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SMC Pentax-F 85mm F2.8 Soft Review RSS Feed

SMC Pentax-F 85mm F2.8 Soft

Sharpness 
 8.3
Aberrations 
 10.0
Bokeh 
 9.0
Autofocus 
 7.3
Handling 
 8.0
Value 
 7.7
Reviews Views Date of last review
7 49,681 Sun March 7, 2021
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $266.33 9.33
SMC Pentax-F 85mm F2.8 Soft

SMC Pentax-F 85mm F2.8 Soft
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SMC Pentax-F 85mm F2.8 Soft
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SMC Pentax-F 85mm F2.8 Soft
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SMC Pentax-F 85mm F2.8 Soft
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SMC Pentax-F 85mm F2.8 Soft
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Description:
This is a soft focus lens. The degree of softness is controlled with the aperture ring. The effect is most pronounced at F2.8. The center is less soft than the edges. The effect is most pronounced in the range F2.8 to F5.6.

From F2.8 to F6.7 the aperture closes down manually to the value set with the aperture ring. Av exposure mode can be used from F2.8 to F5.6. At F6.7 the exposure mode switches to M even if set to Av and an exposure error occurs.

When the aperture ring is turned further toward F32 the aperture blades remain at F6.7 and the lens doesn't stop down to the set value until the exposure is made or the optical preview is engaged. In this range (F6.7 to F22) "green button" stop down metering in M exposure mode is the way to work with a Pentax DSLR. A Pentax film SLR with aperture simulator will also work in Av mode in this range.



SMC Pentax-F 85mm F2.8 Soft
© www.pentaxforums.com, sharable with attribution
Image Format
Full-frame / 35mm film
Lens Mount
Pentax K
Aperture Ring
Yes (no A setting)
Diaphragm
Automatic/Manual, 9 blades
Optics
5 elements, 4 groups
Mount Variant
KAF
Check camera compatibility
Max. Aperture
F2.8
Min. Aperture
F32
Focusing
AF (screwdrive)
Quick-shift
No
Min. Focus
50 cm
Max. Magnification
0.28x
Filter Size
52 mm
Internal Focus
No
Field of View (Diag. / Horiz.)

APS-C: 19 ° / 16 °
Full frame: 29 ° / 24 °
Hood
Case
S80-120
Lens Cap
Coating
SMC
Weather Sealing
No
Other Features
Soft Focus
Diam x Length
66 x 60 mm (2.6 x 2.4 in.)
Weight
300 g (10.6 oz.)
Production Years
1989 to 1995
Engraved Name
smc PENTAX-F 1:2.8 85mm SOFT
Product Code
23180
Reviews
User reviews
Notes
Level of soft focus is adjustable with the aperture ring.
Aperture operation: Manual (F2.8-6.7), Automatic (F6.7-F32).
Features:
Screwdrive AutofocusAperture RingFull-Frame SupportDiscontinued
Price History:



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Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2008
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Posts: 7,092
Lens Review Date: March 7, 2021 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $398.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Soft-focus feature, great build & handling.
Cons: Speciality lens and not for everyday use.
Camera Used: Pentax K-Mount film bodies   

The F85/2.8 Soft was released in 1989 and replaced the K85/2.2 Soft. The F85/2.8 Soft remained in production until 1995, when it was replaced by the optically similar FA version.

Optics:
You can’t judge the optics of the F85/2.8 Soft lens like a regular 85mm prime, as it’s “soft” from f2.8 to f8. Never the less at apertures f11 or above, in the lens’s “sharp” mode, it’s a pretty sharp 85mm lens.

Speed:
F/2.8 is an average speed for a soft-focus lens, but again speed does not really matter like with a regular 85mm prime.

Build/Handling:
Excellent build and not too big for an 85mm prime. The F85/2.8 Soft has a large aperture ring, which you have to use all the time and has a nice sized manual focusing ring. This is also an auto focus lens which is something I’ll never use, as you’re probably going to have issues with AF in the “Soft” apertures. Overall a great handling, well-built lens.

