Getting Hipster Pics from the Lensbaby Muse

Everything old is new again…

Ok all you Hipstamatic app people. I see you posting your over-saturated, soft focused, wannabe vintage Polaroid pics all over Facebook, but I have news for you.

You aren’t legit until you can do it with glass.

You want faux-vintage?

Let’s see what you can do with the Lensbaby Muse!

The Muse is OLD SCHOOL.

It’s basically a lens element attached to a bellows system. There’s none of that fancy auto-focus, hell there’s not even a focus lock. You achieve manual focus by pushing or pulling the bellows until you like what you see in the eyepiece. If your finger slips, well you’ll probably lose the shot.

For a piece of camera equipment this inexpensive, it is pretty exciting seeing a metal lens mount. Half of my Canon lenses have plastic mounts even though they might be up to twice as expensive as the Muse.

Add to that there isn’t even an internal aperture. If you’ve used the Muse’s big brother The Lensbaby Composer, you’ll be used to their system of manual aperture, namely you drop rings in front of the lens that let in more or less light. That’s pretty rustic, and photogs that don’t like to shoot full auto will certainly appreciate this level of control over what would normally be considered a novelty lens. It certainly elevates the Muse to more of an artistic tool even if it isn’t a very precise one.

That’s the statement you’re making using a Lensbaby product. You’re artistically trying to capture the vibe of a moment. The current consumer photography revolution means that even the least expensive camera lenses are capable of pretty stunning photographic accuracy compared to where we were a couple generations ago with film. The counter to this is of course all the apps on our phones that make our pictures look aged or romantic. The Muse bridges these two worlds by combining the power and clarity of DSLR cameras with the ability to “dirty” your pictures up a bit.

Shooting is pretty intuitive, I held onto the camera with both hands, and I would use my middle fingers to adjust the Muse.

The pics that come out of this lens are blurry, vignetted, soft, and often improperly exposed as my camera’s metering system rarely knew what to make of the scene I was trying to capture.

Put another way, the pics come out awesome.

Using a wide aperture disc (or no disc at all) results in an IMMEDIATE depth of field blur emanating from the focus point. Angling the bellows starts to produce a slight tilt shift effect that can subtly warp the perspective of what you’re shooting.

The vignetting of the lens is so strong in some cases it can give a feeling of movement to a stationary object.

The lens is the antithesis of cold accuracy. It’s like moving painting from realism to impressionism. Best of all it’s fun. Taking the Muse out to shoot with guaranteed that I would be throwing more shots away than I normally would, but that wasn’t the point. I was having fun, experimenting with my photography for the first time since buying my SLR.

If I have to bring up a concern, it would be the bellows and keeping the Muse clean. You’ll want to make sure you keep the insides of the Muse dust free, else every time you press the bellows in you could be pumping junk into your camera body.

In all though, with a street price of around $150, this is easily the most fun bang for buck piece of photography equipment I’ve ever played with.

To get any more hipster with my shots though, I’ll have to go back to film and make my own darkroom…

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