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Thread: Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

  1. #1

    Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

    I've been pondering which (if any) soft focus lens would be right for me, and I'm having a hard time choosing.
    I know a fair bit about how the Verito lenses work, and the Aero Ektars as well. But based on examples I've seen of photos made with the Kodak Portrait lens, I have a feeling this might be closest to what I want, in terms of a "look".

    So I'm soliciting opinions: which of these three do you use, and why do you feel it has merit? How do these three compare? I've had people say the Aero Ektar is a pain in the arse to use because it requires modification to get it on a camera. Thoughts?

    PS: this is for 8x10 format.
    Paul
    Last edited by paulbarden; 16-May-2020 at 22:02.

  2. #2
    (Shrek)
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    Re: Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

    The Aero-Ektar is a fad, shallow DoF + flare =/= soft focus. The Verito is probably the most successful soft focus lens in history. Kodak Portrait is probably #2 on the list. It would be easier for you to select some images you like and work backwards. I personally use a 14-1/2" Verito and a Darlot pillbox landscape with the front removed (works out to a 14" f9 Kodak Portrait with a hood).

  3. #3

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    Re: Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

    I have a Verito, a Veritar , a variable softness Wollensak a triple convertible Protar, a Heliar,a Versar and a couple of others. , . The Wolly is one of my favorites even though it is not in a modern shutter,the convertible Protar is the most versatile and I suppose I use it most often. Iwould really like to have a Kodak Portrait but it is far out of my range. Also,it is the most unusual, or some say difficult, to use of all I have. So I Guess I am not of much help to you.
    Imst say that I Had the Protar for probably 30-40 years before I realized its versatility.

  4. #4

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    Re: Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

    You might want to look into a Wollaston Meniscus by Reinhold Schable.

  5. #5
    William Whitaker's Avatar
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    Re: Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

    I've been very fond of the Verito since I first learned about it about 20 years ago..It is versatile because it is a convertible lens. Remove the front group and you have a soft focus lens about 1.5x longer FL with commensurate speed. An 11 1/2" f/4 Verito converted gives you a 20" lens with a slightly smaller max f/stop. Do the arithmetic. The iris controls the diffusion effect, so choose your film speed and lighting wisely. Stopped way down it's a fairly sharp lens, but still not without character. I have other SF lenses, but the Verito is my favorite.
    Pick one. Or two different lenses. Try them. You'll quickly learn what's for you. There is a lot of subjectivity to it.

  6. #6
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

    Simple answer, the Verito. It's a true historic soft focus lens, and there are enough around that the price is pretty reasonable. And there's no denying it gives beautiful results.

    The Kodak Portrait Lens is also very nice. If it's too pricey, the Imagon gives a very similar look when used with a conventional diaphragm.

    Another good option that won't break the bank is a Velostigmat Series II with it's soft focus dial liberated from that pesky limiting screw.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  7. #7

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    Re: Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

    What format???

    I have a few classic SF lenses that have their own personality, bit in general (for 4X5 I usually shoot), I have most everything I want (for tabletop) with faster 300mm or up lenses like big/old Tessars... Wide open there is some flare and a pretty shallow DOF effects... Stop down a little and the effect blends with the increasing sharpness... Problem is you need a camera with big bellows extension...

    A Verito is always a safe bet, but note many lenses are soft in contrast and the fuzz can be a bit much when you want to hold some detail (instead of just forms)... I have been liking using a middle aperture so there is a slightly sharp image with some creamy smoothness to it...

    Had a couple of 178mm AE's for many years (long before the "fad"), and found them better for "sharp" renditions rather than "special" effect... They looked kinda mushy wide open, and got sharp quickly while stopping down... I think the reason they became so popular was they were a cheap, fast lens that could barely fit onto a SG (with a rear shutter), but they went "viral"... I much prefer the look of an old fast 300mm on my 24" bellows studio camera, a Verito on field cameras, a Hyperion on my Graflex RB 4X5, and my old Linhof Tek has a home made 270mm f11 Meniscus sourced from scrap optics + Polaroid shutter I like as much as my other lenses...

    You could try a fresnel or magnifier lens on the camera before plunking down the big bucks, as these can also fill the bill nicely...

    Steve K

  8. #8

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    Re: Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

    What film size are we talking about?

    I have a Verito, the soft focus Velostigmat, two Wollastons, and a lens I cobbled up myself from an achromatic two-element close-up lens, but my fave is the front half of a 15" Tele-Raptar used with the elements either in front or of in back of the shutter (different effects). It's around 180mm, only good on 4x5. It's a solid, sharp 15" lens on 4x5 and 5x7 also. My second favorite is the Verito, just as most people are saying. The one no one mentions is the SF Fuji. Just say no to that one; of all options it is the worst. I gutted the cells of mine to make the achromat--threw the Fuji glass in the trash where it belongs.
    Last edited by mdarnton; 16-May-2020 at 23:49.
    Thanks, but I'd rather just watch:
    Large format: http://flickr.com/michaeldarnton
    Mostly 35mm: http://flickr.com/mdarnton
    You want digital, color, etc?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stradofear

  9. #9
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

    Paul; what film size and what is the subject matter?

    ( I don't consider AE soft focus; it's pretty crisp and exacting )

  10. #10

    Re: Help choosing a "soft focus" lens, please.

    Quote Originally Posted by LabRat View Post
    What format???

    Steve K
    For 8x10. Thanks

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