Usage:
The F85/2.8 Soft is a unique lens as it can be used as a “Soft Focus” lens from f2.8 to f8 and as a regular lens from f11 to f32. The “Soft Focus” effect is controlled by the aperture ring and is at its highest degree at f2.8 and at its lowest at f8 where it’s almost gone. The F85/2.8 Soft also has a manual diaphragm from f2.8 to f5.6, so you have to use stop-down metering in that range. From f6.7 to f32 it has an automatic diaphragm, so you can use open aperture metering in that range. As mentioned above, the F85/2.8 Soft also has no “A” setting on aperture ring, so it’s different from regular “F” Series lenses.

FOCAL LENGTH: Most Soft-Focus lenses are made with a “standard portrait” 85mm focal length, so nothing different with the F85/2.8 Soft. The Pentax “A” 1.4x rear converter works well with this lens and you then get a 119mm focal length, which is great for portrait head shots. This rear converter actually enhances the soft-focus affect, so it’s opposite of what a rear converter usually does.

CAMERA SELECTION: I only shoot film and have dozens of Pentax manual & auto focus film bodies. The F85/2.8 Soft works best with a body that has aperture priority. Using it on a fully manual body is a pain, as the lens is aperture dependent for its main soft-focus function. A body that has a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000 or higher is also preferred, otherwise shooing at f2.8 may not be possible without using a ND filter, which is also a pain to use on a soft-focus lens as it makes the viewfinder even darker. Since this lens has no “A” aperture setting, any film camera with a crippled k-mount will not work properly, as the camera can’t control the aperture setting. (My *ist film body is an example)

FILM & EXPOSURE: For better results it's recommended to use slower fine grain film when using the soft-focus feature. (50-100 ISO) Also to shoot in the aperture range of f4 to f2.8 in sunny weather, you need a slower film or you might have to use a ND filter to get bellow the maximum shutter speed of the camera you are using. Grainy films or expired films will result in a hot mess. I also use B&W film occasionally, but coloured soft-focus shots seem to look better. Note make sure you don’t overexpose your shot as it will be ruined using the soft-focus effect.

FOCUSING WITH NO SOFT-FOCUS EFFECT: When using “sharp”apertures f11 to f32, use manual or auto focus like you would normally on an 85mm prime lens. The open aperture used will be f6.7, so the viewfinder is a bit on the dark side in low light.

FOCUSING USING THE SOFT-FOCUS EFFECT: Using the soft-focus range of f2.8 to f8, I usually compose and focus the shot using f11 and then move the aperture to the degree of soft focus that I want. The image in the view finder will show the degree of softness, so you will get a rough idea how the final shot will look like. (Note for f6.7 & f8 you will need to use the cameras DOF preview, as these are open metering apertures) I recommend taking a few shots using different soft-focus apertures, as the maximum degree of softness at f2.8 may be too much for a lot of subjects. You can also focus with the aperture set at the degree of soft-focus effect that you want, but that’s when you will have AF issues. For manually focusing you also can’t rely on the green focus confirmation light or split-image macro prism circle, so it’s best to manually focus off the matte focusing screen. If you change the soft-focus aperture then you will need to refocus, as you’ll get focus drift.

CLOSE-UP WORK: The F85/2.8 Soft is a great lens for soft-focus close-up flower work and any of the Pentax Auto Extension tubes work well. You can also use any of the K Series 52mm Close-up lens attachment filters
.
HOOD: The F85/2.8 comes with the metal screw-in MH-RB52 hood. Use it, as flare will ruin your soft-focus shot.

CASE: The F85/2.8 comes with the S80-120 soft case and it will also hold the reversed metal hood in the case.

The F85/2.8 Soft vs my other 85mm soft primes:
I also own the K85/2.2 Soft and that’s a fully manual diaphragm lens with only soft-focus apertures of f2.2 to f5.6, there are no “sharp” apertures. The newer F85/2.8 Soft is way easier to use and more useful than the older K Series lens. I gave the K85/2.2 a 9 as a soft-focus lens and the F85/2.8 gets a perfect 10 as a soft-focus lens.

