View Full Version : Soft Focus Lens for 4x5

Larry Huhn
16-Feb-2016, 10:47
Does anyone have any recommendations for a "reasonably priced" soft focus lens in shutter that will cover 4x5?

16-Feb-2016, 11:32
I'd look for a small Verito, about 7 1/2 to 9" will cover quite easily, depending on the focal length you like. They are versatile and usually *reasonable, if you look a while.

*For a classic era soft focus lens, these are about the cheapest.

16-Feb-2016, 12:48
Jim Galli sells one-offs in shutter sometimes for those on a budget.

I'd also suggest Verito (and include Veritar as a coated, shuttered comparable). The Veritos are real good and easy to use. I have used quite a bit the 7.25" and 8.75" Veritos with 4x5 and anything you find close to that will be a good focal length. They are so numerous, you can shop till you find one in a shutter you like.

The Imagons are also pretty affordable. They look better to me when used without the strainer, but I'd get accused to suggesting harmless mis-use to recommend that.

I've got a Fuji soft focus but have not used it much. It's not soft enough for my taste. I think it's more of a smooth triplet than a soft focus exploration tool.

Steven Tribe
16-Feb-2016, 12:49
Tradition is that the longer versions of soft/pictorial lenses are more expensive than the shorter. Prices are a result of matching demand and availability. Most soft lenses found their use in Portrait work from around 1900. Earlier than this, Soft lenses were used to reduce the amount of touching-up work needed to create flawless faces! When Pictorialism took off, almost every serious photographer (amateur or professional) was working with the larger formats, from full plate upwards. When the average size of negatives started to decrease, probably due to improved emulsions, the soft/pictorial period was just about over.
So all this means that the range of most "brand name" soft lenses rarely includes a size around 6" which would be appropriate for 4x5".
I think the new and current drive of pictorialism is driven by both landscape and portrait interest and the slightly longer lenses are obviously quite suitable for portrait work with 4x5. But the shorter lenses are in very short supply. Perhaps, not as rare as the lenses available for formats above 10x12 but much less than the "standard" 5x7 to 8x10 range.

So the explanation for the present price structure - where increasing length means increasing prices - must reflect a low demand for short focal length soft lenses is very small ,considering how few of them there are around.
So although you think that the prices are high, they are really very reasonable, considering their rarety and what people have to fork out for the longer versions!

Fitting a shutter to a small lens is not rocket science.

Lachlan 717
16-Feb-2016, 14:01
Cheapest "easy" to find is the Fujinon 180mm SF. There are usually several for sale on eBay for around $250-300 in a modern shutter.

Make sure that you research their signature (along with the Imagons) as it CAN differ from the more traditional SF look.

David Aimone
16-Feb-2016, 16:33
Jim Galli.

One of my favorite lenses is a slightly more than $100 meniscus IN a shutter. (Price may have increased from years ago)... ;)

Steven Tribe
18-Feb-2016, 02:21
Just to underline my comments earlier, note the following:

Dallmeyer 3A sold on ebay recently 1624.
Dallmeyer 3A (new style) sold on ebay a few days ago 2113.

Dallmeyer 1A - perfect for 4x5" - also ebay 286.

18-Feb-2016, 05:44
From the 1960s to maybe late 1990s, the Polaroid MP-4 was the common workhouse of copy cameras. They almost always came with TOMINON lenses in POLAROID Copal shutters. The shutters came in two flavors: with apertures and without apertures. You can easily obtain one with a TOMINON lens and aperture inside the shutter for around $30. Unscrew the front and rear elements. Opening in front and rear is around 29mm. Now mount a meniscus lens in front or behind shutter. Have done it both ways... maybe someone out there has a preference of a good reason. I prefer to mount the meniscus in front of the shutter. You'll have to recalculate the f/stop scale. Wide open you will have your soft focus lens. Close it way down and you will have a relatively sharp image. I just used hot-glue to attach my meniscus lens to the front of the shutter (not very pretty but for free and works fine).

Other way is to obtain a beaten up Kodak 620 (postcard) folding camera. Kodak 3A Autographic comes to mind, but the 3A may have too good of a compound lens. Again someone out there with a knowledge of folding cameras could quote you a model to look for. Early folding cameras had a meniscus lens with a simple shutter. Simply remove the lens and shutter and mount it on a lens board. Total cost under $20 online or for a dollar or two at a tag sale.

Drew Bedo
18-Feb-2016, 05:53
Soft focus? Reasonably priced?

About any lens I have. Of course it is essential that the photographer be able to tweek the softest image possible from a high quality lens. Choosing a shooting position on a wooden bridgw at peak traffic also helps, as does shooting in inclement weather.

