Today, lensbaby unveiled it’s newest lens, the Velvet 85. I’ve had the opportunity for the past two weeks to test this lens out, so I can give you an honest assessment of their new art lens.
First, full disclosure, I am a big fan of the Lensbaby lenses. Their Velvet 56 is always in my bag whenever I leave to shoot. So, I was pretty excited when I heard they were adding another art lens, the Velvet 85. With that said, my expectations set the bar pretty high for this lens.
Now for those of you uninitiated to the ways of Lensbaby Lenses, let me quickly catch you up. Lensbaby makes high quality, manual focus lenses at a very reasonable price. Now this isn’t a plastic tube with pieces of glass in it. The Velvet 85 is a metal bodied lens that locks firmly on your camera and has the feel of a precision tooled device. The focus ring has a deliberate feel to it. It reminds me of the lenses I used to have on my film cameras. It is a quality piece of equipment.
If you haven’t used a manual focus lens before, don’t worry, there is a simple procedure to get started . Take your camera with an autofocus lens attached and focus it on a non-moving object. Then adjust your cameras diopter so that the image looks sharp. The diopter is located right next to your viewfinder.
Now you are ready to go. Easy, huh?
The Velvet 85 is a manual focus, manual f-stop lens that goes from f16 to f1.8. I tested all the f-stops, but for me the real magic occurs between f4 – f1.6 This is where it’s earns the name “Velvet”.
As soon as I received the Velvet 56, I put it on my Super Color converted Canon 6D and walked up to my favorite model, and ask her to pose for me.
This is a Super Color Infrared image at f2.0, 1/60 sec, ISO 800, using just natural light coming in the room. All I did was a red/blue channel swap. After looking at this image, I realized that Lensbaby did it again. Look how sharp the eyes are and check out that smooth bokeh. Oh, and isn’t she cute?
One other feature of this lens is the level of color saturation you will find when shooting. It definitely reminded me of my film days. The color tones are very rich and vibrant.
So how do they do it? Well I ask the people at Lensbaby and it has something to do with the 12 blade aperture, and that the lens produces two images, a sharp primary image with a soft image overlaid. The soft image blends colors and textures to give great saturation and more complex colors. Then they said something about magic powered by physics.
So, we’ll just go with the simple explanation; it’s magic.
Here’s another image at f2.0
This is right out of the camera. So was this.
The eyes are sharp and the skin buttery smooth. This is what is going to make the Velvet 85 the must have portrait lens.
Here’s an example for comparison.
At f5.6 you have a sharp image, with just a touch of softness, but a f1.8 you get this wonderful ethereal softness, while still being in focus. This was a feature of the Velvet56, and it’s big brother has the same ability.
And, I used this lens on both a Full Frame and C-Crop camera, and the results were the same.
Now, for Infrared this lens is also great.
You can get that tack sharp look if you want, but once again the real magic occurs below f4.0.
For Infrared portraits, the softness is a natural.
For Infrared, the lens preforms perfectly. The images have this great dreamy quality to them. This lens combines the sharpness of a standard lens, the “Magic” softness for intimate portraits, and even works as a 1:2 Macro Lens.
The Velvet 85 is available for Canon EF, Sony A & E, Nikon F, Pentax K, Micro 4/3, Fuji X, and Samsung NX mounts.
My review of the Velvet 85 can be summed up in four simple words. . . . . They Did It Again
If you’d like to see the erst of the images I made using the Velvet 85, click here
But definitely check out everything about the Velvet 85. Click here to go to the Lensbabys site.