Velvet 56 Is The Portraits Lens You Always Wanted

Apr 7, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Velvet 56 Is The Portraits Lens You Always Wanted

Apr 7, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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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.

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This is a short intro video explaining about the lens:

YouTube video

and one that explains how to use it:

YouTube video

Here are the specs for this new lens:

  • f/1.6-16
  • 1:2 Macro
  • 56mm
  • 62mm filter
  • Focuses from 5” from front element to infinity
  • Metal lens hood included with Velvet 56 lenses for mirrorless cameras only
  • Dimensions (DSLR) 86mm at infinity to 112mm at Macro, 71.96mm diameter
  • Dimensions (mirrorless without hood) 94mm Infinity to 120mm at Macro
  • Weight ~400 grams

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Velvet 56 will set you back $499.95 (or $599.95 for the silver edition). The first wave for Canon, Nikon, Sony A and Pentax should start shipping at 4/13/15 and a second wave for Micro 4/3rds, Sony E, Samsung NX and Fuji X will start shipping mid may.

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If you happen to be at St. Louis Union Station at St. Louis, Missouri’s ShutterFest it will be on display for the today and tomorrow.

[Velvet 56]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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46 responses to “Velvet 56 Is The Portraits Lens You Always Wanted”

  1. Ignasi Jacob Avatar
    Ignasi Jacob

    Another necessory.

  2. yopyop Avatar
    yopyop

    I’m not trying not to be cynical, but wow, 500 bucks for a purposely very soft wide open lens… The portrait of the lady is also very disturbing because everything, including the eyes, is very blury giving me the impression that my eyes are not properly focusing on my screen.
    Guys, if anyone’s interested in this kind of lens, first have a look at what an Helios 44-2 (58mm f/2) lens could give you. Approximately 10 times cheaper and an awesome swirling bokeh. Mediocre old manual lenses can also do the trick. I mean, “soft wide open” is often what defines a bad lens, so why spend 500$ on it ?!?

    1. Dick Durham Avatar
      Dick Durham

      I have to agree with you. My first instinct when looking at the first portrait was to blink my eyes to try and get them to focus. It’s horrible. Not the kind of image I’d use to promote a $500 lens, that’s for sure.

      1. momom Avatar
        momom

        same boat

    2. Paweł Duszyński Avatar
      Paweł Duszyński

      You think $500 is too much for a soft lens? Leica owners pay much more, but they call it the Leica Glow™ ;)

      1. Dario Toledo Avatar
        Dario Toledo

        Put the Leica word in a sentence and it will always sound better, for no real reason.

    3. mikemike9 Avatar
      mikemike9

      Wow, yes.

      I’ve bought two Lensbaby lenses over the years — the bendy type 2.0 (fun, not very sensible), and the much more pragmatic Composer. I should sell the 2.0 but I never have the heart to do it; the Composer comes in useful quite a lot.

      But this is crazy. There are so many choices here. The Helios, as you say. The Jupiter 8 is slightly soft wide open and has a single-coated, classic take on contrast. The older model Nikon 85mm f/1.8, wide open, is very gentle, flares beautifully and loses contrast if you shoot without the hood. (And with the right body, you get autofocus and metering if you buy an AF version). The old Vivitar 135mm f/2 gives a beautiful, simple filmy softness and will cost very little.

      Better still, buy several old things. Then your ‘favourite equipment’ collection will be even bigger, for less money.

      This thing looks beautifully made and it does have a well-controlled exaggerated softness that is popular in some portrait niches, but it’s a lot of money to spend. In the UK it’d be about halfway to the cost of the Nikon 105 DC.

    4. mikemike9 Avatar
      mikemike9

      And another option: just buy a 1/4 or 1/2 black mist filter for the lens you already like best…

      1. yopyop Avatar
        yopyop

        It’s time to use those forgotten cheesy portrait cokin filters!

      2. Fred Smith Avatar
        Fred Smith

        …or cover the lens with your wife’s stockings.

    5. namredlawt Avatar
      namredlawt

      I agree with you on that. If you want something more refined than the Helios 44, find a 12 blade 58mm CZ jena biotar, from which the helios is a copy. The biotar design is f2 however, add a Hoya DOTU filter and you have a very similar effect. I am sure the Velvet56 is a beautiful lens to use and worth owning, however just like the logo art lenses, there are other ways to get a similar look without digital filters or a big investment.

  3. Nelly Z Van Cleeff Avatar
    Nelly Z Van Cleeff

    Wow seems really cool, but also really pricy for a manual lens. I’ll stick with my fujinon 50mm 1.4, mamiya 55 1.8 or my Helios for now, they can do it all and more.

  4. Andres MacLean Avatar
    Andres MacLean

    Stephen Ironside check it out for me and let me know how it runs! lol

  5. Benn Murhaaya Avatar
    Benn Murhaaya

    Don’t want to sound sexist but did you notice, that all pictures in the promotional vides were shot by women and all are so sweet that watching it might give you diabetes? I am not crying for equal share of “men photographers”, god forbid, but it just gives you hints who is this aimed towards.

    btw getting a 58mm f/2 helios (or biotar) will be much better choice for portraits.

  6. Brandon Lee Dittsworth Avatar
    Brandon Lee Dittsworth

    This lens is terrible. Its supposed to be soft and smooth, but it’s not even smooth from what I see. The asking price of $500 for the black and $600 for silver is outrageous. So many other lens on the market that will cost 5-10 times less and produce the same or better results…better yet just buy filters and slap it on your current lenses.

