Lens Baby - Page 2
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Old 04-01-2012   #11
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Default Re: Lens Baby

I went to a Lensbaby presentation and then bought one. I took it home and fiddled with it for half a day and decided that it was not consistent and predictable enough to use in a commercial setting or when time was a critical factor. Others, including some accomplished photographers, have used them and love them, but I was not feeling that. It seemed like it was a $250 one trick pony whose effect could be replicated in post or with a more versatile tilt shift lens.
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Old 04-06-2012   #12
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Originally Posted by kgornia View Post
There aren't any with auto focus either? Thought there were. Hm. Yeah I'm debating still, so I'm glad you guys are putting your input in.
Lensbabies are basically very cheap and simple tilt/shift lenses...There are no tilt/shift lenses that have AF, Lensbabies included, so you have to use them fully manually.
The earlier Lensbabies have plastic elements so their optical quality is pretty poor and they give lots of CA. The later ones have glass elements and while they better than the earlier ones, they are still not brilliant image quality wise.
Unlike a proper, high quality, tilt/shift lens, the "Lensbaby effect" can lead to the symptoms of nausia!

So I recommend you pay the extra cash and get a proper tilt/shift lens
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Old 04-08-2012   #13
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When I first heard about a lens baby, someone on another forum posted 5 before and after photos. I asked for permission for 2 of the before photos, took 60 seconds in Photoshop and recreated the effect and then asked the people if they could tell the difference, none could.

I passed on the Lensbaby.

That said, I did the same thing with the Tilt-shift lenses, and tried several times. I also saw some really good photoshop people try as well as myself, and we all could tell the differences. The smooth transitions were where we could always tell them apart.

I saved for and bought a tilt-shift lens.

Basically, if someone can recreate that effect in post to the point that the 2 are near impossible to tell apart... why pay for it? That was the question I asked and answered. Again, like always, the answers I find for myself may or may not suit everyone's opinions.

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Old 05-19-2013   #14
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I have a friend over in the UK who has used a Lensbaby extensively. I really like most of his images. Take a look at these --

\Lensbaby - Flora Photo Gallery by Ken Smith at pbase.com
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Old 05-19-2013   #15
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Here are more of Ken's Lensbaby pictures. Not floral.

Lensbaby - Patchwork Photo Gallery by Ken Smith at pbase.com
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Old 05-20-2013   #16
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Yah, you can tell it is a lens baby... the background blur is so rough and unattractive, at least to my eyes, it's like someone sandpapered his background.
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Old 05-24-2013   #17
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I frankly think that these are pieces of overpriced trash. However some people like them. Everyone but the little kid thought that the Emperor's New Clothes were beautiful!
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Old 05-26-2013   #18
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Well- I have to tell you that I love soft focus portraiture and I also apply certain soft techniques to my wedding work. I have a collection of quite a number of highly specialized lenses and lens attachments with I employ frequently. I use mostly Nikon gear at the studio but I have purchased a 135mm Canon soft focus lens and am now looking for a body just to accommodate that lens.

There are many kinds of soft focus devices which basically introduce some optical diffusion in to the optical path. The very best soft focus prime lenses work on the principal of highly controlled lens aberrations specifically known as ZONAL aberrations because the “live” on the outer edges of the lens and the degree of softness is controlled by the lenses’ aperture or special aperture disks and inserts. When theses aberrations are covered up by theses special apertures the less the sharpness is affected and the sharper the image. The photographer has total control over the effect.

Badly designed soft focus lenses and attachments simply degrade the image and the result is not romantic, ethereal or cosmetically effective- the image simply seems to be out of focus and/or distorted. I have never seen a satisfactory image come out of the Lens Baby- sorry folks.

Even the better soft focus supplementary lenses (filters) such as the Zeiss Softars do not degrade the image; what you get is a secondary soft image seemingly superimposed on a sharp image. Basically, the highlights are caused to bleed into the shadows and that works well in softening images by reducing contrast without degrading the image.

The Lens Baby does not do it for me simply because I can get better selective effects simply by coating the edges of an old skylight or UV filter with clear nail polish and leaving a clear spit in the center about the size of a nickel or a dime. Use a wide aperture and you will get incredibly lovely soft focus effects- the results do not look silly or overdone. I also made a wand- it looks like a boomerang. It is a large piece of optical plastic with some of that clear nail polish applied to it. I kinda dodge with it in front of the lens and can create all kinds of nice clean and soft vignettes in seconds- again- nothing that calls attention to itself or become a distraction. You can also shoot through foliage and branches and get great looking natural effects with no special accessories as long as you work at large f/stops to reduce depth of field.

Another solution is to get a simple +2 or more simple close up supplementary close up lens. Have you optician drill a hole in the center of it about the size of a nickel or a dime and see what happens to a cluttered outdoor background- its amazing! Again use a wide f/stop to reduce depth of field.

I hope this helps!

