The Lensbaby Trio28 Review

OK so let's get this disclaimer thing out of the way.  For the record, Lensbaby was kind enough to send me this Trio28 to review. They are cool like that. And that concludes our disclaimer! Now let's get to the REAL reason you are here!

 

The Lensbaby Trio28

The Lensbaby Trio28 mounted to the Olympus PEN-F. A BEAUTIFUL combination!

So what exactly is the Lensbaby Trio28? 

The Lensbaby Trio28 is a single lens unit, with a rotating turret that houses three separate optical designs. These three designs are actually three of Lensbaby's popular standalone optics, the Sweet, the Velvet, and the newer Twist optic. As we go further into this review I'll discuss what differentiates each optic from one another, although I think you may get a good idea of what they do based upon their names ;)

Something else to bring up early in this review is what this unit is not. This unit is not here to compete with those razor sharp, multi thousand dollar lenses everyone seems to rave about. I'm not saying you can't get a decently sharp image from this lens, but I AM saying that this lens goes beyond worrying about satisfying the sharpness craving pixel peepers of the interwebs. The Trio28 was (like all the other Lensbaby optics) designed for creativity. Because let's face it, if you aren't a photojournalist, then you are here to create. Some of us chase the creativity side more than others, and for those who love the ART of photography, this lens is for you.

With that said, let's look at each of the three optics to see what they can do for your creativity. 
 

The Sweet Optic

The Sweet optic derives its name from the fact that is has a "sweet spot" in the center of your frame when shooting with it. Remember I said you CAN get sharp results with this lens, and in the case of using the Sweet optic, it will be dead center in your frame. To use the Sweet optic you simply grab the front of the lens where you see the three lenses, and rotate it until the word "SWEET" are facing up. Actually, that is how you access all of the optics. 
Once you have the Sweet optic in place simply compose your image, and if you want the subject sharp, center them and shoot.  
The photo below was shot with the Sweet optic.

Note the center of the image as being very sharp, while the edges soften up nicely!

Note the center of the image as being very sharp, while the edges soften up nicely!

As you can see above, the image certainly keeps a sharp center while giving the photographer a nice soft edge all the way around the frame. This offers some very fun creative concepts to be made.  

The Velvet Optic

The Velvet optic, again accessible by simply rotating the lens element turret on the front of the Trio, offers a very unique look. I guess it would be the exact opposite of the "razor sharp" lenses everyone seems to want today. If you have the confidence to just let go of what you think makes a great photo, and embrace the artist inside you, then the Velvet optic can make magic. The only way I can describe what it does is that it makes your scene...Dreamy. It creates a scene with a smooth, silky(velvety?) feel that makes you feel like you are looking at the pages of a fairytale. 

I loved shooting with the Velvet in B&W to create scenes like this that evoke a dreamy feel.

I loved shooting with the Velvet in B&W to create scenes like this that evoke a dreamy feel.

The Velvet optic I think lent itself very well to images processed either in camera (like with the Olympus ART Filters) or in post using B&W or very contrasty color techniques. I also feel like the Velvet optic creates this sense of movement that is slight, but perceptible enough to be used in your compositions.  Looking at the image above there is this sense of "movement towards the door" that this optic creates. I love what this lens can make!

The Twist Optic

Let's do the Twist!!!  No really, let's set the Trio28 to the Twist optic setting and see what we can create!! 
The Twist optic is designed to give the outer edges of your image a slight "twist" in their rendering. I know you've probably heard of the Petzval lens, that crazy big brass lens with a 100yr old design. Well this is a modern twist on that....I guess pun intended. 

Now on the micro 4/3 cameras this twist is less pronounced than it appears to be on larger sensor cameras. Specifically the full frame cameras. But that is not something I would consider a negative, not by any stretch. My rationale for that is because while this Twist is crazy cool...It can get a little overwhelming when there is too much of it. You know, "too much of a good thing". But on micro 4/3 there is enough twist to give you a very distinct and creative look, without inducing motion sickness ;)

The Twist optic with in camera processing using the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII

The Twist optic with in camera processing using the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII

If you look for the individual areas of twist it will be hard to pick out, but if you just observe the image in its entirety you will detect the subtle twist embedded within. This optic will definitely vary in its effect from one scene to the next. So it needs to be played with often :)

Same Scene, Three Optics

It does little good to show three different scenes using the three different optics, when each is so unique. So below you will find the same scene, rendered using all three optics. Here you see a HUGE difference from one to the next in regards to bokeh,clarity,and edge softness/sharpness. 

 

Sweet

The Sweet optic straight out of camera w/ the Olympus PEN-F
Note the sharpest portion of the image is on the rear window near the left edge. That was my focal point.

Velvet

Note the Velvet has little to no "sharpness" but offers one of the wildest bokeh I have ever seen!! Again...A dreamlike qaulity to this optic!

Twist

And finally the Twist optic. The Twist offers the largest "sharp area" of all the optics, and leaves the creative feel to the periphery. Here you can detect the slight "twist" to the Christmas lights in the background. 

I will end this blog post with a few more images I've made with this lens, and by telling you that I think EVERYONE needs a FUN lens like this in their quiver. We all too often get wrapped up in how "optically perfect" a lens "should be" and overlook the fun and creativity a lens like this can offer.  I started exploring this creative side a few years ago by purchasing vintage lenses and adapting them to my Olympus cameras. At some point I ended up with a Lensbaby Composer Pro and that really opened my eyes to what is possible with optics.

So again, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone, and get in touch with your creative side. 

Shot using the Sweet optic on the OM-D E-M1 MkII and in camera processing.

Shot with the Twist optic using the Olympus PEN-F and in camera B&W

Velvet optic on the Olympus PEN-F