I feel the need to preface anything I write from this point onward by saying that I am by no means an expert on photography. Before reviewing the Composer I couldn’t tell you what an f/stop is, or what shutter speed my Nikon DSLR is set to. I didn’t know what aperture size to use to make a picture look good (other than good ‘ol trial and error), and I most certainly didn’t know what flash setting to use for the best effect. One look at my pictures now though, and you’ll see I learned SOMETHING from all this….
After going over everything I don’t know about cameras, let me say this: the Composer is a damn fine piece of hardware. While I might not have known what I was doing when starting this review, I was able to figure it out pretty quickly, and take some pictures that really show off what the Composer is all about. I can only imagine how much easier it would be for someone that actually knew what they were doing to use the Composer (or how much better their pictures would look than mine).
The Composer isn’t a lens you’ll use with normal everyday photography – this is something you’ll use when you want to add a special flairto a picture. It’s like using PhotoShop effects, without the need of a computer (or PhotoShop itself). The Composer is basically a lens attached to a ball-and-socket swivel which allows you to add blur and distortion to pictures. You focus on some object straight on, then tilt the lens and re-focus on the same object again. This serves to really highlight that initial object, and causes everything else to radiate blur.
Yes, it’s an artsy-fartsy lens, but believe me when I say you’ll start looking for opportunities to use the Composer once you have one. It’s supposed to work with Lensbaby’s complete “Optic Swap” system, which allows you to change the optics between Lensbaby’s Single Glass, Double Glass, Plastic, FishEye, Pinhole, Soft Focus, or Sweet 35 Optics. I didn’t receive any of the other Optics (the Composer ships with the Double Glass Optic installed) though, so I can’t comment on how they work, or how easy they were to swap out.
The Lensbaby Composer features an interesting way of changing aperture sizes – you use a magnetic tool to basically “hot swap” little black metal discs. Each disc has a number on them (2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, and 22) and if you don’t know what you’re doing (handraise!) it becomes a bit of trial and error until you understand what works good for what light. What is nice though, is that the aperture priority setting on most cameras (most made in the last few years at least) works, and takes out a lot of the guesswork for other settings.
I can definitely see the discs getting lost however, so maybe that’s not the best design, but it is simple, and a way to keep costs from getting astronomical. From what I have said already, I hope that you understand that the Lensbaby Composer is not a “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of lens. Yes, you can take some absolutely AMAZING photographs with it, but it’s going to take a lot of tweaking to make that happen.
From someone who at the start of this knew nothing about taking pictures other than “set the camera to auto, point, and shoot”, I have to say that even though there was a lot of work involved, I couldn’t be happier with how the Composer performs. I have no problem recommending this to people, and in fact feel that this is one accessory that every amateur (or professional) photographer should have in their camera bag.
At the end of the day when all is said and done, I have no problem at all giving the Composer a glowing 5 out of 5 star rating. The pictures I’ve taken with it speak for themselves.
- Very lightweight
- Creates amazing picture effects
- High end design and function at an affordable price
- Not recommended for the true beginner
- Aperture discs are small and could get lost
- If your camera doesn’t support the aperture priority setting it’s a LOT more work (tried on a Nikon D3000 to see)