Review: Lensbaby Edge 80 Optic

Lensbaby 80 Edge Optic
Released in early 2012, the Lensbaby Edge 80 Optic (along with the Sweet 35) represents a progression in sophistication from the quirky company in Oregon. With internal aperture control, tight build quality and excellent IQ the Edge 80 is arguably the sharpest optic offered for their unique swap system. Ultimately, it’s a fun & flexible piece of glass.

Before we get in too deep, lets take a look at the specs:
-Focal Length: 80mm
-12-blade adjustable aperture
-Aperture range: f/2.8 – f/22
-Flat field of focus optic (when tilted, creates a slice of sharp focus, bordered by blur)
-Compatible with Lensbaby Composer Pro, Composer, Muse, Scout and Control Freak lens bodies
-Minimum focusing distance: approximately 17” when the optic is extended forward in close focus mode and fully tilted
-Maximum focusing distance: Infinity
-5 multi-coated glass elements, in 4 groups
-46mm front threads (will only work with the Lensbaby Macro Converters )
-Macro Converters are required to use Edge 80 with Composer with Tilt Transformer (for mirrorless cameras)

Cool. Let’s get to the fun stuff.

Unlike a traditional straight lens, a tilt lens like the Edge 80 changes the angle of the DOF in relation to the image plane. This allows you to “slice” through whatever is in your frame in a fashion more subtle than the selective focus of the previously offered Lensbaby optics. This allows you to creatively set a scene or draw the eye to an element in the frame in mild or extreme ways, with various points of the spectrum being rather rewarding. I’ve spent a year with the Edge 80 and while I didn’t intend to take this long to have a finished review, I can tell you that it’s a piece of kit well worth your attention.

So, what value does an 80mm f2.8 tilt optic with an internal macro extension tube thingy have to a music photographer or any other sort of photographer, for that matter? More than you would assume at first glance. Notice in the photo above how Swans frontman Michael Gira’s face, his upper body, and the windscreen of the microphone are in focus. Now, notice how the microphone stand is out of focus even though it is on the same (relative) plane as the microphone. The slice is made more subtle by his fretting hand blocking where we can assume the transition occurs. An image like this is what I love about the Edge 80: being able to direct the eye without force. Like with the other Lensbaby optics, the Edge 80 provides you with an alternative approach to capture the aesthetic or story of your subject, even in a tough shooting situation.

There is a learning curve, as one would imagine. However, the folks at Lensbaby have made a tilt simulator that greatly assists with the process of mastering the Edge 80. After a week or so you’ll start to get pretty comfortable with the process. A subtle tilt when shooting at large apertures will give you the desired effect without sacrificing focus accuracy. Like with any manual focus optic/lens you blow the focus from time to time (particularly in low light,) but the shots you nail will often come with a great sense of satisfaction. I’ve learned that exercising some patience with the Edge 80 often goes a long, long way.

The Lensbaby 80 is a great piece of gear. Even with traditional tilt-shift lenses becoming more and more common, the Edge 80 is still a very attractive choice. The size and quality of the optic, coupled with the price ($300, $500 with the Composer Pro) makes it a great value. The learning curve is reasonable for what you can get out of the optic and it’s definitely a conversation piece with other photographers.

And it way’s more authentic than an Instagram filter.

In the last year I can only think of a handful of times I’ve left the house without the Edge 80 in my Composer. It rivals the Soft Focus Optic as my favorite piece from Lensbaby, and with it I’ve been able to get unique and interesting photos that I wouldn’t have been able to capture without it. I give the Lensbaby Edge 80 a strong recommendation to anyone who is looking to mix it up a bit and take things in a different creative direction.

See in a new way, indeed.

See more photos taken with the Lensbaby Edge 80 by clicking here or by checking out the gallery below.

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