Last month, the Portland-based Lensbaby announced a new mobile photography kit aimed at bringing their unique lens esthetics to the mobile platform. This new creative mobile kit includes two lenses and a magnetic kickstand. I had the opportunity to review it over the last few weeks.
The first aspect of the Creative Mobile Kit that caught my attention was the magnetic rear cap to the lenses. The magnet snaps quickly and firmly into place, this magnetic function is what the entire system is based around. The mount if you have an iPhone 5 or greater, sans the 5c, will receive the mechanical iPhone mount. Otherwise you’ll have to opt for adhering a magnetic ring to the back of your phone, which looks awfully like a simple washer. While I’m not a fan of using adhesive on my devices, the Moment mount was aesthetically pleasing.
The lenses are exactly what you’d expect from Lensbaby, a little quirky and weird, yet fun. The LM-30 looks much like round cut gem with sharp geometric angles refracting light at the slightest turn. The images were interesting, perhaps to the likeness of what you’d imagine a fly would see while dodging your half hearted swats slaving over your Wacom tablet. The LM-20 is a bit more classic Lensbaby effect. It’s a selective focus lens fading towards the outer edges of the frame. The effect is very similar to the pseudo selective focus effect Instagram has built into the app. The kickstand was perhaps surprisingly useful. It brought me back to the days of having a kickstand on my HTC Thunderbolt.
Along with the CMK, the Lensbaby team also launched a mobile app geared towards use with their unique lenses. I usually either forgot to use it or when I did, got frustrated with using it. I mistakenly clicked though the instructions too quickly and wasn’t really sure how to get them back. The problem with most apps, that aren’t the default camera app, is they are less convenient to use. The reason I use VSCOcam when I do is because I’m going to import the images there anyway. Aside from the access issue, the app is slow and crashed on me every time I took more than one photo consecutively.
What I Liked
Fun to use: While I don’t see any of these shots going on my tightly curated Instagram account, I enjoy making fun snapchats with them.
Easy to install: If you’re using the mechanical mount the install takes less than 30 seconds and I never made a mistake aligning the lens port.
Solid lens cap system: The tight fitting rubber front cap and the magnetic rear make for a great system for protecting the lens.
What Could Be Improved
Practicality: While the aim may not have been at all practicality, I don’t see many serious mobile photographers using this set up for their work.
Easy to misplace: They are small, as most mobile photography lenses are, which leads to them being easily misplaced.
Other Devices: If you’re not using the 5, 5s, or the 6 series iPhones, you’ll be stuck adhering a gaudy washer to the back of your phone to magnetically snap the lenses into place.
While the system is fun to play around with, I was immediately annoyed I had to carefully remove my other lens mount to use this one. If you can use the mechanical clip it’s a breeze to get on and off your device and even easier to attach the lenses. The app was infuriating to use due to the constant crashes and my missteps upon first opening the app. If you’re looking for some unique fun images in your mobile adventures this kit would be great, but I wouldn’t imagine many serious Instagram artists integrating it into their toolkit. They are available directly from Lensbaby or various other retailers such as B&H.
Unfortunately most of the sample images I had from my time with the system were lost when I destroyed my phone at a wedding I shot a few weeks ago.