Newest Lensbaby is a gift for your Micro Four Thirds camera

Lensbaby's Composer with Tilt Transformer not only serves as a Micro Four Thirds adapter for your Nikon lenses, it lets you fake tilt/shift photography on the cheap.

Lensbaby Composer with Tilt Transformer
Lensbaby Composer with Tilt Transformer on the Olympus E-PL1. Lori Grunin/CNET

Lensbaby made a name for itself by providing selective-focus lenses and adapters for various dSLR mounts. For the uninitiated, the system allows you to use its various special-effects lenses, such Double Glass, Single Glass, Plastic, and Pinhole, in a special adapter that tilts in order to produce standard or odd depth-of-field effects. And it's not surprising that the company decided to branch out into the new interchangeable-lens (ILC) camera systems, starting with a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) mount. What is surprising is that the company's MFT debut includes a gratifying double bonus: it split the Composer into two sections, Composer Front Focus and Tilt Transformer. The latter is an adapter that allows you to use any Nikon mount lens on a MFT camera, and therefore lets you produce faux tilt/shift photographic effects for a fraction of the cost of a real tilt/shift lens, but with more control than the in-camera software implementations allow and without relying on Lensbaby's selection of drop-in lenses.

I escaped the Photokina announcement deluge long enough to take the Tilt Transformer, attached to an Olympus E-PL1 and the Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens, out for a brief spin near our NYC office. It was pretty easy to figure out if you understand the concept behind the Lensbabys; I've never used one before and didn't read the instructions, but figured it out sans profanity. That's pretty rare for me. It's really nice to use for video, too. For instance, Olympus offers a tilt/shift Art Filter mode, but it slows your capture frame rate to a crawl. Since a lens doesn't take up camera-processing cycles, you get the full frame rate.

I'd say the biggest caveat is that you'll need a high-resolution LCD or (better yet) electronic viewfinder on the camera, because manually focusing with that skewed, shallow depth-of-field gets difficult. And without an EVF, simultaneously holding the camera while focusing and adjusting the aperture gets a bit awkward. And, of course, you'll have a lot of image issues that real tilt/shift lenses engineer out, such as distortion and aberration. But if you bought an MFT camera for the creative fun of it, pairing up the Lensbaby Tilt Transformer with cheap Nikon lenses you buy on eBay or inherit from family, will double your fun.

You'll be able to buy the Micro4/3rds Composer with Tilt Transformer as a bundle, including the Double Glass Optic, for $350 or the Tilt Transformer alone for $250, in the fourth quarter of 2010. You should be able to find the full specifications at Lensbaby's site.

 

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