Lensbaby Velvet 56 is Two Lenses in One: Dreamlike Wide Open But Sharp Stopped Down

Lensbaby Velvet 56 Limited Edition Lens
Lensbaby might be best known for their tilt-shift lenses, but they've got an interesting product in the Velvet 56

While this 56mm f/1.6 lens has been out for a while, they've got a new limited edition version run of 400 that has copper accents instead of the previously-available black and white models (it also ships in an unnecessary wooden box). All of these lenses have the same optical qualities, just different housings. Either way, since we've never written about the Velvet 56 before, it's as good a time as any to show what this unique lens is capable of:

Specs:

  • Nikon F or Canon EF Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Also available for Pentax K & Sony A mounts in the Black version
  • Aperture Range: f/1.6 to f/16
  • Singlet-Doublet-Singlet Optical Design
  • Soft Glowing Effect at Wide Apertures
  • Inspired by Classic Portrait Lenses
  • 1:2 Magnification, 5" Working Distance
  • Manual Focus and Exposure Control
  • All-Metal Lens Barrel
  • Filter Thread: 62mm
  • Price: Black — $500, White — $550, Limited Edition — $600

It might seem like just another vintage lens that's soft and creamy wide open, but the lens gets much, much sharper when stopped down, as it's designed to do so. Any lens will get sharper stopped down, but older vintage lenses can only get so sharp, so it's nice that this effect can be limited if you want a less dreamy-looking image. The lens also acts as a macro, which is a handy edition to what is more of a specialty lens. Another nice benefit to the Velvet 56 is that it's completely mechanical (iris and focus) even in the EF version, so you can attach it to any dumb Canon mounts that don't have electronic lens controls. 

You can get somewhat similar looks with filtration in front of the lens, but I can definitely see the value in having all of this in one lens, especially if you were planning on walking around with a very small and light kit. The Limited Edition version is $100 more than the standard $500 Black version, so if you don't need this lens as a fashion statement, you'll save some money.     

Your Comment

12 Comments

I'd love to use this lens for video. Really unfortunate that the focus ring moves back and forth.

December 9, 2015 at 1:42AM

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Isaiah Corey
Director of Photography
274

It's not that big of a deal. I have a Minolta macro that does the same thing. You adapt and get used to it.

December 9, 2015 at 8:38AM

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It's not really something you can adapt to when using most follow focuses.

December 9, 2015 at 9:28AM

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Richard L
Camera assistant, DIT, DOP
242

Too bad this was posted two days after the lens went off sale...
Lensbaby had it for $50 off all last week.

December 9, 2015 at 10:51AM

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I wonder if they tried to make a super sharp 50mm range lens, then saw that it was super soft. Then instead of redesigning it they just said, "Lets just convince people that soft lenses are in now."

December 9, 2015 at 1:50PM

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Lensbaby is well known for specialty and effects lenses, most of which are super soft and/or blurry (at least in parts). It's their thing since they put out their first product many years ago.
So no, I really don't think they were trying to out-Zeiss Zeiss in the field of super sharp glass.

December 10, 2015 at 2:38PM

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Or just get a clear coat ring and smudge it with vasoline then take it off when you want sharp images. Basically the same look you get here and for roughly $12.

December 9, 2015 at 2:11PM

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Caleb Rasak
Camera Operator / AC
383

Sometime ago at the Lenzbabi...

Engineers are like: we cant get it sharp wide-open.
Marketing is like: we got this ;)

December 9, 2015 at 3:22PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3929

...jesus... who falls for this "must have" hyper-mega-uber-awesomeness?

December 9, 2015 at 3:47PM, Edited December 9, 3:48PM

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No thank you, with these perfomance it should cost like 89$.. Is more a toy than professional equipment.. or get the Helios 44M, a lot better and designed 50 years ago

December 9, 2015 at 11:14PM

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Chema Mumford
Filmmaker, Documentary, Cinematographer
321

Tempting, but I think I'll be buying the new Nikon "Ice" specialty lens.
https://ohyeswecam.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/broken-lens.jpg
The dreamy aberrations and arty distortions are worth every penny.

December 10, 2015 at 10:02AM

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Braden
699

So ironic that at first glance this lense actually looks like a pot of vaseline.

April 25, 2020 at 4:40PM

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Tom Staniford
Director, DOP, Editor
81