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Shoot otherworldly photographs with the new Lensbaby Soft Focus II Optic

Lensbaby Soft Focus II Optic
(Image credit: Lensbaby / )

Lensbaby has just announced the Lensbaby Soft Focus II Optic – a long-awaited update of one of its earliest and most sought-after Optics.

While there are a small number of soft focus lenses on the market, including the manufacturer's own Lensbaby Velvet 28, the Lensbaby Soft Focus II Optic differs in that it is part of the Optic Swap System – meaning that it is a module that can be added to lens bodies such as the Lensbaby Spark, Composer and Composer II. (In other words, this is not a standalone lens.)

• Read more: Best Lensbaby lenses

Improving on the original version of the Optic, the Soft Focus II now features a 12-blade aperture, with a range from f/2.5 to f/22 (and it is also compatible with Lensbaby's drop-in magnetic aperture disk system). As you would expect, it is a completely manual design. 

What's important to note about soft focus lenses and optics is that they do not create an out of focus image; rather, they render an impressionistic image that retains sharp detail beneath the characteristic blur and halation. Check out the sample images below.

The more wide open you shoot, the more pronounced these characteristics become. The effects lend themselves well to soft pastel palettes, ethereal portraits, dreamy landscapes and creative close-ups – all of which are made possible by the Soft Focus II's 50mm focal length.

However, by stopping the aperture down to f/8 and below, the effects Optic stops exhibiting these characteristics and starts to deliver more conventional sharpness  performance, with centrally sharp images possessed of out of focus edges when used on 35mm sensors and film (this edge of frame effect is far less pronounced when used on APS-C and Micro Four Thirds sensors).

The Lensbaby Soft Focus II Optic is available to pre-oder for $179.95 / £169.00 (approximately AU$246.41).

Pre-order the Lensbaby Soft Focus II Optic from Adorama (US)
Pre-order the Lensbaby Soft Focus II Optic from B&H (US)
Pre-order the Lensbaby Soft Focus II Optic from Wex (UK)

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Melissa Tokariwski)

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Shelly Corbett)

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Anne Belmont)

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Jan Heastont)

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Melissa Bissell)

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Jan Heastont)

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Elizabeth Willson)

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Ally Frantz)

(Image credit: Lensbaby / Jenny Waller)

Read more: 

How to create a soft focus effect in Photoshop
Lensbaby Spark 2.0 review
Lensbaby Velvet 28 review

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.