Not Your Father’s Lensbaby

The Lensbaby 3G is not your father’s lensbaby. Although the optics are the same as the older Lensbaby 2.0, this is a new Lensbaby. Compared to the straigthforward and somewhat retro-looking LensBaby 2.0, the Lensbaby 3G is almost like a contraption from Rube Goldberg.

The older Lensbaby is a simple, bendable tube with some optical glass and a place to fit magnetic f/stop disks. With the 3G, in addition to the tube, lens, and place for aperture discs, the 3G sports a mechanism for locking the Lensbaby down, focusing posts, and a barrel focusing ring. You squeeze release pins together to unlock the 3G, and you use the focusing post knobs to fine-tune the positioning of the “sweet spot.” In Lensbaby parlance, the sweet spot is the area of focus, and part of the point of the Lensbaby is that it gives you unprecendented control over the extent of the sweet spot in an image.

I recently got my hands on a Lensbaby 3G, and when I tried out the 3G I discovered that it does in fact provide a great deal of additional functionality beyond the earlier Lensbaby. Since you can lock the lens in place, tripod work is now possible. Among other things, this makes long shutter speeds a possibility: so the Lensbaby can be used effectively in darker environments. The possibility of lock-down also means that you can systematically vary exposure and other aspects of an image (being able to repeat an exposure is an important part of best photography practice).

Finally, the combination of being able to grossly stretch, compact, and bend the lens together with fine positioning (using the focusing post knobs) and fine-tune focusing (the focusing collar) gives me the possibility of correcting perspective in an image, much as one can do with a view camera or with my (very expensive) 85mm Nikon perspective correction macro lens.

With the photo of the Red Poppy (above) and the Pink Camellia (below), to get started I mounted the Lensbaby 3G on my Nikon D200, and the camera on my tripod. It’s nice that you can use Aperture-preferred automatic metering. Next, I inserted the f/4 aperture disk, and a +4 close-up filter from the Lensbaby Macro Kit.

My general process was to get the tripod, camera, and Lensbaby 3G roughly in position. Next, I wiggled and waggled the Lensbaby to get the sweet spot where I wanted. When I was satisfied, I locked the lens down, using the focusing collar to fine tune the focus and the focusing post knobs to fine tune the area of the sweet spot.

The Red Poppy (above) was blowing in the wind, so some of the background blur is wind, and some is pure Lensbaby. I clamped the camellia branch in place so the Pink Camellia flower would stay still (so the effect is entirely due to the Lensbaby).

You can expect more Lensbaby 3G images from me in the days to come. This is such a fun toy!

Here are some of my favorite Lensbaby 2.0 macros: Flower within the Flower; Me and My Shadow; Poppy Central ; Snake; Leaf Critter.
Related link: Lensbaby category on Photoblog 2.0.

Pink Camellia

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