Summary:
The F85/2.8 Soft is a fun lens that lets you be creative with your “artsy” side, as well it can also be used as an ordinary 85mm lens, so you get the best of both worlds. However, a soft-focus is still a specialty lens like a macro or shift lens, so it’s not for everyone or everyday use. You can always go old school and try soft-focus filters, Vaseline or cover your lens with a stocking to attempt the soft-focus effect, or use some current digital s/w, but neither will ever be as good as a true soft-focus lens like the F or FA 85/2.8 Soft lens.

Price: I found my F85/2.8 Soft online and it cost $398.00. It was NOS (New old stock) and included in the box is the case & hood..


Sample shots taken with the F85/2.8 Soft. Photos are medium resolution Lab scans from original negatives or slides.

Camera: MZ-S Film: Kodak Ektachrome 100 ISO: 100
Shot at F/2.8 with maximum soft-focus effect



Camera: LX Film: Kodak Ektachrome 100 ISO: 100
Using the Pentax #2 Auto extension tube



Camera: K2DMD Film: Kodak Pro Image 100 ISO: 100
Using the Pentax A Series 1.4x Rear Converter



Camera: LX2000 Film: Ilford HP5 Plus 400 ISO: 400
Shot at F/11 with no soft-focus effect
   
Junior Member

Registered: August, 2019
Posts: 25

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 16, 2020 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: N/A | Rating: N/A 

 
Pros:
Cons:

K01
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3.







4.






5.






6.
   
Junior Member

Registered: January, 2018
Posts: 46
Lens Review Date: February 9, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $100.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: lack of vignetting, image quality with some reservation, brightness
Cons: take some getting used to
Sharpness: 9    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-1   

I found a copy of this lens with some fungus and haze and cleaned it myself. (This explains the relatively low price I paid). Not seeing any full frame review in the database yet, wanted to add a quick one.

I am very positively surprised by the image quality this lens is capable of producing. I did not yet have much opportunity to try out its full capabilities (and you can see my example image is nothing very special). However, it is clear that this lens is sharp when set for smaller apertures.

There are a couple of striking features with this lens:

(1) Almost complete absence of vignetting. I do a lot of my photography in snow and have little contrast in many of my images, and in those circumstances even the expensive DFA zooms exhibit noticeable vignetting. This makes PP of low-contrast images quite challenging. Of all the lenses I have, this F 85mm f/2.8 might well be the one with least vignetting, starting right from the wider apertures.

(2) the softness with wider apertures is very pleasant. Not a suprise per se, I am just happy to see it with my own eyes.

Definitely and interesting and high quality lens albeit with a limited usage area.

   
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2012
Location: Medina, OH
Posts: 5,648
Lens Review Date: December 26, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $275.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Great for portraits and details at or beyond f 8.0
Cons: Really little use for the softiness below f 4.0

Since I am not skilled in Photo Shopping my work, this lens is great for portraits right out of the camera. I cannot, however, find much use for the level of softness that occurs at f 2.8 up to f 4.0. Stopped down in the 4.0 to 5.8 range, the lens produces portraits in a nice range of softness.

The lens is quite acceptably sharp when stopped down to f 8.0 and beyond. Since I have the 77 limited in this same focal length range, the performance of the lens at these f stop levels is not particularly useful to me, but worth noting for those who do tend to use this focal length.

I would classify this as a specialty lens, not one that is an essential for every photographer. It will be most useful to amateur photographers who specialize in portraiture. I say amateur, because most professionals will already be using post processing to achieve soft-look portraits. It is at least worth looking t by professionals, however, as it appears to me that the soft focus effect in-camera with this lens is better than what I have seen achieved in post.
   
