Lensbaby Edge 35 Optic review

Lensbaby's latest tilt-shift offering adds some spice with a slice of wide-angle focus

Lensbaby Edge 35
(Image: © Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

The Lensbaby Edge 35 is the 35mm version of the beloved optic that consumers have been waiting for. It lives up to expectations, delivering the unique Edge effect in a street photographer-friendly focal length. While the 50mm and 80mm Lensbaby Edge optics are more apt for portraiture, the Lensbaby Edge 35 is a dream for street photography - adding a unique flourish to images, and creating subtle streaks of selective focus or carving out great swathes of blur. It operates identically to its siblings and creates stunning slices of focus, though you need the Lensbaby Composer Pro I or II to use it.

Pros

  • +

    The "street shooter" Edge we wanted

  • +

    Available for almost every mount

  • +

    Surprisingly sharp performance

Cons

  • -

    You also need the Lensbaby Composer Pro I or II

  • -

    Manual focusing can be tricky

  • -

    The effect is not to everyone's taste

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The Edge 35 is part of Lensbaby’s Optic Swap System and is designed to be used with the company’s Composer Pro or the newer Composer Pro II lens housing, which is also available as a kit with the Edge 35 Optic. 

For those unfamiliar, Lensbaby Optics are not lenses in their own right, but add-ons for the Lensbaby Composer Pro housing; this is available for the Canon EF, Canon RF, Nikon F, Nikon Z, Fujifilm X, Micro Four Thirds, Sony E, Sony A, and Pentax K mount - plus for the L Mount used on full-frame Panasonic, Leica, and Sigma mirrorless cameras.

An Edge Optic creates a slice of focus in the image, within which everything will be sharp, while everything else can be rendered increasingly or decreasingly blurry. The very first Edge Optic was released in 2012, the Edge 80, with the 50 following in 2016 – which had focal lengths of 80mm and 50mm respectively. Lensbaby tells us that a 35mm version was the most requested lens that it has ever made, so anticipation is high for this release.

The Edge 35 doesn't disappoint. Offering a 35mm focal length with an f/2.5 aperture, the lens is extremely sharp edge-to-edge with a flat field of focus that performs like any well-corrected lens. 

Specifications

Mount: via Lensbaby Composer I or II
Full frame: Yes
Autofocus: No
Image stabilization: No
Lens construction: 9 elements in 6 groups
Angle of view: 63.4° (full frame); 44.1° (APS-C);  34.4° (MFT)
Diaphragm blades: 8
Minimum aperture: f/22
Minimum focusing distance: 17.5cm / 7 inches
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.26x (W) 0.2x (T)
Filter size:  -
Dimensions: 6.35 x 6.35 x 8cm / 2.5 x 2.5 x 3.1 inches (with Composer II)
Weight: 365g (with Composer II)

Handling

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

As the Composer Pro II doesn’t have any electrical contacts, the first step is to open the camera menu to set it to shoot without a lens. Most cameras will meter correctly in aperture priority mode, but you can also use manual if you prefer.

Once the Edge 35, is mounted in the Composer Pro II, the housing’s ball and socket design allows the optic to be tilted in any direction. This moves the plane of focus in the image like a regular (but expensive) tilt-and-shift lens (although there’s no capacity to shift), enabling you to create a sharp band across the scene with near and far objects both being in focus. Tilting up or down creates a horizontal slice of focus while tilting left or right gives a vertical slice, and tilting diagonally produces diagonal slices. A locking ring near the lens mount enables the movement to be tightened and loosened as required.

Tilting the Lensbaby Composer Pro II enables you to manipulate the Edge 35's slice of focus (Image credit: Future)

The build of the Edge 35 is streets ahead of that of Lensbaby’s original bendy lenses. The barrel is metal and the elements are glass, so it has a nice weight to it and feels like a good-quality optic. Much of the barrel of the optic is taken up by the aperture ring which has settings running from f/3.5 to f/22. Focusing, which is manual only, is performed using the front ring on the Composer Pro housing.

It’s useful to activate the focus peaking and to customize a button to activate the magnified view as this helps you get the focus just where you want it. With careful focusing, you can get impressively sharp results at the point of focus, with steep fall-off and attractive bokeh.

Lensbaby Edge 35

The optic is removed from the Composer Pro II by gripping the focusing ring and rotating the aperture ring beyond f/22. It’s reinstalled by aligning the hollow dot markings, then pushing in and rotating clockwise (Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

It works identically to the other Edge Optics; paired with the Lensbaby Composer Pro II you get nearly 15 degrees of tilt, which is nearly twice as much as most tilt-shift lenses. If you tilt up or down you get a horizontal slice of focus running through your image, while tilting left or right creates a vertical slice. By racking your focus from near to far, you can see the plane of focus slide throughout your image. 

In addition to that selective focus, you're also able to get infinite focus on a plane that's not parallel to the sensor, even at the brightest aperture. This produces otherwise impossible focal effects, and can be used – or abused – to great creative effect. 

Verdict

The Lensbaby Edge 35 Optic won't mount by itself; it requires a Lensbaby Composer Pro I or II (Image credit: Future)

While the 50mm and 80mm Lensbaby Edge optics are more apt for portraiture, the Lensbaby Edge 35 is a dream for street photographers who want to add a unique flourish to their images, creating subtle streaks of selective focus or carving out great swathes of blur.

Lens buying guides:

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The best 70-200mm lenses (opens in new tab)
The best budget telephoto lenses (opens in new tab)
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The best Micro Four Thirds lenses (opens in new tab) for Olympus or Panasonic cameras

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Angela Nicholson

Angela has been testing camera gear from all the major manufacturers since January 2004 and has been Amateur Photographer’s Technical Editor and Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography portfolio (Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo (opens in new tab)Practical Photoshop (opens in new tab)Photography Week (opens in new tab) and Professional Photography magazines, as well as the Digital Camera World and TechRadar websites).