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Lenbaby Velvet 85 review: Smooth and silky bokeh for your portrait and macro photos

The Good The Lensbaby Velvet 85 is well constructed with a strongly damped, precise focus ring, and it produces lovely, soft out-of-focus areas with round highlights.

The Bad You have to rotate the focus ring a long way to get from infinity to macro, and you need to like focusing manually.

The Bottom Line Another winning lens from Lensbaby, the Velvet 85 is a pleasure to use and a great option when you want seriously smooth bokeh and a little in-camera pop for portrait, macro and street photography.

8.0 Overall

An 85mm version of its Velvet 56mm lens, the Lensbaby Velvet 85 delivers the same idiosyncratic, dreamy defocus effect, this time in an f1.8 telephoto. And it's quickly become one of my new favorites for street photography. 

The Velvet 85 will start shipping in mid-July on for for $500 in a host of dSLR and mirrorless mounts, for both full-frame and crop sensors, including Sony E and Micro Four Thirds. I don't have non-US pricing or availability yet, but directly converted, it's £393 and AU$660.

Like the Velvet 56, it's constructed of metal with a clicky aperture ring on the body side. Apertures run from f1.8 to f16 in whole stops (except for the first step, f1.8 to f2, which is one-third of a stop). There's also a knurled, strongly damped focusing ring. The distance range runs from 9.5 inch/24cm from the front element in macro mode up to 21 feet/7m before making the jump to infinity; a full rotation of the lens before you hit macro takes it down to 12 inches/0.3 m. 

It's a long way from infinity to a foot, not to mention macro -- 1.5 turns of the focus ring. On one hand, the long rotation makes it easy (and necessary) to get very granular focus adjustments at small distances. However, it also means that you can occasionally miss a shot when going from near to far or vice versa.

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