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.)
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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).