You’ve come a long way, Lensbaby. I’ve been a fan of the Lensbaby line of selective-focus lenses for digital SLR cameras since the Lensbaby 2.0. It was essentially a toy lens that let you manually select an area of sharp focus while leaving the rest of your image blurry, bringing a tilt-shift-esque effect to your SLR (minus the price and precision). In 2008, the company added its Optic Swap system that let you swap out optics to change the creative look of your images. With yesterday’s announcement of the newest optic, the Lensbaby Edge 80, it looks as though the Lensbaby is all grown up.
The Edge 80 Optic brings the Lensbaby system to a whole new level, offering the closest thing to a real dSLR lens that we’ve seen from the company so far. The Edge 80 works with all the current dSLR-compatible Lensbaby tiltable lens bodies (i.e., the Composer, Composer Pro, Control Freak, Muse, and Scout) and offers the same 12-blade aperture design as last year’s 35mm Sweet 35 Optic, but is an 80mm, f/2.8 flat field-of-focus optic. This means that rather than delivering a round “sweet spot” of focus like the Sweet 35, the Edge 80 delivers a sharp “slice” of tilt-shift focus (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, depending on how you tilt the lens), similar to what you get from the Miniature art filters you see on many cameras these days (only better and more versatile). Because it uses significantly better optics than previous versions (with five glass elements in four groups), the Edge 80 is capable of delivering much better color and contrast. In fact, it could probably double as a straight lens, save for the fact that unless you have the fixed Scout lens (or maybe the Control Freak which offers more precision control), it will be hard to set the tilt at dead center (i.e., no tilt) to give you a real edge-to-edge sharp image.
Besides the optics, the new Edge 80 also shows off a new and improved overall design. Like the Sweet 35, it offers apertures from f/2.8 to f/22, but the new rotating dial aperture ring makes it easier to adjust. The optic can also be pulled out and extended for a close focus mode and the swapping mechanism has been improved, making it even easier to insert and remove than the Sweet 35. Of course, the price has also been jacked up, so all that awesomeness will set you back a cool $300.
To get an idea of the kind of effects you can get with the Edge 80, check out the Edge 80 Optic simulator at the Lensbaby site.