Lensbaby Velvet 56 – Initial thoughts.

UPDATED 6-15 with 1/2 stop of 2.4 added…

I just got my Velvet 56 from Lensbaby and I’m in love. This is not your typical Lensbaby lens.  This is, well, here is what they have to say. “Our Velvet 56 classic portrait lens gives you a velvety, ethereal start with a smooth finish, from the big picture to the smallest details. Bringing modern-day simplicity to the carefully crafted build and look of mid-20th century portrait lenses, this 56mm f/1.6 manual portrait and macro lens evokes an experience like no other. Embrace the moment as you easily go from capturing gorgeous, radiant environments to intimate details in the same scene.”  

I decided to do a quick and dirty test. I set up some fading roses on the dining room table. There are two windows to the right of the roses giving me soft natural diffused light. I set up on a tripod and took the following images. If you’re after the soft dreamy look 1.6 to 2.8 is pretty great!  f/4 to f/8 starts to lose that look but still look great. UPDATE: On Facebook Jack asked if there was a stop between 2.0 and 2.8 as there is a pretty big difference. I set back up and fount it to be VERY EASY to create a 1/2 stop between 2.0 and 2.8 for 2.4ish. No there is no click, however, there is a lot of travel between the two and the tension on the f/stop ring made it very easy.  So Jack, yes there is a stop between 2.0 and 2.8

The lens is much more robust than I was expecting. It borders on being heavy actually. Very solid build with silky smooth focusing. The f/stop ring has positive clicks and works as to be expected. It is a fully manual lens. On my Fuji I set it to Aperture Priority and it does a good job of giving a proper exposure. I simply need to adjust the compensation dial to tweak the exposure. Remember to change your menu item to “shoot without a lens.” Otherwise it will not work. I would also suggest that Fuji X-T1 users use the split screen manual focus set up along with focus peaking. This makes it very easy to focus. At f/1.6 it becomes so dreamy that it can be hard to focus. In this case, simply stop down to f/8 as it will be much clearer. Once you achieve focus, dial in the f/stop (dreamy look) you desire. I can see this lens becoming an integral part of what I do. Great for both grand children portraits and macro work.  It will focus down to 5″!

If you want to buy anything Lensbaby, (including the new Velvet 56) and you have attended a workshop/tour/lecture of mine, send me an email for how to save 10%.  Lensbaby now makes mirrorless camera mounts for the Velvet 56, Composer Pro and Fisheye.  This includes Fuji, Olympus, Sony and a few others!  Now everyone can join in the fun!

More to come as I do more testing.


_DSF9003 _DSF9004JHB-9012 _DSF9005 _DSF9006 _DSF9007

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  1. Doug Dinkle June 12, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    Great insight JB. Looks like a must have.

    • JB June 12, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

      It is Dougie!

  2. Barbara K June 12, 2015 at 5:56 pm #

    The dreamy f/stops almost make the roses look new. It ‘covers’ much of the harshness. Nice post!

    • JB June 12, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

      You’re gonna love this lens Barbara. Can’t wait to see what you do with it.

  3. Catherine Costolo June 12, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    I took mine out for the first time today to photograph Magnolias and I love this lens!

    • JB June 12, 2015 at 9:52 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback Catherine. I can’t wait to use it at Longwood Gardens and on my grand children.

  4. Tom Musante June 12, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    ….had mine for a while and absolutely luv it!

    • JB June 12, 2015 at 9:51 pm #

      Yup, it really looks like it will be a well used lens.

  5. JoyceO June 13, 2015 at 10:04 am #

    My Birthday gift will get a “tryout” today. I have fresh flowers for the “maiden shoot.” Looking forward to some fun, dreamy images! Thanks for your input, John.

    • JB June 17, 2015 at 8:20 am #

      Well? How do you like it so far?

    • JoyceO June 17, 2015 at 10:05 am #

      Oooh, it is a fun lens. It may be my new favorite!!

  6. Brenda June 16, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

    What’s so interesting is how at f 8.0 it looks like any other lens. I love the wider aps, for sure. Have to get me one!!

  7. bruce barrett June 24, 2015 at 10:10 am #

    I appreciate you sharing your findings. I’d be interested to see any examples and
    read impressions from anyone using this lens on M4/3’ds cameras.

    • JB June 24, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

      Let me check with Lensbaby to see if they have some images to share. Good question.

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