Lensbaby is best known for its quirky creative lenses. They’re designed to enable photographers to capture optical effects to inject atmosphere, drama and interest to their images. The Lensbaby Omni creative filter system allows photographers to use their existing lenses and add a little something extra.
Photographers often shoot through something transparent to manipulate their images in-camera. Smearing Vaseline on a filter or shooting through stretched and wrinkled clingfilm, for example, can introduce streaks, ripples and attractive imperfections. And a prism can introduce reflections, highlights and rainbows. The Lensbaby Omni uses a similar principle.
The Lensbaby Omni includes several components but it centres around a metal ring that screws onto the end of a lens like a filter. Unlike a filter, however, there’s no glass inside the metal ring’s frame.
Also, the ring is wider than the usual narrow band of a filter. That’s because the ring provides the base for the Omni’s two magnetic mounts. These mounts can be moved around the ring as required and they’re designed to hold the Effect Wands.
Lensbaby offers the Omni with two different ring sizes, 58mm and 77mm. The 58mm kit comes with 49mm, 52mm, and 55mm step-down rings. Meanwhile, the 77mm Filter Set has 62mm, 67mm and 72mm step-down rings and an 82mm step-up ring.
Like the mounts, each wand has a magnet. The wand magnets are spherical while the mounts have a pair of magnetic cups. Hence, the Wands ‘stick’ to the mounts, but they can be twisted and turned into position over the front lens element.
There are also a couple of magnetic arms that let you hold the Wands further away from the lens.
Lensbaby Omni Effects Wands
Lensbaby supplies three Effect Wands in the Omni kit. These include:
- Crystal Seahorse: A curve of glass with lots of scallop shapes and angles along its edge. These create flare, light redirection and radiant reflections.
- Stretch Glass: This lozenge-shaped piece of glass has flat and curved sides. It creates bright ‘stretches’ and streaks of light as well as reflections and luminous effects.
- Rainbow Film: This diffraction panel creates rainbows offset from bright light.
Lensbaby also has an Omni Crystal Expansion Pack. This comprises:
- Crystal Spear: Creates a variety of effects including radiant specular highlights, kaleidoscopic reflections and flare.
- Triangular Prism: Introduces reflections and bright areas.
- Scalloped Window: Creates flare and reflection
Build and Handling
Lensbaby sent me an early sample of the Omni to take a look at before its announcement. The crystals in this set don’t have the final finish and some of the edges are a little rough. However, we’ll be getting a final sample with smooth edges very soon.
The Omni was also supplied without the case that forms part of the kit, so I can’t comment upon it yet.
What I can say, however, is that the main filter ring and the step-down/up rings are well-made. They’re also easy to fit on the end of a lens. In addition, the mounts snap securely onto the ring and while the Wands are held snuggly in place, it’s easy to manipulate them into position.
Lensbaby’s design means you can move the Effects Wands into place to get the effect you want, and then take your hand away to support the camera.
After a few minutes playing around with the Effects Wands you get a sense of what they can do. Then you can decide where in the image you want the effect to appear. It’s just a case of moving the mounts around on the ring, or twizzling the Wand into the right place.
Of course, the angle of the light and your subject has an impact upon the result you get.
As each of the mounts can hold two Effects Wands, you can use more than one Wand at a time.
As the main ring has a filter thread of 77mm, it can cause vignetting when it’s mounted it on a lens with an 82mm filter thread. Stick to focal lengths longer than 50mm to avoid the corner shading.
I still need to test a final production sample of the Lensbaby Omni, however, I’ve been able to assess the effects that it creates. I think the results will please Lensbaby fans, but the fact that they can be created with regular optics will widen the appeal.
Lensbaby’s design makes the Omni easy to use and it’s fun to experiment with the Wands. The effects won’t suit every subject and situation, but they are are easy to create when you want them