New Lensbaby: Same lens effects, simpler interface

The Composer gives SLR users the Lensbaby selective-focus effect with a more traditional design. Also: users can now switch lens elements.

The Lensbaby Composer has a traditional focusing ring.
The Lensbaby Composer has a traditional focusing ring. Lensbaby

Lensbaby's selective-focus lenses thus far have brought a seat-of-the-pants, analog feel to the electronic and digital world that photography has become. But a new model announced Tuesday has a more traditional interface for those who weren't happy with the company's earlier approach of squeezing and flexing the lens until the image looks about right.

For the uninitiated, the company's approach deserves a little explanation here. Lensbaby lenses let people focus tightly on a selected spot ; the rest of the view quickly recedes into blurriness. It's a bit gimmicky, but it gives a different look than most lenses, it can be fun to play with, and if done well it can really focus attention well on the subject. The product works because its outer lens element can be bent so it's not parallel to the image sensor--in effect, it's a cheap tilt-shift lens.

The new model, the $270 Composer, forsakes the earlier flexible plastic bellows system for something resembling a ball-and-socket joint. Instead of squeezing to focus, the photographer twists a traditional focusing ring. The mechanism looks much cleaner and easier to use than the complicated struts-and-knobs approach of the earlier Lensbaby 3G, though I fear grit could work its way into the mechanism.

The 3G got a redesign, too. It's morphed into the $270 Control Freak. And the first-generation Lensbaby is similarly reworked into the Muse, which costs $100 to $150 depending on whether it uses plastic or glass lenses.

The major new feature of the updated models is what the company calls the Optic Swap System, which lets users change the lenses. The four options are a double glass element, a single glass element, a single plastic element, and a pinhole/zone plate.

The announcement came during the Photokina photography show in Germany.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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