When Lensbaby upgraded its popular Composer lens tilt hardware to the Composer II line, the company focused initially on still photographers. But now, less than a year later, Lensbaby is going after the motion market with a new kit focused specifically on filmmakers.

The Movie Maker Kit II comes with Composer II units in both EF mount (for Canon DSLR users as well as other cameras that have been adapted to that platform) and a PL mount version. This is a welcome release, as the improvements with the Pro II—especially the improved metal rotating barrel—will be useful for a film shoot.

If you haven't used the Lensbaby system, it's a mount that allows you to physically tilt the lens in front of the camera, which can create quite dynamic imagery, since it tilts the depth of field along with it. While there are plug-ins that allow for a somewhat similar effect to be created in post-production, there are several arguments for doing it in camera. First off, the post plug-ins will never quite capture the actual effect of distortions created by moving the physical lens on set, no matter how sophisticated the plugin.

Lensbaby Tilt Image ExampleImage created with the lensbaby Sweet50 lensCredit: Lensbaby

In addition, if you know you want something to look a certain way, why put it off to post-production (where other cooks might interfere) when you can lock it in during production? On some projects, you don't have the luxury of being involved in post, so image control on set is still a vital skill. Finally, there are situations where, by turning the depth of field, you get certain items in focus that might not be in focus otherwise (near and far objects simultaneously, for instance), which can't be recreated in post if they weren't in focus on set.

Of course, the PL mount version is significantly more expensive than the comparable unit for still mounts (over $1,000 for the PL version, and around $350 for the still version). Why? While the mount itself doesn't require a tremendous amount of physical material (stainless steel or plastic, for instance), raw materials are never the real driver of cost in a photographic tool. The big driver is engineering costs and the volume of units they can amortize that cost over. The PL mount kit is simply not going to sell as well as the still mount versions by a wide margin, but the expense of developing it is roughly the same, so the company has to charge more for each one to make both worthwhile to produce.

Lensbaby PL mount Composer Pro IILensbaby Composer Pro II in PL mount.Credit: Lensbaby

The tilt unit is more expensive for PL, but the lens optics aren't, and while the kit comes with the Sweet 35, 50, Edge 50, and 80 optics, you can add a twist 60 for a very reasonable $180, or only $80 for the FishEye optics. Considering the tendency of wider lenses to have deeper depths of field, the option of tilting a fish eye to create a shallower focus area can be a valuable tool for directing audience attention.

The Movie Maker Kit II is available now for pre-order for $2,500 and should ship in early September.

Tech specs

  • PL and EF mount
  • f/2.5 or 3.2 depending on optic
  • 7.5" or 17" minimum focus, depending on optic
  • 46mm filter threads
  • 15° of lens tilt
  • 9 or 12 lens blades, depending on optic
  • Full frame coverage
  • Nanuk hard case