Lensbaby hits 80mm at full tilt

Another fun lens added to the company's optic-swap system. We took the Edge 80 for a test shoot.

Chimping in Union Square. Shot with the Lensbaby Edge 80 optic. Lori Grunin/CNET

Lensbaby adds another yummy--and better-designed--optic to its tilting lens system.

Edge 80

When Lensbaby originally debuted its swappable-optic lens system, it was a somewhat offputting, complicated device with a laudable concept: a housing, frequently tiltable, in which you could slip different types of lenses. The latest optic in the Lensbaby system, the $300 Edge 80, shows the Lensbaby evolved to the most user-friendly and streamlined it's ever been. I tested the Edge 80 in the Composer Pro on a Canon EOS 7D.

The 80mm optic has the same 12-bladed aperture as the Sweet 35 , but adds a well-defined aperture ring with an ingenious pull-out extension tube for closer focus, plus an improved scheme for insertion and removal (see slide show). It's the easiest to use of all the optics I've tested, though things like the pull-out tube aren't obvious; it's sufficiently different from previous optics that it's worth a glance through the brief documentation or watching the tutorial video to get the gist.

In fact, my only gripe is with the Composer Pro; I wish there were an easy, repeatable way to set the tilt to dead straight.

As a lens, the Edge 80 is surprisingly good given how compact and inexpensive it is; bright, with sufficient edge-to-edge sharpness and nice bokeh. The tilt in the system renders a band of in-focus image rather than the circular depth-of-field result, making it a great option for a cheap tilt/shift effect, especially for shooting video.

While I never felt my shots were tack sharp viewed at full size, I think that's partly because of the difficulty ensuring that there was absolutely no tilt to the Composer. And because the iris is physically stopped down while you're trying to focus at small apertures--Lensbaby only supports manual focus--the viewfinder can get dark and hard-to-focus on cameras with relatively dim ones. Plus, focusing while wide open takes practice.

Warts and all, though, I love shooting with the Lensbaby, and the Edge 80 is a great option for midrange focal-length shooters.

Specs:

  • 80mm
  • 12-blade internal aperture
  • f2.8 through f22
  • Compatible with Lensbaby Composer Pro, Composer, Muse, Scout and Control Freak lens bodies (not compatible with the Composer with Tilt Transformer for Micro Four Thirds and Sony Alpha NEX).
  • Closest focus approximately 17 inches
  • 5 elements in 4 groups
  • 46mm front threads. Compatible with macro converters.
 

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