My blog may seem as if I’ve become nothing but a Lensbaby honk of late. Let me say, I’ve been lucky enough to have made friends with the fine folks at Lensbaby. That, and they’re my local, hometown lens manufacturer right here in Portland. I am a softy when it comes to supporting the local folks, so in a word, yes, I like seeing a local, forward thinking optical company do well. They are also very cool people making very unique, affordable optics, and they asked me if I would play around with this new lens. I love all things photography, so I was excited to get my hands on yet another brand new Lensbaby product to play around with. As if the recently released Tilt Transformer wasn’t enough, Lensbaby has developed the Scout to further diversify their optical offerings. More after the jump…
The Lensbaby Scout is different from previous Lensbabies in that it is not a selective focus optic, I repeat, it is not a selective focus optic. It has traded the malleable front elements which have helped define Lensbaby’s “selective focus” mantra, for a solid, attractive barrel which houses the ability to utilize their Optic Swap™ system. It comes with the 12mm fisheye optic which provides a 160 degree circular field of view. On a full frame, you end up with a circle inside of your frame which offers the entire image, and on a APS-C sensor camera, the edges are cropped, still offering near the fisheye’s full lateral breadth.
While the circular fisheye look is fun, I tend to be drawn to the APS-C frame benefits. Especially when you look at the newer video capable cameras. I remember, as a kid, I used to take my parents camcorder around filming my friends and I skating. I had always wanted a fisheye/wide angle adapter, which in those days basically were duct taped to the front of the old camcorders, at least in my neck of the woods. With moving subjects (and a moving camera) the wider angle of view coupled with a much deeper depth of field at any given aperture helps when manually focusing may be a challenge.
As far as the field of view differences based on the Lensbaby fisheye optic being used on different cameras, while an APS-C, or micro4/3 (4/3 std) sensor will provide a cropped field of view, you’re still getting the “fisheye effect” as the fisheye optic is distorted from the center out to the edges. Here are examples shot on a tripod from the same location using the Scout on a full frame camera (12mm), an APS-C camera (19mm e-fov), and finally a micro 4/3 camera, using a lens mount adapter (24mm e-fov) to show how the Scout + fisheye would look depending on your camera’s sensor size.
You can see, aside from the obvious differences in the way each camera translates “auto WB” the main area that you gain real estate on the full frame camera is top to bottom in the frame. The APS-C camera gets nearly the same amount of width in the frame, almost, but loses the ceiling and foreground. The m4/3 camera, while still wide, crops quite a bit of the frame out.
As a still image tool, having never shot with a fisheye before, I have been enjoying it immensely. I’m a fan of wide angle lenses, and it doesn’t get much wider than a fisheye. It takes a little getting used to, but the learning curve is quick and the hardest part about it is keeping your feet, or tripod legs out of frame. If you’re used to a rectilinear wide angle lens (which does its best to correct for perspective distortion), a fisheye might be a bit surprising.
The Scout’s barrel is solid and feels well balanced. It is lightweight, and compact by comparison to most lenses and the fisheye optic is very sharp in the center. Like the other offerings from Lensbaby, this new lens is a specialized optical tool. The benefit of the Scout over a traditional fisheye lens is that you can then utilize the entire Lensbaby Optic Swap™ system transforming the Scout from a fisheye lens into a standard, pinhole or soft focus lens. While Lensbaby plays to the more specialized side of lenses, the versatility gives more options than standard lenses, at a very affordable price point. If you’re looking for creative and inspiring tools, the Scout might be a great way to diversify your options at an affordable price.
The new Lensbaby Scout with Fisheye optic is available in all popular lens mounts through the normal retailers or directly from Lensbaby for $250 usd. Like many potential photographic purchases, I think it is a good idea to ask your local photo retailer to try this out. Bring your camera in and see how it looks for yourself on your camera.
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