Lensbaby expands its arsenal of special-effects lenses with one that's almost as odd as the effects it produces. The Trio 28 consists of a single mount with three 28mm lenses that you rotate into place: a Sweet, a Velvet and a Twist.
Like their full-size counterparts, the Trio 28's Twist lens surrounds the central area with swirly bokeh; the Velvet looks soft and glowy; and Sweet renders increasing blur from the center out. On Micro Four Thirds cameras, the Trio 28 lenses have about the equivalent angle of view of a 56mm lens, while APS-C Sony E mount and Fujifilm X mount versions deliver 42mm.
Like all Lensbabys, they're manual-focus only, and in this case they also have a fixed f3.5 aperture. It only adds about 4.1 ounces/116 g to the weight of the camera, so it won't weigh you down at all. There's a 46mm thread across the front for filters, and you might want to spring for a neutral density filter for shooting in bright light.
The lens is slated to ship in the US on October 26 for $280, essentially three lenses for the price of one. I don't have other pricing or availability yet, but that directly converts to about £216 and AU$365.
I chose to test the Micro Four Thirds-mount version using the Olympus PEN-F and Panasonic Lumix GX85. Because of the smaller Four Thirds sensor, photos will have slightly more depth-of-field than the APS-C sensors on the other cameras, so focusing might be a little harder on those and the results may look slightly different.
The three optics sit in a rotating section within the larger mount. To use one, you simply rotate the section until the lens name is on top. You can feel the lens snap into place.
Since there aren't any settings to fiddle with, using the Trio 28 is pretty easy -- as long as you're comfortable with manual focus and don't care if the sharp areas aren't always very sharp.
The Trio's lenses can focus as close as 8 inches/20 cm and beyond 15 feet/4.6 m it's at infinite focus, so there isn't a huge focus range to worry about. Within that range, the focus ring operates smoothly with a nice tension that's not too tight and not too loose. My only quibble with the lens' operation is the way the exposure changes when you switch lenses. That makes sense technically -- part of the effect is to be darker or brighter -- but it's a bit frustrating when you've set up a shot and realize you're using the wrong lens, then rotate and realize you have to change the exposure.
I find Sweet the most useful, since it has the most prominent combination of sharpness and blur, and it's visible for the most types of scenes. The Velvet effect is really visible, but a little too soft and glowy for my taste. And while I really like Twist, it's only truly visible in certain situations: with a central subject in the foreground, a very detailed background (like leaves) and a big separation between the two. I also find the Sweet most useful for video for the same reasons.
As with most Lensbabys, using the Trio 28 is fun and especially suited for street shooting with smaller mirrorless model. But I also couldn't help thinking that I would prefer a single effect in three different focal lengths instead, though that probably poses technical problems which would have made the lens more complicated.