LBOptics01 thumb Review of Lensbaby Soft Focus Optic and FishEye Optic Lenses

Last week we took a look at the Composer Lens for DSLR cameras from Lensbaby. Today we will check out two optics designed to be used in conjunction with the Composer – the Soft Focus and FishEye. These optics are a part of the Lensbaby’s Optic Swap System. Lensbaby designed these optics to breathe some fun into photography by taking unique pictures that are not normally shot with a standard DSLR lens.

Besides the working with the Composer, the Soft Focus optic works with the Muse and Control Freak lenses while the FishEye will need a special adapter to work with the Muse lens and is incompatible with the Control Freak.

The Soft Focus Optic is a 50mm lens while the Fisheye is a 12mm lens with a 160º field of view. Both of these work with the Lensbaby aperture disks like the ones found with the Composer. The Soft Focus model comes with three pinhole aperture disk which sit in front of the glass and help diffuse the image around the subject to increase the “dream” like quality of the picture.

Fisheye lens pictures provide a fun house mirror look at your subject and can render some very unique shots. The Lensbaby version of the Fisheye allows extreme close up images – up to half an inch away from the optic.

Both optics arrive in similar looking packages with sample photos on the outer cardboard sleeve and the pictures of the optic and a list of features on main box. Inside each box we find the optic housed in a plastic storage case with a micro fiber cleaning clothe, additional Aperture disks, an Aperture Disk Tool with attached disk storage case and instruction booklet.

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The Soft Focus optic is composed of a multicoated optical glass doublet. It comes with the same eight Aperture disks (f/2 to f/22) found with the Composer lens along with the three multi-hole style ones. Standard aperture disks can be used but these multi-hole ones are specially designed to control the amount of light and the softness of the image. With the Soft Focus Optic in place you can use the Composer lens cap to protect the optic from harm. It does not come with its own lens cover.

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The Fisheye Optic is composed of a glass lens with a six element multi-coated optical design. It is an f/4 optic with five aperture disks from f5.6, f8, f11, f16 and f/22. It can take shots from one inch away from the camera or towards infinity. One immediate drawback of the Fisheye Optic is that it does not include a lens cover or work with the one that came with the Composer.

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The Soft Focus works by allowing a sharply focus image through the center of the lens which has a secondary out of focus image coming from the periphery of the lens. Thus the multi-holed aperture disks come into play. Shooting is done in Manual or Aperture Priority mode.

Same as with the Lensbaby Composer optic, the Fisheye is designed to work in either Manual or Aperture Priority mode. Apertures are using the magnetic aperture tool attached to the aperture disk case. To change these disks, the top of the Fisheye optic is unscrewed and then aperture disk can be removed and inserted. Once the selected aperture is in position, replace the top of the optic and you are ready to shoot.

Both optics are inserted into the Composer by unscrewing the current optic with the bottom of the plastic storage case and inserting the new optic into the Composer housing.

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Specifications:

Soft Focus Optic/FishEye Optic

The Soft Focus Optic creates a velvety soft image perfect for portraits, flowers, landscapes or any subject that needs a soft touch. Soft Focus has a look that is evenly soft throughout the image without the Sweet Spot of sharp focus created by our selective focus optics. You can vary the amount of softness by changing and stacking the aperture disks.

Transform your Lensbaby into a Soft Focus lens by using your Optic Swap Tool to pop out your installed optic and drop in the Soft Focus optic. To control the degree of softness, change your aperture by touching the tip of your Magnetic Aperture Removal Tool to the aperture disk and lifting it out. Then drop a new aperture disk into the front of the lens. You can also stack a second aperture disk on top of a special aperture disk to block part or all of the outer rings of holes.

