Review: Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 with Composer Pro II (Canon EF Mount)

The Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 optic has been long overdue in some ways–a more modern lens with sharp elements, and overall high quality optics makes more sense when you combine them with higher resolution camera sensors. But of course, if you know anything about Lensbaby, you’re probably aware that nothing is really supposed to be incredibly, ultimately sharp. When used correctly, the Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 optic can be just that. It’s designed to be used in conjunction with the Composer Pro, which acts like a tilt shift mechanism when the focusing of the lens and the shifting of the Composer Pro are used together.

Overall, the Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 optic is one of my favorites along with the 50mm optic. But what the 80mm does is make both landscape and portraiture really fun again.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Sharp lens optic beyond f2.8
  • Nice bokeh
  • Macro abilities built into the lens
  • The shifting effects are really nice

Cons

  • Still a bit difficult to focus with

Gear Used

The Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 optic was used with the Composer Pro II, Canon 6D and the Canon 6D Mk II.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Lensbaby page listing

CREATIVE EFFECT

Sweet Spot of Focus

OPTIC SWAP COMPATIBLE

Yes

FOCAL LENGTH

80mm

APERTURE

F/2.8

MINIMUM FOCUSING DISTANCE

22″

FORMAT COMPATIBILITY

APS-C and Full Frame

FOCUS TYPE

Manual

ANGLE OF VIEW

—-

ANGLE OF TILT

15°

FILTER THREADS

46mm

DIAPHRAGM BLADES

12

ELEMENTS/ GROUPS

4 Elements/ 2 Groups

DIMENSIONS

2.5″ (6.35 cm) x 2.5″ (6.35 cm) x 2.5″ (6.35 cm)

WEIGHT

8.9oz

Ergonomics

The Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 optic by itself looks like this. There is control for the aperture on the optic itself but not much else otherwise. The magic comes when it’s being used with the Composer Pro II. They come with soft cases, so be sure to tote those around if you’re keen on losing things.

When it’s screwed into the Composer Pro II, the Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 gains both focusing and tilting abilities. Additionally, it can be extended or retracted to get infinity focusing or lots of macro focusing. One ring controls the focusing while the other ring controls how sensitive the shifting ability is.

The Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 has the aperture unit contained, so you’ll see all 12 aperture blades as you stop it down.

Build Quality

The unit is made of metal, but the Composer Pro II itself is plastic. Despite all of this, the build quality is fairly solid overall and you may not have much of any sort of complaint. At the same time though, you should note that the system involves interchangeable optics. So you’ll have no guarantee of weather sealing or dust protection. So be careful. With all this said, I never dropped the unit, but I surely brought it near to the waterfront in Queens, NY. Still, don’t be stupid with this unit. It’s going to survive bumps in your camera bag but not much else.

Editor’s Correction: there are some plastic components in the Composer Pro II, but it isn’t fully made of plastic.

Ease of Use

If you’re using the Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 as a straight portrait optic, then you should know that it’s manual focus and pretty difficult to focus through the viewfinder let alone with the LCD screen. It’s best to use this on a tripod of some sort and be very careful about the pans and tilts that you make. It also has a manual aperture. As long as you understand all of this, then you’re golden. I don’t recommend it to amateurs as far as knowledge goes, but instead to the higher end that understand art and the rules of focusing amongst many other variables.

Focusing

The Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 is a manual focus optic that only gains focus when it’s hooked up to the Composer Pro II. Figuring out focus through the viewfinder is nigh impossible. So instead, opt for the LCD screen. When you use the screen, also ensure that you’ve got focus magnification on. To that end, if you’re shooting a portrait, tell the subject to be patient please.

Image Quality

I didn’t think that I’d like the Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 simply because the longer the optics become, the more difficult they are to work with. But I’ve also recently taken a liking to working with telephoto lenses for landscape photography. That helped me to appreciate and like this lens’ image quality. The quality overall is very stellar. Lensbaby delivers some incredible glass and all while maintaining their delightful analog aesthetic. But to get the best images, I really, strongly need to recommend working with a tripod.

Bokeh

The Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 has the option of focusing extra close with the Composer Pro II. Extra close is relative, and by that I still mean maybe a few feet. When shooting wide open, you’ll get the best bokeh. Some photographers may prefer the straight on look without some weird effects happening to the bokeh the way I enjoy my images. Either way, the bokeh is pretty simply because this is such a long lens.

Chromatic Aberration

There isn’t any sort of color fringing or issues with distortion. But you’ll otherwise experience some “problems” as some purists may call them. I find these quirks pretty appealing though if embraced to the fullest.

Color Rendition

With the Canon 6D and Canon 6D Mk II’s RAW files being run through Capture One, you’ll get the absolute best colors from the Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8. These colors tend to be a bit more matte like and look wonderful when they’re printed on a luster paper and lit just right. In fact, they’re gorgeous.

Sharpness

Getting the sharpness from the Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 just right can be very difficult to do without a tripod and a patient subject. But if you get it, you’ll be thoroughly rewarded with great images that pop. The sharpness from the lens is really nice, but I’ve surely seen sharper. Still though, that isn’t what the Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 is all about. It’s about creative possibilities.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Colors
  • Sharpness when it’s there
  • Creative effects
  • Portable size

Dislikes

  • Build Quality

The Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 isn’t for everyone. Lots of photographers out there simply don’t have the creativity to understand what it can do. But if you’re a bit more experimental and you believe that photos are art and not a thing to pixel peep, then you’ll genuinely appreciate the Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8. It can give you great bokeh, lots of versatility, and great images. The way that I’d recommend working with it is sort of like an old school large format portrait shooter. Get an approximation for the focus and then fine tune it up using the LCD screen of your camera. But when you’re ready then tell your subject to stay really still. It’s much more of a creator’s lens than one designed for capturing the moment. Perhaps more than anything else, this is one of the reasons why I adore Lensbaby’s options.

The Lensbaby Sweet 80mm f2.8 receives five out of five stars. Want one? Check out Lensbaby’s website for even more.