Keeping in mind what the Composer is built to do, its performance across the board is pretty good. When you factor in the cost, things get a bit tricky. The $270-ish investment you make in a Lensbaby could almost purchase a wide angle prime with better sharpness, contrast and build quality. It’s a matter of how much you’re likely to enjoy using the Lensbaby and whether or not a standard lens would be a wiser way to spend your money. Ignoring these other factors, it’s easy to like the Composer’s performance.
Once again, the Lensbaby Composer is a manual-only operation. The motion of the focus ring is fluid, and once I had a good feel for it I could focus fairly quickly. The ring travels about 140 degrees between its closest focus point of 45cm and infinity. I would recommend sticking with your optical viewfinder and staying out of Live View, if your camera is so equipped. It’s also important to make sure your diopter is adjusted properly before you start shooting.
The Composer’s most natural application, its bread and butter, is a shot in which all elements of the photo would normally be in focus with a regular lens. Of course, seeing as you’re using a Lensbaby, you can make a dramatic shift and draw attention to something significant to the right. Or the left, or up, or down…
But the fun doesn’t stop there. A picture taken at a great height can give the effect of miniaturization.
I liked the lens’s sharpness when the focus point falls near the center of the frame. I didn’t notice any significant problems with flare. The closer your focus is to the outer perimeter of the photo, the greater the distortion in other areas. For the most subtle effect, use a narrower aperture and little bit of lens shift.
For a better idea of how the various aperture rings affect the image, take a look below. Each picture was taken with the camera focused roughly at the 7-inch mark.
Contrast and sharpness are satisfactory for the applications of this lens. If it’s impeccable image quality you want, you probably aren’t considering a Lensbaby anyway. I was happiest with image quality when I used an f/4 or f/5.6 aperture. Going wider than that doesn’t give much margin for error if you’re not focused precisely on your target, and I usually liked a little wiggle room when manually focusing.
The focal length is equivalent to a portrait lens, which means you’ll need to back off a bit from close objects. For street shooting and other situations, it’s a nice length.