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Road Test: Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

9 June 2020

Shooting through handheld objects can add a special -- even magical -- effect to an image. The trouble is, you need three hands to do it.

Omni Creative Filter System. A box of magic tricks.

Unless, that is, you invest in an Omni. Adding that third hand was the impetus behind the design of Lensbaby's Omni Creative System, Craig Strong, Lensbaby chief creative officer and co-founder, said when the product launched a year ago.

It's not only a third hand but a well-built magnetic filter holder system you can easily expand yourself beyond the three filters included with the system and the many more in the expansion pack introduced last October.

For more than a few months, we've been experimenting with it. This is our extended report.


The $99.95 kit includes:

  • A compact, flat carrying case easily added to a camera bag
  • A screw-on holder
  • Step-up/Step Down adapters to mate the holder to various lenses
  • Four magnetic paired seats
  • Three effects wands

Small and Large versions are tailored to smaller or larger filter threads and include step-up or step-down rings to fit a range of filter thread sizes.

Kit Components. The big ring (l) is where the seats attach after screwing it onto the front elements of your lens, possibly using a step ring (r).


The Omni Creative Filter System is designed to fit most prime and zoom lenses on the market. The company claims the best results are obtained using a 35mm or longer focal length lens. When shooting on any focal length lens, especially those wider than 35mm, wider apertures ensure the most natural looking creative effects by blurring the wands more.

Carrying Case. Compactly and safely transports the system.


The holder is attached to one of two rings with additional step-up/step-down adapters that fit a particular lens's filter threads. Four magnetic paired seats attach to the holder with cupped seats to mount the wands, which each have a metal ball that fits the seat.

By rotating the wand in the ball joint, you can position the wand anywhere you want it to get the effect you are looking for.

The holder itself does not rotate when attached but you can slide the magnetic seats anywhere along the holder.


Because the holder doesn't rotate, lenses whose front element does rotate when focusing can reposition the desired effect when focus changes. If you have trouble using a circular polarizer on a particular lens, you've had the same issue.

One of our lenses does indeed behave this way. To work around it we manually focus the lens, then set the effect. So you can get around it but the Omni works best on lenses whose front element does not rotate when autofocusing.


Both the wands and the filters bend light. We found the effect most pronounced when shooting into the light but the distortions are strong enough that they're obvious in any scene.

And with irregularly shaped glass or plastic, some edge is bound to catch the light, creating a specular highlight you can place like magic dust anywhere in the image.

We particularly liked shooting Christmas tree lights whose small points of light scattered like fireworks. Our slide show below includes a few examples.


The three basic effects wands include (in the order seen in the image):

  • Rainbow Film: "The Rainbow Film is a unique diffraction panel that creates beaming reflective rainbows offset from any bright light source" the company said.
  • Crystal Seahorse: "With its multitude of angles and edge scallops, this uniquely shaped crystal offers endless possibilities for complex flare, light redirection and radiant reflections." We found it helpful in scattering a path of highlights across an image.
  • Stretch Glass: "The large surface area of the Stretch Glass is excellent for creating bright stretches and streaks of light within an image. Shoot through the flat and curved sides or at an angle to achieve chance reflections and luminous effects."

And the $50 expansion pack includes three more:

  • Crystal Spear: "Create a wide variety of effects, from radiant specular highlights and kaleidoscopic reflections to dreamlike flare with the versatile Crystal Spear."
  • Triangular Prism: "Create surprising reflections within the frame by shooting through the differently sized sides of the Triangular Prism."
  • Scalloped Window: "The unique edges of the Scalloped Window offer brilliant flare and reflection, while the large clear center keeps your subject visible."

Finally, a $60 color expansion pack includes:

  • A Crystal Multicolor Teardrop and Crescent wand, each with a unique spectral coating resulting in constantly changing prismatic colors on top of the crystals' multi-faceted fractal effects
  • Set of five smooth-surface Lumi Films in a range of colors and hues which add color, light leaks, expired film effects & more
  • Set of four textured Lumi Films which create flare effects from the texture, also in a range of colors and hues which add color, light leaks and expired film effects
  • Set of five Color Gels, each of which adds a single swath of color overlay
  • Crisscross Rainbow film that creates a patterned rainbow effect
  • Two Effect Wand handles to hold the gels and films

You can also create your own effects using the magnetic seats and arms to sandwich various translucent materials. In addition, the Rainbow Film wand in the base kit has a screw lock that can be unscrewed to release the film and replace it with your own material.

Basic Effect Wands. Mouse over or tap for captions.

And of course you can modify any of the wands by temporarily attaching color filters to them with tape or other adhesives.

We came to think of the effects wands as tools rather than filters. They offered many more possibilities. And the more we used them, the more possibilities we thought of.

Rolling Your Own. The Rainbow Film Wand uses a clamp you can slip any potential filter into.


Of course, shooting through handheld objects to introduce distortions and throwing rainbows into an image or even just flaring a little color into a corner are not easy effects to visualize.

slide show

Gallery. Click the thumbnail to start the slideshow.

If you wait until you know what you want to do with this set, it will remain in the tidy little carrying case.

Instead, it calls out for experimentation.

We kept an Omni ring mounted on a camera for months. Every now and then we'd pick it like a kaleidoscope to see what the world looked like through the Omni system.

DIY Filters. We attached both a blue and yellow filter to the Omni ring using just the magnets (top) and tried a twisted length of Saran wrap. You can see both effects at the end of the slide show above.

We did find a few repeatable effects that might serve a wedding photographer, say, very well for certain shots. But mostly we just enjoyed seeing the world recast in our viewfinder by the Omni.

In the months that we have used the kit, we have not found it to be particularly fragile. We're careful with any optical system, of course, but we didn't feel the need to be overly protective of the wands or filters.


The real achievement of this system is the magnetic mounting system. We were very impressed with its design, reliability and ease of use.

The three wands included in the kit provide a healthy variety of effects. They also inspired us to visit antique stores looking for chandelier parts. But that isn't necessary.

You can add your own color filters easily to the base set and attach other translucent materials using the strong magnetic seats and arms.

Given its solid design and extensibility, the Omni filter system earns all four corners from us after an extended road test.

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