Lensbaby has today announced what is described as a ‘high-end classic portrait lens’, the Velvet 56, designed for DSLRs and compact system cameras

Priced £419, the 56mm f/1.6 lens boasts 1:2 macro capabilities and is built to enable photographers to move seamlessly from shooting a portrait to capturing details in a subject’s clothing, for example. In the US, the Velvet 56 is due out in Canon, Nikon, Sony A and Pentax mounts from 13 April. CSC versions will go on sale from next month. A special silver edition, the Velvet SE, is expected to cost £499. UK availability dates are yet to be confirmed. Visit www.lensbaby.com.

[Images supplied by Lensbaby]

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PRESS RELEASE (US)
Portland, OR and St Louis, MO (ShutterFest 2015) – 7 April, 2015

Lensbaby, providing creative effects lenses to photographers that ignite their creativity and expand their unique visions of the world, today announced the Velvet 56, a new high-end classic portrait lens. Velvet 56 will be on display for the first time during ShutterFest 2015, being held on 7-8 April at St Louis Union Station, St Louis Missouri.  

Velvet 56 is a 56mm f/1.6 SLR and mirrorless camera lens with 1:2 macro capabilities. This ‘new classic’ portrait lens delivers a velvety, glowing, ethereal look at brighter apertures, and beautifully sharp but subtly unique images as you stop down – with gorgeous, velvety tones that give digital images a film-like, organic quality. Incredibly versatile, Velvet 56 enables photographers to move seamlessly from shooting an environmental portrait, to capturing details in a subject’s clothing or jewellery. Nature and macro photographers will find its close-focus capabilities, combined with effects varying from impressionistic to just a touch of velvety smoothness, provide a set of visual tools that will expand their vision of the world.

Evoking the image style and construction quality of classic portrait lenses of the mid-20th century, Velvet 56 features the heft and smooth, dampened manual focus of these early lenses. Velvet 56, with an all-metal body, will be available in two colors: traditional black, plus Velvet SE, a special silver edition. Velvet SE will feature a beautiful clear-anodized finish, along with engraved aperture and focus markings.

Industry Reaction

‘Excited was an understatement. When the box arrived, I ripped it open… 5 minutes later I ran down into the studio shooting test shots…. Result? LOVE LOVE LOVE. This is going to be a huge hit.’
– Sal Cincotta, photographer, educator, founder of ShutterFest and publisher of Shutter Magazine (www.salcincotta.com and www.behindtheshutter.com)

‘I am IN LOVE with this lens! The thing that makes me most excited, and the reason I never want to take it off my camera, is the way it jumps from macro to far away shooting. I adore it! It is the perfect lens for a portrait or lifestyle session because you never have to take the lens off.’  – Caroline Jensen, portrait photographer & educator (www.carolinejensenblog.com)

‘I don’t know what it is about this lens that makes me so emotional, but when I opened this photo up on my desktop it made me cry… have never experienced that before, it’s like this lens sees like I do… It’s like coming home…’
– Kathleen Clemons, nature photographer & educator (http://kathleenclemonsphotography.com/)

Velvet 56 allows direct access to the creative process of making beautiful and compelling images. This lens is a fluid extension to the photographic experience – the touch of the flawless metal, the tactile feel of minute details etched into its surface, the sensation of smooth, dampened manual focus. Photographers can effortlessly evoke classic appeal and transition from distant subjects to macro easily, capturing a variety of details in any given scene.

Images
http://lensbaby.com/V56media

‘Velvet 56 is the result of our tireless efforts to offer a brand new lens design that combines the best qualities of classic lenses while eliminating the negative aspects of classic lenses,’ said Craig Strong, Lensbaby co-founder & chief creative officer. ‘Utilizing a never before used singlet-doublet-singlet optical design, we have combined a variable glowing highlights with tack sharp latent details even at the maximum, f/1.6, aperture. This groundbreaking design, combined with macro focusing, gives photographers one of the most versatile lenses ever made, helping them create images of any subject matter with unique heart and soul. Portrait photographers can now add a new must-have lens to their bag of most-loved equipment. Nature and macro photographers will appreciate the subtle variable, buttery-smooth aesthetic.’

Velvet 56
Specs and Features
• f/1.6-16
• 1:2 Macro
• 56mm
• 62mm filter
• Focuses from 5in from front element to infinity
• Metal lens hood included with Velvet 56 lenses for mirrorless cameras only
• Dimensions (DSLR) 86mm at infinity to 112mm at Macro, 71.96mm diameter
• Dimensions (mirrorless without hood) 94mm infinity to 120mm at Macro
• Weight ~400 grams

Pricing
Velvet 56 retails for $499.95 (MSRP) and $599.95 (MSRP) for Velvet SE.  The lenses will be available in Canon, Nikon, Sony A and Pentax mounts beginning 13 April 2015 at lensbaby.com, B&H, Adorama and from select specialty photo stores worldwide. Mirrorless mounts including Micro 4/3rds, Sony E, Samsung NX and Fuji X will be available in early May 2015.