Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Lensbaby Tilt Transformer and Composer: First impressions

For Photokina 2010, Lensbaby introduced their newest product: The Tilt Transformer. It can be had for Micro Four Thirds cameras, and for Sony NEX E-mount. It can be bought stand alone, or with a Composer lens element.

Below are both products: The Composer (left) and the Tilt Transformer (right):



The Tilt Transformer (right) can be mounted to a Micro Four Thirds camera. This device acts as an adapter for Nikon F lenses, and also as a tilting platform.

The Composer (left) is a very simple lens. Turning the black ring around the lens pushes the lens elements back and forth, thus giving manual focus capability. To change the aperture, you need to disassemble the lens, and change the aperture plate. The lens comes with round plates with curcular holes, corresponding to apertures from f/1.8 to f/22.

One would perhaps think that the Composer can also be used as a lens on Nikon cameras, since the Tilt Transformer accepts Nikon lenses. However, this does not appear to be true. It is probably not a good idea to try to mount the Composer to a Nikon camera, since the lens element protrudes far into the camera, possibly interfering with the mirror.

The next picture shows the two devices mounted together:



In this configuration, it acts as a standalone lens for Micro Four Thirds cameras, with tilt capability built in. Loosening the ribbed metal ring allows you to rotate and tilt the adapter and Composer lens element. You can tighten the ring to fix the rotation and tilt in place.

Build quality

Unlike most native Micro Four Thirds lenses, the chassis of this lens is composed largely of metal. Still, it does not have a very good quality feeling: For example, the finish of extruded parts is somewhat rough. Also, what annoyed me, was that when mounted on a camera, the connection is a bit loose. Even the cheapest adapters fit the camera well, in my experience, but when mounting the Tilt Transformer on the camera, there is some play in the connection. It can be jerked a bit back and forth, unlike any other lenses I have tried on a Micro Four Thirds camera.

In use

When loosening the ribbed metal ring, you can adjust the amount of tilt. This adjustment is not dampened well. The tilting adapter moves quite jerkily. Again, I think this is a bit disappointing. Tightening the locking ring fixes the position of the adapter, and this functions well.

Manual focusing is pretty easy. The focus ring is very light to operate, and there is a lot of rotation, meaning that fine tuning is easy.

Changing the aperture is, of course, a bit of a hassle. You must unscrew the front section of the lens, remove the aperture disc with the supplied magnet tool, and then insert a new disc with the aperture of your choice, before putting back the front lens section.

Example image

This is the very first image I took using this adapter/lens combination. I used the f/4 aperture plate, and tilted the lens a bit to the side. Then I rotated the focus ring so that the middle part of the image was in focus, and pushed the shutter release. That's it. The picture was taken with a Panasonic Lumix GH1. (Click for a larger image.)



So is this image interesting? Well, it does have a "miniature" look to it, due to the selective focus. With some practice, the effect can be made much better.

3 comments:

  1. I recommend to use an old manual focus lens instead of the composer - in best case a Nikon, but there are a lot of other lenses on the market.

    I've got some Takumars, my best one is a 50mm/f1.4. With such a lens you can change the aperture easily, and the lens is quite nice to use (smooooth ;-) I also use some russian lenses, and there are such a lot of other M42 lenses (picture quality is not the most important on tilting). Only difficulty may be to find wide angle ones, as we have our cropfactor of 2 :-(
    And don't forget: The bigger the aperture, the bigger the effect!

    To use it also on infinity, i had to change the mount of the transformer. I unscrewed the Nikon mount and mounted a Nikon to M42 mount in which i drilled the necessary holes. The thread is M1.6 by the way. To change it back you need to be a little patient, as the springs are a little tricky to mount.

    Have fun!
    Andy

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  2. Your comments are very good.

    I agree that using a legacy prime lens is mostly better than the composer. Most legacy primes will be much sharper. The only advantage of the composer is probably that it is light and compact.

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  3. The double glass lens in the composer allows you to choose a sharp spot. This is not possible when you only use the tilt adapter. You can of course place the focus plane where you like it, but everything in the focus plane will be sharp, not just a circular spot.

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