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Why Soft Focus Can Be Useful

Why Soft Focus Can Be Useful - Here's why soft focus can be a useful feature on Olympus cameras.

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Olympus OM-D E-M10 in Creative

Soft Focus | 1/80 sec | f/4.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 200
The soft focus effect on a post box, taken with an OM-D E-M10.

Many recent Olympus cameras, including the OM-D E-M10 and OM-D E-M1, have a filter mode called Soft Focus. But why is this mode useful, when we're always told that images should be pin sharp? The truth is that some images can benefit from the soft focus effect. 

What is soft focus?
The term soft focus originally stems from unwanted spherical aberration in lenses that were flawed in some way. Soft focus should't be confused with an out of focus image, however. Soft focus retains sharp edges in an image, but at the same time introduces blurring giving the image a sort of glow. 

What visual effects does this have on the image?
Because of the etheral glow that can be achieved by using soft focus, it's ideal for creating scenes with a dreamy, otherworldly feel. It's also good for masking blemishes in portrait photography, leaving the model's skin looking flawless. 

How else can I achieve the effect if my Olympus camera doesn't have the Soft Focus Filter?
The soft focus effect can't be achieved by simply going into manual and defocusing the lens, as this will leave you with a totally blurred and unappealing image. What you can do is fit a diffusion filter, which makes the light scatter differently to mimic the effect, or if you don't have a filter thread because you're using a compact camera, try stretching a nylon stocking or tights over the front of the lens, giving the same diffused effect. 

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Photographs taken using the Olympus OM-D E-M10

FlyNordfjellet, Lofoten IslandsRed Hut Ramberg BeachVolandstindenThe VoyeurSail awaySt Hildas Church and HeadlandLeaving harbourPurpleAustnesfjorden Lofoten IslandsFinal ApproachAzure Damselfly

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