My blog may seem as if I’ve become nothing but a Lensbaby honk of late. Let me say, I’ve been lucky enough to have made friends with the fine folks at Lensbaby. That, and they’re my local, hometown lens manufacturer right here in Portland. I am a softy when it comes to supporting the local folks, so in a word, yes, I like seeing a local, forward thinking optical company do well. They are also very cool people making very unique, affordable optics, and they asked me if I would play around with this new lens. I love all things photography, so I was excited to get my hands on yet another brand new Lensbaby product to play around with. As if the recently released Tilt Transformer wasn’t enough, Lensbaby has developed the Scout to further diversify their optical offerings. More after the jump…
The Lensbaby Scout is different from previous Lensbabies in that it is not a selective focus optic, I repeat, it is not a selective focus optic. It has traded the malleable front elements which have helped define Lensbaby’s “selective focus” mantra, for a solid, attractive barrel which houses the ability to utilize their Optic Swap™ system. It comes with the 12mm fisheye optic which provides a 160 degree circular field of view. On a full frame, you end up with a circle inside of your frame which offers the entire image, and on a APS-C sensor camera, the edges are cropped, still offering near the fisheye’s full lateral breadth.
While the circular fisheye look is fun, I tend to be drawn to the APS-C frame benefits. Especially when you look at the newer video capable cameras. I remember, as a kid, I used to take my parents camcorder around filming my friends and I skating. I had always wanted a fisheye/wide angle adapter, which in those days basically were duct taped to the front of the old camcorders, at least in my neck of the woods. With moving subjects (and a moving camera) the wider angle of view coupled with a much deeper depth of field at any given aperture helps when manually focusing may be a challenge.
As far as the field of view differences based on the Lensbaby fisheye optic being used on different cameras, while an APS-C, or micro4/3 (4/3 std) sensor will provide a cropped field of view, you’re still getting the “fisheye effect” as the fisheye optic is distorted from the center out to the edges. Here are examples shot on a tripod from the same location using the Scout on a full frame camera (12mm), an APS-C camera (19mm e-fov), and finally a micro 4/3 camera, using a lens mount adapter (24mm e-fov) to show how the Scout + fisheye would look depending on your camera’s sensor size.
You can see, aside from the obvious differences in the way each camera translates “auto WB” the main area that you gain real estate on the full frame camera is top to bottom in the frame. The APS-C camera gets nearly the same amount of width in the frame, almost, but loses the ceiling and foreground. The m4/3 camera, while still wide, crops quite a bit of the frame out.
As a still image tool, having never shot with a fisheye before, I have been enjoying it immensely. I’m a fan of wide angle lenses, and it doesn’t get much wider than a fisheye. It takes a little getting used to, but the learning curve is quick and the hardest part about it is keeping your feet, or tripod legs out of frame. If you’re used to a rectilinear wide angle lens (which does its best to correct for perspective distortion), a fisheye might be a bit surprising.
The Scout’s barrel is solid and feels well balanced. It is lightweight, and compact by comparison to most lenses and the fisheye optic is very sharp in the center. Like the other offerings from Lensbaby, this new lens is a specialized optical tool. The benefit of the Scout over a traditional fisheye lens is that you can then utilize the entire Lensbaby Optic Swap™ system transforming the Scout from a fisheye lens into a standard, pinhole or soft focus lens. While Lensbaby plays to the more specialized side of lenses, the versatility gives more options than standard lenses, at a very affordable price point. If you’re looking for creative and inspiring tools, the Scout might be a great way to diversify your options at an affordable price.
The new Lensbaby Scout with Fisheye optic is available in all popular lens mounts through the normal retailers or directly from Lensbaby for $250 usd. Like many potential photographic purchases, I think it is a good idea to ask your local photo retailer to try this out. Bring your camera in and see how it looks for yourself on your camera.
Other Lensbaby reviews and articles:
Lensbaby Micro 4/3 and Sony NEX Tilt Transformer
Interesting but weird looking shot. I once had an 18mm on my OM1. You definitely didn’t want to shoot one of your friends off to the side with it. Looks like the Lensbaby continues that trend, although the LBWHF doesn’t seem to mind a bit.
Second time in a couple of days I’ve run across the Lensbaby name – will have to check them out. OK – went to their website (http://www.lensbaby.com). I see their distributors are listed in Grants Pass, 45 min. away, so I’d like to see a gallery of what their products can do – wonder if someone’s got a blog devoted to them… Would be great if LB would do a gallery themselves. Maybe they could hire you with privileges, of course.
Hope you will pardon posting someone else’s blog gallery here: http://dplife.smugmug.com/Lensbaby for Lensbaby “composer”. Looks like the depth of field drops off very quickly, which could be used to great effect…occasionally.
Yes, the LB fisheye (like any circular fisheye really) makes for a very unique perspective. Akin to any niche, best used sparingly, or with a particular theme in mind I guess. Yeah, Lensbabies are cool, and pretty affordable optics that I’d heard about for quite a while. When I was doing some research into finding new optical choices for the micro 4/3 system, I stumbled across their site and realized they’re here in Portland. I made a phone call and have since been fortunate enough to test the tilt transformer for the m4/3 and the new Scout with fisheye. They have galleries on their website that I’d suggest looking at when you have the time. They actually are using one of my shots for magazine ads for the m4/3 and NEX Tilt Transformer which was cool to see in print! They are a specialized tool as opposed to going for pure traditional optical performance, but I really appreciate that they do make such interesting optics and keep them very realistically priced, and they are really great folks, those who I’ve met so far anyway 🙂 There are certainly those who think that the LB’s are kitschy, but after getting to use them, I love them for what they are. Next time you’re in G’s Pass, you should have a look at them. As of right now, the only dedicated m4/3 mount is the Tilt Transformer which acts as a Nikon F mount converter, and can be purchased with the Lensbaby Composer front element (which is a 40mm f/1.6 optic) which I would suggest getting if it tickled your fancy. Or, if you’re up in Portland, get in touch and I’ll let you borrow mine.
Thanks as always Terry.
Read about the lensbaby after already buying an Opteka $50 thread-on attachment (which was fun).
Upgraded to a Tokina 10-17mm Fisheye, but hope to add an Opeteka 6mm Fisheye next year for more curvature yet. Although it is manual focus.