Lensbaby Velvet 56mm f/1.6 Lens Announced

Lensbaby—manufacturer of distinctive soft-focus and tilt-shift lenses—announced a new lens designed to take the company’s lenses to a new level of sophistication and design. The Velvet 56mm f/1.6 lens is a portrait and macro lens to produce “golden era” images. The manual-focus lens has a minimum focus distance of five-inches, and features four elements in three groups, and has nine aperture diaphragm blades for smooth and creamy out-of-focus regions.

The lens will ship April 13th in Sony A mount, Nikon F, Canon EF and Pentax K mounts and can be preordered now from the Lensbaby site. Next month the company will release the lens in Sony E mount, as well as mounts for Micro Four Thirds systems. All versions of the lens will carry a $500 retail price tag. An “SE” version in a metal finish will be available for $600.

Sigma: The wait is over. Shop e-mount primes.

Lensbaby seems to have been aiming at the sweet spot between traditional super-sharp portrait lenses and the super-soft lenses the company is known for. The samples from the Lensbaby site range from ultra-sharp to smooth and creamy, with a level of sharpness and detail in the images not usually seen in the Lensbaby lineup. As a result, this lens looks like it’s likely to end up in the camera bag of a lot of photographers, especially those on the Sony a7 system, who are comfortable with using manual focus lenses anyhow.

The price point might be difficult for some photographers, however, as there are plenty of 50mm lenses available on different platforms at a lower price point. The Nikon 50mm f/1.8G, for example, is $173.98 while the Sigma 50mm “ART” lens can be had for around $800–and that’s one of the most revered lenses ever made.

Still, it’s difficult to get the soft-focus look of the Lensbaby Velvet without using a lens that’s designed to create soft and beautiful images. There are many post-processing tricks to mimic a soft focus lens, but none as good as actually capturing images with a lens designed for smooth “bokkeh”.

While this is a great lens for still photographers, we think video shooters are going to benefit even more from it, as it provides the soft look that many film editors have to achieve in editing software.

We’re looking forward to our review unit of this lens from Lensbaby and will have sample images up as soon as the lens arrives.


These other Lensbaby lenses are available for Sony A and/or E mount

My daily shooter is Sony a9 with a vertical grip and various Sigma lenses attached like the 14mm 1.4 Art. Find more gear recommendations in our shop.