As for reasonably priced: About any lens that I have bought in the last twenty years has dropped I value alsmot before it was mounted to my camera.

Peter De Smidt
12-Mar-2016, 20:56
This is a 10" Veritar at f/6.... (There are 5 dots between f/6 and f/8. This is at dot 4.) Delta 100.


Hi-res file:


Here's one at f/6 and one dot:

Emil Schildt
13-Mar-2016, 02:22
..or get a small Landcaster (or similar) landscape lens - uncorck it and use it full open...

very cheap normally and a fine lens in my opinion...

This image was made on 4x5 that way...

13-Mar-2016, 05:20
Agreed with Gandolfi. Buy a 1880-1900 brass $ 100 landscape lens and get rid of the front aperture/wheelhouse OR find a Rochester Optical # 1 landscape lens that has no stops in front.

See my thread:


and here


and my post # 26 in this thread


This is basically the same as buying a rare $ 1000 softie....

Jim Graves
13-Mar-2016, 20:45
Of course there's this exceptionally inexpensive alternative (99 cents) ... but since your original post said "in shutter" ... you'd need to get a Speed Graphic or similar with a focal plane shutter ... or use the Galli Shutter.

Here are two samples ... a portrait (my son) and a landscape ... shot with a speed graphic using the 99 cent lens Mark Sawyer provided [click images to enlarge]:

148229 ...... 148230

Click this LINK (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?35097-A-new-line-of-Chinese-pictorial-lenses!&highlight=chinese) to go to Mark Sawyer's magnifying glass thread.

15-Mar-2016, 11:23
Some of the problems you may encounter with a modified meniscus landscape lens are:

- You may get too much softness. Actual soft focus lenses that use the meniscus design are usually designed at about F5.6. The Portrait Plastigmat, Struss, etc. When you pull the front off a landscape lens, you're getting whatever F-stop you get.
- You may not get enough softness. Actual soft focus lenses are optimized for the spherical aberration, while keeping other aberrations like astigmatism at bay. Depending on what the Landscape lens was designed for, you may not get the same look. Some are true meniscus designs, and allow chromatic as well as spherical aberration. It's harder to find a landscape lens that is a single meniscus.
- You may not have an easy way to adjust aperture to vary the above. What you see is what you get with a landscape lens adapted (usually extremely soft, often coma, vignetting (darkening towards the edges), and more.
- Probably a lot more differences. Which is surprising, because there really isn't much to a "Soft Focus" lens. But there are some things that they designed in.

16-Mar-2016, 17:35
Get yourself an air shutter, got this one off ebay, $30. The lens was purchased a few years back for $3. Put lens and shutter on a lens board that works on your camera. If I need to stop down I have some smaller circles that I have cut out and put on the back side of the lens board.

Sample Image from the lens, wide open around a 300mm f4

Lens and Shutter



16-Mar-2016, 17:46
..or get a small Landcaster (or similar) landscape lens - uncorck it and use it full open...

very cheap normally and a fine lens in my opinion...

This image was made on 4x5 that way...

That is GORGEOUS! I spent hundreds of dollars on a Verito hoping for this look, and wasted my bucks.
(PS, never heard of Lancaster.)

17-Mar-2016, 01:04
Goamule has some valid points here regarding using these wide open, but often it comes down to lighting conditions where highlights could go totally wild, while more expensive SF lenses have a more tamed glow in similar conditions. Each lens has its own signature so knowing when to use them can bring the best out of them.

I have also been trying to sell some here (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/forum/showthread.php?129448-FS-Four-Meniscus-Landscape-Lenses) in the FS section. Interestingly, the aluminum barrel is strikingly identical to the one shown above in post #12.

What is important to remember is that these simple meniscii can also be sharp when closed down, so they have some dual application. In addition there is only one side with glass that needs to be protected, they are much lighter than other lenses with similar FL, and hence are perfect to take along in a backpack anywhere (from sandy/dusty deserts to crowded streets and rough neighborhood, ...). I see them as a 4-wheel drive type of lenses: rugged and multi-purpose.

18-Mar-2016, 09:40
If you want the softness to increase from barely any at all in the center, to severe aberrations on the edges, combined with rectilinear problems and barrel distortion, you won't get that in a Verito. You will get it in a $3 magnifying glass lens, like the example above.

If you think you wasted your money on a Verito, you can sell it to me. Photographers that used them for generations would be surprised to learn they wasted their money, and could have just used a landscape lens or magnifying glass. (Hint: they knew that - but didn't use them)