Pentaxian

Registered: February, 2010
Location: Northern Michigan
Posts: 4,662

4 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: August 19, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $425.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Outstanding color rendition, beautiful rendering
Cons: None
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Autofocus: 7    Handling: 10    Value: 6    Camera Used: Pentax K-5   

Soft focus lenses seem to have had a brief vogue in the late eighties and nineties. Even then, they never sold in large numbers; and PP programs like Photoshop have nearly driven such glass out of the market altogether. I can't see Pentax ever making a lens like this again; which is a pity, as this is a lens capable of stunning things.

The soft focus effect tends to be geared to highlights, which are rendered with a subtle glow. Darker parts of the image are rendered more faithfully. You can dial in the intensity of the soft effect by setting the aperture. Wide open, the soft effect is too great for most photography. Around f4 images start to become useable; and around f5.6 most of the soft effect is gone.

I would describe this as an art lens. As such, it proves that, at least for aesthetic purposes, resolution tends to be over-rated. What you get with this lens is not super resolution, but rather an exquisite rendering and stunningly bright, vivid color. The fact that the lens is only useable from about f4 on is an advantage in close-up shooting, as it gives you comparable rendering of an ultra-fast lens with greater depth of field.

Some sample images:

At f4:



At f4.7:





   
Veteran Member

Registered: February, 2009
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 925

2 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: March 5, 2010 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $220.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Sharp when stopped down, nice build, despite being AF it has a nice MF feel
Cons: Stop down metering only, tends to underexpose on both my DS and K-7 (see text), Soft effect is too much f2.8-4 (IMHO)
Sharpness: 8    Bokeh: 7    Autofocus: 7    Handling: 6    Value: 7   

This is an interesting lens...

It's capable of great things but it has some handling issues:

- The aperture clicks onto the next setting very easily (might be my copy...)

- It underexposes a lot on the K-7 AND DS. I would estimate by about 1 to 1.5 stops. This I assume is due to the soft effect confusing the exposure system

- As the lens doesn't have an A setting on the aperture ring it's stop-down metering

- Soft effect is overpowering at f/2.8 and still a bit much at 4. This is admittedly more a personal taste thing though.

You can read about the lenses unusual operation here:
http://kmp.bdimitrov.de/lenses/primes/short-tele/F85f2.8-Soft.html

From f/5.6 the soft effect adds a nice glow to images and the lens sharpens up a lot. This isn't to say that it's soft at f/2.8 (so to speak) it's just that the soft effect masks detail so well that you can't really tell!

From f/8 soft effect is basically gone.

The lens is undoubtably a specialist lens but it's fun to use. It can make relatively normal shots look interesting. For example:



Exposure is an issue though. The soft effect can often (but not always) make an image appear underexposed. I therefore always try to 'overexpose' by at least half a stop more than I would normally for a given camera.

Highlights exhibit the greatest softness which when used well can lend an image a phenomenally ethereal appearence but skillful use is required to keep the soft effect under control.

In terms of post processing I always find it beneficial to boost contrast to bring out the detail. It's a sharp lens but looking at images whilst the detail is definately there they don't look sharp. This sounds obvious given that this is a 'soft' lens but it is a weird thing to look at images like that in a way - slightly contradictory.

I think ultimately this lens is a personal preference thing. The soft effect can look amazing but it's hard to control skillfully - when you achieve the perfect balance though images look wonderful in a very literal sense of the word.

Because of this rating the lens is hard. I think as an 85mm lens is an 8. However that only tells half of the story - it's a unique proposition and thus something you need to use to understand.
   
New Member

Registered: September, 2006
Location: Dallas, TX, USA
Posts: 21

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 8, 2007 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $180.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Well constructed lens that takes wonderful portraits and is easy to use and control the amount of softness on any K mount SLR
Cons: Heavy and not fully automatic

With this lens there is no need to fiddle with filters to achieve flattering portraits. You can easily control the amount of softness by setting the aperture.

With fully automated SLRs, there is a restriction of the settings to use, e.g., I have to enable lens aperture setting and can only use some modes on my K10D.

Larry in Dallas
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