Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Big Christmas Gift

My Parents and siblings, all six of them, got together to buy me one big special gift for Christmas this year: A Lensbaby 2.0.

This is an interesting little device that takes the oldschool lens-design concepts of clarity and sharpness and throws them clear out the window, onto the street and under the tracks of a passing convoy of tanks. The Lensbaby instead gives you a manual-focus, manual exposure lens that creates a "sweet spot" of sharpness surrounded by an area of increasing softness that turns blurry as it goes out.

I've spent plenty of time working with the beast, and here's what I've observed: This is not your usual photographer's tool. This is something different.

Let me explain: a camera does not create pictures, a photographer does. The camera, along with all other photographic equipment, is but a tool. I know I salivate over nicer cameras all the time, but that's just because nicer tools are often easier to work with, less likely to fail and can handle tougher jobs.

Now let's get really deep into an analogy. There are two workhorses in my camera bag, my 70-200mm and 17-35mm zooms. These two lenses produce thousands of images each month and will continue to do so for the next decade or longer. They are like my sledgehammer and crowbar, that is they do a great deal of work and can always be called on because of their versatility and durability.

The lensbaby, in demolition terms, is more like a stick of dynamite, that is, it is far more powerful than a sledgehammer or crowbar in terms of work done quickly. However, a stick of dynamite can only be used once. Likewise, the soft-focus effect of the lensbaby gets really, really old if overused. Setting off dynamite all day will irritate people, and producing a large quantity of images with the same effect will do the same.

The lensbaby is a special-effect lens. It is not a workhorse. Fortunately, it's only a $150 special-effect. Ultra-wide angle lenses are also special-effect lenses, but they can cost much more.

However, from what I've seen come out of this little lens, I know it will really come in handy with weddings. Speaking of which, I've already started booking wedding dates for 2006, so interested couples better call me in case I fill my weekends. ;)


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