Doug Sahlin's Digital Photography Blog

Rants, raves and other delights!

Lensbaby Velvet 56 Product Review

The UPS man knocked on the door and left a package, a long awaited package with two Lensbaby Velvet 56 mm lenses for our Fuji X-mount cameras. Mine will be used on a Fuji XE-2 and Roxanne’s will be used on a Fuji XT-1. The lenses are long, which would typically mean that it would be unbalanced on a small camera body like the XE-2 and XT-1. However, due to the light weight of the lens, and the fact that the last inch and a half is the lens hood, they are perfectly balanced for these cameras. The following image shows the Velvet 56 minus lens hood mounted on a Fuji XE-2.

Velvet 56 mounted on a Fuji XE-2

Velvet 56 mounted on a Fuji XE-2

The focal length and maximum aperture of the lens makes it an ideal lens for portrait photography. It also has a minimum focus distance of 5 inches, which is ideal for macro photography. But as we quickly found out, the lens is multi-faceted and can be used for just about any type of photography.

Like all Lensbaby products, the lens is manual focus, which is a breeze with the Fuji Peaking focus assist feature. Just make sure your viewfinder diopter is adjusted for your vision, which will enable you to easily achieve focus. At maximum aperture, the images you create will have a soft glow. Stop down to f/4.0 and the glow disappears and you start getting sharper details. At even smaller apertures, the lens functions just like any other prime lens, giving you a sharp image.

The first place we used our Velvet 56s was at North Jetty in Nokomis. My first photographs were of the gigantic Australian Pines. The sun was too bright to shoot wide open, but I did manage to create several shots at f/2.8. The subject matter was readily identifiable, but there was a warm glow around the pines, and spectral highlights took on a wonderful ethereal glow.

We then walked to the jetty, which is always a busy place, especially close to sunset. Fishermen were casting shrimp in hopes of catching a big snook, and dolphins were swimming in the channel in search of dinner. Motorboats of all types and sizes were going too and fro and majestic sailboats were heading out to sea.

Just Fishin'

Just Fishin’

Sailing away...

Sailing away…

After we got our fill of the jetty, we strolled back to the pavilion and photographed flowers to test the macro capabilities of the camera. We successfully shot a wide variety of subject matter with our Velvet 56 lenses, which shows the versatility of the lens. The lens also has a built-in lens hood, which can be removed to attach filters with a 62mm thread. If you want to shoot wide open in bright sunlight, consider investing in a 62mm ND filter.

Black-eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan

Conclusion: The Velvet 56 is a stout performer. The lens is well balanced for Fuji mirrorless cameras. The build quality is excellent. The lens focus ring operates smoothly and offers just the right amount of friction. The aperture ring has built in detents to let you know when you’ve changed apertures, and falls readily to hand. The Velvet 56 for Fuji X-mount retails for $499, which is a reasonable price when you consider the versatility of the lens. In one package you have a lens that is ideally suited for shooting portraits, landscapes, flowers, insects and much more. The lens is black, which matches the black Fuji bodies perfectly. The lens compares very favorably to the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2, which sells for $999. With the Velvet 56 you get an incredibly fast lens that is suited for any subject matter, with a little bit of Lensbaby magic thrown in. The Velvet 56 just may become the most used lens in my camera bag. Well done, Lensbaby.

May 24th—A Very Special Day

On May 24, 2009, I went on my first photo shoot with Roxanne. A love of pets and photography brought us together. Even though we were two very different photographers—I chased clouds and sunsets, she chased birds—within thirty minutes I felt like I’d known her for half my life. We were married on October 16, 2012. Life was good. In April 2014 we hit a major roadblock; Roxanne was diagnosed with cancer. She endured six months of chemotherapy, and now she’s on a very promising clinical trial.

Even though we were married in October, we always considered May 24th our anniversary. I’m very grateful for many things in my life, meeting Roxanne ranks at the top of the list. I’m also very grateful that we’ve had six wonderful years together and that the clinical trial seems to be helping her.

So today was a day to be grateful and celebrate. After breakfast, we piled our gear into the Blue Bus and drove to the first place we shot together, Babcock Webb. On May 24, 2009, the weather was stormy. Today it was hot and humid. But we persevered, shot up a storm with our Fujifilm cameras. Today was indeed a very special day, a day I’m grateful for. Thank you, Roxanne.

Here are some images from our “Anniversary Shoot” at Babcock Webb.

Cheers,
Doug

Blue skies sunshine...

Blue skies sunshine…

Lovely landscapes to discover

Lovely landscapes to discover…

The long and winding road...

The long and winding road…

Infrared landscape

Infrared landscape…

Breathe in the air...

