Lensbaby Sweet35

Recently I’ve been experimenting with the Lensbaby Composer Pro & Sweet35 Optic.
I decided to head over to “Laws”, our local railroad museum and try to create a “historic image” effect with several of the buildings and artifacts there.
All the reviews I’ve read on the Lensbaby tilt process say that it does take some getting used to, all manual mode shooting and a small degree of tilt goes a long way.

After shooting so much with the newer lenses made for APS format, the 35mm optic on the Pentax crop sensor brings the focal length back into the 50mm realm I was used to with the K1000.
The focal plane of the Sweet35 is very nice overall with a genuine “sweet spot” in the center.

At the higher side of f2.8 & f4, I found the sweet spot to be extremely clear with a pleasing soft bokeh background. Some reviews had mentioned tht the bokeh was more of an elongated pattern, but I haven’t noticed too much of an extreme.
From f5.6 to f11, I noticed the sweet spot to be a little larger with each opening and a very pleasant hazy – soft focus effect to the edges.
At 16 & f22 the sweet spot is very large with a minimal softening around the edges, which for me didn’t emphasize the sweet area enough and appeared more as bad focus.
I must admit Lensbaby suggest using the camera’s live view mode in these apertures, something I need to try and break away from my view finder fixation.

While the Sweet35 is definitely a manual focus and aperture lens, Lensbaby claims that most cameras should be able to meter in the AV (aperture priority) mode. I found this true with the Pentax, however the metering was only accurate in low light, indoor or non contrast situations.
Any shots outside or utilizing a reflector, I found to be about 1 to 1 1/3 stops over exposed, especially from wide open to f5.6 and would have to adjust to manual mode.
I was curious about my cameras metering system, so tested it against my old Sekonic light meter when I got home and achieved the same results. AV was spot on in even light but the Pentax requires manual mode and metering for high light situations.

The swiveling ball mount of the Composer Pro is incredible, allowing you to place the sweet spot in the frame where ever you want – and yes, a little tilt does go a long way. I found it difficult to hold myself back and would often recenter and then start the tilt again. This is where practice will definitely come into play.
I love the effect and it is nice to be able to use a digital camera like the old bellows my parents owned.
Also, I find it relaxing to slow down and develope an image in the view finder rather than shooting and trying to recreate in post processing.

Even with the advent of the digital age, I still find myself shooting mainly in manual mode anyway. Having to manually focus and carry a light meter will just take me back to the days of my K1000, well worth it for the creativity this system allows.
Lensbaby is a well built and thought out optic system. I plan on getting the Edge80 in the near future and hope they will develope a 16mm or 21mm wide angle blade optic for the APS sensors soon.
I’m sold and Lensbabby has a new customer.