Best soft focus lens (or other way to get soft focus?)

Solarflare

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What do you think is the best way to get soft focus ?

According to what I could gather on the internet so far, it seems to be the Rodenstock "Tiefenbildner" Imagon. See for example here: Rodenstock Imagon 4.5/120mm Tiefenbildner / Weichzeichner - Objektiv

IMHO these example pictures look amazing. Its quite expensive though (approx 500-1000€, and the really good condition ones really seem to be really closer to 1000€).

So what do you think is the best way to get to soft focus ?
 

Scatterbrained

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I have a Singh Ray soft focus filter. Beats being stuck at one focal length. ;)
 

petrochemist

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That sort of money totally rules the Rodenstock out for me.

I've modified one of my (many) spare 50mm primes by removing the rear group of elements. The modified lens needs to be mounted on a bellows as the rear focal distance is much extended, (as is the focal length of the lens). It definitely gives a lovely glow when wide open, which reduces rapidly as the aperture is closed.
Not the most practical of solutions perhaps, but it's nice to get occasional use out of a spare :)
 

chuasam

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vintage nikon DC lenses.
Fujifilm APD lenses
 

zombiesniper

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What do you think is the best way to get soft focus ?

Micro adjust the lens to front focus a bit?
Okay I admit I just don't get purposely messing up focus. To me a "soft focus" lens = crappy lens. Although I'll also admit I miss out on most the artsy shots.
 

petrochemist

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What do you think is the best way to get soft focus ?

Micro adjust the lens to front focus a bit?
Okay I admit I just don't get purposely messing up focus. To me a "soft focus" lens = crappy lens. Although I'll also admit I miss out on most the artsy shots.
Soft focus is very different from out of focus.
 

astroNikon

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Soft focus essentially, in portraiture, can smoothen the skin while maintaining overall sharpness. Essentially "on camera" PS blemishing/smoothing tool.
On reason people like the older nikon 85mm AF-D lenses versus the super sharp newer versions.
 

Advanced Photo

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The easiest way to achieve the effect is to process for it. That gives you the choice of as soft or as crisp as you like but if the original picture is made that way you can never get it any sharper.
It always better to give yorself more options. That's why I shoot raw files as flat and neutral as I can with no camera processing.
 

pendennis

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Soft focus can be attained by the above posted methods. However, you really need an astigmatic lens, or a lens modified to increase astigmatism. These lenses were generally available in large formats (4x5, and larger), and were used by photographers who needed to soften the outlines of people's faces. I had an old Steinheil 20cm lens that the previous owner had mounted in a newer shutter. I used it for head and shoulder portraits. Women who were over 40 loved the results, because their facial lines were softened, and it made smile lines and crow's feet far less obvious.

Anything added to the front of the lens is a band aid fix. There are lenses out there that are for portraiture in medium format (Mamiya 150 f4 soft focus), but they're also not true astigmats.

You can also try stretching a piece of women's hose material between two filters. That will also work for a softer focus.
 

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You really don't need to buy a special lens at all when there are so many alternatives today. Those lenses were needed back in the days before digital processing and computers. Today we have better tools at our disposal.

Not sure what you disagree with. Do you think that you do have to buy a lens to get the soft focus effect or that we do not have better tools today that they did in the 1950's.
 
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beagle100

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Soft focus essentially, in portraiture, can smoothen the skin while maintaining overall sharpness. .

sounds like photoshop processing to me
 

Derrel

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A good soft focus filter like the B+W mentioned above is good, esp. if used with the right focal length and lens aperture. With a very sharp lens, the B+W soft filters have good sharpness, but that is overlayed with a subtle softness AND with highlight diffusion. The soft focus filter will literally "spill" highlight light over, into nearby darker areas, in a way that is not the same as moving pixels around later, in software. Some classic filters like the Softar models (originally from Zeiss) have a neat look. Diffusion filters can be useful; black netting works differently than white netting. Fog filters can be used. Focal length, f/stop, and how close or far the filter is in front of the lens can change the effects; you will NOT get the same effect from a soft focus filter on a 50mm lens as it will yield on a 200mm lens. Hairspray on a UV filter can work. Black spray paint micro-droplets allowed to rain down on a UV filter can make a nice effect filter. Adding a reallllly cheap 2x or 3x converter to a 50mm lens can bring in some nice aberrations; think old, 1980's $5 no-name 2x converters in mounts like Nikon F, or m42 thread mount, adapted to modern camera mounts.
 

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