Few camera lenses are as simultaneously loved and hated-sometimes by the same photographers-as the lenses from Lensbaby. These funky tilt-shift lenses are designed to bring back a sense of fun and artistic flare to photography by allowing you to create unique out-of-focus effects that you cannot replicate with a standard lens. The new Lensbaby Tilt Transformer not only promises to do the same, but it allows photographers using Micro Four Thirds digital cameras and Sony α NEX digital cameras a way to create these effects using Nikon lenses.
Before we take a closer look at the Tilt Transformer you might be asking, “What is a Lensbaby?” These simple and elegant tilt lenses allow you to shift the plane of focus so that much of your image has a strange out-of-focus blur except for a small “sweet spot” of the frame that is in perfect focus. That description, in a nutshell, is why some photographers love Lensbaby lenses and other people say, “Why would you want to do that to your photos?”
Another technical criticism that some people level against Lensbaby lenses is that the optics (the actual glass or plastic elements inside the lens) aren’t very good. Yes, it’s true that even if you don’t alter the plane of focus with the original Lensbaby the center of your image will be in focus but the edges of the frame still won’t be sharp. This is just one of the reasons that the Lensbaby Tilt Transformer was invented. The Tilt Transformer allows you to attach any Nikon lens to the Tilt Transformer’s swivel ball mount, instantly turning a regular Nikon lens into a tilt-shift lens.
The exit sign images below illustrate how a typical Nikon 18-55mm zoom lens can be transformed into a tilt shift lens using the Tilt Transformer. In the first image, the lens was essentially in the “normal” position which created a normal-looking exit sign. In the second, the lens was tilted to one side so that only a small portion of the sign was in focus.
Is this a fun tool that can help you create some unique photos? Absolutely. Is it worth $250 for the Tilt Transformer or $350 for the Lensbaby Composer with Tilt Transformer? We’ll have to take a closer look to answer that question.