focus Type: Manual. Fingertip, actually
Aperture Type: Interchangeable
Aperture: f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8
Nominal Focus: approximately 1 foot
Minimum Focus: about 12”
Maximum Focus: infinity and beyond
Size/Weight: 2.25" high x 2.5" wide / 3.5 oz.
The "Lensbaby" is available in both Canon EOS and Nikon F mounts. The price is
$96 and it carries a 30 day "money back if you don't like it" return policy and a
1 year warranty against manufacturing defects.
Using the lensbaby
It takes a bit of manual dexterity to use the "lensbaby:. You have to compress
the lens to focus it, and apply tilt if you want an extra "effect" and that's
most easily done by holding the camera body in both hands and using the two
middle fingers of each hand on either side of the lens. You can then get
the index finger of your right hand on the shutter release, but it can be a bit
of a struggle, or at least require a little practice. This is more of an art than
The EOS mount on the sample I used worked fine, but it allowed the lens to be
rotated either to the right or left when mounted on the camera. Normally you can
only rotate an EOS lens to the right and with 90 degree rotation it snaps into
place. The lensbaby does that just fine. To remove an EOS lens you press the lens
release button, rotate the lens to the left until it hits the stop (90 degrees)
and remove it. With the lensbaby it doesn't hit a stop. If you rotate it 90
degrees to the left you can remove it from the body. If you rotate it more then
that (which you can with the lensbaby) you can't remove it. This isn't a problem,
but can be a source of confusion at first when you can't seem to get it off the
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people like fuzzy
"Holga" type images. Others just see them as out of focus shots taken with a poor
quality lens. If you belong to the former group then the "lensbaby" may be just
what you are looking for, while if you belong to the latter it certainly won't
be. There are those who can create art by using the "qualities" of the lens (or
lack of them) to their advantage - and there are those who can't. I may fall into
the latter group here, but here are a few example shots. You may find
significantly more artistic images on the
Lensbabies website. I'd say that the "lensbaby"
is probably more useful for semi macro type shots than "infinity landscape"
images. at least that's what I found. It's tough to judge the amount of blur from
small resized images so I've included one 100% crop section. I've made 4x6"
prints that look quite nice. I'm not sure that they'd stand up so well to 8x12
printing on most images, but I could be wrong. I'm not that experienced with
Holga or "lensbaby" type images. BTW this lens would probably make "Bokeh"
fanatics quite happy. Out of focus areas (and there will be a lot of them) tend
to be smooth and structureless.
Above is a full frame shot using an EOS 10D and an "f5.6"
Below is a 100% crop from the center of the image
Below is another full frame shot at f5.6 using an EOS 10D
Finally here's two shots with tilt showing how the area of
sharpest focus can be moved around
If you're a Holga fan and own an SLR or DSLR, or if you find low end consumer
zoom lenses way too sharp, this may be just what you're looking for. It's not for
everyone, but I don't think there's anything like it commercially available
elsewhere. It's well made and there isn't a lot that can go wrong with it. You
certainly won't be sending it back because the images aren't soft enough....
Where to buy
Normally this is where I say you can get the review item from one of
photo.net's affiliate stores, but in this case you can't. You can only get a
Lensbaby from the
Lensbabies website. If
you want a DSLR to go with it, a printer to print the images or paper and ink to
print the images with, then please consider purchasing from one of our affiliates
and support photo.net by using the links below (see, I knew there was a way to
get a plug for them somewhere in this article...)