Specs:

50 mm focal length
f/2 to f/22
Multi-coated optical glass doublet
Magnetic disk aperture system
Degree of softness controlled by changing the aperture disks
Includes 3 special multi-hole soft focus aperture disks
Part of the Lensbaby Optic Swap System
Compatible with the Composer, Muse, and Control Freak
1.93″(4.9 cm)x 1.93″ (4.9 cm) x 1.34″ (3.4 cm)

Turn your Lensbaby Composer into a fun fisheye lens with the Fisheye Optic. The Fisheye Optic’s ultra-wide 12mm focal length and 160 degree field of view captures eye-popping fisheye views from infinity all the way down to one inch from the front of your lens. The Fisheye Optic is designed for use with the Composer, and can also be used with the Muse with the purchase of a special adapter available in our webstore and from leading retailers.

12 mm focal length
160 degree field of view
Minimum focus: .5″ (1.3 cm) from front of optic
Maximum focus: infinity
Six element multi-coated optical design
f/4 optic with aperture disks that range from f/5.6 to f/22
Shipped with clear plastic storage case
1.89″ (4.8 cm) x 1.89″ (4.8 cm) x 2″ (5.08 cm)
Compatible with the Composer. Special adapter required for Muse (sold separately.
Not Compatible with the Control Freak

Fisheye Price: $136.34 (From Amazon at time of review)

Soft Focus Price: $84.22 (From Amazon at time of review)

As I did with the Composer, I will tested these optics with my Canon EOS 400D. For my tests I used the lens in both Manual and Aperture Priority Mode. I even brought my camera and Lensbaby setup on vacation and captured a few shots using both optics. (They never let me take a break here, do they?)

Soft Focus

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FishEye

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Starting with the Soft Focus optic we see the various “softenings” levels using the three multi-hole apertures. Using the standard aperture disks instead of these multi-hole ones provides some softening but also creates a halo effect around your subject. Here are shots taken at F/2, F/4 and F/8 respectively.

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Shooting with the Fisheye we see the world through a different view. Pointing the Lensbaby straight ahead provides a classic fisheye look. As the aperture opening becomes smaller the images created will become sharper. Lensbaby designed the Fisheye optic to have flare capability meaning the outside edges will glow whenever there are bright light sources in the image.

For crop sensor cameras; the image of the circle will not be in the picture but there will be dark corners. Since the Composer is a tiltable lens system, you can move the Fisheye around, but this does not offer much utility due to the optic’s wide field of view. Basically moving the Fisheye in the Composer just moves the edges of the circle captured on the image.

One neat feature about the Fisheye is that it allows the photographer to come within half an inch of the subject. Respect my Authoritah!!!

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My main complaint with the Lensbaby system involves manually changing aperture disks. Although this takes only a few seconds, it can become tedious if done frequently. Also the lack of a lens cover for Fisheye optic is also quite annoying. Whenever I have it on my DSLR, I have to remember to remove it before throwing it into my camera bag or else risk scratching the glass.


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Conclusion:

If you already own a Lensbaby Composer kit then you should take advantage of their Optic Swap System and pick up at least one of their optics. Either the Lensbaby Fisheye or Soft Focus would be a good place to start. The Soft Focus is designed more for the “glamour” shots, while the FishEye gives a 160º field of view and some unique perspective.

Both optics work as advertised and provide distinctive shots that would not normally be captured with standard DSLR lenses. Of course owning a Lensbaby Lens (Composer, Muse or Control Freak) is mandatory to work with these optics. If you don’t own a Lensbaby then there are cheaper alternatives to and soft focus photography but you definitely be losing out on the ability of having swappable optics. In my brief time using Lensbaby products, I have found them to be well designed, simple to use and most of all – fun.

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Pros:
+Well built
+Easy to use
+Capture different styles of photos

Cons:
-Lack of lens cap for Fisheye
-Setup for one optic and Composer system is expensive
-Manual settings for shooting

Grades:
Overall score 8 10 thumb1 Review of Lensbaby Soft Focus Optic and FishEye Optic Lenses
Design score 8 10 thumb1 Review of Lensbaby Soft Focus Optic and FishEye Optic Lenses
Performance score 9 10 thumb1 Review of Lensbaby Soft Focus Optic and FishEye Optic Lenses

This product was given to TestFreaks for review by the company for review purposes only, and is not considered by us as payment for the review, we do not, and never will, accept payment from companies to review their products. To learn more about our review policy please visit this page HERE.