BUILD AND DESIGN
Unlike previous Lensbaby models, the Composer allows you to move the front of the lens freely and then keep it in place with a locking ring. Preceding models required a little more finesse.
Lensbaby Composer Specifications:
The Composer is currently available in all mounts listed above. Our review unit was of the EF persuasion, and I used it primarily with the Canon EOS 60D. The 60D's 1.6x crop factor means that the Lensbaby's roughly 50mm focal length magnified to an equivalent of 80mm. All Lensbaby models require manual focus.
With most systems, automatic metering can still be used in aperture mode. The most notable exception is the Nikon D90 - manual mode will be your only option.
The Composer itself isn't available in a Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX mount, but the Tilt Transformer is offered for these compact interchangeable lens cameras. The Tilt Transformer accepts Nikon lenses or the front portion of the Composer. If you're a Panasonic G or Olympus PEN owner, don't despair. There's a Lensbaby for you too.
The Composer consists of a mount, a locking ring and a manual focus ring. It ships with a double glass optic, and additional optics can be purchased to achieve various effects. Aperture is changed by manually switching out magnetic disks with f/4 being the disk you'd find on your lens if you took it out of the box.
You'll also find a short instruction manual in the box and a small plastic device that looks like the end of a stethoscope. It has two uses - one end is a magnetic tool for switching out aperture disks, and the disks are stored in the other end. The lens has a steel base, and other parts appear to be composite and plastic.
Using the lens is straightforward and intuitive once you have a feel for how it handles. The (very brief) accompanying guide suggests composing your image with the lens in its normal position, manually focusing, moving the front part of the lens to position your sweet spot accordingly and then adjusting focus again. It's also suggested to try slight movements first rather than putting your sweet spot at the very edge of the frame.
This proved to be good advice. When the focused portion of the image falls somewhere within the center of the frame or out to the "rule of thirds" crosshairs, sharpness is optimized.
There are infinite possibilities once you're comfortable with the lens. That's what potentially makes using the lens so addictive. Once you've spotted a subject, you can tweak your focus and the angle of the lens in any number of ways for any amount of time until you've annoyed your spouse or companions or whoever you're out with.
Different aperture disks will change the size of your sweet spot and therefore the dramatic effect of your photo. But here's the Composer's Achilles heel. Changing out aperture disks takes a couple of seconds, but that's a couple of seconds you may not have. If you're used to making changes on the fly, you might find the aperture disk system a bit frustrating. I shot mostly with the f/4 disk for this review, and that generally gave me a tight sweet spot with enough room to work with. The disk holder is easily stashed in a camera bag or even a coat pocket, so it's easy to keep it on hand. It's probably better, though, to stick with one disk for an extended amount of time.
Using the slowest aperture disks (higher numbers) will noticeably darken the image you see through your viewfinder. It's a good idea to pay attention to your camera's metering system if you're able to do so.
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