Review: Lensbaby Soft Focus Optic

Lensbaby Soft Focus Optic

The Lensbaby Optic Swap System is pretty neat, to say the least. With it, you can have a variety of creative options at your fingertips in just a few quick steps. The core optics (single glass, double glass, plastic, and pinhole) were pretty impressive offerings that made the Lensbaby system very attractive for those looking to get a bit abstract, or at minimum try something new. Since then, new optics have be released that push the envelope even further.  Released back in 2009, the Soft Focus optic has been one of the lesser talked about offerings, but it has also gained its own following.

Personally, it’s probably my favorite Lensbaby optic.

The Lonely Forest

Without a sweet spot like the initial optics (minus the pinhole), the Soft Focus optic gives a full softness from corner to corner. While not a dreamy as a Holga it still possesses some of those lo-fi quirks, which can be thankfully controlled with the aperture disks. The set of disks that come with the Soft Focus optic include the standard rings but also a set of 3 multi-holed disks that allow for a different textured softness. Out of the camera you can get great results. Spend a little time in post and you can get some very convincing vintage style.

Dry Leaves

So, what does a so-called music photographer think of this thing? Well, it’s not great for dark rooms since it becomes pretty tough to focus and any significant light sources (like an LED par can) will create these huge circles in the bokeh that can be unwanted. This is only an issue at any aperture larger than f4.

Via Dove

Once you understand the quirks of the Soft Focus optic with certain light situations, shooting wide becomes more manageable. However, you’re still going to feel like you’re relying on the occurrence of lucky shots. Simply put, you’re going to have a hard time in most situations where you’re going to have to make the most of the available light.

Pretty Little Empire

When you’re not squeezing the life out of all the light you can get, that’s where the Soft Focus shines. When working with a lot of light, you’ll get a decent amount of glow until you move down to f4 or f5.6. This can produce desirable results depending on style and/or intention. Personally, I feel at f5.6 the Soft Focus optic really shines, providing a very pleasurable amount of sharpness and lo-fi charm.

Née

In the photo above of Née you can see that the out of focus elements in both the foreground and background flow nicely to the singer. In the upper left hand corner you can see some distortion and some other telling signs that I’m not shooting with Ziess glass. For me, this is the sort of vibe I’m looking for when I’m not shooting with traditional optics. You can still process the reality of the photo, but there is something dreamy about it.

For the time being, I only have the Composer lens. I’ve wondered if using the Scout, since it doesn’t bend and the Soft Focus optic is “full frame,” would have a positive effect on my shooting. However, it’s entirely possible that being unable to perfectly center the Composer works to help create the characteristics I like so much about the optic. If I get my hands on a Scout, this would most likely be the first thing I’d test.

Conclusion!

False Moves

On full frame or crop sensors, there’s a lot to get out of this optic. If you already own a Lensbaby lens it seems like a natural progression to eventually pick one up. To those looking to get into the Lensbaby system, the Soft Focus optic is a great reason among many to find out for yourself how much fun you can have. The $90 price tag may be a higher entry point than some of the other Lensbaby optics, but spend enough time with the Soft Focus and you’ll soon realize that you can definitely get more than your money’s worth.

It’s a bummer that by its nature it’s a pretty light hungry optic which makes it limited for shooting dark situations, but when light isn’t a problem it can be the coolest thing in your camera bag.

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Questions, Comments?
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One Response to “Review: Lensbaby Soft Focus Optic”

  1. Good review – glad to see you’re getting great shots out of the Soft Focus!
    Thanks & keep up the good work!

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