Lensbaby Edge 80 practical examples

On this page, I'm going to show a few practical examples of the kind of imagery you can get out of the Edge 80. In all cases I used it in the Composer Pro body on a Canon EOS 600D. The 'look' obtained from the Edge 80 lends itself to further post-processing to get the most impact out of the images, and correspondingly these have all been worked-up in Photoshop, with relatively simple manipulations for colour and contrast. As usual, original out-of-camera JPEGs are available in our samples gallery.

Portraits

The Edge 80's focal length means it's well suited to portraiture, both on APS-C cameras (on which it offers the equivalent of a 120mm lens on Nikon, Pentax and Sony cameras, and 130mm on Canon). It allows you either to focus specifically on an individual within a crowd, or narrow the emphasis of the image to your subject's eyes, blurring away anything else.

In this shot - a candid captured on London's underground - I titled the lens diagonally up and to the left, to keep the subject's eyes in focus but blur the rest of the frame. It was shot at F2.8 and ISO 3200 which means that the original is low contrast and somewhat noisy, so I've enhanced the contrast then sharpened to accentuate the grain, giving a result not dissimilar to high-speed mono film. Finally it's slightly cropped.

Miniature effect

Tilting the lens can also give the currently-fashionable 'fake miniature' effect, but with a far greater degree of creative control than offered by most in-camera filters. You can change the angle, width and position of the in-focus region of the image in a fashion that's simply not otherwise possible. The very nature of the Lensbaby's 'freeform' approach to lens movements means, however, that it's all a bit more hit-and-miss compared to a conventional tilt lens - you can't place the in-focus region at a precisely-defined angle across the frame - but that's all part of the charm.

Here the miniature effect emphasizes the size of the two small children, using upward tilt to place a slice of focus horizontally across the frame. In this image I've added vignetting to darken the corners, and slightly tweaked saturation to enhance the pink and green coats.

Selective Focus

Tilting can also be used for selective focus effects, somewhat akin to existing Lensbabies but with a more conventional look to the out-of-focus regions. This can be useful when you want to blur away objects in the same plane as the main subject which would usually be rendered equally sharp.

Not all tilt effects have to be visually extreme. In this shot, the yellow flowers to the right were in the same plane as the rose, and would normally be equally sharp. A slight tilt to the left allowed me to blur them away and make them less distracting. The image is finished-off by a small contrast boost, and the addition of a little vignetting to darken the edges.

With a tilt lens, you can also play with selective focus in ways that are simply impossible with conventional optics. You can even place the focus plane running diagonally through your subject so that objects behind each other are equally in focus.

An extreme leftwards tilt has allowed me to render the cakes at the front front and right equally sharp, while blurring the one on the left: an effect that's difficult to replicate any other way. This image has been enhanced by blowing the background to pure white, and tweaking the contrast and saturation in Photoshop. 

Using tilt to increase depth of field

The Edge 80 can also, at a pinch, be used for a more-conventional application of tilt lenses: to increase depth of field, for example in product photography. The advantage over simply stopping the lens down is that you can work at more favourable apertures that are unaffected by diffraction softening. The lack of precise control over lens movements means that this is a rather hit-and-miss process, but with patience good results can be obtained.

Using a slight tilt to the left allowed me to get the whole of the front of this camera in good focus, while only using a relatively modest aperture (F8). With a conventional macro lens I'd have had to stop down to at least F16 to get both strap lugs sharp, which would cause diffraction-related softening. 

Abstracts

If, like me, you enjoy shooting entirely abstract images, the Edge 80 can bring an extra dimension by adding the ability to selectively blur areas of the frame. This can be used to selectively blur-away parts of the image that may distract from the overall composition, or simply to add a new element to the image.

The impact of this shot comes from mainly its colour palette and bold graphical shapes, with tilt used to add an additional compositional element - the diagonal region of sharp focus. This is obtained by tilting the lens upwards and to the right.

Conclusion

Lensbaby's lenses have until now been distinctly niche products - their emphasis on optical imperfection placing them very much counter to the mainstream in a digital photography world striving for ever more pixels and detail. The Edge 80, however, may well appeal to a broader spectrum of photographers, as it offers something rather interesting that SLR users simply haven't had until now - a telephoto tilt lens that doesn't cost a fortune. Of course existing Lensbaby users should find it offers a useful new string to their bow.

Naturally it's still not really cheap, in the way the company's original products were - the lens alone is likely to set you back around $300, and that's without a body unit to use it in. This may seem like a lot of money to pay for something so unconventional, but it does come with plenty of creative possibilities. Crucially, many photographers may well find its less-idiosyncratic imaging more appealing - and more generally useful - than existing Lensbaby lenses.

Perhaps the biggest question is why you would use the Edge 80 rather than in-camera 'Miniature' filters or post-process manipulation in Photoshop, and the answer to that is threefold. It offers much more flexibility than typical in-camera effects filters, which are commonly restricted to a sharp zone of fixed width across the center of the frame that often doesn't suit the subject. In contrast, with the Edge 80 you can vary the angle and width of the sharp region almost infinitely. Compared to post-processing after the event, it allows you to compose your image specifically with the effect of tilt in mind, as it's visible in the viewfinder as you go along. Producing the effect optically also offers gradual transitions from sharp to out-of-focus regions in a natural-looking and attractive fashion that's often difficult, if not impossible to replicate in post-processing.

Overall, I've enjoyed using the Edge 80 - it makes a refreshing change from 'conventional' photography, and offers a genuinely interesting creative option that's suitable for a range of subjects. Purely personally, it's my favourite of the company's lenses yet by quite some distance. I'm not going to pretend that it will be ideal for everybody, but if you're interested in adding something a little different to your images then it's well worth a try.  

Sample images

There are 19 images in the samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples. 

The images in this gallery are out-of-camera JPEGs with no post-processing, and include full-size versions of the exampes shown above.

Lensbaby Edge 80 Review Samples - Published 14th February 2012