Lensbaby has announced Velvet 85mm f/1.8, a lens inspired by classic portrait lenses from the mid-20th century. With smooth and soft glow, it’s especially aimed at portrait photography. But, it’s good noting there’s the ability to reduce the softness by stopping the lens down. With 1:2 magnification and 9.5″ working distance, this lens can also be used for close-up shots.
Constructing your own lens can seem like an impossible task. When you look at the amount of engineering in modern lenses, how can you possibly do it yourself? Well, you might not get quite the clarity of super high end lenses, but making your own is definitely doable. These days, you can even 3D print a lens, or a complete camera.
This video, though, by photographer Randy Snook, takes things down to the bare basics. Using little more than a couple of plumbing parts, a lens adapter ring, and a piece of glass, Randy builds a lens. The results really aren’t that bad, either, all things considered.
What do you think about Lensbaby? It’s kind of a odd chicken, right? On one hand, they are making $100 “cheap toy lenses”, but they they started making “object of desire”, high end $500 lenses. This change is fascinating, and definitely shows a change in how Lensbaby is perceived (by photographers, but also by itself).
We sat down with Ken Mitchell, Lensbaby president for a chat during Photokina 2016 and listened for some of his insights and his plans for Lensbaby as a company.
If you wanted to buy the Lensbaby Sweet, Twist 60 and Velvet separately, you’d be spending over $1,000. Now, you can get all three for only $279.95. At least, you can if you shoot Sony E, Fuji X or Micro Four Thirds. Lensbaby have today announced the new Lensbaby Trio 28mm f/3.5 lens which combines all three of these unique effects into a single lens.
I think one of the most important aspects of a successful photo is what happens before you ever click the shutter. Pre-visualization of what you want the photo to look like can happen quickly where you immediately envision the final photo, or it can develop over time where you build on your original concept, adding or subtracting elements, re-thinking your take on it before finally deciding on exactly what to shoot. Then after you’ve ironed out what that photo should look like, you actually then go backwards, by reverse engineering the elements of what you’ll need to pull it off.
So this is happening more and more… I’m talking with a client who wants me to shoot a creative portrait of them, and they say, “I like your blurry photos, I want that look.” My blurry photos? Most of the time that’s not something a photographer wants to hear, but I know they’re referring to the shots I’ve done over the years with the Lensbaby creative effects lenses.
I’ve been shooting studio portraits with them for a long time now and there’s nothing quite like them. It takes practice, some trial and error to learn the idiosyncrasies. And with lots of lens kits, focal options, etc., their product line now has a very comprehensive set of tools and it continues to grow (yay, more toys! err…I mean tools).
In the past this swirly visual effect had been the money-train for Lomo and their Petzval lenses in the form of the 85mm and the soon to be publicly available 58mm. I own a lot of the Lensbaby lenses and I’ve been very pleased with the resulting optical effects from their previous products so I was certainly pleased to hear Lensbaby were taking a crack at the swirly bokeh effect now too.
Petzval lenses are nothing new, but that’s kind of the point. Dating back as far as 1840, Petzval lenses offer a unique look to our images that other lenses simply can’t match, and while it may not be to everybody’s tastes, one can certainly see the allure.
The Lensbaby brand has been around for a while now and it’s a name that is synonymous with helping photographers see in a new way but perhaps most importantly in my opinion they also help to inject a bit of the creativity and art back into this slightly more clinical digital age of photography.
Up until now Lensbaby has always been about making lens for photographers that would add a creative edge to the image taking process. They make a variety of lenses, some of which distort the field of focus on a horizontal plane like their Edge 80 lens or their Composer Pro lens that distorts the image on radial focal point all fully adjustable by the user. I have used one of their lenses at some point during nearly all of my shoots for a long time now and although the effects produced are incredibly dramatic I have never thought to use a Lensbaby on an entire shoot from start to finish, that is until now.
Lensbaby is stepping up their game and their latest announcement from just a few minutes ago moves the company from the “toy lenses” market into the big guys game. Their newest Velvet 56 lens is aimed at portrait makers and is an object of desire.
This gorgeous, 9-bladed, lens just feels good, it is constructed from metal and has some details engraved into it. It comes in the most wonderful box along with instructions and some art. If you really life to feel exclusive you can get a silver edition for an extra $100.
The Lensbaby Velvet 56 has a max f/1.6 aperture and as other Lensbaby lenses it has a spectacular bokeh beautifully shaped with 9 aperture blades, making it an interesting creative choice for portraits. The lens also features macro capabilities at 1:2.