The Lensbaby Velvet 56 promises dreamy portraits and velvety close-ups

Lensbaby's new 56mm f/1.6 portrait lens will fit both DSLR and compact system cameras

Lensbaby Velvet 56

Lensbaby is best known for its wacky tilting lenses, which give you complete control over the camera's plane of sharp focus and can produce all sorts of creative retro blur effects.

But the company has just announced something different, a high-end portrait lens called the Velvet 56. The '56' refers to the focal length – a fraction short in classic terms for a portrait lens on a full frame camera, maybe but ideal for smaller-sensor APS-C DSLRs or mirrorless compact system cameras, where the effective focal length will be 84mm.

Lensbaby Velvet 56 is shown attached to a Canon 6D here but it will also comes in Nikon Pentax and Sony A mounts with mirrorless compact system camera versions to follow
The Velvet 56 is seen here on the front of a Canon 6D, but it will come in Nikon, Pentax and Sony A mounts, with mirrorless compact system camera versions to follow.

The Velvet 56 gets its name from the results it produces. Lensbaby has used a unique optical design to produce, in its own words, a 'velvety, glowing, ethereal look wide open' but overlaid on 'tack-sharp' detail. The press releases suggests that the softest results are achieved at the lens's f/1.6 maximum aperture and stopping down the lens increases the appearance of sharpness, giving you control over the softening effect.

Come closer…

The Velvet 56 has another trick – it can also be used as a macro lens, with a minimum focus distance of approximately 13cm (5 inches). Its actual reproduction ratio is 1:2, so it's not a true macro lens, but it can still capture tiny objects at half life size on the sensor, so it focuses much closer than a regular lens.

It's designed to bring the same optical properties to macro shots as it does portraits, producing a dream, ethereal look with heavily defocused backgrounds (depending on the aperture you select).

Sample images

These are images provided by Lensbaby, complete with photographer credits:

Lensbaby Velvet 56 sample image

Lensbaby Velvet 56 sample image

Lensbaby Velvet 56 sample image

Price and availability

The Lensbaby Velvet 56 will come in a regular black finish costing US$499.95 (about £336/AU$650), but there will also be a more expensive silver SE version costing US$599.95 (about £403/AU$780) The DSLR version comes in Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony A mounts and goes on sale on April 13 2015. Mirrorless CSC owners will have to wait a little longer – Micro Four Thirds, Sony E, Samsung NX and Fuji X-mount versions will arrive in early May 2015.

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