Review: Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge and Composer Pro (Sony FE)

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge promises a very fun time.

I’ve been a big fan of the stuff Lensbaby does for a long time, and with the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge I feel like they’re not doing anything particularly special aside from an update. That’s not to say this is a bad product. It’s fun, but for what it’s worth, the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge isn’t as fun or sharp as the company’s longer focal lengths. You’re sure to get that tilt-shift effect that people love to recreate using algorithms. However, when you use the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge you start to see that this lens has a lot of character. From the way it can deliver lens flares to the tiny sliver of semi-sharpness that it has in the center, the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge can proovide any photographer with lots of fun if you fully embrace it and throw all the conformities out the window.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Small
  • Very lightweight
  • Sharp in the center
  • Well built despite no weather sealing

Cons

  • I wish it were sharp all over and not only in the center. When you tilt the optic, you really start to see how it only puts sharpness at the center and justifies actual tilt shift lenses.

Gear Used

We used the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge on the Sony a7r III. We also tested it with the Profoto B10.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the company’s official website.

Ergonomics

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge is a metal optic that attaches to the composer pro, which is more or less all metal with a few plastic bits. We start this tour with the lens cap, which is metal as well.

When stopped down, you can see the eight aperture blades of the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge. These blades are inside of the lens and aren’t electronically coupled. In fact, the entire setup is analog.

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge doesn’t have focusing control. That is done by the Composer Pro. Instead, the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge controls the aperture.

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge has an old-school style aperture with a ring that clicks. It’s satisfying but you’ll barely mess with it as this lens requires you to be very specific about what you’re shooting.

 

Build Quality

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge isn’t weather sealed. So it has that working against it. But it is made of metal through and through, which is a plus. While the overall build quality is solid, I’m not sure I like using optics that aren’t weather sealed on Sony bodies.

 

Ease of Use

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge will be difficult for newer photographers to wrap their heads around. The Lensbaby system has never been about 100% sharpness despite my qualms with wanting the optics to be sharper. The optics are sharp enough until you start tilting the composer. In fact, the composer is one of the more flawed parts of this. I really wish the system would offer a click of some sort to let the photographer know that the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge is centered on it. It doesn’t do this; you just need to mess around and accept it. What I recommend a photographer do is start out with the camera’s black and white mode. And as insane as this is going to sound, think of it almost like old school Instagram with putting the tilt and the shift on a specific line or area of the frame. With the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge, you’re not supposed to make it all that serious.

For what all this is worth, I’ve been wondering for years why Lensbaby hasn’t designed their own proper tilt shift system for all cameras and lenses. A Lensbaby Composer Pro that has a built in aperture could be very fun when working with a number of lenses. This is something very much missing from the world of mirrorless cameras right now. Tilt shift lenses have a number of other advantages that can help with perspective adjustment and more. Post-production software can’t do as great of a job as actual optics can. Lensbaby, with pretty much 10 years of knowledge here, is in a unique spot to get this done.

“What I recommend a photographer do is start out with the camera’s black and white mode. And as insane as this is going to sound, think of it almost like old school Instagram with putting the tilt and the shift on a specific line or area of the frame.”

 

Focusing

The idea behind Lensbaby products from day one is that they’re supposed to give photographers more or less tilt-shifting abilities. With that said, this is all done via manual focusing. The best way to use the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge on the Sony FE system is by using focus magnification since the company’s focus peaking is just awful. If you’ve set the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge to straightforward focusing then you’re going to have it easier. But once the tilting begins it sometimes is difficult to figure out what’s in focus and what isn’t. This isn’t a simple system to use, and to that end you should probably fully embrace it by using the creative camera profiles that Sony FE cameras offer. By that I mean still allow yourself to “do it in post” but don’t rely on it.

Where the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge could be very fun is with the creation of video or cinemagraphs. The still image is great enough but what could also be fun is the art of a slow documentary process. In the same way that some photographers carefully set up their shots on a tripod with lighting and all, the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge on a Sony a7r III could be used similarly in a creative fashion. The “photo wait” style would be pretty instrumental here.

 

Image Quality

“The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge has both color fringing and issues with lens flare. But to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I adore the way the lens flare looks.”

If you’re using the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge, then you may be a bit put off by the slow f3.5 aperture of the optic. We completely understand why. I mean, a prime lens? Why that slow? Once you get past that and start experimenting with and using the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge the way it’s designed, you stop worrying about all that. F3.5 is incredibly shallow. If you were autofocusing, the lens wouldn’t have a problem acquiring focus. But try doing it not stopped down with a lens that opens up to f1.4–it’s rather difficult. If you aren’t incredibly serious about charts and all that stuff, you’ll appreciate what the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge can do.

Bokeh

The bokeh is really the best thing about the design of the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge. With eight aperture blades, it isn’t like the 11 the Sony G Master lenses offer but it’s still nice and creamy. Portrait photographers will make the most of this as will anyone who really likes focusing up close and personal on stuff. Tilting the focusing just makes things more and more bokehlicious if you’re into a specific look. Some of the work involved with the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge is just about messing around and experimenting to see what works. Most photographers can think in terms of straight and linear focusing planes: thinking in terms of shifted planes is rough.

Chromatic Aberration

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge has both color fringing and issues with lens flare. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I adore the way the lens flare looks. I’ve always found it better to do this organically than be a YouTuber who tries to pass it off as organic while using a filter overlay (I hope you know who you are). Further, if you have an issue with this, then just shoot in black and white. When working with the Sony a7r III, the sensor outputs a ton of detail and dynamic range. Even if you’re working with something as old as the original Sony a7, you can do a whole lot with the files. Your images will be worthy of being submitted to a hashtag like #lookslikefilm.

Color Rendition

The colors from the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge tend to be muted. For portraits that works perfectly. You’re most likely going to dial saturation back into the image via Capture One’s color channel adjustments.

Sharpness

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge isn’t sharp. Just move on.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Very fun
  • Solid build quality despite no weather sealing
  • Offers something unique that other lenses do not

Dislikes

  • While I’ve made a few complaints in this review, it’s easy to say that, at a price tag of less than $500, I shouldn’t be complaining

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge is a fun lens for the creative photographer who can do the most with it. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of their 80mm Optic and I’ve always preferred their longer focal lengths. But in the case of the Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge, I think I like it best used with the camera in black and white mode.

The Lensbaby 35mm f3.5 Edge receives four out of five stars. With a Composer Pro, it’s $449 on Amazon.