Ever since getting the 7D in 2009, I’ve been on the look out for glass. Shooting only video cameras with a fixed lens and not being a fan of 35mm adapters, the whole idea of buying additional lenses eluded me. However, being a gear head myself, I quickly dove into it. Old lenses seemed a way to go, as I never shoot auto, and while still expensive, they are far less than new lenses. Initially, I tried buying old Canon FD lenses thinking that I would only need an adapter to make them work on the EOS System. BIG MISTAKE! Come to find out the two don’t mix…at all! Sure with an adapter, they’ll fit, but you have zero focal latitude.
The other idea was to use old Nikon glass. But having been burned by the old Canon lenses, I came to realize lenses sometimes don’t age well. Even if I found a system that worked with my 7D, old lenses are prone to moisture damage, mold, fungus, the diopters wear out and of course there’s scratches on the glass. With old lenses you’re putting your destiny in the hands of the previous owner(s) and the best you can do is pray they took care of them. Since I’m buying them on Craigslist, Ebay or a PawnShop, it’s not a risk I relish taking…
So my alternatives were additional EF or L glass which are a huge investment for me. Of course there are tons of lenses from various manufacturers out there, and if you have the resources, you can get some great products. I’m just not in a position to spend the equivalent of a used car on one piece of glass. So what are the alternatives?
After seeing the ads and some of the results of the Lens Baby lenses, I became curious about them. Once I saw their price point, I became very curious. What tipped the scales for me was that the LensBaby lenses are not an island unto themselves, but they are a part of a system, they are totally interchangeable, providing you an infinite amount options to get a look you want. This sold me, and so I got a set of optics from LensBaby.
The LensBaby SLR Lens
Because LensBaby is a system, there’s some things you should be aware of. You have to start with a base unit or Lens. This will be what actually mounts to you camera. It’s important to note, this is not a stand alone lens in the traditional sense. No matter what base you choose, you must have at least one optic with it. There are six models to choose from. I used the Composer which connects to your camera and then has a ball joint that in turn connects to the optic.
The Composer $250
This is a base unit that attaches to your camera just like any other lens. They vaqry from something that’s fixed or others that allow you to move the lens using ball joints and other mechanisms. This is cool for stills for a tilt shift look, but to flex the lens while shooting video gives a burst of kinetic energy that can totally transform the visual experience.
Super Wide Angle Conversion Lens $80
LensBaby has created a number of truly ingenious accessories. For the purposes of this review, I used the wide lens that mounts right on top of your Optic to expand the width of your shot. The Super Wide Angel Conversation lens works with all the optics except the FishEye which is a stand alone optic. For all the great LensBaby accessories, check out their website at: http://lensbaby.com/accessories.php
There are several options here, and this is where you’ll be able to build a variety of different looks using the various optics. Currently, LensBaby makes seven. I used the Double Glass, Single Glass, the Plastic and the Fisheye
Ease of Configuration
Initially, when you look at the system, it might be a bit intimidating and appear complex. It’s not! The LensBaby system is incredibly easy to use, and you can easily swap out the various optics in seconds, giving access to the entire inventory with a minimum of down time to swap out lenses or optics.
Single Glass Optic $40
If you’re looking for a soft, hazy or almost a “heavenly” effect, then the single glass optic is for you. Once you find your “Sweet Spot” the lens creates a beautiful, velvety haze that surrounds your focal point in a soft and graceful way.
Double Glass Optic $90
Giving you the sharpest sweet spot available, the Double Glass Optic gives you almost a kalaidiscope or burst of colors around your subject. The Double Glass Optic captures light in such a way as to shatter it into shards that stretch and shrink depending on your angle. This can be highly accentuated by the moving the Composer around to give a kinetic view to your shot. If your subject is brilliantly lit or happens to be lights like a carnival ride, then you’ll get a light storm that mimics hyperspace. If you only get one optic for shooting film, I say go for the Double Glass…you won’t be disappointed…
Plastic Optic $40
If you’re looking for a toy camera look, the plasic optic is for you. Probably the softest of all the optics, the plastic optic can make everything look like toys when used correctly.
Fisheye Optic $150
Everyone want’s those cool fisheye shots that look like you’re looking through a peep hole. The problem with a fisheye lens is you’re probably not going to use it for every shot, and let’s face it the Canons are costly, ranging from $700 to $1400. In comes Lensbaby to democratize the fisheye for the masses.
The Fisheye optic retails for $150 giving you the ability to get the shots that will up your game and lend street cred to your productions. How much can it add to your production? Check out this video and judge for yourself. “FreakOut” was produced with two lenses, the Canon EF 50mm 1.4 and the Lens Baby using the Composer with the FishEye optic.
Again, the Lens Baby System, in my estimation, is the best bang for you buck. It gives you access to a variety of endless options that will never be obsolete. The LensBaby system is growing too, as we saw at NAB, and they’ve added the new Sweet 35 Optic as well as the Composer Pro. We caught up with them at NAB, you can check them out at the video below.
Check out all the great LensBaby products on their website at www.lensbaby.com.