06 July 2013

Comparing Lensbabies

If you consider buying a lensbaby you sure would like to get a clue as how the various optics perform. A good starting point would be the Compare Lensbaby optics online where you can sort images by optic and accessories used. However, this isn't exactly a helpful comparison, as lensbaby optics vary a lot with different lighting and subjects. 

To help this, I took my lensbaby optics for a shootout under strictly non scientific conditions. My goal was to give a good comparison between the various optics at different apertures. I set up the board to the specs of the USAF 1951 Chart as given by Jim Doty.  but I also put in some variation.

Board as shot with my Nikkor AF 50/1.8 @ f/8 

Only half of the board was used to hold USAF 1951 charts. I think it is rather pointless to look for sharpness in every corner when it's just about the same blur everywhere.
The charts were printed on my laser printer and put on a wooden board which has great texture. Because of the slight contrast between the brown wood and the white paper koma shows nicely. I found this one of the main distinctions between lensbaby optics and I hope you enjoy it as well. 

A total of 11 USAF 1951 charts got placed to allow for judging different sizes of the sweet spot at various apertures. The center chart and the one on the upper right corner got superimposed as a 1:1 sample of that chart. 

The other half of the board was split into three areas. The upper left quarter of the board was covered with a high quality print of one of my pictures. The lower left part is a professional color print, the top of some puzzle box. I think these choices give a good feeling of how real world subjects would render.  The lower left middle part got set up to show the bokeh. There were several LED lights set about 6 feet / 180 cm behind the plane of the board which were aimed at the lens. A 1:1 detail of the bokeh section gives a pretty good idea of how the optic behaves when it is hit by direct light.

All shots were taken at the same session with a Nikon D300 (DX/APS-C, 12 mp) at ISO200 in RAW. The optics were placed in a Composer Pro which was centered carefully (although probably not perfect at all). There was minor post processing, including a slight sharpening to compensate for the rather strong dithering screen on the D300's sensor. There was no exposure adjustment, no color correction, or anything else to show pretty much what you would expect out of the camera. 

To get things into perspective I had to scale the images to the proper height for the screen. As the files are in a 3:2 ratio, I cropped off the leftmost part to get smaller file sizes. The right part with the USAF charts on it shows half of the DX/APS-C frame which is plenty to see how the various lensbaby optics perform. 

As the USAF 1951 chart isn't meant to be a scientific test but an aid to compare a set of lenses, I added a chart shot with my Nikkor AF 50/1.8 -- one of the sharpest lenses from Nikon with the least distortion. This comparison should give you a good understanding as of how lensbaby optics compare to a pretty good standard lens. 

Norbert Fürst
So if you like to see for yourself how things look with lensbaby optics you can Download your copy for free. If you have any questions or comments, I'm happy to get them here.