What is the Lensbaby?

Seems like no matter what photo magazine I’m reading these days, the Lensbaby is mentioned. Usually a picture is shown of some wacked-out looking lens with crazy tentacles sticking out every which way. Now I know when I’m missing out on something, so I went to the official Lensbaby.com site to see what all the fuss is about.

Basically, Lensbaby is an “optic swap system” that includes 6 optics you can swap in and out of the 3 Creative Effects SLR lenses: Composer, Muse and Control Freak. Depending on your shooting style, you can choose what fits your desires best. The lenses change the final output you get by altering the optics through adding extra blur to the periphery of your image, give a “dreamy” look, added extra sharpness, etc.

Perhaps the best way to understand Lensbaby is by reading the reviews. Haje Jan Kamps, in his March ’07 review on jpgmag.com calls the Lensbaby “My Precious”. He is completely hooked and believes it is a must for any artistic photographer wanting to grow in the creative talents. His concluding paragraph, however, offers some wise advise for any photographer building his kit bag. 

“Is it a brilliant lens? Definitely. Is it worth the money? Well, it depends on how much money you have to spend, and how you want to develop as a photographer. If you don’t have any prime lenses, I’d say buy a 50 f/1.8 first. Once you’ve got one of those, build yourself a macro lens. Then, take a damn good look at the Lensbabies.”

The Lensbaby was birthed in early 2004 and retailed at just under $100. The next year, the “2.0” was released for $150 and now the 3G can be yours for only $270. It’s not cheap, but neither is any lens you want to add to your kit. Macworld.com’s 2007 review from the Photo Marketing Association’s PMA 07 convention highly recommends the Lensbaby for studio photographers especially.

Would I give it a whirl if presented with the opportunity? Naturally! But before shelling out the money for a 3G, I think I’ll work on rounding out my kit with a few more staples like a macro kit and 50mm prime before playtime.