Yoshizen's Blog

What is the Softness of the Lens ?

Lens Vibration Tamron 70~300 at 130mm

(Photo above is a sample of  “Lens Vibration” with Tamron 70~300mm lens)

A man who was amazed of me pursuing the softness of the image,

asked me what’s such a fuss all about ? —– I asked him what lens

has he been using ?  

He said, such as 24~70, 70~200 both F4, and used to have 10~20mm as

well.  And his understanding of the softness was “degrading halation”

of the lens, hence when he need such effect, he use vaseline on a filter

(to degrade the sharp image). (= Obviously He had no chance to learn

the Softness by himself.)   

Then, I asked, has he ever heard the softness of the Zeiss 85mm F1.4

lens.  —– He said that he had heard about it but never used that

lens or seen the image consciously.


Not only this guy but many people misunderstood that the Bokeh is

just  halation — which was utterly wrong.—– So, I promised him

to show the sample photo of the Zeiss 85mm F1.4 lens and its typical

soft image.   Sound funny though, a lots of people heard the legend of

that 85mm lens but very few of them actually seen the demonstration

photo of its softness.

—– Why bother with soft images ?  = Zoologist Desmond Morris (famous with his book “Naked Ape”  “Man watching” ) pointed out the matter in his book  “Woman watching” that when we adore the thing or the person, our eye’s pupil wide open = making the image fuzzy.    May be that is the image what we most wanted.  And that was why Artistic Images are often fuzzy, like the oil paintings or even abstract. = Clear sharp image is for practical / prosaic use.

This phenomenon must explain the crucial point in what is the Art.  —– With an idiosyncratic view, you may think that the fuzzy image is poorer as an information media.  But it is too superficial. = fuzzy image may seemed to have less amount of the information “Bit” though when it projected into our brain, it stimulates and induces far more information.   Because fuzzy image is not as specific and precise, it would overlap and related to many more images or bague memories.  In another word, fuzzy image is far more rich.

Zeiss 85mm F1.4

This sample image here was taken by the very Zeiss 85mm Planar F1.4  lens

and its part-enlargement.

This rather prominent Bokeh is the legendary softness of the lens.

(Without this, I didn’t buy this lens and changed camera from Nikon 

to Contax and it was a start of my 30 odd years long affair with

soft image.) 

Zeiss 55mm F1.4

And this is a sample image of Zeiss 55mm F1.4.  The Bokeh is slightly

less still, the image has the same characteristic of the Zeiss lens.

(Sharp still Soft)    🙂

AF Nikkor 85mm F1.8

If you think that all the 85mm lens has more or less the same character,

as the size of the minimum circle of confusion is the same, hence

theoretical depth-of-field is the same, then have a look this

AF Nikkor 85mm F1.8.  — This lens shows very little Bokeh of the 

Spherical Aberration, still showed  slight Chromatic Aberration. 

(faint blue lines on the edge)

Canon EFS 18~55mm at 55mm

How about the latest designed lens, Canon EFS 18~55mm IS-II.

(this photo, at 55mm) Image quality is good but it has a Chromatic

aberration — blue lines on the edge.

Lens Softness-5B-001And this was done by 10 times more expensive lens, EF 24~70mm F2.8

(at 70mm)  It’s got to be very sharp = and no softness at all

= prosaically dry image !  

Lens Softness-5C-001In contrast, this 100-year-old Anastigmat 75 mm F5.4 lens shows

not-sharp at all image, yet “somewhat” common with Zeiss lens

 = wet, but not necessary soft, just too much halation of fungi.

Picasa Soft focus (A)

If you think that the softness could be just added by the digital

manipulation ?   Well, those samples were made by so-called “Soft

focus effect” of the Picasa 3.

(This one has the sharp center right of the flower) = as digital effect

doesn’t know 3D depth of the subject, its Bokeh doesn’t follow the

distance but gave a halo in gradually intensifying circle = looks

too unnatural and messy.

