The Lensbaby optical effects system is a set of lenses, optical swaps and accessories that allows a huge range of effects and distortions for the SLR or DSLR photographer to play with. Initially made in 2008 for the creator’s own experimentation, Lensbaby products now include five lens bodies that mount directly on your camera and eight optics that you can swap in and out of the lenses.
The ‘Composer’ and ‘Composer Pro’ lenses swivel on a ball-and-socket to create selective blur good for portraits, while the ‘Muse’ lens (pictured above) is actually on an accordion-like mount that the user squeezes and bends to focus. The ‘Control Freak’ adds metal screws to the Muse design to lock in a selected sweet spot and focus for macro shots. The recently released ‘Scout’ lens is unbending and focuses on fisheye effects.
One of the coolest things about the Lensbaby system is that the optics within the lenses can be swapped easily. This is where the Instagram-like effects are really possible. Craving a central focus with ambient blur? Try the ‘Double Glass Optic.’ Want a vintage-style soft focus? Swap in a ‘Single Glass Optic.’ Of course there’s a fisheye optic, a purely soft focus optic, a pinhole optic and many others to experiment with.
These camera accessories allow effects only possible previously with big expensive lenses or post-production editing. You can see the possibilities in the Lensbaby Gallery of the kinds of fun distortions people have created using combinations of lenses and optics. Although smartphone photography has surpassed more traditional methods in terms of popularity, the original Lensbaby product predates Instagram by years and was perhaps a source of inspiration for the popular photo sharing app. Now the inspiration has come full circle as Instagram begins to influence real-world products.
Check out the gallery below for more images taken using the lenses.
Check out the video below for an introduction to the system by creator Craig Strong.