By Sara Goodnick
The Lensbaby Velvet 56 is now my go-to lens for flowers. It took some practice but it has been time well spent.
About the Lens
It’s completely manual. You will have to use your camera to set the shutter speed and to focus. Use the aperture ring on the lens to set the aperture anywhere from f/1.6 to f/16. It also has macro capabilities so you can focus as close as 5 inches.
At the wider apertures, up to f/4, the lens creates an ethereal glow over the image. From f/5.6 on up to f/16 the glow becomes less pronounced as you move to smaller apertures.
Using the Lens in the Field
Although a tripod is often the best way to ensure accurate focus, I often shoot handheld in the field. The depth of field is extremely small, so this does present challenges. For example, depth of field (DOF) for this lens on my Nikon D810 at 12 inches with an aperture of f/4 is 0.23”. Setting up a tripod in a field of moving flowers and getting anything in focus is just as hard as hand holding in many cases.
The result is that I brace myself as best I can, find the flower I wish to have as my main or only subject, choose the part of the flower that I want to have in sharp focus, then move my camera into position as I peer through the viewfinder, slightly shifting position as needed. I call this Extreme Yoga!
To Glow or Not to Glow
The glow becomes very distinct at apertures up to f/5.6, especially if the subject is on a dark background. Unaware of this, I had set my aperture to either 2.8 or 1.6 when I made this image:
The glow around the top edge of the Poppy is much more than I had wanted. Now I tend to stay at f/4 or smaller. Even at the smaller apertures, there is still a softness at the edges that works well with flowers.
Flowers are not the only application for this lens. I’ve seen beautiful portraits, landscapes, and interesting street scenes created with it by other photographers. These are my dogs who like to come with me, so I just turned around and made a snapshot and added an infrared filter in Lightroom. I tried for greater DOF so was probably at f/11, but you can still see the soft edges of the image. The center is sharp.
These images were captured with either a Nikon D810 or a Panasonic Lumix Mirrorless GX8
Cost: $450-500, and lens adaptors are available for use with certain camera systems.
Weight: 14.46 oz.
Sara Goodnick is an Instructor with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.