The Lensbaby Composer Pro/Sweet 35 is a cool, unique lens,
But how is it for Infrared???
For the past decade, Lensbaby has been designing and refining a specialized type of art lens. The term they use is “Selective Focus” and the best way to explain it is the lens has a “Sweet Spot”, an area in sharp focus, and the rest of the area has an ethereal, sometimes surreal look, and with the composer pro you can move that sweet spot around.
Sounds cool, huh?
But does it work with Infrared? That’s what I wanted to know, so I contacted Lensbaby and they sent their Composer Pro/Sweet35 to test.
So, does it have the dreaded “Hotspot”?
That gut wrenching condition that kills the soul of many Infrared Artist??
The Lensbaby worked perfectly on all of my Infrared converted cameras. In fact, the only challenge I had with the lens, was …. me!
This lens is a manual lens, and when I started using it I felt completely out of my comfort zone. That’s a nice way of saying I didn’t use it right. That feeling passed quickly though, and I liked the control I felt using this lens.
Here’s a few things to pass on to you before I show you what I came up with.
-This is an Art Lens
This lens works perfectly for what it is designed to do.
-There is a learning curve
You need to learn how this works to get good results. This is not your standard auto focus lens. You manually control what this lens does. My first few images were, ..um,.. less than great. That’s a nice way of saying “bad”, …But it was not the lens, it was me. Thankfully, because of the delete key, no one will ever see those images or even know about them. Okay, .. so I told you,… keep that to yourself.
-You can control the size of the Sweet Spot
The size of the Sweet Spot is controlled by the f-stop. I tried most every f-stop, but in the end found I love f2.8. The small Sweet Spot is very cool.
Now let’s see what this lens can do.
The day the Composer Pro/Sweet35 arrived it was raining (of course) so my enthusiasm had to wait for a bit. I decided my first shots would be a subject near and dear to my heart, a rose. I love to shoot roses in Infrared. I attached the Composer Pro/Sweet35 to my Super Color converted Canon 7DMKII.
The first thing I did, is what I always do, a Custom White Balance. I shot on auto exposure bracketing a set of 3 exposures +/- one stop, and used the grass in my yard as a White Balance reference.
As I mentioned earlier, there might have been one or two images I shot before this one, but for some reason I could not find those to use.
That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
This is the RAW image that I shot of a rose right after the rain.
And from this I was able to get this
It was just like I had read, sharp and smoothly out into oblivion. I adjusted the levels, tones, contrast, and then removed the red tones and darkened the blue and cyan tones. At this point, I was hooked! And I had just started.
I did try some landscapes, using the Composer Pro/Sweete 35 with a larger Sweete Spot, but didn’t think it was as interesting.
Here is an example: This is the RAW image
And this is the post production image,
I adjusted the levels, and contrast, then swapped the red and blue color channels. I then desaturated the red and yellow color tones to give it the traditional look of white foliage. The Composer Pro works as it is designed, I just don’t think I did it any justice with my landscapes. Perhaps with time I might find a niche with landscapes.
Now it was time to try the Composer Pro/Sweet35 on a person.
For this next test, I do admit I stacked the odds in my favor. I contacted a local model by the name of Megan Mafucci. Megan is a professional model and has the classic features of a woman from Greek mythology; light colored eyes, curly hair, good bone structure. In Infrared she looks amazing, and has no problems with veining.
Prior to shooting, I White Balanced the camera using grass as a reference. I kept the Lensbaby at f2.8 and captured this RAW image.
(click to enlarge)
Now I am officially thrilled with this lens.
Next I wanted to see what I could get by moving the Sweet Spot slightly off center. I placed the model in shadows with serious back lighting.
This was the result.
Once again, the eyes are sharp, but now the Sweet Spot is smaller and the transition has a sort of motion blur to it. And the bokeh is great.
From here, I created this set.
(click to enlarge)
I thought I would try a wider Sweet Spot close up to see what could be done. This was f8. The RAW file.
The sharpness is still there, but the softness less pronounced. The results were still good.
Next I wanted try the opposite; a small Sweet Spot, wider angle. My concern was could I keep her face in focus from a distance?
Once again not as concerned with the lenses ability as I was my own. Neither let me down. This is the RAW file.
And from here I was able to create this
Which could then be cropped into these.
The dream like quality of these images is exciting. So artsy, with minimal post production.
I know you are not going to be surprised to hear that I feel comfortable saying that the Lensbaby Composer Pro/Sweet35 is is an excellent art lens for Infrared Photography. I’ve only had it a few days, and already I don’t want to have to give it back.
If you want to get more information, or read all the technical specs on this lens, click here.
I want to thank Megan Mafucci for being a perfect model. To see the rest of the series on Megan, click here.
I have one more image to show you.
This was the Raw File
and these the finished pieces.
What a cool lens. What do you think?
Thanks for stopping by, leave a comment below so I know you were here.