Lensbaby (that's right, Lensbaby not Lensbabies--the company has changed its name) the company that brought to market the Original Lensbaby, Lensbaby 2.0, and Lensbaby 3G has improved its products even more. The new line--introduced at photokina in Cologne, Germany--is now comprised of the Control Freak, Muse, and Composer. Each of these are designed for different types of shooters.
The Muse replaces the Original Lensbaby, and Lensbaby 2.0; in that they've got the flexible body that you squeeze and hold in place while you take the exposure. The Control Freak replaces the Lensbaby 3G, with its lockable feature; the difference is that the new Lensbaby lenses will all accept the Optic Swap system. The Composer features a completely new design, based on a ball and socket which allows you to "compose" your images by smoothly moving the lens around till you've got it how you like it. The Composer won't move on its own--once you get it exactly the way you want it, you can make exposure adjustments in the camera without worrying that taking your hands off the lens will move the focus. It stays right where you've put it.
The big difference to these new lenses is that they all accept the new Lensbaby Optic Swap system inserts that can be swapped in and out for different effects. If you like using the "toy cameras" like the Holga or Diana, you'll like the optics that offer a similar look. Do you miss shooting with a pinhole camera--there's an optic for that. At launch, the Lensbaby Optic Swap System will include four interchangeable optic options: - Double Glass: A 50mm multi-coated optical glass doublet that is the same optic that was in the Lensbaby 2.0 and Lensbaby 3G lenses; - Single Glass: a 50 mm, updated, uncoated optical glass singlet similar to the optic that was used in the Original Lensbaby. At f/2, the Single Glass Optic is one full stop brighter than the previous Original Lensbaby Optic; - Plastic: a 50 mm f/2 plastic singlet that maximizes blur and diffusion in a dreamy way that Holga and Diana camera lovers will especially appreciate; - and The Pinhole/Zone plate: an optic cup with an f/177 aperture hole to allow for pinhole photography and an f/19 Zone plate opening. Users can slide a toggle inside the optic to change to back and forth between Pinhole and Zone plate mode. The first three are 50mm fixed focal length optics and feature the magnetically interchangeable aperture disks. You can also use the creative aperture disks that Lensbaby introduced a few years ago--with star, heart, and other cool-looking openings.
Lensbaby is shipping the Control Freak with the Double Glass Optic installed; the Muse with either the Double Glass optic installed or the Plastic optic installed; and the Composer with the Double Glass optic installed. The four are being sold individually and as a full set of the four. By coming out with inserts that offer different effects, you can now purchase the Lensbaby that you're most comfortable with using (i.e. the Composer, Muse, or Control Freak) and then the optics for the creative effects you're looking to shoot.
I had a chance to use a pre-production sample of the new Lensbaby Composer and the four optics of its optic swap system. The optics themselves are color coded so you can tell them apart, though its real easy to tell the pinhole one from the rest. The optics are easily swapped out using the optic removal tool, which happens to also be the cap of the container the optic is packaged in. Its also simple then to swap out the aperture disks as well. If you've owned a Lensbaby and never really experiment with the aperture disks you need to give it a try. They allow for more or less of an area of sharpness or the "sweet spot" and blur. The larger the aperture disk, the more light you're letting into the lens and the more blur you have; the smaller the aperture disk, the larger the "sweet spot" of sharpness is.
Out of all of the optics I really liked the results I was getting using the plastic and double glass ones. Pinhole photography isn't my thing, I didn't do too much of it when I was in school and we'd had to make our own pinhole cameras out of Oatmeal containers, but for the person that enjoys that type of imagery, they'll find the optic useful.
Its simple to swap out the optics, you probably wouldn't swap them out often if you were shooting a wedding or event, I'd think you'd leave one in and shoot much of the time with the one optic--for a similar look throughout, depending upon how you like the different looks you can achieve. Some folks might stick with one optic most of the time but the beauty of the new system is that you can always add new looks with the different optics. Look for new ones to be introduced in the future.
From the time I first tried the Original Lensbaby, I felt Lensbaby creator Craig Strong was onto something unique. I love the creativity it affords you--and feel its one of those products that makes you feel like a "kid" again, letting you get really creative. Try out a Lensbaby and you may just find your creativity has gotten a shot of invigoration and excitement.
Although I love shooting with my Lensbaby 3G, I think the Composer will be my new favorite Lensbaby. Its so easy to use, and for myself, I like the ability to compose a shot and be able to tweak my exposure if I need to, to change my shutter speeds and not worry that I've moved the lens--I like the repeatability you can get with it.
For more information visit www.lensbaby.com