  7. Pavlos Pavlidis Avatar
    Pavlos Pavlidis

    Why should one give 500$ for this when a Canon FD 50/1.4 is available for a fraction of that sum? AFAIC it’s very easy to find a lens ‘glowing’ wide open. Hell, get a 58/1.2 FD for that money if you don’t want to have any change. This lens had no purpose in my opionion.

  8. Pavlos Pavlidis Avatar
    Pavlos Pavlidis

    Someone tell them a Canon FD 50,55 or 58mm at F1.2 can be had with less money.

  9. Michele M. Ferrario Avatar
    Michele M. Ferrario

    500$ buhahahhahahahahhahahahaha

  10. Addicted2light Avatar
    Addicted2light

    An April’s fool prank posted too late? Otherwise it isn’t funny!

    For the same effect and bokeh, with a much better sharpness if you wish to have it, you can buy from 10$ to 100$ (these are just the ones I use myself, tons of others out there):
    – any Minolta MC / MD 50 / 55 / 58mm 1.7 or 1.4
    – any Pentax Takumar 50/1.4
    – the Jupiter-3 50/1,5 for m39 (and Leica M with adapter)

    There are much nicer “toys” you can buy with 600$! And besides, why should we pay more for the cheap looking silver finish ;)

  11. Dario Toledo Avatar
    Dario Toledo

    No AF? No AE? I think the Pentax DA* 55/1.4 is still preferable for a bit higher price tag.

  12. Don Barnard Avatar
    Don Barnard

    I’ll hang onto my 85mm soft 2.2 pentax, it does the job just fine.
    http://www.bdimitrov.de/kmp/lenses/primes/short-tele/K85f2.2-Soft.html

  13. Mike King Avatar
    Mike King

    50mm is not a portrait lens on a DSLR.

  14. Dung Nguyen Avatar
    Dung Nguyen

    :(((++

  15. Sean St Denis Avatar
    Sean St Denis

    Im glad i spent a bit more on the sigma 50 1.4 art.

  16. Rob Reeves Avatar
    Rob Reeves

    Looks interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Angelo Petrino Avatar
    Angelo Petrino

    Ridiculous lens for a ridiculous price.

  18. catlett Avatar
    catlett

    Have to agree with pretty much everybody on this one. It would be kind of hard to consider any of these photos keepers, much less a great example of why spend $500 on a lens, especially a manual focus lens. A couple of the flowers were OK but still without anything in focus it would not fit my preferred style at all. If I use a lens that gives me what I want I can still process for a little blur.

    On the other hand it comes with a wonderful box and a shallow person who is more concerned with could feel exclusive for an extra $100. #sarcasm

  19. Misael Nevarez Avatar
    Misael Nevarez
  20. Gerardo artiaga Avatar
    Gerardo artiaga

    I see it as a soft focus lens at its widest apertures and a great standard portrait. It’s great, now one lens can do both without all that disturbing swirling.

  21. Zaid Hamid Avatar
    Zaid Hamid

    I am pro photographer and an instructor of photography. Photography has come to a place where the quality of cameras and lenses are so advanced nowadays, that many semi-pro and even a few “pro” photographers do not even know how to shoot properly anymore. The high quality of the cameras and high performance software, apps, and other image enhancement software has enabled even bad photographers to take half decent photos. With that being said, I wanted to educate everyone the truth about equipment and techniques that are used in photography today. What this Lensbaby lens does is to re-create the feeling of old style and cheap lenses from the days of amateur film cameras. The lens is essentially an over priced filter, or a gimmick to create a soft focus feel to the images it creates. The reason that I call this lens a gimmick is because quality is not its’ main selling point. Any photographer out there should want to get the best quality shots during image capture, and not have to rely on trick gadgets in order to achieve various effects. That being said, this lens is cute and all, but getting a razor thin focus field is not easy to achieve with this lens on a consistent basis. You will have to shoot lot of frames of the same image and hope that one of the frames lands correctly in the focus field. You will have many more out of focus shots than good ones. If you have money to burn and don’t care about quality, then please don’t let my knowledge of photography get in your way. But if you want to take my advice, then I would recommend that you purchase a prime lens, in this case, a 50mm f/1.8 lens created by your SLR manufacturer. Typically a new version of a 50mm prime lens of this sort will run between $150- $300, and even cheaper if you purchase used, through Ebay. Shooting wide open on a prime 50mm lens at F/1.8 will get you a very shallow depth of field (meaning only the point where you focus will be sharp, and everything else will be blurry in front and behind that point) Then, to enhance this even further, you can find a plethora of standalone soft-focus software online. In searching for soft-focus software, you will find some free ones that may or may not work, or you might find ones for a fee that could work very well. It will take a bit of hunting to find the right one, but they are out there for sure. And if you are a bit more serious in this effort, then you could buy plug-in type of software to work with existing photo enhancement software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. In any case, with a bit of research, you can shoot and create much higher quality images by shooting the images correctly with an actual prime lens than by using an overpriced Lensbaby product.

  22. Deacon Blues Avatar
    Deacon Blues

    So… a soft, overpriced lens is supposed to make Lensbaby part of the “big guys game”? Puh-leeze. I can get a tack sharp manual focus 85mm f/1.4 or an AF 50mm f1/8 for FAR cheaper than that.

    This lens is a toy for people with too much money. It’s only missing an Apple imprint.

  23. Steven James Avatar
    Steven James

    Seriously overpriced! This lens just exploits some optical properties found in many many older and much much cheaper lenses ! Here are just four alternatives: http://sjp.id.au/photography/lensbaby-velvet-56-lens/