Anne Belmont

Testing the new LENSBABY Velvet 85mm

"This is where I believe the 85mm is a real standout...producing gorgeous blur and beautiful separation of subject and background."

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.

The Results...

image by Anne Belmont

Dahlia

When Lensbaby approached me earlier this year to beta test the new Velvet 85mm I was excited and curious to see what the new lens would offer. I have been a huge fan of the Velvet 56mm since its release in 2015. In fact, when people ask me what my favorite lens is, the lens I can’t live without, I have always said the Velvet 56mm. it is the perfect fit for my style of photographing flowers close-up and, as all Lensbaby lenses do, it allows me to see and photograph my subjects in a creative and beautiful way. I rely on Lensbaby to keep the creative, fun side of photography alive, to help me enjoy the process of photographing. So how would the new Velvet 85mm add to my work as a flower photographer? What makes it different from the Velvet 56mm?
image by Anne Belmont

CactusFlower

When the lens arrived via UPS, I flew out the door, excited to give it a whirl. On this first try, I put it to the ultimate test of photographing orchids in an orchid show, probably the most challenging of flowers and situations to photograph in the flower world. What I learned in that first couple of hours is the Velvet 85mm is an impressively solid, well-built lens. It produces the same beautiful velvety and ethereal glow when shot in the lower apertures. I immediately saw that this lens was a perfect fit for shooting in environments where I could not get as close to the flower and, in particular, where I wanted more control of my backgrounds. Not only did I find I was nailing focus more easily with the 85mm but I was consistently coming up with the most beautiful blurred backgrounds.
image by Anne Belmont

Gooseneck Loosestrife

In a nutshell, they both produce the same ethereal glow, beautiful straight-out-camera photos, beautiful blurred backgrounds and the ability to work up close with my subjects. The difference is that the 56mm allows me to work closer and the 85mm encourages me to stand back and include more subject while creating gorgeous compression to my background.
image by Anne Belmont

Purple Tulip

Along than the ability to produce even more beautiful backgrounds, the other major difference between the two lenses is in the focusing distance. The Velvet 56mm focuses as close as 5 inches; the Velvet 85mm focuses at 9.5 inches. When I want to get in close and eliminate most if not all background, the 56mm would be my preferred lens. I did, however, find that I could use an extension tube with the 85mm to get myself in closer than the 9.5 inches.
image by Anne Belmont

Orchids

This is where I believe the 85mm is a real standout and outperforms the Velvet 56mm. The longer focal length gives you more compression in the background, thus producing gorgeous blur and beautiful separation of subject and background. What the Velvet 85mm does to backgrounds will make you swoon, the bokeh is nothing short of magical. Yes, the Velvet 56mm produces gorgeous backgrounds, too, but the 85mm knocks this out of the park. As a flower photographer, one of the most difficult parts of my job is controlling messy, complicated backgrounds when shooting in nature. One of the reasons I love all Lensbaby lenses is the beautiful backgrounds they create, very little if any post processing needed, but one of the reasons I often go in close is to eliminate having to deal with backgrounds altogether. More than ever with the Velvet 85mm, I can pull back, include more background and rest assured it will be beautiful straight out of camera. It has encouraged me to experiment with a slightly different way of shooting.
image by Anne Belmont

Pink Rose

Yes, you are going to hear a lot about the Velvet 85mm as an amazing lens for portraits. A lot of the marketing for the lens focuses on it being the perfect portrait lens, rivaling any great quality 85mm portrait lens. It is also the perfect lens for flowers or botanical subjects, as well. I take “portraits” of flowers and many of the same tenants apply for both types of photography. The Velvet 85mm will not replace my 56mm; they are both in my bag at all times. What this lens does is allows me to expand my way of shooting botanical subjects.
image by Anne Belmont

Foxtrot Tulip

"The Velvet 85mm will not replace my 56mm; they are both in my bag at all times. What this lens does is allows me to expand my way of shooting botanical subjects."

Anne Belmont

About Anne Belmont...

Anne Belmont is a flower photographer who loves to share her passion for photography with others through classes and workshops. You will most often see her at the Chicago Botanic Garden photographing the flowers, butterflies and landscapes of the Garden. She is a big fan of Lensbaby lenses and of Hunt’s Camera. You can learn more about her and see her work at annebelmontphotography.com and follow her on Instagram @annebelmontphotography.


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