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Old Sep 16, 2010, 12:50 PM   #1
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Default What to do with 'soft' glass?

Like anyone who has bought old lenses i have some that are super sharp, some that are sharp and some that are 'soft'. I obviously tend to use the super sharp ones but i was looking at some test shots i did of flowers with my 600mm setup and it got me to thinking about how to use the softness of a lens to my advantage. I haven't had the time or the weather yet to try anything other then some studio tests but I'm wondering if anyone here has explored the possibilities. I'm thinking along the lines of soft glass wide open or close to it maybe coupled with a TC or even 2. Seems like you should be able to create some very nice effects that way.

John
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Old Sep 18, 2010, 9:43 AM   #2
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I also have some older glass that is soft at times. I purchased Focus Magic and it was well worth the money to sharpen shots.
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Old Sep 18, 2010, 2:24 PM   #3
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But I don't want them sharp! I have glass that will give me razor sharp images, I'm talking about using the innate softness of a particular lens to advantage instead of spending time to try and sharpen the image. I know it seems odd in this day and age of uber-sharpness being the rage but there is more to a good image then how well you see the detail.

John
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Old Sep 19, 2010, 12:33 PM   #4
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Welcome to the world of reality! Some softer lenses sharpen-up when stopped-down, but so what? Softer (and hazier) lenses can lend a subject a nice mystical glow with lower contrast, or a harsh indistinctness with very high contrast. Light and exposure are critical. Slightly underexpose with low contrast and modeling (side) or back light. Overexpose more with high contrast and flat front light. In either case you want a simple, strong subject, with minimal distracting details.

The human visual system generally likes to see structures, objects, things in great detail. But we greatly tolerate fuzziness when seeing people, faces, animals, personas in whole or part. Sharpening a subject makes it more of a thing; softening it makes it more of a persona. Sharpness can be clinical; softness can be humanistic. Study some classical and modern portraiture and see the effects. NOTE: Portraits aren't limited to human faces. I can shoot a house for architectural detail, and it's a structure. Or I can shoot it for glowing softness, and it's a home.

So, experiment with exposure and contrast and angle and intent. Experiment with color and saturation, and with different B&W filtrations, and with HDR. Try HDR (or triptychs) with the source shots being of different contrast-exposure-sharpness. Have fun!
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Old Sep 19, 2010, 5:24 PM   #5
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what to do with soft lenses?

Hammer in nails when you dont want to walk out to the garage for your tool kit :-D

Ive got some soft(er) lenses but I would much rather PP in softness than try to PP in sharpness

I find its much easier to work with a sharp lens but thats just me

For instance, shoot a sharp image and PP in softness in the right places and youll get a great photo effect. I do see what you mean with producing nice results without PP or the like but you can also use tricks to soften things up on a normal lens (IE plastic bag and a circular dash of vaseline to keep center sharp but edges mystical, softness filters, etc.
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Old Sep 20, 2010, 1:56 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RioRico View Post
Welcome to the world of reality! Some softer lenses sharpen-up when stopped-down, but so what? Softer (and hazier) lenses can lend a subject a nice mystical glow with lower contrast, or a harsh indistinctness with very high contrast. Light and exposure are critical. Slightly underexpose with low contrast and modeling (side) or back light. Overexpose more with high contrast and flat front light. In either case you want a simple, strong subject, with minimal distracting details.

The human visual system generally likes to see structures, objects, things in great detail. But we greatly tolerate fuzziness when seeing people, faces, animals, personas in whole or part. Sharpening a subject makes it more of a thing; softening it makes it more of a persona. Sharpness can be clinical; softness can be humanistic. Study some classical and modern portraiture and see the effects. NOTE: Portraits aren't limited to human faces. I can shoot a house for architectural detail, and it's a structure. Or I can shoot it for glowing softness, and it's a home.

So, experiment with exposure and contrast and angle and intent. Experiment with color and saturation, and with different B&W filtrations, and with HDR. Try HDR (or triptychs) with the source shots being of different contrast-exposure-sharpness. Have fun!
That's exactly what i was thinking. Why pay money for a soft focus lens or spend time in PP when i could just make use of some of the otherwise dust gathering glass I have. Now if I could just find the time...

John
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