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Thread: DIY soft focus

  1. #1

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    DIY soft focus

    I'm going to start this now, and hope eventually to have some pictures to show.

    Since I got it, I have been unhappy with my 250mm Fujinon-SF. It didn't seem like a soft focus lens, with all of the nice things that implies, as much as just an unsharp lens. I gave it a fair shake, and really it didn't satisfy.

    After reading up on achromatic soft focus lenses of the past, and experimenting with building lenses from close-up lenses, and substituting close up lenses for elements in normal lenses, I figured that it would be pretty much a crap shoot whether I could get something I liked or not, but it appeared to be worth experimenting.

    I have been using for a while the front half of a 15" tele-Raptar as a SF lens, but it has a couple of disadvantages. One is focal length--around 7.5" is what I figure now; the other is, because of the relatively short FL, I think, distortion. Sometimes neither of those matters, and it's nice to have an f/2.8 SF lens of that length (examples on 4x5, x-ray film):

    Outside, f/4, mounted with front component screwed inside, on the back:


    Randy M

    by Michael Darnton, on Flickr


    Inside, f/2.8, heavily back lit; the front on the front, back component removed. Virtually no flare, and really nice modeling:


    Alex H

    by Michael Darnton, on Flickr


    Anyway, wondering what to do with my Fujinon, and wanting a SF lens somewhat longer than the 190mm of the half-tele, I noticed that it has 58mm filter threads on the back, so I picked up one of these on Ebay, for $40:
    ProOptic 58mm Close-up Lens 250D Double-Element Achromatic Design

    I completely gutted the Fujinon, leaving just the empty barrels, and screwed the achromatic lens on the back, where it sits about 1" behind the diaphragm, sort of an "approved" position in this application which I can extend backwards with empty filter rings if I decide to. Since it's a 250mm lens, the diaphragm markings calculate pretty close to what's printed on the lens, too.

    I just did this yesterday and haven't shot anything with it yet, but the view is really looking good. At f/5.6 it's a lot softer than the Fuji, better in all respects; by f/8 it still looks unsharp, but is considerably cleaned up, and at f/11 I think the effects are mostly gone. In that respect, it tracks very closely with my 11.5" Verito, which I love but doesn't leave the studio very conveniently, since it's big and has a Packard shutter. This one has a real modern shutter, real sync--all the good stuff. It's an expensive experiment, but if I like the results it will be totally worth it!

    Pictures when I get them.

  2. #2

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    Re: DIY soft focus

    I'm looking forward to this discussion. I've explored SF in all formats. In LF all attempts have led me back to the same solution. My experience is different from yours in that the DIY solutions are fun to explore but never satisfy me.

    Can anyone tell me what this was made with:
    - Softar filter
    - Duto filter
    - Fujinon SF
    - Imagon
    - other antique SF-type lens


    ... but for some reason I can't seem to upload a pic. I'll keep trying.

    Okay... figured that out, thanks to the thread in the Feedback section. Obviously I don't post enough pics to remember how to do it!

    Apologies, I think this image started as a scan of a contact print.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Matt___SF_1.jpg 
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  3. #3

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    Re: DIY soft focus

    That looks like a normal lens stopped down a bit with Julia Margaret Cameron-style missed (front) focus to me rather than any of the choices you offered, but it's not really the kind of subject that shows off soft focus well. It doesn't have the ethereal look that I am searching for, at any rate.

    What kind of results do you like that you are not getting?

  4. #4
    Randy Moe's Avatar
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    Re: DIY soft focus

    Following a pleasant inadvertent DSLR f32 portrait result, I was using f32 to match exposure for 5X7 LF shots during a combination session. Digital Polaroids.

    Posted here in Tiny Format Portraits the diffraction induced softening is very interesting and I plan to pursue the process with LF for increased DOF and induced softness during studio flash portraits. I was unaware of historical efforts in this procedure.

  5. #5

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    Re: DIY soft focus

    Michael this is awesome experiment

  6. #6

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    Re: DIY soft focus

    Michael, was your intent for others to share their DIY results as well, or do you prefer to have this thread to share your own results?

    As you know my site is littered with stuff like this. Dollar lenses as well as many thousands of dollar lenses. I played with a doublet out of an $8 antique pair of binoculars the other day. Let me know if it's OK to share those images here.

    BTW the second image of the cello player is a stunner. Great results.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

  7. #7
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: DIY soft focus

    f/32 won't be as soft on LF at a given print size. You might not notice much, if any, difference from f/22. f/32 requires a lot of light, which might be unpleasant for the sitter. In my experience, digital cameras are much more sensitive than their ISO ratings indicate, and so you'll probably need to give more exposure than was used in the sample photo, which is a terrific photo, btw.

    I've done a little work with SF recently. My favorite in an Imagon with the small disk and the out disks half-closed. It's fairly sharp but there's a nice glow. I nice alternative is something like a Cooke Aviar, which is pretty sharp but it's lower contrast due to all of the uncoated glass-to-air surfaces. It gives a delicacy of rendition without giving the feeling of everything being out-of-focus. I'm sure there's lots of other lenses that give a similar look.

    For Michael: I put together on old solfbox from Photoflex, an x-large one, about 4x5ft. It has double diffusion screens, but it's less diffusion than my Fotodiox Octobox. A reading at 3ft with 1200 Speedotron watt seconds (805 pack) with EI64 on the meter gave f/22.3 .
    "Why can't we all just get along?" President Dale, Mars Attacks

  8. #8
    Randy Moe's Avatar
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    Re: DIY soft focus

    Peter I realize LF lens will need a smaller aperture. I plan to try the smallest. F128?

    Michael I hope I did not step on your thread?

  9. #9
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: DIY soft focus

    That's going to require a lot of light!
    "Why can't we all just get along?" President Dale, Mars Attacks

  10. #10
    Randy Moe's Avatar
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    Re: DIY soft focus

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter De Smidt View Post
    That's going to require a lot of light!
    It's all over in a flash.

    I'm running my lights at 10% a lot of the time.

    I also shoot HP5.

    The linked image was shot at 50% power through 2 diffusers. from the side.

    I'll test on myself.

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