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06-02-2007, 09:55 AM   #1
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Soft focus lenses, any experience out there?

Has anyone had experience with the soft focus lenses for landscape or portrait photography?

Now a days one acn create a soft focus effect during post processing but I am wondering if a soft focus lens might provide a different, perhaps even nicer, effect?

It would be convenient to use a soft focus lens if it means less time to be spent at the computer!

06-02-2007, 06:04 PM   #2
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It may not be much help, but I have a few test photos taken with the FA85/2.8 Soft here: Pentax SMC-FA 85mm f2.8 Soft Focus Portrait Lens Photo Gallery by Jim King at pbase.com and with the K85/2.2 Soft here: Pentax SMC-K 85mm f2.2 Soft Focus Portrait Lens Photo Gallery by Jim King at pbase.com I also have the F85/2.8 Soft but I don't have any shots from it posted in my gallery to link to.

Here are a couple of images taken with my FA28/2.8 Soft:
IMGP0162 Tree- soft.jpg photo - Jim King photos at pbase.com
IMGP0160 Tree - soft 2.jpg photo - Jim King photos at pbase.com

I have these lenses as part of my collection of Pentax K-mount primes, but I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't done any real work with them. From what I have seen, I suspect that one could get a very similar effect using the blur tools in Photoshop.
06-02-2007, 06:20 PM   #3
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Thanks, Jim.
Interesting how the FA 85mm abruptly goes from sharp at f/8 to blurred at f/5.6.

Based on your examples I think these lenses would be somewhat difficult to use artfully, so I'll save my money for something else.
06-02-2007, 10:09 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ole Quote
Has anyone had experience with the soft focus lenses for landscape or portrait photography?

Now a days one acn create a soft focus effect during post processing but I am wondering if a soft focus lens might provide a different, perhaps even nicer, effect?

It would be convenient to use a soft focus lens if it means less time to be spent at the computer!
I've used both the FA85-soft and FA28-soft on film but not digital. You dial in the aperture via the aperture ring. By f11 or so the softness disappears completely.

Admittedly I use the 85 soft more than the 28 soft. I've found that I use the 85 exclusively for portrait type pictures. My preferred setting is around f5.6 to f6.7 (usually f6.7). For my taste it is just the right amount of softness + sharpness.

The best way to use these lenses is to first take a picture showing the soft effect and then take the same picture picture without. I do this, for example, with portraits (I'll actually swap the 85 soft for a regular portrait lens). Afterwards you can choose which one you like better.

The nice thing about these lenses is that the in-focus areas stay sharp. But they are surrounded by seriously cool specular glowing highlights. Imagine a sharp image, yet surrounded by misty glowing highlights. It would be pretty hit and miss to recreate these characteristics using a set of softening filters. Is it a "nicer" effect than PP? I've not a clue. Only you can decide something like that.

People talk about Pentax producing unusual but neat lenses. The 28 & 85 softs are good examples of this.

06-03-2007, 12:41 AM   #5
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There's a PS Action called Glamblur that is a Soft Focus Action and does a very good job, so good that most time you wouldn't know if it was done with the lens or in PP. It allows you to see if a certain picture would be worth applying the effect to or not. I'm quite sure the K100D has a built in soft focus filter as well so that would be an option to, not sure about the K10D but maybe it has everything the K100D has. You'd be better off getting a 70mm limited lens and doing the Post Production.
06-06-2007, 06:14 PM   #6
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Thanks, all. I have dropped the idea of buying a soft lens!
06-06-2007, 08:33 PM   #7
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Ole you may want to look into the smc PENTAX-M 1:2 85mm instead of the soft focus lenses.
06-09-2007, 01:03 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Timbuctoo Quote
There's a PS Action called Glamblur that is a Soft Focus Action and does a very good job, so good that most time you wouldn't know if it was done with the lens or in PP. It allows you to see if a certain picture would be worth applying the effect to or not. I'm quite sure the K100D has a built in soft focus filter as well so that would be an option to, not sure about the K10D but maybe it has everything the K100D has. You'd be better off getting a 70mm limited lens and doing the Post Production.
IMHO, the effect of a real soft focus lens is very difficult to replicate digitally.

A real soft focus lens is a normal (read sharp) lens with a mean for the user to control the rendering of the lens, especially for the highlights, usually by adding a controlled amount of spherical aberration. With this kind of lens, it is always possible to shoot "normal" pictures, even wide open, by setting the "soft" control to 0. Some soft focus lenses for small format are the Tamron SP 51A 70-150/2.8 soft focus zoom, the Minolta AF 100 mm f/2.8 Soft Focus and the Canon EF 135/2.8 Softfocus.

The so-called soft focus lenses comprising only one or two elements, like the Pentax SMC-K 85/2.2 Soft or SMC-FA 85/2.8 Soft, the M42 Portragon or the Lensbaby are very different animals. These lenses offer a mushy "dreamy" rendering when used wide open, with very soft corners and a relatively sharper center, due to the huge amount of uncorrected aberrations generated by their crude optical system. It is not possible to control this effect, except by stopping down the lens (and by tilting it in the case of the Lensbaby). Usually the effect disappears around f/5.6-8, but the lens never becomes as sharp as a better corrected lens. Of course, the soft effect of a one or two-element lens is very easy to replicate in Photoshop, but not the effect of a real soft focus lens.

Here are some pictures taken with my Tamron 51A, using different softness settings:









Cheers,

06-09-2007, 08:29 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Abbazz Quote
IMHO, the effect of a real soft focus lens is very difficult to replicate digitally.
(snip)
The so-called soft focus lenses comprising only one or two elements, like the Pentax SMC-K 85/2.2 Soft or SMC-FA 85/2.8 Soft, the M42 Portragon or the Lensbaby are very different animals. These lenses offer a mushy "dreamy" rendering when used wide open, with very soft corners and a relatively sharper center, due to the huge amount of uncorrected aberrations generated by their crude optical system. It is not possible to control this effect, except by stopping down the lens (and by tilting it in the case of the Lensbaby). Usually the effect disappears around f/5.6-8, but the lens never becomes as sharp as a better corrected lens. Of course, the soft effect of a one or two-element lens is very easy to replicate in Photoshop, but not the effect of a real soft focus lens.

Cheers,
While the Pentax SMC K85/2.2 Soft lens is indeed a simple 2-element design, the later F and FA85/2.8 Soft lenses are more complex 5 element designs which are capable of delivering very sharp images when stopped down.
06-09-2007, 09:47 PM   #10
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Thanks, Abbazz.
I really like the dreamy effect in your third picture!
06-09-2007, 09:48 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Rico Quote
Ole you may want to look into the smc PENTAX-M 1:2 85mm instead of the soft focus lenses.
I have the Takumar 85/1.9, so I'm good!
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