This week, I gave in and got my hands on the Lensbaby Velvet 56. I have debated back and forth with myself on this one. I had the Composer and Sweet 50 for a while but sold that one because I just didn’t use it much. However, I kept hold of the Single Glass optic and the Twist 60 optic. Since I have quite a few vintage lenses that give a soft and dreamy effect, I wasn’t sure I could justify the Velvet 56 – but I have a supportive partner and a filthy gear acquisition habit!!
It arrived last Tuesday and I took it off to Barnsdale Gardens on Wednesday to put it through its paces – but before I get to that, a word about the build and quality of this thing. It’s certainly no lightweight at around 400g. However, if you’re going to be using it on a Nikon D750, as I do, then it’s a very good balance. It’s built like a tank being made mostly of metal and although it doesn’t come with a lens hood, the front optic is recessed by about an inch so the glass should be fairly well protected (I don’t use filters for the simple reason that I don’t want to pay for good glass and then cover it with a filter). It sits very nicely on the camera and feels comfortable. This is manual focus lens so your left hand will be spending a lot of time around the barrel. It also has a manual aperture ring on the barrel with apertures from F1.6 to F16. The min focusing distance is roughly 4 inches from the front of the barrel at max focus and it has macro capability at 2:1.
So – how does it handle? Well, all Lensbabies come with a learning curve and this one is no exception. It is not fond of bright light, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, it was a very bright day last Wednesday but I had a diffuser with me so I was able to work with that. I found it easier to use spot metering to avoid overexposure (or you could use exposure comp). It just takes some time and thought about where the light is because it is not a forgiving lens. That said, when you get it just right, the results are lovely! Wide open, there is a bit too much of a glow for my liking but stopped down to about f4, it is just lovely.
At this aperture there is still enough of a glow to give that velvety effect while retaining the detail
The light was flatter in the greenhouse and at F4, I got a lovely velvety feel to the leaves but very sharp detail. It’s something that is very hard to reproduce in PS and believe me, I have tried 🙂
My final test for the Velvet 56 was to find my Nikon – MFT adapter and mount it on my Olympus OMD EM5. Since it is manual focus and aperture, it matters not one bit that it isn’t the MFT version of the lens. Okay, it’s slightly front heavy on the Oly but it was very workable. And the results were fair too!
The top shot is from the Nikon D750 and the bottom one from the Olympus OMD EM5. To compare the sharpness is perhaps not fair since manual focus means that it is difficult to recreate exactly. However, I am equally happy with both shots. They are both straight out of the camera. The benefit of having it on the Olympus is that MFT (micro four thirds) has a crop factor of 2.0 so your 56mm lens becomes a 112mm lens. Now you’re talking 🙂 I don’t have to be as close with the Oly as I do with the Nikon. So, as far as I am concerned, the lens works equally well on either camera.
In conclusion, I think it’s definitely a keeper – although I still haven’t managed to completely wrestle it into submission. Once it knows properly who is boss, I’m sure we’ll get along just fine.
Oh – and if you’re in the UK, a quick plug for Wex who, as usual, delivered faster than a speeding bullet. Way to go, Wex 🙂
Author: Sue Woollard – Capers with a Camera.