Yesterday Lensbaby finally launched the new Velvet 85mm lens. I was honored to be asked by Lensbaby to beta test the lens, so I have been shooting with it since the beginning of March. I was literally jumping up and down when the UPS man rang the doorbell and I immediately headed out to give this lens a whirl! Do you know how hard it is to shoot with a lens you are so excited about and not talk about it or share any images until launch day - for four full months?! Finally I can bring those images out of hiding and share them along with my enthusiasm for this lens with others. I'm already getting lots of questions, so hopefully this blog post will answer them.
First, some specs:
Manual Focus and Manual Aperture
Focal Length: 85mm
Aperture Range: f/1.8 - f/16
Minimum Focusing Distance: 9.5 inches (Macro 1:2)
Compatibility: APS-C and Full Frame - Canon DSLR, Nikon DSLR, Sony E, Sony Alpha, Fuji X, Micro 4/3, Pentax K, Samsung NX
Weight: 18.7 oz.
Like the Velvet 56mm (which many of you have heard me say is my favorite lens ever), the Velvet 85mm has that signature velvety, ethereal glow when shot in the lower apertures. The Velvet 85mm is being marketed primarily as a portrait lens. The added compression with the longer focal length and the beautiful bokeh makes it a perfect choice for portrait work, rivaling any great quality 85mm portrait lens.
That being said, it is also a great close-up lens capable of capturing detail along with that signature glow. I primarily use both the Velvets between f/2 and f/5.6 because I want that ethereal look to my images. Focusing at 9.5 inches means it won't get in quite as close as the Velvet 56mm, which focuses at 5 inches, but when you need to get closer, you can always use an extension tube to move in closer. Like the Velvet 56mm, it is perfect for flower photography. The area where it outperforms the Velvet 56mm in my opinion is when you do pull back a bit to include more background. What the Velvet 85mm does to backgrounds will make you swoon (see image above). There are no other words than to say that bokeh is delicious! Yes, the Velvet 56mm produces gorgeous backgrounds, too. If you have heard me talk about flower photography, I talk a lot about the importance of backgrounds. One of the reasons I love all Lensbaby lenses is the beautiful backgrounds they create straight out of camera, very little if any post processing needed. The Velvet 85mm takes that beautiful background a step further. I will be curious to hear other reviews of the lens, but I also found it easier to focus than the Velvet 56mm. That may be due to the fact that I have an easier time focusing when pulled back a slight bit. I have found myself nailing the focus with very little struggle.
So bottom line, I know I'm going to get asked, "which one is for me?" Well, in all honesty, being the Lensbaby addict that I am, I will use both equally. If you are a flower photographer who likes to work close to your subjects, the 56mm probably fits the bill. But, if you like doing portrait work or you like pulling back a little in photographing flowers and want that added compression, then the 85mm would be your baby. When I want to be up very close, I'll have the 56mm on, but when photographing groups of flowers (it was amazing with orchids), I'll have the 85mm on. And when I'm photographing my new granddaughter (I'm learning to love newborn photography), I'll reach for the 85mm.
I also encourage those with both the 56mm and the 85mm to do some magical landscapes with the lenses. I have never considered myself a landscape photographer but I began experimenting with both lenses this spring and it has opened a new door for me. I'm now constantly on the lookout for landscapes and small scenes to capture with a bit of magical glow.
And now I'm going to deluge you with a lot of images from the Velvet 85mm...Enjoy!
The lens is currently selling for $499.95. For more information or to preorder the lens, visit the Lensbaby website at lensbaby.com. Lens will be available for shipping on July 11. Please don't hesitate to email me through my website with any questions about the new lens. I'm always happy to talk flower photography or Lensbaby!