Many fans of selective focus have heard of Lensbaby and its line of selective focus optics. Selective focus lets the photographer emphasize his or her subject by putting them in focus and blurring out the background. It’s usually done with telephoto lenses, particularly ones with large maximum apertures that produce minimal depth of field. Lensbabys are relatively inexpensive lenses that allow the photographer to use selective focus at non traditional focal lengths and even with wide angle lens attachments. Normally a wide angle lens’s great inherent depth of field, makes it a poor choice for this technique.
Information about the image gallery photos
Every photo except the shot of Porsche holding the Super Wide Angle Conversion Lens was made with the lens mounted on a Lensbaby Composer. If you compare the Sculpture Garden shot and the photo of the dinosaur exhibit you can see the difference in the out of focus effect at the photo edges as a result of the change in aperture rings in the composer. If you take a close look at the upper right hand corner of the shot made at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, you can see some vignetting from the Composer being shifted with the conversion lens attached. This lens needs to be used with almost no shifting in order to avoid vignetting.
My thanks to Porsche for helping out in the studio.
Using the Super Wide Angle Conversion Lens with Lensbaby Optics
Lensbaby’s standard optics approximate a "normal" lens on most DSLRs. Often, that field of view just isn’t wide enough. so the company offers several choices for those desiring a wider lens. Its most extreme offering is the Super Wide Angle Conversion Lens. This optic converts the Lensbaby Composer (or any of the company’s earlier lenses, although you’ll need a special adapter to use it on the original Lensbaby) from a 50mm equivalent to a 21mm focal length. This add on lens also close focuses letting you position it as close as 2.75" from the front of the lens to your subject. Just like the company’s other add on lenses, the Super Wide Angle Conversion Lens screws into the front of the main Lensbaby lens. The add-on lens weighs 2.4 ounces and minimizes vignetting unless the Lensbaby is tilted to extreme (how "extreme" depends on whether you’re using it with a full frame sensor or not). Any add-on conversion lens will cause vignetting under such circumstances though. The Lensbaby Super Wide Angle Conversion Lens doesn’t produce any vignetting when the Lensbaby is oriented straight ahead.
Using the lens (4 out of 5)
While the inability to tilt the Lensbaby very much while using this optic is a limiting factor, it can still be a very useful creative tool. I put one to the test during a visit to Washington D.C. while exploring the museums of natural history and American history. Often, because of tight spaces, the only way I could get a shot was by screwing on the super wide lens. Another characteristic of this super wide optic is that the lens’s sweet spot is smaller than that of the company’s wide angle add on lens. This results in more edge blurring. Photographers using this optic will need to experiment with to learn how to use the Lensbaby and super wide combination to best effect. I found it to be an interesting choice at the Smithsonian where it produced interesting images in several locations. Great care should be taken to make sure your main subject is properly focused and is located in the lens’s small sweet spot. I particularly liked this lens for exaggerating the hustle and bustle of the Museum of Natural History’s main atrium when I was shooting from the upper level. I was able to bring the elephant display into sharp focus while the super wide’s edge blur served to make the visitor’s movements seem faster than normal.
Price to value (5 out of 5)
At $79.95, the Super Wide Angle Conversion Lens is relatively inexpensive when you consider that it effectively adds another optic to your lens arsenal while taking up very little space in your camera bag. Optically quality is decent for an add on lens and depending on the aperture ring you use, can produce pretty sharp images. One thing the photographer should keep in mind is that changing aperture rings is more complicated when using add on lenses since you have to remove the add on lens to get to the aperture ring. This can lead to a tricky juggling act if you’re not careful.