Fstoppers Reviews: The Lensbaby Trio 28

Fstoppers Reviews: The Lensbaby Trio 28

Lensbaby has been making creative effect lenses for SLR and DSLRS for many years, and maintain a high level of popularity among a wide range of photographers. They have three primary “looks” that they sell in their lenses: selected focusing, soft focus, and a “twist” effect (similar to a Petzval lens). Until recently, their lenses were only available in SLR mounts, but they have begun to offer mount options for mirrorless cameras as well. Their new lens, the Trio 28, combines their three classic optics into a single lens. Does it give you the best of all worlds? Let’s find out.

Some quick specs on the Trio 28:

  • Available in Fuji X, Sony E, and Micro 4/3 mounts.

  • 28mm focal length.

  • Fixed f/3.5 aperture.

  • Manual focus only.

First Impressions

The Trio 28 is a surprisingly solid little lens. The body is made with a decent amount of metal and has a nice heft to it. It fits very nicely on my Fuji X-T1.

Side note, I haven’t shot with other mirrorless cameras, but the focus peaking on Fuji cameras is nothing short of fantastic, and allows me to shoot manual focus lenses with the same level of confidence as when I shoot with autofocus.

You switch between the three different shooting “modes” by rotating the plastic element on the front of the lens, choosing between “Sweet,” Velvet,” and “Twist.” The element is sturdy yet easy enough to turn, no real worry about it getting bumped to a different setting by accident.

Shooting with the Trio 28

This was my first experience shooting with a Lensbaby. I’ve considered buying one before, but always felt that they were a little gimmicky. After playing around with this one for a while I can’t say that opinion has changed, but I think my idea of “gimmicky” as a bad thing probably has.

The “Sweet” setting is definitely where the Trio 28 shines in my opinion. It gives you a fixed area in the frame that stays in focus while the rest of the image drops out of focus, like a lesser tilt-shift effect. The sweet spot of the lens stays surprisingly sharp and the look it gives you is, quite frankly, fun. My one gripe was that you can’t control where that sweet spot goes; it’s always in the middle of the frame so you have to compose accordingly. I suppose this then is a success for Lensbaby because it made me want to get one of their higher-end lenses that afford you that control.

There's nothing my wife loves more than being my surprise test model.

 

I enjoyed the sweet spot effect on landscape shots in particular.

 

Sweet spot focus is fun, not gonna lie.

Flip over to the “Velvet” lens and you will get the soft focus effect. Soft focus is a style I’ve never had any real attraction to as a photographer so, unsurprisingly, the Velvet effect didn’t do much for me. If the whole hazy thing is what you’re into, then you would probably enjoy this setting more than I did. For me, it just didn’t fit into how I like to shoot. The Trio 28 seems to achieve the effect well enough and would be more than competent for that shooting style. If it were up to me, the Velvet option would be replaced with something like “Standard” or “Clear”, basically just a normal unmodified lens option. That would really make the Trio 28 stay on my camera more, if I could shoot like normal, then easily pop in a focus effect when I wanted without having to change lenses.

Soft focus works, but it's not something I see myself using regularly.

 

lensbaby soft focus trio 28

Lensbaby's sample image for soft focus is a better application, but still not something I would go do a lot.

“Twist” was the setting I was most intrigued by. Alex did a review of the Twist 60 lens last summer, and it seemed like a fun, more approachable Petzval, with variety of situations I could use it in. Unfortunately, the Twist setting on the Trio 28 seems to suffer the most from the downsizing required to put all three optics in a pancake mirrorless lens. While the swirling effect in the bokeh can definitely be seen, it is far more subtle than I would like. Shooting a subject with a very contrasty background is a must to get the desired effect out of this lens.

You can see the very subtle Twist effects in the out of focus areas of the image.

Compare this with one of Alex’s images from his review, the difference is pretty extreme.

fstoppers lensbaby review

Much more noticeable effect. In part because of the darker and more contrasting background, but also a higher quality lens element.

You can see a little of the effect on the rocks photo below.

