Talking about Lensbaby

A Lensbaby is a selective focus SLR camera lens that brings one area of your photo into sharp focus with that sharp area surrounded by graduated blur. Photographers using a Lensbaby can move the sharp area of focus anywhere in the photo by bending the camera lens.

Lensbaby's selective focus at work
The Lensbaby's selective focus at work.

Lensbabies combine a simple lens with a bellows or ball and socket mechanism for use in special-effect photography. Lensbaby lenses can be used on cameras which accept interchangeable lenses, mainly of the 35 mm or digital SLR formats. The focal length of the Lensbaby is approximately 50 mm, making it a normal lens in 35 mm format.

The front standard can be manipulated off axis to move the sharpest area of focus (called the "sweet spot") to almost anywhere in the frame. Therefore the important part of the subject can be rendered fairly sharp with everything else out of focus, even if it is the same distance from the camera. Aperture is controlled by a series of interchangeable discs (basically a Waterhouse stop). The Lensbaby naturally focuses at approximately 2 feet; closer focus is achieved by pushing the front of the lens out, and infinity focus is achieved by pulling the front of the lens toward the base of the lens.

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Results achieved with a Lensbaby mimic that of the Holga camera (though without the light leakage) or other toy cameras. There is extreme spherical and some chromatic aberration outside the central sweet spot. The lens produces oval bokeh that point to the sweet spot, as seen in the sample photo on this page. The effect is unique and well suited to portraiture, some landscapes, and product photography.

On September 28, 2008, Lensbaby launched a redesigned product line. The new lenses use interchangeable optics, allowing for a variety of photographic effects from each lens. Responding to the photographic community's interest in toy cameras, Lensbaby introduced a plastic optic capable of producing the distortion and rich chromatic aberration familiar to Holga and Lomo users. Lensbaby's pinhole / zone plate optic design makes early photographic techniques more accessible by allowing the user to switch rapidly between pinhole and zone plate shots. While the pinhole generally produces sharper images, the zone plate allows for primitive styled photos in lower light or at faster shutter speeds. Lensbaby also reintroduced their uncoated glass singlet optic which can be used to create soft focused photos similar to those created by antique cameras. The multi-coated glass doublet optic is Lensbaby's sharp, modern option. It is their most popular optic and comes standard in the Lensbaby Composer™ lens.

Lensbaby lenses have no electronic components and do not communicate information to modern cameras. Because of this, some modern cameras may not recognize that a lens is attached and may require special settings to operate with the Lensbaby. Autofocus is unavailable on any camera because of the basic structure of the lens; additionally, the spherical aberration can make focus confirmation unpredictable or unavailable. For best results, the manufacturer recommends shooting in aperture priority or fully manual mode. The Lensbaby can also be used for infrared photography and very good infrared images have been made. However, the Lensbaby design makes it impossible to include an index mark for infrared photography.

The Lensbaby is available in several different lens mounts: Canon EF (EOS), Nikon F, Minolta Maxxum/Sony Alpha, Pentax K, Olympus Four Thirds System


There are three Lensbaby lens models currently in production.

The latest models: Lensbaby Muse™ and Lensbaby Composer™ both feature interchangeable optics allowing the user to choose between a pinhole, zone plate, plastic optic, uncoated glass singlet, or multi-coated glass doublet.

Lensbaby Composer with its aperture disks
Lensbaby Composer with its aperture disks
The Lensbaby Composer™  applies the Lensbaby concept to a new design. Featuring a ball-and-socket style body coupled with a manual barrel focus, the lens stays in position without any locking mechanism. Due to its stability, the Composer is often used with a tripod for portrait and wedding photography. The Composer's stability also allows for the long exposures usually needed for pinhole photography. The Composer comes with f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22 aperture disks and an f/2 multi-coated glass doublet optic installed.

The Lensbaby Muse™ has a design similar to the Original Lensbaby and the 2.0. Its simple design consists of an interchangeable optic attached to a flexible tube bellows. The user both focuses and moves the area in focus by squeezing and bending the lens. The Muse™ is cheaper and lighter than the Composer™ and some photographers have found its simple focusing mechanism useful in taking action shots. When used with the plastic optic, the Muse™ lends itself to dreamy, Holga style photography. The Muse is available with a plastic or multi-coated glass optical doublet installed, and comes with f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, and f/8 aperture disks. In June 2009, Lensbaby launched the Muse PL™, which is compatible with all PL mount movie cameras.

Another option for cinematographers using Arri PL cameras is the Lensbaby 3GPL. It consists of a flexible bellows with a locking collar. This design makes it possible to locking the tilt of the lens, As a result maintaining a consistent plane of focus while filming. Three posts extend from the base of the lens to the locking collar, allowing the photographer to make minor adjustments as to where the area in sharpest focus, the "Sweet Spot", lands. The 3GPL also has a manual barrel focus allowing the user to further adjust the field of focus once the lens is locked into position. Due to the three posts and the locking collar, the 3GPL is larger and heavier than other Lensbaby lenses.

Adapters and Accessories

All Lensbabies have a 37 mm filter thread, making it possible to attach filters, wide angle, telephoto, or macro accessory lenses. Currently (July 2009) Lensbaby produces five accessory lenses, all of which attach to a Lensbaby Lens via 37mm threads.
  • Wide angle (0.6x) 30mm wide angle
  • SuperWide (0.42x) 21mm super wide angle
  • Telephoto (1.6x) 80mm
  • +4 Macro
  • +10 Macro
Also available is an accessory kit of custom aperture disks consisting of an f/4 star, a f/4 heart, and 5 blank customizable disks.

External links

Categories: Photographic lenses

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