Lensbaby Velvet 28 Review

Lensbaby Velvet 28 review
Review

Price when reviewed

£519

$549.95
Check current price

Our Verdict

The Lensbaby Velvet 28 is a great lens for creating soft-dreamy images that capture the vibe of a scene or convey emotion. Its close focusing capability, which enables 1:2 lifesize reproduction also opens up a realm of creative opportunities. As a bonus, stopping down to f/8 or smaller enables you to capture sharp images, but the point of the Velvet 28 is its ability to render scenes with a soft velvety glow.

For

  • Easy in-camera velvet/glow effect
  • Very close focusing
  • Ring control over aperture

Against

  • Manual focus only
  • No weather sealing
What is the Lensbaby Velvet 28?

Lensbaby makes a range of what it calls ‘creative lenses’, in other words, lenses that do something beyond capture a sharp image. In the case of the Velvet 28, it can capture images with a soft ‘velvety’ glow.

The Lensbaby Velvet 28 is one of the company’s stand-alone lenses which means it has a traditional build rather than the modular design of the optic-swap system.

Lensbaby Velvet 28 price and availability

The Lensbaby Velvet 28 went on sale in April 2020 for $549.95/£519.

In the UK you can order the Lensbaby Velvet 28 from Wex Photo Video for £519, in the US it’s available from B&H Photo for $549.95

Specification

  • Product type: Creative lens
  • Focal Length: 28mm
  • Lens mount: Available in Canon EF and RF, Nikon F and Z, Fujifilm X, Sony E, Micro Four Thirds, Pentax K
  • Aperture Range: f/2.5 – 22 with bonus ⅓ stop of light (indicated by + on aperture dial) beyond 2.5
  • Focusing: Manual
  • Minimum focus distance: 5cm / 2inches
  • Macro: 1:2 scale
  • Filter thread: 67mm
  • Construction: Metal barrel, 8 multi-coated glass elements in 7 groups
  • Number of aperture blades: 12
  • Weight: DSLR version: 471.74g / 1.04lb, Mirrorless version: 594.2g / 1.31glb
  • Dimensions: 2.85 x 2.85 x 2.5inches
Lensbaby Velvet 28
Features

Lensbaby offers the Velvet 28 in a wide range of lens mounts (Canon EF and RF, Nikon F and Z, Fujifilm X, Sony E, Micro Four Thirds, Pentax K) so there’s one for most current DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

As you’ve probably worked out from the name, the Lensbaby Velvet 28 has a focal length of 28mm. It also produces an image circle that is capable of covering a full-frame sensor, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s available for cameras with APS-C and Micro Four Thirds mounts as well as full-framers. Using these smaller sensor cameras results in an effective focal length of around 42mm and 56mm respectively.

Like all Lensbabies, the Velvet 28 is a manual-focus lens and there’s a broad focusing ring. The aperture is set in the range f/2.5-22 using the narrower ring on the barrel. Unusually, there’s a + marking on the barrels which takes the aperture to 1/3EV larger than f/2.5.

Peep through the lens elements to the inside of the Velvet 28 and you’ll spot that there are 12 iris blades, which result in a nicely-rounded aperture.

Lensbaby Velvet 28

Build and Handling

If you have any doubts about the quality of the build of the Lensbaby Velvet 28, you only need to pick it up to be reassured. It’s nicely-weighted and it’s immediately apparent that the barrel is made from metal.

Rotate the focus ring, which occupies most of the lens barrel, and you’ll find the movement is smooth, with just the right degree of torque required to turn it.

While the aperture plays a role in controlling exposure, its main role with the Velvet 28 is controlling the degree of softness. The wider the aperture, the greater the softness. Using a small aperture produces a sharp image.

The aperture ring has click stops, which give some guidance when you adjust the setting with the camera to your eye, however, I found it hard to discern some of the middle range, especially f/4, and the camera cannot show the aperture setting in the viewfinder. While that might sound annoying, it’s not as bad as you might think because it’s easy to assess image sharpness (and exposure with a mirrorless camera) in the viewfinder.

Although the Lensbaby Velvet 28 can be used on DSLRs, it is perhaps most at home on a mirrorless camera. The live view enlargement in the viewfinder makes it easier to be sure that you’ve got your main subject in focus, for example, and if there’s any doubt you can activate the focus peaking where it’s available.

A mirrorless camera’s viewfinder can also show the image as it will be captured, complete with the impact of the exposure settings.

Performance

If you want sharp images from the Lensbaby Velvet 28, you need to use an aperture of f/8 or smaller. Conversely, if you want the soft effect, you need wider apertures with the strongest effect being visible at f/2.5 or +. I found f/2.8-4 often a good choice, but it really depends upon what you’re photographing and personal taste.

With the right subject, or perhaps the right photographer, the results are very attractive. The softness is natural-looking and the out of focus areas have nice bokeh.

Given its 28mm focal length, the Velvet 28 is well-suited to landscapes and street photography, but on an APS-C or Micro Four Thirds camera the longer focal length lends itself more readily to environmental portraiture. However, there are no rules.

Also, the Velvet 28 has a minimum focusing distance of 5cm from the front element which opens up lots of interesting opportunities. I love shooting close to a subject with a wide-angle lens to capture lots of background.

If you close down the aperture, the Velvet 28 delivers nice sharp images. That might be handy on occasion, but isn’t really the point of the optic.

When you shoot high contrast edges such as back-lit trees you’re likely to spot some chromatic aberration but it doesn’t leap out at you and it can be dealt with pretty easily in post-processing.

Sample Images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Lensbaby Velvet 28 on a Sony A7R III.

Lensbaby Velvet 28 Image Gallery

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Verdict

Lensbaby lenses aren’t to everyone’s taste, but I’ve liked them and enjoyed using since I got my hands on the very first model back in 2004.  I love how they put you in touch with your photography, discourage you from pixel-peeping and encourage you to focus on capturing the moment.

The Lensbaby Velvet 28 has lovely build quality and it delivers on its promise of creating soft, velvety images. Its close-focusing capability adds to its creative potential while its ability to render scenes sharp is a bonus.

In the right hands, or with the right subject, the results from the Lensbaby Velvet 28 are very attractive. Images have natural-looking softness and smooth bokeh.

However, as good as the results from the Velvet 28 are, I have a slight preference for the Lensbaby Burnside 35, Sweet 35 and Edge 35.  The Burnside is another standalone lens and it enables you to create images with a sharp centre surrounded by soft swirls. Meanwhile, the Sweet 35, which fits in the Lensbaby Composer Pro II, is part of the optics swap system. It enables you to capture images with a slice of sharp focus with blur either side. I like the combination of sharp and soft in the image.

 

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