If I were to rank the three effect lenses in my order of preference, it would be Sweet, Twist, then Velvet. I really wish that the Twist effect in particular was able to distinguish itself more as it would be really nice to have that effect on hand for just casual adventures outdoors or walking around downtown. The idea of an inexpensive multipurpose lens like this is a good one, but I think another iteration or two might be necessary to really nail the functionality.

What I Liked

  • Compact size.

  • Build quality.

  • “Sweet” effect.

  • Innovative effect changing mechanism.

 

What Could Be Improved

  • Not a fan of Velvet, but that might just be me.

  • Addition of an unmodified lens option.

  • Twist effect is almost too subtle to be used how you might like.

  • f/3.5 is somewhat limiting, especially on a mirrorless camera.

 

 

At $280, the Trio 28 feels just a hair overpriced for what you get. If it were down closer to $200 I think I could recommend it more strongly. All that being said, I enjoyed it enough that I will probably invest in some nicer Lensbaby tools down the road, and definitely keep the Trio 28 in my bag for when I’m wandering around with my Fuji. You can purchase your own Lensbaby Trio 28 here.

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6 Comments

Pedro Pulido's picture

to be honest the images where poor overall... so i can't really rate this in any other way - it simply looks like a toy, not a useful lens.

Nice article, thank you for your thoughts! I have been using Trio for some time now and I find I use Sweet and Twist the most. The effect on both is most visible with contrasty backgrounds and/or when your subject is well separated from the background.
I love the fact it is a fixed aperture and focal length too, just select the effect you want, focus and shoot. This is a fun lens, designed to inspire. It works for me. I feel like it has a soul, and their lenses usually do. I own a lot of expensive high end lenses and they work great but lensbaby is more like a companion really. Just my five cents :)
PS. Oh by the way, try it for a double exposure effect!

Thanks for r review and insight into the trio28. I was also interested in this lens. I do not own it, but from all the reviews and images I have seen so far on it, I think I draw the same conclusions. The sweet and twist are probably the most useful. I wish they could do something more with the twist effect. Supposedly the twist standalone optic for full frame works better.. I guess no crop = more effect. I think lens baby should consider revising the optic so the effect may be a little more prominent on crop sensor bodies.

I also agree the velvet seems a little lack luster. Seems like something you can easily do in Photoshop by applying a blurz or possibly simply not fully focusing your shot with a normal lens. They should use one of their other other signature effects lenses like the edge. or, I do like the option for a plain lens with no effect so you have option to keep the lens on to shoot normally. The 28mm on the Fuji X crop sensor body would give a nice standard 40mm focal length which in many ways is perfect as a standard focal length.. not too tight like a 50mm can be , and not too wide like a 35mm can be.

For the cost, it's reasonable. However, even if this was a teaser lens to get one to spend more on the full size optic with composer to get full control, I still feel compelled to say the effect in the trio28 could be stronger to really entice more potential buyers into seeing its value.

Nuno Caldeira's picture

In all fairness, you cant expect swirl bokeh if the background behind the subject doesn't allow it (no light or texture, you couldn't get any bokeh with any other lens in that portrait...unless there was sun with reflections on the water). So comparing Alex photos with yours is nonsense (at least try to match the environment and not a plain ocean view behind the model).
Calling a 3 in 1 lens expensive doesnt match up, first review that i read that mentions that, all the others call it a bargain for the three different creative looks you are able to get with just one lens, instead of having to get three dedicated ones.

Super fun lens on my xt-2. I'll now always have with me for general travel photos, family time photos and for fun portraits. Great effect for videos too. I can't post any of vids since they're family moments but i loved shooting velvet effect for xmas family time videos.

I bought the lens originally because I wanted a cheaper petzval option but I also love the sweet effect the most. I loved it so much I ended up buying a composer pro 2 with sweet 35 in fuji mount after only two outings with the trio.

Jay Jay's picture

I've wanted to love Lensbaby ever since it came out, as well as with every release they come out with, but i absolutely hate the look they give off. Old lenses that have been DIY modifies have always given nicer looks to me. When you shoot something with a Lensbaby and your friends want to know what Instagram filter you used (or think this was an instagram shot), then you're best off just using a regular lens and doing it in post.

If they were $25 or $40 a lens, i'd have no problems picking up one, but for what they cost vs what you get, i cant find a reason to ever get one. :/