I finally got around to playing with new new Lensbaby today (something I've been dying to do for many weeks) and once I got a handle on how it worked (it took me about a half an hour to get the basic concept down), I had a really great time.
The Lensbaby, if you're one of the few photographers on the planet that isn't aware, is a type of tilt-shift lens that lets you take the main element off-axis and shift the sharp focus to specific areas of the frame. In other words, you can keep one part of the image (say the center) sharp while tossing the sides or the top and bottom out of focus. The lens simulates effects that can be created using a traditional large-format camera (because they let you shift the planes of the film and lens separately) or a 35mm tilt-shift lens (which does a better job than the Lensbaby in some ways, but costs much more). In the photo here, for example, I first focused the center of the lens on the center of this unusual building and then used a pivot built into the lens to throw the sides and top and bottom of the frame out of focus. The effect looks a lot like the "miniaturization" that cinematographers create when trying to make things look falsely small. Click the image to make it larger and you'll see that the building looks like a toy from a tiny toy train village--no?
There is no aperture control in the basic Lensbaby (and you have to focus manually, of course), so you have to use your camera in the manual exposure mode. I just shot a series of exposures in each lighting situation until I got an exposure that looked good and then kept that setting until the scene or lighting changed. Since I shoot in RAW all of the time, correcting exposure and white balance is simple.
The Lensbaby is a part of a rapidly growing and fun system of optical toys--which is very dangerous for a gadget-oriented person like me. It's a very fun and experimental-type accessory and I think you learn a great deal about photography by stepping away from the compulsion to make only technically perfect images and by tossing a little Impressionism into the mix. Check out their site for galleries of some very creative and fun photos created with their system. I guess in some ways the Lensebaby is just regarded as a toy--but hey, isn't that what all cameras are in one way or another?