How Lensbaby gave new life to my old DSLR

all threeI received my Canon Rebel XS as a graduation present way back in 2009. It came with a sturdy camera bag, the 18-55mm kit lens, and a pretty impressive telephoto lens. It was undoubtedly one of the best gifts I’d ever been given: Something I both couldn’t afford and desperately needed. The year prior I’d suffered through photo journalism and electronic media classes by checking out loan units that had to be returned promptly, were difficult to acquire on weekends, and that people (me) often forgot to grab their SD cards out of.

So my very own Canon DSLR was a godsend. But I’ve unfortunately gotten older and wiser and now I know – and it pains me to say this – there are better things out there. Much better, in fact. The Canon EOS Rebel XS is an admirable camera, but there are more than a few things that date the device. Its 10.1-megapixel sensor now pales in comparison to 16, 24-megapixel APS-C sized sensors out there that cost about as much as my camera did when I originally got it. The 2.5-inch, un-adjustable LCD display feels downright constraining, the DIGIC 3 processor is nearing ancient status, and a max of 3fps at continuous shooting speed rules out more than a few scenarios.

While that’s all true, the fact remains that DSLRs are very, very expensive – and the more you learn about and review cameras, the higher your expectations become. It’s a dangerous cycle. So for the time being, I’m stuck with my Rebel XS.

But if you can get past an increasingly antiquated body, there are some comparably affordable and creative ways to teach an old dog new tricks – lenses. In my case, that meant ditching my usual glass and throwing on the Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 lens and Edge 80 Optic. These creative lenses from the manufacturer opened up an entirely unreachable portfolio with a simple twist and click.

The Composer Pro with Sweet 35 Optic manual, selective-focus lens has been refined from the original Composer model. It has a smoother, easily manipulated tilt and swivel feel so you can direct focus and blur at your discretion. It quickly became my go-to lens. No longer was my camera constrained by straight shots; and finding the sweet spot between focus and blur was half the fun. If you’ve been limiting yourself to auto focus, relying on nothing but yourself and your lens to determine the focus of a shot is refreshing. It puts all the technical control in your hands and you can leave creativity (or at least much of it) to the Composer Pro.

composer pro sweet 35

The Edge 80 Optic required a bit more of a learning curve, but one that photographers will be happy to follow. It’s an 80mm f/2.8 optic with a 12-blade adjustable aperture. And it’s incredibly versatile: The Edge 80 can put a nice, soft focus-and-blur effect on portraits or macro shots or create a tilt-shift effect when looking down. It can also be used as a straight lens, if you want to forgo the hassle of switching out glass. 

edge 80 optic

The optic gives you a terrific amount of control, and images turn out sharp. You can play with the lens and turn ordinary shots into vintage, retro-esque, artistic profiles, or simply use it to create interesting depth of field in your photos. Try out the simulator here

Without a doubt, though, the best part of the Lensbaby gear is the fact that it made my very old camera feel new again. No, there’s nothing I can do about the sensor size or ISO limits (save buy a new camera), but pairing the Rebel XS with some new and innovative glass was a welcome refresh, to say the least. I think it can save me some full-frame DSLR lust for at least a little while longer. 

Social Media

3D Facebook photos jump out of the newsfeed, no glasses needed

You're not seeing things -- that photo in your Facebook newsfeed is 3D. Launching today, 3D Facebook Photos use the depth maps from dual-lens smartphones to add dimension to an image as you move your phone.

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses - something no phone…
Android Army

With the E5's arrival, Moto's entire E-range lineup unites in the U.S.

Struggling to figure out your E5 from your G6? No, it's not a weird chromatic scale -- it's just Motorola's new roster. But how do you know which is right for you? Find out with our guide to Motorola's 2018 phone lineup.

How many? The Samsung Galaxy A9 has 4 camera lenses on the back

Samsung's new Galaxy A9 phone, fresh for 2018, has four camera lenses on the back. It's no gimmick either, as each performs a unique function, making the phone a versatile camera to have in your pocket.

Incredible images reveal the eye of a weevil and other microscopic wonders

You can't see it, but that doesn't mean it's not stunning. The winners of the 2018 Nikon Small World competition are a mix of science and art. The winning entry captures the eye of a weevil and the jewelry-like scales surrounding the eye.

Luminar (re)touches the sky with a simple A.I.-powered slider

Tired of making complex masks to bring out the sky in a photograph? A.I. can do some of that enhancement for you with a new A.I. Sky Enhancer inside Skylum Luminar. The tool uses A.I. to apply the adjustment to only the sky.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Social Media

Instagram is testing a new way for you to look through your feed

Instagram is constantly tweaking its app to help give its users the best experience possible, so how do you like the sound of tapping — instead of swiping — to look through your feed?

When you're ready to shoot seriously, these are the best DSLRs you can buy

For many photographers the DSLR is the go-to camera. With large selection of lenses, great low-light performance, and battery endurance, these DSLRs deliver terrific image quality for stills and videos.

Photography News: Raw edits on iPad and an A.I. research lab for PicsArt

In this week's photography news, Canon launched an iPad app that allows for RAW edits on the go. Popular mobile editing app PicsArt now has a research lab dedicated entirely to A.I.-powered tools.

Adobe's "creativity conference" begins October 15. Here's what we hope to see

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.

Kodak’s ‘Digitizing Box’ service saves precious memories stuck on old media

If you've been meaning to convert your old family photos, videotapes, films, and audio recordings to digital but never seem to get around to it, then a new service from Kodak may prompt you to add it to your "to-do" list again.

You can finally throw away your PC; Photoshop is coming to the iPad

A full version of Photoshop is coming to the iPad -- and soon, other tablets, as well. Adobe also launched several new features for Photoshop and Lightroom, including a new Content-Aware Fill tool.