Using the Lensbaby Edge 80

The Edge 80 is straightforward enough to use: select an angle of tilt based upon your subject, focus, set the aperture and shoot. If your SLR has Live View then this may well be the easiest way to work - it's often easier to visualize the selective focus effects of tilt on your image when using the rear screen, and you're likely to get more accurate metering too.

Unlike conventional tilt lenses, which offer precise control over the lens movements, Lensbaby's lens bodies all use completely 'free' movements. This means there's no way of tilting the lens in a perfectly-defined direction - vertical or horizontal, for example. This reflects the fact that it's intended mainly for selective focus or 'miniature effect' photography, highlighting key elements of the image and blurring away the rest. 

Effect of lens tilt

The rollover below shows the basic effects of tilting the lens: focus is on the figurine lower left. Tilting the lens downwards produces a narrow 'slice' of sharp focus horizontally across the frame, wheres tilting it left produces a vertical in-focus 'slice' (these examples were shot wide-open at F2.8 with maximum tilt in each direction). One key advantage of the Edge 80 over the 'Miniature' effects found in many cameras is that this slice can be freely placed at any position and angle across the frame.

StraightTilted downTilted left

Effect of aperture

The aperture has much the same effect as with conventional lenses - stopping down to smaller settings increases sharpness and depth of field. The crops below show how sharpness changes with aperture: this being Lensbaby F2.8 is somewhat soft and dreamy, but for this effect that's not necessarily a bad thing. Stopping down to F5.6 gives substantially sharper results.

F2.8 (EOS 600D 100% crop) F5.6 (EOS 600D 100% crop)
F11 (EOS 600D 100% crop) F22 (EOS 600D 100% crop)

When the lens is tilted, stopping down the aperture makes the slice of sharp focus wider and cover more of the frame. This is illustrated in the rollover below (again using the Canon EOS 600D):

F2.8F5.6F11F22

From this, you should be able to see that the combination of tilt direction and aperture gives a great degree of freedom over which parts of the image will be sharp. The angle of tilt in any given direction also matters; it determines the exact 'slice' of the scene that appears sharp. The ability to control these three separately gives and extraordinary degree of creative control. On the next page we'll look at some practical examples.