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Thread: "Portrait" lenses - a weird question

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Portland, OR

    "Portrait" lenses - a weird question

    Kind Knowers of Many Things,

    I have 180mm and 250mm Fuji Soft Focus lenses. They're kind of fun. There's just "something" about the way they play light off the highlights... It got me to thinking, so this question:

    Do/Did any of the modern lens makers issue a "soft focus" lens in a shorter focal length (say, around 135mm's) that covers 4x5?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Knoxville, Tennessee

    "Portrait" lenses - a weird question


    I can't think of any, but I did once clean the glass on a friend's Rodenstock 150mm, and got the rear glass mis-spaced (you can do this on at least the first generation multicoated Sironars) when I replaced it, and the effect was very soft, almost Holga-ish. Fixing it wasn't hard but the effect was interesting.

    E-mail me for the boring technical details if you're interested.


  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Central Michigan

    "Portrait" lenses - a weird question

    I once borrowed an enlarging lens belonging to a friend because images printed with it were so soft and had an unusual look about them. Well I took the lens home and it was so dirty, I cleaned it. That killed the soft focus look. I then separated the front elements from the back elements and placed them with both inner element groups facing toward the ceiling on the top of a cabinet in the kitchen and left it there for a month. The oil, grease, dust and other things in the air started to coat the surface of the elements making the lens have that soft look again. DO NOT DO THIS TO A GOOD LENS. I used that lens not only to take pictures but also print some. I like this effect more that just using a SF filter or vaseline or nose oil on a filter. Others may have other ways to get these effects. I also have a Wollensak Verito of about 220mm which is a great SF lens. See the effects of this lens at


  4. #4

    "Portrait" lenses - a weird question

    I've done the same thing by accident. I found my self with only my 4x5 and no accessories, and my lens was filthy because its pocket on my carrying case was accidently torn and road dirt got all over it. I didn't have any lens cleaning fluid or paper with me and I didn't want to touch the lens with anything else since the abrasive dirt could damage it and so I was frustrated, but as I set up and tried to use it as is, I decided to take photos of flowers instead of my planned subject because of the washed effect it had. When home I cleaned my lens before I processed my film, but when I printed the result I wished I had taken a few more before I cleaned the lens.

    I've done something deliberate with 35mm and don't know why I couldn't do the same with LF :

    I lightly sprayed a skylight filter with PAM (spray cooking grease) and covered it with another skylight to protect it (via a size adapter as I didn't have two filters of the same diameter) . This put the grease as a middle layer that would not mess up my camera bag. I did this using a cardboard template to control the pattern as I wanted the outer edge to have most of the de-focusing.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Calgary, AB Canada

    "Portrait" lenses - a weird question

    a peice of black nylon stocking stretched over the lens has always worked for me.
    Eric Rose

    I don't play the piano, I don't have a beard and I listen to AC/DC in the darkroom. I have no hope as a photographer.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Paris, France

    "Portrait" lenses - a weird question

    . . . or you might try some white gauze, as the old-timers used to do.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2002

    "Portrait" lenses - a weird question

    Or buy the 180 Fuji SF - 210 Cooke and shoot 5x7 to approximate a 135 on 4x5

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    "Portrait" lenses - a weird question

    Interesting question. I think the vendors have in general catered to the conventional wisdom that portrait lenses are supposed to be in focal lengths that are slightly long compared to the format diagonal. The only exception to this that I know of is in 35mm, where Pentax offered a soft-focus lens not just in the usual longish 85mm but also in the 28mm focal length.

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Jul 1998
    Lund, Sweden

    "Portrait" lenses - a weird question

    You could always try attaching your existing 180 and 240 lenses to each other, filter ring to filter ring (try all four combinations). Stick a stop in the middle somewhere. It'll probably vignette like mad, but there again, it may not.

  10. #10

    "Portrait" lenses - a weird question

    I just happened to see a Fuji EBC Fujinon SF 4/85mm with the Imagon-like 'shower head' inside. It was adapted to M42 or was made for M42 thread, but I suspect it can be used for large format as well. Just to prove that some shorter focal lengths do exist. Link is to the westlicht-auction of 27 nov 2005.
    LOT nr. = 765

    I think it's possible to bid online with this auction house, though have never done that before myself.

    Cheers, Norm

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