The Velvet 56 is a new lens from Lensbaby which promises to deliver dreamlike, glowing portrait images when shot wide open. The 56-mm F1.6 lens, which will come in a variety of mounts for DSLR and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, is said to feature the build and look of classic mid-20th century portrait lenses. With a minimum focusing distance of just 13 cm (5 in) the Velvet 56 can also be used to capture macro images.

Unlike previous Lensbaby offerings like the Composer Pro and Spark, the Velvet 56 is a solid affair with an all metal body. The 440 g (14.4 oz) lens measures 85 x 72 mm (3.3 x 2.8 in), has a 56-mm focal length and a F1.6 maximum aperture with nine diaphragm blades. It will initially be available in Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony A and Pentax K mounts, with Micro Four Thirds, Sony E, Samsung NX and Fuji X to follow.

However, as with other Lensbaby optics, the manual focus Velvet 56 is not going to be one for pixel-peepers, or people who enjoy shooting images of brick walls to test the sharpness of their lenses. That's because the Velvet 56 has been designed to shoot soft and velvety images when used wide open. Sample images show the love-it-or-hate-it glowing, dreamlike effect which is sure to divide photographers.

The sort of dreamlike image possible with the the Lensbaby Velvet 56 lens (Photo: Rachel Shomsky)

When the aperture is stopped down, which can be done by rotating the clicking aperture ring, the images produced by the lens are sharper and considerably less niche. However, they still display what Lensbaby refers to as a "film-like, organic quality." Macro focusing can be achieved by continuing to rotate the manual focus ring, which will cause the lens to extend in length. The lens boasts 1:2 macro capabilities with a minimal focus distance of just 13 cm (5 in).

The Lensbaby Velvet 56 will be available from next week for Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony A and Pentax K mounts and costs US$500. A Velvet SE silver version will also go on sale for $600. The Micro Four Thirds, Sony E, Samsung NX and Fuji X versions are due to be available in May.

You can check out a Lensbaby Velvet 56 promotional video below.

Product page: Lensbaby Velvet 56

View gallery - 7 images