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Photographing Snowflakes Read More

Photographing Snowflakes

Photographing snowflakes is fun but quick work. These gorgeous winter crystals survive less than a minute under your lens. RIT professor Michael Peres will teach you how to create various setups to...

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Sony a6300-First Impressions Read More

Sony a6300-First Impressions

When Sony's invitation to spend a couple of days shooting with the new a6300 in Miami arrived via email, I didn't have to think twice before sending my RSVP. Announced in February and shipping this...

soft focus filters

Steven Chan , May 03, 2004; 12:44 p.m.

I'm looking for a soft focus filter. I tried a Tiffen Warm/Soft FX 1, and it's a little too subtle. I'm going to try FX 2 and 3, but was wondering if anyone has any sample images taken with these filters. I'm also considering a Softar I as well as B+W Soft Image. Does anyone have examples of these or other soft focus filter? I'm looking for something that will give a warm tone and improve skin for outdoor portraits.



Daniel Ramirez , May 03, 2004; 03:17 p.m.

This was taken with the B+W Zeiss Softar 1 77mm. This filter noticeably causes highlight areas to bleed into shadow areas, an effect I rather like when I am doing flash photography in bad lighting. Overall textures are softened, but contrast remains. An excellent filter (for $212.)


Daniel Ramirez , May 03, 2004; 03:35 p.m.

The bleeding effect is even more pronounced in the background, and the effect gets stronger when you use it on longer length lenses. On wide angles the filter does virtually nothing. If the entire scene is well lit, then the softness runs throughout. Here is another picture, I assure you that the horrible quality is solely my scanner, as this was taken at about 135mm on a 70-200 IS on Portra UC400

Bill Cornett , May 03, 2004; 04:21 p.m.

Steven-- Soft-focus filters are fickle beasts. Those of us with truly discriminating eyes know that they change character with various lighting schemes and exposures, and everyone should know that that the effect will vary drastically with most filters depending on which aperture is chosen (the Softar and similars being somewhat exceptional in that area). You can forget about achieving a consistency between different lenses and formats even given the same film and apertures.

The key is to experiment, experiment, experiment. I have at least seven or eight commercial soft-focus filters in my case, along with a few home-made ones for special uses, including a Krystal Effects and a Softar.

But for warm outdoor use, just as an exercise, try this-- if you are married, and your wife is about to throw out a stocking, pull that tight over the lens and see what you get. Chances are it might be a bit too much, but the effect will vary depending on the lens. Just make sure that you've stretched it as much as you can so that the holes between the fabric are as large as they can get. Also, I find fabric stores to be great places to find all sorts of loose-weave, gauzy material that I can turn into soft-focus filters. For ten bucks you can make five or six different types.

To stretch the fabric and make it convenient to use, get a make-your-own filter kit from Coken. It has frames that you can use to hold various materials (and even a bunch of colored filters to play around with). Note that you will have to purchase the proper Coken adapter ring and kit to go along with it.

I also use the Coken softners, which work quite well under most circumstances, but at times do produce a slight color cast if I use them with my Alien Bees studio strobes but not with my Comets, even though I have color-corrected both units to the exact same degree (they don't show a cast under other comparison circumstances).

But remember, the softening effect will change if any factors are modified. The Softar works great with my 100mm Pentax AF macro lens, but not that well with my 100mm Nikon. Most stockings work really well with my 645, but the effect gets mushy if I use it on 35mm--EXCEPT if I use it with my 50mm Nikon 1.7, where I really like the results. But I got some black gauze at Ames that has a loose weave and does wonderful things on most of my 35mm lenses. Tiffen also makes a line of Diffusion FX filters that are basically gauze sandwiched between glass. I think they even make a warm version, so you might want to check that. -BC-

Steven Chan , May 05, 2004; 12:36 p.m.

Daniel, Bill - Thanks for the help. I guess the bottom line is I need to try them for myself. I just bought a couple of filters and will test them out soon (and the stocking too).

Ravindra Papineni , May 27, 2004; 04:46 p.m.

comparison of soft focus filters

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