If you’re looking to add some extra optic modules to your Lensbaby system, the Optic Kit ($100 direct) may be the first place you look. It includes the Plastic, Single Glass, and Pinhole Zone Plate optics. Each can be used with any Lensbaby camera lens that supports the Optic Swap system. This includes the Spark, the Muse, and the Composer Pro.
If you already have a Lensbaby with a Double Glass Optic, you’ll likely have a hard time justifying the purchase of the Single Glass Optic. I personally like the look of the Single Glass lens with an f/4 aperture disc, but at wider apertures—without an aperture disc it is an f/2 lens—it is extremely soft. Once you’ve stopped it down to f/4, the images are very close in character to those captured by the Double Glass, only with a bit less contrast and sharpness and more chromatic aberration in high contrast areas.
The Plastic Optic is a lens unto itself. As it name implies, it uses a plastic lens element rather than a glass one, which can lead to some very soft, dreamy images. At f/2 everything you photograph seems to glow a bit, and while you can recognize what you focused on, it is not exactly sharp. Adding an aperture disc really helps to balance things out—at f/2.8 and f/4 its images are still very different from those captured with a glass lens, but the sharpness of what you’ve focused on makes the images pop.
The Pinhole/Zone Plate is a lens that doesn’t really lend itself to the Lensbaby tilt method. Because of the ultra-small aperture, f/19 in Zone Plate mode and f/177 in Pinhole mode, pretty much everything in its 50mm field of view will be in focus, and longer exposures on a tripod are necessary for effective use. It mimics the look of an old pinhole camera—the entire image has a soft look. If you are interested in a pinhole lens for your digital camera you’ll be able to find a body cap that serves the same purpose on eBay for much less cash. If you do want the Zone Plate functionality, which has a number of small openings arranged in a concentric pattern, you’ll see the appeal of this lens. When used in Zone Plate mode it captures images that are soft from corner to corner, similar to looking through a foggy window, and bright light sources take the shape of the Zone Plate pattern.
The lenses in the Lensbaby Optic Kit are, on their own, a lot of fun. They used to be available for purchase separately, so if only one of the three appealed to you, purchasing on its own was an option. Now the only way to get them new is via the kit, which has an off-putting price if you aren’t interested in everything in the package. Of the three, my favorite is the Plastic Optic, simply because it is useful as a selective focus lens and is vastly different in character to the Double Glass Optic that ships with most Lensbaby lenses. The Single Glass Optic is too similar to its Double Glass sibling. You can pick up a body cap that has been drilled to act as a pinhole lens on eBay for under $15, although you won’t find a Zone Plate equivalent at that price.
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