Using a manual again – Lensbaby Velvet 56

I have talked about the Velvet 56 from Lensbaby before and for macro, it is one of my favourite lenses. You can achieve a lot with it, but at the same time, you also have to learn things as well. There are tricks to using it.

When I first used a macro lens way back in 2014, I think it was, I had no idea what I was doing and thought I could use it the same as any other lens I had. What a mistake that was.

I put the photos up here on my blog and received so much amazing information from so many people who read the blog. I learned so much from that post. So when I got my own macro lens I had a much idea of what I was doing.

In 2016, I think it was, I first got my hands on the Velvet 56 from Lensbaby, literally. They sent one to me to do some posts and such with it and in the end they let me have it. I have been using it ever since.

I’m sure I have told you most of this already, but I thought for today’s post we might look at some of the good, and bad, things about using it.

Manual Focus

Without a doubt, one of the hardest things I had to get used to was the lens doesn’t have autofocus.

It has been many years since I used a lens with manual focus and it took some getting used to. It doesn’t help that my eyesight isn’t as good as it once was.

I have found the best way to do it is to work out roughly where I want my focus, or the distance I want and then move myself in and out until it is in focus. I don’t worry about me staying still while I play around with the focus ring. Best if I’m the ring, so to speak.

The focusing ring on the Velvet 56 winds around a lot too, so I often just wind it out for the closest capture and then, as I said, I move in and out to get the sharpest image I can.

Apertures around the ring

One thing that did surprise me was you could use apertures in much the same way as you can on an ordinary ring. Though f2.8 will generally give you very soft images, while f16 is rather sharp. I’m going to be showing you examples.

Let’s take a look at three images taken at f2.8, f5.6 and f16.

As you would expect with any images taken with different apertures there are different amounts of the subject in focus. That sort of thing always happens with any lens when you are using different apertures.

This is something when you are learning to take photos that you should do. Pick a subject and then take a series of photos, the same photo each time but change the aperture for each one. When you get them on your computer you can take a look and see what differences each one makes.

If you are going to be using the Lensbaby Velvet 56 you should start with an aperture of f5.6. It is a good one to use and you should capture what you want. As you get used to the lens then you can play around with the apertures and see which one you like best. For me, I think it is f4.

Here are some more examples.

Using different apertures on the Velvet 56

While you get the same effects with the different apertures as you would expect one thing that did surprise me was the available light in the camera changed. I know I’m not explaining that very well, so let me try again.

When you are using f2.8 it is quite bright through the lens and you can see fine, however, when you start to close the aperture it gets darker and darker. By the time you get to f16, it is almost impossible to see what you are photographing. It gets very dark through the viewfinder.

I am not sure if it happens when you are only doing macro, or if you are using the lens for other things as well.

I did try doing a couple of non-macro images.

One was taken at f2.8 and the other at f16. You can really see the difference there.

EXIF data

One thing I have found is that your camera won’t recognise the lens and therefore neither will your computer. You can’t look up and find out what aperture you used. If that is information you need then you should record it as you are taking the photos.

It is just like the old days when we were using film. Had to write all that stuff down in a notebook. Does anyone else here remember that?

Using the lens for other things

It would be remiss of me to not mention that you can use the lens for other types of photography as well. While I really only use it for macro, there are others that use it for portraits. I have taken it into the city and done some street photography with it, but only once or twice.

Street photography is not really my thing, but it was a good way to play around with the lens. I did find one trip into the city I did with it when I first got it. Here are some photos from that.

I think you can see why it is an interesting lens for street photography.

If you go to the Lensbaby website (click here) then you will see many examples of it being used for portraits.

There are many ways to use the Lensbaby Velvet 56 and I think it has to be one of my favourite lenses for macro. That and my dedicated macro lens. You can also use it with extension tubes and I have a close-up filter that I often use with it as well.

I think it is time to finish this post. I hope you have enjoyed it. If you have questions let me know, otherwise, I will see you in the comments or on Sunday. Take care everyone.

To find out more checkout the Lensbaby website, click here.


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  1. Honestly I really should spend some time reading up and learning how to use our camera better. It’s a few years old now but we never really learnt to use all the function on it nor the extra lens we bought. Thanks for the reminder Leanne that sometimes taking a bit of time to learn your equipment gets you better results.

    1. I think it is a great thing to do Tammy. I really hope you do and have fun doing it as well. You’re welcome and good luck.

  2. Beautiful photos…

    I still write my settings down for my film photos.

  3. Beautiful work and great info. I have the Velvet 85 and you have reminded me to pull it out again. Also – I like the idea of trying extension tubes

    1. Thank you Nora. I had that for awhile, but decided I really only need the 56. Yes, you should bring it out again and see what you can do with it. Oh yeah, try adding some extension tubes.

  4. Your journey with the LensBaby match my learning curve with my Tamron 272E macro. Might I suggest a focus rail? My eyes and hands aren’t what they were and I find a 4 way adjustable focus rail a game changer for manual focus and composition.

    1. I’ve been thinking about the focus rails since you mentioned them. Which ones do you have Brian. I can still do hand held focusing, but I imagine it will get harder and I probably should start getting used to some support.

    2. I use the Oben MFR4-5. It has smooth movement in both the coarse and fine adjustments. Easy to mount. Has a secure mount for your camera. All in all I’m happy with it. If you can’t get it locally B&H Cameras is my goto store for getting gear into the Philippines.

    3. I have 3 Legged Thing tripods, so it should fit on those. I can imagine how much easier it would make using a tripod. I tend not to use one because it can be time consuming. I am intrigued now.

  5. As someone who recently start an obsession with the Helios 44-2 the adjustment to full manual can certainly be difficult. Personally I prefer full manual for video than photography, but it can certainly be fun once your brain adjusts.

  6. I love macro and have a dedicated macro lens; but, I think the Lensbaby would be a bit much for me. I’m not sure it’s worth the learning curve. Your images are wonderful and I liked the comparisons. They taught me a lot.

    1. I completely understand that Anne, the lensbaby lens can be hard to use, and require lots of new skills. I love my macro lens as well. Thank you.

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