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Thread: Soft-Focus Lens Examples

  1. #1
    Tim Meisburger's Avatar
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    Soft-Focus Lens Examples

    Dallmeyer 10" f/3.5 Portrait Anastigmat w/soft focus

    Following up on Professional's suggestion. I've been sick and so spent a lot of time in my studio (bedroom) over the weekend, and shot some examples for this lens on 4x5 (FP4) developed in Rodinal at 100/1. Since my models are on strike, these are all self-portraits. And since my fake Packard shutter is acting up, they were all shot (except the last) with the flash technique (I set everything up, turned out the lights, pulled the darkslide, sat down and triggered the flash).

    To engage soft focus with this lens you merely unscrew the front element. It has been compared to the Cooke Knuckler, and I think the look is very similar. The Cooke has five marks for levels of soft focus, while this lens has ten turns before the threads begin to appear, so I am assuming that two turns on the Dallmeyer are equivalent to one mark on the Cooke (which I think my tests suggest is more or less correct). Interestingly, you can turn the element a further ten turns before it comes out of the barrel, so it is possible to "over-clock" the soft focus feature, but I have not dome that except in the last example.

    I'm really not very good with soft focus, but these tests did suggest to me a way forward, and I think I will try again with some daylight and backlighting (and more attractive model).

    f/16 full sharp


    f/16 full soft - A f/16 the soft effect is not too noticeable, at least with no background.


    f/3.5 full soft - I forget to stop down after setting up this shot, so it was several stops overexposed, but it does give a sense of the extreme softness possible with this lens (especially consider there are nine more turns available!).

  2. #2
    Tim Meisburger's Avatar
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    Re: Soft-Focus Lens Examples

    Here are some crops round the eyes:

    f/16 full sharp


    f/16 full soft - Its still pretty sharp due to the small f-stop, but notice the fine wrinkles under my right eye are blurred. I need that.


    f/3.5 full soft - This is too soft for me. I think the sweet spot must be around f/5.6 or 8 (more testing needed!)

  3. #3
    Tim Meisburger's Avatar
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    Re: Soft-Focus Lens Examples

    Here is one more, showing on one sheet of 4x5 diffusion at 0, 6 turns, 12 turns and 18 turns.

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    Re: Soft-Focus Lens Examples

    I have a question, are you talking about a specific soft focus lens or any soft focus lens?

    I wish if you can mention some lenses so i can see if i have one or go and buy one and then use it when i can and post here, I saw your examples, but i will try to shoot something nice and worthy to show here, so please if you can list those soft focus lenses rather than the one you mentioned above it may help me, as i have no idea much about those soft focus lenses and i thought it is just an effect you do with any lens.

  5. #5
    Tim Meisburger's Avatar
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    Re: Soft-Focus Lens Examples

    A soft focus lens is intentionally soft, and most have adjustments from sharp to soft. Many were made in the early 20th century. Just google "soft focus lens" and you will find a lot of examples.

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    Re: Soft-Focus Lens Examples

    Nothing wrong with model!

    Nice to escape hideous tattoos and worse!

  7. #7
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Soft-Focus Lens Examples

    Quote Originally Posted by Professional View Post
    I have a question, are you talking about a specific soft focus lens or any soft focus lens?

    I wish if you can mention some lenses so i can see if i have one or go and buy one and then use it when i can and post here, I saw your examples, but i will try to shoot something nice and worthy to show here, so please if you can list those soft focus lenses rather than the one you mentioned above it may help me, as i have no idea much about those soft focus lenses and i thought it is just an effect you do with any lens.
    It's a big complicated genre of LF photography.

    Check out the galli style thread and the soft focus lens sales thread for more examples and information. Also Russ Young's thesis on pictorial lenses.

    For the photography, check out "After the Photo Secession" and "TruthBeauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, 1845-1945"

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    Re: Soft-Focus Lens Examples

    I too thought Professional's suggestion was a good one. And I like Tim's response.
    Added to this is some inspiration I found in Raphael Goldchain's work "I am my Family" in which he recreates his lost family photos using himself as model. Truly one doesn't need to come from Europe in the middle of the 20th century to have very few examples of family photos from generations past.
    Here then is my mother's father.
    He was a life insurance salesman after his return from being gased in Belgium in The Great War. He was a great athlete before the war, playing Lacrosse on Ottawa area teams; afterwards he raised homing pigeons in the roof of his garage and often won ribbons at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.
    Pinkham and Smith 16" at f5.6; Ilford FP4 plusClick image for larger version. 

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  9. #9

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    Re: Soft-Focus Lens Examples

    Very nice ... thanks for sharing ...

    Quote Originally Posted by cowanw View Post
    Pinkham and Smith 16" at f5.6; Ilford FP4 plus

    Click image for larger version. 

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  10. #10
    Tim Meisburger's Avatar
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    Re: Soft-Focus Lens Examples

    Very nice Bill. Is this a lens that was commonly used in Hollywood? For some reason to me it evokes a distinctly Hollywood glow.

    I had some fun recently doing a shoot-off between my new Chinese pictorial lens and my Universal Heliar. The Heliar won, of course (its my favorite lens), but it surprising what you can do on the outer fringes of soft-focus with a stopped down $2.00 magnifying glass.

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