View Full Version : Soft focus barrel lenses

7-Feb-2007, 06:34
After the possible light leak that turned out to be improper agitation, I managed to pull out a nice quick image from the damaged Cook Process lens (rear element sits 2mm further out of screwthread due to dent). No fun effects with that one.

So it leads me back to something I keep seeing - soft focus lenses.

I want to sort out doing some 4x5 portrait stuff, and the barrel lenses I have should be sufficient for most applications, but they are also annoyingly sharp (mixed blessing I guess).

What lenses are notorious for soft focus?

I'd prefer not to stick vaseline on the front element or use post-processing techniques. At the same time I'd hate to be spending hundreds on some 'famed' or collector lens.

Any ideas for brass/barrel lenses that could fit the bill (around 10inch +/-3inch maybe?) and aren't too difficult to source??


Dan Fromm
7-Feb-2007, 06:46
Ash, you really ought to learn to, um, feed yourself. You can start learning by buying a copy of A Lens Collector's Vade Mecum. You should be able to get it from MWClassic. You'll get more from the VM, and more quickly, than from short responses on bulletin boards.

Jim Galli
7-Feb-2007, 07:30
Hi Ash. Soft focus lenses are a hot topic and there aren't many sleepers these days. There are a couple of ways to achieve a soft focus. Easiest and best is defocus through a very shallow depth of field. That happens much easier and smoother with an 8X10 than a 4X5. A 12" Wollensak Velostigmat at f4.5 on an 8X10 can be very nice. Some of them had a defocus ring at the front with numbered stops of 0 - 5 but I don't care much for the effect using it. Any Petzval type lens will be sharp in the center and defocus quickly with combined effect of large aperture and a semicircular field of view. Some names to follow on Ebay but none of them cheap are Voigtlander Heliar, Very silky smooth and slightly soft at f4.5, Wollensak Verito, The classic purpose built soft lens, it's just squishy soft everywhere, and the Velostigmat series II F4.5 I mentioned. Any Achromatic Meniscus that can open to at least f6 will be soft until stopped down. That's how the 305 Kodak Portrait lens worked. I've blogged quite a bit over time about the different soft lenses on my web pages. Hit the link below.

Mark Sampson
7-Feb-2007, 07:40
Don't forget to check the article found on the front page of this very site.

7-Feb-2007, 09:41
Thanks for the responses:

Dan, I personally spend a lot of time trying to research things before I ask, but searching "soft focus large format lens" on google is a nightmare. I'll look out for that book, thanks for the heads up - I need some reading on various lenses.

Jim, thanks for the detailed reply. I'm heading over to your site in a minute... you should look out for my next thread I'll be posting, it involves modding the Cambo you sold me :D

Mark, that front page completely slipped my mind! My bookmark takes me directly to the forum, I'm guessing it will be an obvious title to the article?

Thanks again :)

Struan Gray
7-Feb-2007, 13:51
There's a whole bunch of usable and interesting brass lenses on ebay.uk right now. I don't suppose the Indian rip-off of a famous Dallmeyer lens will go for much. Buy and try.

7-Feb-2007, 14:08
hi ash

one thing you might try in addition to 'defocus' with a lens wide open
is front focusing. what i mean is focus infront of the subject a bit.
you can experiment a little and see what works best for you.
i use this method all the time (with mini-formats too), it works pretty well :)

forgot to mention ..
look for old folders and grab the meniscus lens from it.
i have a few single cell lenses that i shoot with ( they cost next to nothing).

good luck!