Review: Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System

Visual creativity today often seems heavily weighted toward the post-processing phase. Photoshop is a verb now, right? Nailing the image in camera, well, that’s just old school.

If you’re looking to reclaim some creativity while shooting, consider using the Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System. It’s a neat way to add special effects in camera so you can minimize your computer processing time.

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System
©Betsy Finn
The Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Effect Wands magnetically attach to the Omni Ring.
A modern take on filters

The Omni Creative Filter System is a modern take on the classic lens filter. Instead of screwing a different filter onto your lens to accomplish special effects, you screw on the Omni Ring—a shoot-through filter holder of sorts—which holds magnetic Effect Wands in front of your camera lens. In the time it took me to type that, you could have interchanged Effect Wands and created a totally different look. Effect Wands are variously shaped pieces of glass  or plastic that use light and your lens to impart a color or rainbow effects. Magnetic attachment points make them easy to attach and swap out. What you get in a kit depends on whether you buy the basic system or add an expansion pack or two. The Omni Creative Filter System comes in a gray felt pouch that protects the filters and helps you keep everything organized. Each expansion set comes in a felt pouch with Velcro patches  on them to keep things organized in your gear bag.

Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System
©Betsy Finn
The Omni Creative Filter System comes in a gray felt pouch that protects the filters.

Initially, I wasn’t sure if this was up my alley—at least for my client work. I loved the concept but wondered how to make it saleable. Would adjusting the Effect Wands be too time consuming? Maybe the more pertinent questions are, Do I like the look of the effects in my images, and How much time would it take to get that look in post? Those answers will vary for every individual, so only you can decide if this system has a place in your workflow.

©Betsy Finn
Learning curve

There’s a learning curve with the Omni Creative Filter System. It took me several test sessions, first using my kids as models, and then scheduling a session with the client whose images you see here. The first time I used the wands, I needed to see how each affected the light in my images. After I got a feel for what the different wands did, I could combine them in a way that felt cohesive and complementary to the image.

In the photos from this session, my goal was to get reflections of the yellow flowers. In one image, I ended up with part of the house where I meant for flowers to be. For my client’s final image, I retouched this by adding a layer of blurred flower colors in Photoshop. My post-processing edit melded with the in-camera image well, and even with the additional post-processing time, I believe the Omni Creative Filter System saved me time in front of the computer.

I nearly forgot to mention the coolest thing about this whole Lensbaby system. Unlike an art lens or a screw on filter, the effect wands can be removed in a fraction of a second and replaced seconds later. This is a game changer because with far less effort than a lens change you can create artsy optics images alongside the standard offerings you know your client will purchase. The simple magnetic attachment method is what makes the system so flexible. With the Omni Creative Filter System, Lensbaby has introduced a way to add neat artistic effects to your images without having to go to specific art lenses.

©Betsy Finn
©Betsy Finn
Real world

Would I use the Omni Creative Filter System for every photo shoot? No, though I would keep it on hand for clients who have an artistic vibe. The filter wands are a great accent for both nature and urban sessions. I can see using certain wands to pop city light flare or add fun color tones to an urban senior photoshoot. The more you use these filters, the more you’ll be comfortable with the system and the more efficient you’ll get at creating something artistic right in camera.

The Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System is $99.95 and includes an Omni Ring, three Effect Wands, and a felt storage pouch. The Omni Ring mounts on your lens thread and is available in small (49-58mm) and sarge (62-82mm) sizes. Expansion packs with different wands are available for $69.95.

Betsy Finn is the owner of Betsy’s Photography in Dexter, Michigan.

Tags: gear  lensbaby