Review: Lensbaby Composer Pro II with Edge 50 Optic

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Lensbaby optics can be tough to use if you’re not careful; but they’re capable of helping you deliver really stunning and cool effects if you’ve got the patience. Earlier this year, the company released an updated version of their Composer Pro II with the Edge 50 optic that in some ways makes the experience better.

Think of it like lens bellows and a true tilt shift–sort of.

Pros and Cons

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Pros

  • Beautiful colors
  • Probably Lensbaby’s sharpest optic wide open.
  • Excellent build quality with the incorporation of metal into the body
  • Great with a camera that has focus peaking
  • Lots of fun creatively speaking

Cons

  • Some sort of click built in that tell you that your optic is fully centered would have been appreciated.
  • Smoother and more accurate focusing would be a nice improvement, though the current system isn’t too bad.

Gear Used

The Sony A7 was used to test the Lensbaby Composer Pro II with the Edge 50 optic.

Tech Specs

Tech specs taken from the B&H Photo listing for $424.95

Performance
Focal Length 50mm
Comparable 35mm Equivalent Focal Length on APS-C: 75mm
Aperture Maximum: f/3.2
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Sony E
Format Compatibility 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
APS-C
Tilt 0-15° in all directions
Minimum Focus Distance 8″ (20.3 cm)
Elements/Groups 8/6
Diaphragm Blades 9
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus No
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 46 mm
Dimensions 2.50 x 3.25″ (6.35 x 8.25 cm)
Weight 10 oz (283 g)
Packaging Info
Package Weight 1.05 lb
Box Dimensions (LxWxH) 4.252 x 3.937 x 3.78″

Ergonomics

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For the most part, the Lensbaby Composer Pro II module is built much like the previous version. This second version, however, has a metal build along with manual focusing ring made of plastic being on the front while the back ring (the gray colored one) is what locks the unit in place or loosens the tilting ability.

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The Edge 50 optic screws into the front of the unit and locks into place with a satisfying click. There are other units like the Sweet 35 that work well too. This unit has its own aperture ring that you’ll use to change the depth of field.

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Shifting the Composer Pro from one side to another is how you render the tilt-shift look that Lensbaby units are so well known for. It works well enough, but you’ll need to be very careful when making adjustments. For that reason, I recommend using a camera with focus peaking.

Build Quality

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For the past couple of years, I’ve never typically associated Lensbaby with durable products; but since the release of the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm lens that’s been changing. The Edge 50 optic itself is pretty small and essentially really just one optic with an aperture. The optic itself doesn’t move but instead the Lensbaby Composer Pro II moves the lens closer or further away from the sensor in a way that is typical of using lens bellows. Beyond this, it also shifts the optic around for a tilt-shift effect.

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While the build quality overall is very solid, I really wish that the manual focus were smoother because of what I’m used to with other companies. From a workflow standpoint, it would greatly increase how much precision the user has.

Focusing

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If you’re a person that hates to manually focus, you may want to move on. For those willing to take the dip or that realize that it isn’t that tough to do, know that you’ll be manually focusing this unit. If you’re using a mirrorless camera it will be easiest because of the addition of focus peaking. If you use a DSLR, well, good luck! The best way to use this combo is in Live View and with magnification. I personally don’t have the best eyes but the magnification and focus peaking that the Sony a7 allows me helps greatly when using this unit.

Even so, focusing is tough to do at the wider apertures.

Image Quality

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No, the image above wasn’t done with a flash but instead with natural light (though it sure looks like it was done with a flash). The Lensbaby Composer Pro II and Edge 50 optic can help you deliver really, really awesome image results providing you’re open to experimenting with the creativity that it allows. Optically speaking, what you’ll really want to pay attention to here is the Edge 50 Optic; it can hold its own with many other lenses out there.

Bokeh

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It’s really simple to get some sort of bokeh with this lens combination; and while I wouldn’t really call it super creamy the bokeh is very satisfying. To be fair, you’ll need to consider that the Edge 50 optic is an f3.2 lens at its widest aperture. While it’s not Sigma’s 50mm f1.4 lens, it’s very good for what it is. Like every other lens, you get the best bokeh when focusing closely and wide open.

Sharpness

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You’re not going to get the best sharpness from this lens when shooting wide open. But instead it will become pleasing at f5.6 and very good at f8. For what it’s worth, it’s almost as good as the 56mm f1.6 Velvet lens when shooting at f5.6. However, you’ll get this lens for the tilt-shift ability more than anything.

Color Rendition

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Beautiful…that’s really the best way to describe it. Lensbaby with the Edge 50 Optic is doing something nowhere as saturated as what Zeiss and Sigma offer but more saturated than what Canon and Nikon offer out of the box. If you’re looking for a middle ground, somehow or another Lensbaby has figured it out.

Color Fringing

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In my tests, I found very little real evidence of color fringing. To be fair, it fringes where it’s tough for many lenses to counter fringing problems. However, it is 2015 and that stuff is easily controlled in Lightroom. Rejoice!

Extra Image Samples

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Conclusions

Likes

  • Build quality
  • Image quality

Dislikes

  • Wish there were more precision

The Lensbaby Composer Pro II and the Edge 50 optic are a combination that is bound to work for landscape photographers more so than architecture shooters. Photographers that shoot buildings may want to go for something wider. It’s also fun for the portrait photographer. It renders great colors that you’ll love and has sharpness that is more than good enough for the needs of most photographers.

four-star-Phoblographer-Star-rating

The Lensbaby Composer Pro II with Edge 50 optic receive four out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon’s latest prices.

Recommended Cameras

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Sony a7r Mk II: You’ll benefit from the super high resolution here.

Olympus OMD EM5 Mk II: The camera’s 40MP option will give you a tilt-shift photo well worth printing.