Lensbaby 2.0

At first glance, a Lensbaby may appear to be an accessory for a toy camera, or maybe even a classic lens from generations past. In fact, it turns out to be a little of both. For the amateur or professional photographer, a Lensbaby is a lens that will not only be fun to “play with”, but also a tool that helps increase the creativity instilled in every photographer.

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Lensbabies, LLC, the manufacturer and marketer of the selective focus camera lenses, was originally invented by professional photographer Craig Strong in an effort to create a digital equivalent to his Holga film camera. The Flexible Lens Mounting System (Patent Pending) allows the photographer to do the work in the lens rather than later applying filters in post-processing to add a creative look to their images. A Lensbaby allows the photographer to bring one area of a photo into sharp focus, often called the “sweet spot” which is surrounded by a graduated blur, glowing highlights, and subtle prismatic color distortions. The creativity that can accompany the photographer carrying a Lensbaby in their camera bag is reason enough to have one, but the nostalgia of a bellowed lens is also a strong draw. “The beauty of these lenses is in their calculated imperfection,” says Lensbabies founder Craig Strong. With about a 5-minute learning curve, but a never-ending experiment in uses and techniques, most photographers will enjoy using a Lensbaby, finding new ways to exploit that “calculated imperfection.”

With numerous awards already under it’s belt, both the Lensbaby 2.0 and The Original Lensbaby combine several vintage camera technologies in a novel, patent-pending combination. The photographer focuses using the same general principles used with a bellows camera, by moving the focusing collar in and out with his/her fingertips. The photographer moves the “sweet spot” of focus around the picture by bending the glass optic out of a parallel position to the image capture plane, like a tilt-shift lens. For those not familiar with a bellows camera or lens, there is a flash tutorial available on the Lensbaby website as well.

The Lensbaby 2.0 (which was used for this review) comes with a more-advanced aperture system over The Original Lensbaby, using a system of levitating magnetically receptive discs that float above the optic. When the aperture discs are dropped into the Lensbaby, they snap into place, held just above the optic by magnetic attraction from the three shielded rare earth magnets embedded in the optics cup. Removal is also easy, and Lensbabies provides a complimentary Cell-Klear™ Lenspen® that the photographer can insert through the center hole in the aperture disk to lift it out.

Lensbaby 2.0 improves on The Original Lensbaby in several places, including an f2.0 aperture setting, in addition to The Original Lensbaby’s f2.8, f4.0, f5.6 and f8.0. Lensbaby 2.0 is also sharper than the “Original”, using a coated, high refractive index, low dispersion optical glass doublet that creates a “sweeter sweet spot” of focus. Lensbaby 2.0 is also a lot easier when it comes to changing apertures, as The Original Lensbaby holds its aperture disks in place with a rubber gasket.

Overall, while not a lens you’ll use on a daily basis, for the photographer suffering from a lack of creative juices flowing through his/her photography, a Lensbaby is just what the doctor ordered. Whether used to capture the retro feel of yesterdays photography or used to embrace a unique way to express creativity in-camera as opposed to creativity in the digital darkroom, Lensbaby 2.0 is worth every penny.

Lensbaby 2.0 Specs:

  • Available in mounts for Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K, Olympus E1, Minolta Maxxum, Olympus OM, Canon FD, Leica R, Minolta Manual, Sigma, Contax/Yashica, and Screw mounts
  • Focal Length: right around 50 mm
  • Focus Type: Manual, fingertip, actually
  • Optical element: coated, high refractive index, low dispersion optical glass doublet
  • Aperture Type: Interchangeable levitating magnetic apertures
  • Apertures: f2.0, f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8
  • Nominal Focus: approximately 18 inches
  • Maximum Focus: infinity and beyond
  • Minimum Focus: approximately 10 inches (achieved by pushing on the back of the focusing collar)
  • Size: 2.25” high x 2.5” wide
  • Weight: ~3.6 oz.

Product Shots

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Sample Photographs

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© Kirsten Hunter

© Lisa Smith

© Kevin Kubota

© Kevin Kubota