Breathe in the air…

Old Friends Who’ve Just Met

Facebook photography groups are wonderful venues to exchange information and learn by viewing the images uploaded by other photographers. Roxanne and I administer a Facebook group called Lensbaby Artistry. The group now has almost 2400 members, who create amazing images with their Lensbaby equipment. Thursday Roxanne and I got a chance to shoot with one of the first members of the group and her husband. They were vacationing from Connecticut and rented a campsite in Myakka State Park for two nights. We met at their campsite in the early afternoon, exchanged pleasantries and started shooting—with the exception of Barbara’s husband John, who works magic with a gas grille, but is not a photographer. Oddly enough, we were not shooting with our beloved Lensbaby gear. Barbara was traveling light, and we recently switched to Fujifilm cameras. The Fuji FX mount is not currently supported by Lensbaby, but we understand that will happen in the near future. We can’t wait.

At any rate, we showed Barbara and John our favorite spots in Myakka State Park and created lots of images. Our Facebook friend and her husband are now personal friends. Roxanne and I hope to shoot with them again. Here are some of my favorite shots from our time together.

Decay can be beautiful.

Decay can be beautiful.

Myakka River

Myakka River

Bird land.

Bird land.

A canopy of trees provides a respite from the sun.

A canopy of trees provides a respite from the sun.

Clay Gulley

Clay Gulley

Bobette's Place

Bobette’s Place

Upper Myakka Lake in late afternoon.

Upper Myakka Lake in late afternoon.

Sunday Morning Walkabout

Sunday morning the alarm went off early in our household. Our furry kids, Micah and Niki were thrown off guard. The thought of their humans getting up at dark thirty had them totally flummoxed.

After breakfast, the Lensbaby Duo hit the road and drove to Sarasota for a walkabout with our Lensbaby gear. We started our walkabout in historic Burns Square. It was a warm morning, so I had my air conditioner on stun level, which of course totally fogged my Sweet 35 optic as soon as I got out of the car. I decided to create some images with the lens fogged over. This is the best of the lot.

Sweet 35 optic @f/4.0

Sweet 35 optic @f/4.0

At the south end of Pineapple Street is a restaurant with what I’d classify as Mediterranean architecture. The restaurant has changed ownership many times. As interesting as the outside of the building is, I was intrigued by the inside of the restaurant and the reflections in the window.

Sweet 35 optic @f/4.0

Sweet 35 optic @f/4.0

Burns Court has a little bit over everything, including an eclectic variety of shops with very interesting window dressing.

Sweet 35 optic @f/4.0

Sweet 35 optic @f/4.0

Burns Court is home to many quaint houses and some upscale restaurants. I loved the details in one restaurant, but the dynamic range was more than my camera could handle. So I created three bracketed exposures (-2.0 EV, 0 EV, +2.0 EV) and merged them in HDR Efex Pro 2, which is part of the Google Nik package.

Sweet 35 @f/4.0-bracketed exposures merged in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

Sweet 35 @f/4.0-bracketed exposures merged in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

Sweet 35 @f/4.0-bracketed exposures merged in HDR Efex Pro 2

Sweet 35 @f/4.0-bracketed exposures merged in HDR Efex Pro 2

We ended up at one of our favorite Sarasota buildings, home of the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Because of the sculptures outside we have affectionately dubbed it “The Egg Building.” In addition to having very cool sculptures outside, the glass walls of the building are great subjects because of the reflections and the name.

Single Glass Optic - f/4.0 aperture disk

Single Glass Optic – f/4.0 aperture disk

All too soon the temperature started climbing to an uncomfortable level and as the sun rose higher, the shadow edges became very harsh, which meant it was time to head home and edit images.

Cheers,
Doug

Choosing the Right Shutter Speed for Digital Video

If you’re creating video with your digital SLR, choose an ISO and aperture that gives you a shutter speed of 1/50th of a second if you capture video with a frame rate of 24 fps (frames per second), or 1/125th of a second if you capture video with a frame rate of 60 fps. These shutter speeds are double the video frame rate, which results in pleasing video with a film look. If you choose a faster shutter speed there is not enough motion blur for a smooth transition from one frame to the next, which results in choppy video.

The aperture you choose determines the depth of field, which is the area in front of and behind your subject matter that is in sharp focus. If you’re creating a talking head video, a large aperture is just fine. However, if you’re capturing video of a majestic landscape, you want a large depth of field, which requires a small aperture.

If you’re capturing video in bright light, and require a large aperture, the shutter speed will probably be faster than the optimum discussed earlier in this blog post. Therefore, you’ll have to use a neutral density filter to cut down the amount of light that reaches the sensor, which also results in a slower shutter speed. It’s a bit of a juggling act, but when you get it right, the results are well worth it. The following video was captured with a Canon EOS 7D and a Canon 24-105 L f/4.0 lens.

Early AM Attitude from Doug Sahlin on Vimeo.

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