What is an Edge Optic?

camera lenses and optics in a line Lensbaby Edge 50 edge how to

Edge Optics will give you a slice of focus from edge to edge, bordered by soft blur. You need a Composer series lens in order to shoot with our Edge Optics.

Here’s how they work: When you tilt our Edge Optics, the lens is no longer parallel to the camera’s sensor. This means that you can get the slice of focus to cut through your scene in almost any orientation you can imagine. Use it to isolate a single aspect or bring both foreground and background into sharp focus. Edge Optics are great at directing the viewer’s eye to the most important points in your photo.

Some people think of Lensbaby as a tilt-shift lens, and our Edge Optics have some features in common with tilt-shift lenses. This lens tilts and gives you that same selective focus, slice-of-focus look. However, it does NOT shift which is what corrects perspective – like when you look up at a tall building and it seems to narrow as it gets taller.

We currently make the Edge Optic in a 50mm f/2.5 version, though we have also made an 80mm f/2.8 version in the past. Edge 80 is discontinued but still possible to find online or in some Lensbaby authorized retailers. If you already own a Composer series lens body, you just need the optic. 

All Lensbaby lenses are manual and contain no electronics to communicate with your camera. You focus manually and set aperture manually on the Optic. Most cameras, however, WILL meter for you. With these lenses, you’ll set the aperture for the amount of blur you want, and you’ll use shutter speed and ISO to control your exposure.

If this is your first tilting Lensbaby, you’ll need a Composer Pro series lens body with the Edge 50 or Edge 80 installed. Select the Composer Pro that fits with your specific camera system. With Composer Pro + Edge Optic, you’ll have everything you need to get started. If you’re hooked and decide you want more, you can purchase different Optics. This post concentrates on the Edge Optics in order to give you all the info you need to understand the basics and start shooting.

Step 1 – How to Set Aperture (which will determine the width of your slice of focus)

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Aperture controls how wide or thin the slice of focus is, and how much blur surrounds it. Adjust aperture manually by rotating the dial on the optic. Your camera will likely show F– or F00. At a wide open, bright aperture like f/3.2, you’ll have a thin slice of focus and lots of blur surrounding it. At darker apertures, the width of the slice grows and much more of your image will be in focus.

Step 2 – How to Get a Good Exposure

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Since you’ll be using aperture to determine the area of focus and amount of blur, use your shutter speed and ISO to get a good exposure. Most cameras WILL meter for you in either Aperture Priority or Manual mode. Some older Nikon cameras won’t, and you’ll need to do a little trial and error, using your LCD and histogram to determine a good exposure. If you need a bit more guidance, try the Sunny 16 method.

Step 3 – How to Focus

seaside village cliff ocean trees how to edge optics move slice of focus

Start with your aperture set to f/4 or 5.6 – you should be able to see the slice of focus pretty easily at these settings. Try tilting the lens a small amount in any direction, and slowly rotate focus each time you tilt. Watch how the slice of focus moves through the frame. Keep in mind with the Edge Optics, if you point the lens straight ahead, you’ll get a normal image with no slice of focus.

Step 4 – How to Move the Slice

Here are some basic guidelines to help you understand how to use tilt to orient your slice of focus. Tilting up or down creates a horizontal slice of focus, tilting left and right a vertical slice, and tilting diagonally produces diagonal slices. Just remember – this “slice” is passing through several focal planes so it may disappear and reappear through the frame. Set aside some time to tilt, rotate focus, and watch the magic happen through the lens… you’ll start to become more familiar with how to control the slice the more you simply practice and experiment.

Step 5 – Bonus – Close Focus Feature!

camera and lens macro mode Edge how to switch to macro mode

Want to get closer to your subject? Both Edge 80 and Edge 50 Optics have a built-in close-focus feature. With Edge 80, pull on the front of the Optic. With Edge 50, pull on the middle of the Optic.  Just remember to pop it back in when you want to focus on something farther away.

Exercise 1: Shoot a series of images at one aperture, f/4, with a vertical tilt, horizontal tilt, and diagonal tilt. Shoot a scene in which you have foreground, midground, and background (at infinity) elements. The point of this exercise is to help you better understand how tilt affects the placement of your slice of focus. Examine the images after and note where the focus falls.

Exercise 2: Shoot the same series and at each direction of tilt, slowly rotate focus through the frame, and take a few snaps. This will help you understand how rotating the focus works in conjunction with the direction you tilt, controlling your placement of the slice of focus. For example: if you tilt horizontally, all the way up – you will get a horizontal slice of focus at the top of your frame. But if you rotate focus through the range, you’ll see that you can position the slice at the top, middle, or bottom of the frame. If you tilt all the way down, you have this same option of controlling placement of that horizontal slice by rotating the focus. This option can be particularly useful if you have bright light at the top or bottom of the frame that you want to avoid (or take advantage of!) and still be able to get the same composition and slice placement.

Exercise 3: Shoot that same series, but at a range of aperture settings. This will help you understand how aperture affects how wide or narrow your slice of focus is.

Bonus 1: How to create that “miniature look” with Edge Optics

  • Shoot from up above your scene
  • Shoot at a brighter aperture for a smaller slice of focus and more blur which will enhance the illusion
  • Tilt heavily – this will also help enhance that miniature feel

Additional Tips & Extras

As with all Lensbaby lenses, it can be helpful to bracket your focus. Take a shot where it looks sharp, then rotate the focus ring a tiny bit back and forth and take a few more shots – chances are at least one of those shots will be in focus.

  • Use live view to confirm your focus – just zoom in to the center of the image, adjust your focus and shoot. Or, if you have a camera with focus confirmation or focus peaking, take advantage of this in-camera assist.  

Find out more about the Composer Pro II with Edge 50Edge 50 Optic and the Optic Swap Kit.

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