Lensbaby Comparison Part 2 – Velvet 85 vs Velvet 56

A couple of weeks ago I posted my first comparison of the two Lensbaby Velvet lenses, I covered the more obvious differences in that post so do click here and have a read if you haven’t already.

Last week I headed out with the Velvet 56 and Velvet 85 to compare them as general walkabout lenses. It’s probably worth noting that I’ll often head out with just one lens knowing that I’m going to miss out on some images but I enjoy the challenge of working with the restriction of a single lens. If you are the sort of person who hates to miss an image and you already have the Velvet 56 then you should probably just get the 85 anyway!

If I only had the Velvet 56 I wouldn’t have been able to photograph the window cleaner (or at least you wouldn’t really have seen him!) or get close enough to the actors who were being filmed outside the TV studios.

Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85

But if I’d only had the Velvet 85 I wouldn’t have been able to photograph the bridge or the buildings, they simply wouldn’t fit in the frame!

Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56

All the images shown were taken with an aperture of f4 for two reasons, firstly to be able to consistently compare the effect of the different lenses. And secondly I just love how the Velvet performs at f4 with it’s sharper centre and soft blur around the edges of the frame. I shot the two images below purely to compare the effect of changing the aperture, the first image is f4 and the second is f8 and although they are shot on the 85 the 56 shows the same differences.

Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85 – f4
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85 – f8

Notice the blur in the bridge upright on the left of the frame in the top image, that’s what I love about both of the Velvet lenses!

All the images were taken at Salford Quays, near Manchester. Rather than keep swapping lenses I decided I would walk around shooting with the Velvet 56 and then retrace my steps and attempt to create similar images with the Velvet 85. I didn’t always manage the exact same framing, sometimes because the different lenses didn’t allow it and other times I just didn’t remember correctly!

The lens used is noted underneath each image and all are taken on a full frame Sony A99.

Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56

I really struggled with the 85 for this next pair, I wanted to include the entrance and some of the building name in the image but I couldn’t do it with the 85 without getting the post in the middle! Although the greater distance did allow me to get some people in the frame.

Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85

This next pair really illustrates how the 85mm lens compresses the background, look how much longer the building appears with the 56! This compression obviously isn’t unique to the Lensbaby Velvet lenses, you would see the same sort of difference if you compared a “normal” 85mm prime lens with a 50mm.

Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56

And finally, some flowers, a little past their best admittedly but I can’t resist flowers! And again this pair shows the difference the two lenses really well, you can see the wider field of view with the 56 but notice how the background is slightly more blurred with the 85.

Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 56
Lensbaby Velvet comparison
Velvet 85

And to end with the same question as the previous post…..

Do you need both?

Possibly, if you want to have the same velvety look and don’t want to run the risk of missing images there is definitely an advantage to having both. I posted about a traditional crafts people project that I’ll be shooting with the Velvet lenses. For the test shoot I only had the 85mm and I found there were a small number of shots that I couldn’t frame in the way I wanted due to lack of space, to complete that project with Velvet lenses I definitely need the 56 as well.

Do I have a favourite?

At the moment I’d be inclined to say that if I could only have one Lensbaby Velvet it would be the 85mm but it’s very much a matter of personal shooting style, I’ve always been more drawn to working with longer lenses so it makes sense that I’d lean more towards the 85.

I’m currently offering a £50 discount on midweek bookings for 1-2-1 Lensbaby training/experience days. If you are thinking of buying a Lensbaby but don’t know which to choose you can try out all mine as part of a training day. Or if you already own a Lensbaby but are struggling a 1-2-1 session will help you fall in love with it!

Click here to find out more about Lensbaby training.

2 Comments

  • Jay Reply

    I like the 56 being I like using a smaller crop sensor camera. Its also lighter correct?

    • Janet Broughton Reply

      I think the 85 would be quite restrictive on a crop sensor, I’ve only used it on my full frame. Yes, the 56 is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the 85, I’d mentioned that in my previous post but for anyone who struggles carrying weight the 56 is definitely better.

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