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Softar Softar catchee glamour


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Softar Softar catchee glamour

13 Dec 2020 6:23AM   Views : 427 Unique : 327


A casual remark to Dave (mistere) about my Softar soft focus filter started this off. It appears that I havenít (hadnít) told Dave about my best-value accessory ever. £33 from Jessops in around 1980, and itís been with me ever since.

Now, there are a lot of soft focus filters around, and most of them are unpredictable, give varying effects depending on the aperture, and destroy image resolution. Essentially, you pay good money for a sharp lens, then add a filter that gives you the effect of having a much cheaper lens.


Not so with the Softar, which was made in three grades, I, II, and III. Mineís a 67mm Softar III, the strongest of the range. Made by Zeiss, and most commonly sold for Hasselblads, but they were also available for Contax lenses, and for some Rollei models. There are quite a few on eBay.

The thing that set the Softar apart was that instead of having an overall uneven surface, itís optically flat, but with a series of small convex lenses on the front surface. This means that there is a sharp central image, and a diffused halo around it. In practice, this is only visible around light subjects, as in my main gallery post last Friday: if you use a Softar below the enlarger lens in the darkroom, you get the opposite effect, with shadows bleeding into the highlights for a sinister look.


The B+W soft focus filter gave a similar effect, achieved with a pattern of rings around the lens, like the ripples on a pond, though the current Schneider Kreuznach website shows something that looks remarkably like the Softar pattern. Iíve also got a Hoya soft focus filter using much the same pattern, and thatís the one I used for the picture below. It proved surprisingly difficult to get an image that shows the pattern: in the end, a non-portrait, showing the shadow the filter casts gives the clearest idea of what itís like.


Of course, Gaussian blur, yabber yabber: but that wasnít around in 1980. And, even today, thereís a charm to any accessory where you can see what itís doing through the viewfinder, and donít have to process extensively to get the resultsÖ

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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
13 Dec 2020 6:25AM
As the lead image of Celia Grey shows, the Softar gives the maximum effect with bright tones against a black background. The upper shot of the wall light is a straight shot, the one below it is with the Softar III.
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 38 8 England
13 Dec 2020 5:05PM
Thanks John. I couldn't see the attraction of this filter until I did a google search of images taken with one.
I get it now and I see why you like it so much. Funny that I hadn't seen you using it. Or perhaps i just wasn't
paying attention when you did. Smile Cant hang around, off to visit ebay Blush
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
13 Dec 2020 5:43PM
Iíve used it much less the last three or four years, just because Iíve been playing with other forms of softness and lenses...
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
13 Dec 2020 9:03PM
Software blur doesn't have the character of lens or filter blur, that's the essence of it I think.
But you have to commit to the optical effect, whereas with software you don't.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
14 Dec 2020 9:45AM
Commitment comes up so often in the differences between old-school photography and micromanaged digital.

And while the latter can easily be part of previsualisation, it does help a lot with choosing filters (and many other things) to have a decent idea of what the result you want will look like.

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