Picasa Soft focus (B)

And this one was made without the center = everywhere is evenly

fuzzy = looks no different from a low resolution security-camera.

Soft image is not the same to low resolution fuzzy image nor just out

of focus Bokeh = it needs to have a sharp core image together with

slightly dispositioned (not sharply converging) light which creates wet

softness. (Good soft image looks as if it is a mesmerizing moistened

skin = wet !)   Look the afore sample photos again.  Why Zeiss lenses

has Bokeh while Nikon 85mm (even though it was F1.8 not F1.4) has

not at all.  That was why the Carl Zeiss 85mm F1.4 lens keeps its 

legendary reputation.

(and I’ve been working hard to simulate its softness by different means.)

—– Convinced ?  


18 Responses

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  1. […] with a kind of routine test here, this lens showed this character […]

  2. […] softness of the other Zeiss Lens ! […]

  3. […] familiar kind of photo […]

  4. […] a test shot of “that rose” […]

  5. […] Incidentally, this lens showed this character (and see the difference) […]

  6. Twisted Lens | Yoshizen's Blog said, on May 21, 2016 at 16:23

    […] The photo above left is the same “Test shot” […]

  7. […] The best things of this gaudy lens is, its balance of fuzzyness […]

  8. Kodak Red Bellows Lens | Yoshizen's Blog said, on October 3, 2016 at 12:36

    […] to see the So-called Softness on the same test […]

  9. […] there isn’t much soft texture (It may be […]

  10. Robot with Leiz (?) Lens | Yoshizen's Blog said, on December 11, 2016 at 15:55

    […] the same shooting of the same dried Rose on 3,5 feet distance. = photo middle was F1.5 fully open and the right was F6,3. —– […]

  11. […] (Photo left = despite of heavy halation, this lens gives quite sharp image.  And having a nice softness.) […]

  12. Omuni-focus Lens | Yoshizen's Blog said, on January 9, 2018 at 22:50

    […] image in any distance, without focasing, without using small F-aperture.    (BYW, the last dried rose was taken with additional close-up […]

  13. Helicoid Lens (B) | Yoshizen's Blog said, on February 8, 2018 at 15:33

    […] (Photo here above, Left was the (B) lens in its finished looks — looks cool isn’t it ?   😀  And the right showed the Lens’ closest view, which showed its softness for comparison.) […]

  14. […] here were Brownie lens on the Sony A7R.   Not too bad mean, not brilliant —– on the Bokeh test, this lens showed halo together with chromatic aberration = blue fog on the […]

  15. […] (To make the point clear, I show you the comparison, the images made by the latest Zeiss lens for Sony E-mount = FE 1.8 / 55 ZA.  The photo above left was F1.8 and the right was F8 — at F1.8, the image showed slight chromatic aberration (blue edge) — still, this is the today’s standard of the image quality. (Above photos may need to compare with Zeiss Planer 50mm) […]

  16. […] 同様に何故かボケた映像に引っかかる。待てよ、これどっかで見たぞ。いつだったかは解らない遠い昔、ひよっとしたら夢の中だったかも。---で、ツァィスレンズの向うにそれを発見して以来、僕のレンズ行脚が始った。ピンホールはその一駒だ。 […]

  17. Fuji-Fun lens | Yoshizen's Blog said, on January 18, 2019 at 12:36

    […] end, the lens produces rather funny image = they are not sharp but not necessary soft image like an old Zeiss lens or Kodak Vest Pocket Lens.   So, I’m not sure what is the advantage of this lens. […]

  18. Agfa 135 mm old lens | Yoshizen's Blog said, on March 6, 2021 at 13:27

    […] Despite such old lens a Doppel Anastigmat lens still has certain quality. (But not a kind of German Zeiss like softness) >>> https://yoshizen.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/what-is-the-softness-of-a-lens/ […]

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