Ed







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Old 05-26-2013   #19
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Default Re: Lens Baby

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Originally Posted by Ed Shapiro View Post
Well- I have to tell you that I love soft focus portraiture and I also apply certain soft techniques to my wedding work...
Soft focus and selective focus are not in the same playing field, Ed. While soft focus is something that can be applied to selective parts of the photo, normally it is applied to the entire shot evenly.

You yourself provided many super nice examples of the soft focus look using filters and specialty lenses.

IMHO, soft focus is best done using those specialty lenses like the Canon lens you have, or the Nikon equivalent that I happen to own, which is the 135mm F/2DC (defocus control)... an amazing lens that totally redefines the word "tack sharp" every time it comes out of my bag.

The Lens Baby product line is biased towards being a selective focus more than a soft focus tool. They try to imitate more the results of a tilt-shift lens more than a soft focus lens, and the two results are IMHO not really comparable.
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Old 05-26-2013   #20
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Hey Jerry- Top of the morning to ya!

Well- nobody (at least myself) said that soft focus effects and selective focus theory are one in the same according to strict optical theory. Anyone who has ever studied optics (like me) and read too many books on the subject can agree with you. What I gotta tell you that both principles make a hell of a nice combination when used in conjunction with each other, especially in wedding photography and portraiture. Some might say that this combination is “bokeh heaven”. The problem with dogmatic theory is oftentimes subject of semantics and my poor writing skills and the creative effect of sometimes ignoring the English language, grammar and even some of the iron clad theories derail the creative process. I have some really old lenses that look like garbage or relics of the past that turn into pure magic once the are mounted on a camera and put to use.

Most prime soft focus lenses and many supplementary soft focus attachments don’t kick in with their best results until the aperture is below f/56 or thereabouts depending on the optical design as well as other factors such as the shooting distance. At theses wider f/stops the depth of field is rather shallow and distracting backgrounds tend to disappear into a wonderful splash of color. There are many successful portraits that focus in on the eyes but the subjects ears are well out of focus. This method when combined with soft focus can yield flattering effects in fine theatrical portraiture.

I am also very familiar with view camera techniques where one can produce
“selective soft focus areas” in a photograph kind of the opposite to the intended effect of the Scheimpflug Principle whereby additional depth of field can be “forced” by incorporating tilts of the front standard of view cameras. On today’s digital system there are special bellows attachments that may facilitate “selective; areas of shallow depth of field.

My very favorite SF lens is the old Imagon by our friends at Rodenstock. I love it because I don’t thing its’ designers really know exactly how it works. Some folks used to call it the “depth of field” lens because it seems to focus somewhat sharply on more that one subject plane- very strange- even when it full out wide open without any of its H/stop disks in the light path. In the “instruction” sheet that accompanies a new lens, it states a few suggestions but more or less tells you that you are the artist so you are on your own and may the good Lord have mercy in your spendthrift soul, spent a few grand for a lens that even we don’t fully understand so all the best of luck! I have finally learned exactly how to use mine and that knowledge came from other portraitists who managed to figure things out to their own liking.

The lens baby may be one of those things- God knows! My photographux dealer and I have a strange business relationship. He barges into my studio with stuff and leaves it there asking me to “check it out”. Problem is, most of the time I like it and keep in and then I have to pay for it. Hell of a sales technique on his part, eh! He knows I am a soft focus fan so one fine afternoon he walked in with the Lens Baby. He now claims that it is the first item I actually returned- no sale! I messed about with that damn thing for a week truly hoping that it would work- it looked so cool! NADA! My home made so called “fuzzy filters” worked better. I was after something that would work faster without screwing filters on and off the camera lens or switching to a bulky MF camera like my RZ that already had a dedicated prime 150mm SF optic. That is the camera that I have digitized and have tethered to a laptop and hardly the rig to drag along to a wedding or a location portrait sitting. Perhaps the more current models are improved or better and I should give it another shot.

I am very well versed in optical theory- you can bet on that! I do, however, also know by experience that certain lenses have particular traits or “personalities” that are difficult to define except in their actual performance. I gave a 40 year old Brooks Vari-Wide camera with a fixed 47mm Schneider Super Angulon Lens. It is the same formula as all the other Super Angulons of its day and other popular formulas but the images that come out of that camera are as sharp as the ones that come out of a large format view camera. If the camera is held in a true parallel positions to walls or building exteriors there is absolutely no detectible intrinsic distortion. Go figure! I once had a simple and inexpensive 135mm lens for a Mamiya C330 TL R that yielded the greatest portrait results- the colors seemed a bit warmer and the “smoothness” of skin rendition was not really easy to explain- perhaps it was a serious aberration? The only film equipment I still own can be eventually digitized- all the rest is gone. My Brooks has a standard Graf-Loc back so I can adapt it to my present digital back. If need be, I still go to film for the odd assignment.

If you come up with a masterpiece with the Lens Baby, kindly let me know if there is something I missed in my own field tests. Good luck and best wishes.

Ed










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