I don’t usually like to talk about equipment here, because lenses and lights and whatnot honestly don’t interest me very much. As long as it works and I know how to use it, I’m good to go.
But the last couple months I’ve been very busy with custom design work, so I decided to treat myself to a new photography gadget in hopes it will encourage me to shoot more. I decided on a Lensbaby Composer for a number of reasons. One, I’ve wanted a Lensbaby lens since I first heard about their product in 2005 or so–just because. Two, I like the idea of being able to swap between a traditional glass lens, a macro lens, a plastic Holga-like lens, or a pinhole/zone plate lens–all using one device. I don’t currently have the other optics, but I dropped some not-so-subtle hints to the husband when he asked for ideas for Christmas gifts.
This weekend I got a chance to play with my new “toy.” The results are pretty basic (unfortunately I just missed the best autumn leaf season I’ve ever seen, and typical of November in Maine, the days have turned gray and bleak), but I got a feel for how to work the thing and I’m excited to use it with my next shoot.
Some things I learned…
The more light, the better. It’s much easier to focus and actually see where the “sweet spot” is when the subject is well-lit. This may seem like a “well, duh” moment, but I’ve been spoiled by a fast lens for so long that I’m not used to shooting at narrower apertures.
It’s slightly annoying to change the aperture rings manually, but where most of my work is staged or still, I have the advantage of saying, “Wait a sec, let me fiddle with this for a minute.” Definitely not an easy lens to use for action shots, though. I attempted to take photos of my kid, but I’m not fast enough to adjust the composer ring and focus at the same time, never mind changing apertures on the fly. Maybe when I’ve had more practice.
Because this is a manual focus lens, you should take advantage of your camera’s diopter settings if it has one. I discovered my glasses were a major hindrance and my photos were sharper when I didn’t wear them. Seems backwards, but that’s what the diopter is for!
You don’t have to move the Composer’s ball joint as much as you’d expect. In fact, I had better results using smaller movements, then moving the camera around slightly and using the focus ring to get it just right. The locking mechanism is very handy for ensuring the ball joint doesn’t accidentally get bumped when you’ve just perfected that focus and are ready to press the shutter button (ask me how I know this!)
All in all, the Lensbaby Composer may not be an entirely necessary gadget in a photographic arsenal, but I think I’m going to get a lot of use from it in any case. I’m already wishing I’d had it months ago!