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Thursday, 18 August 2011


You said it: blur your shots to taste in post. You can always remove information by blurring; you can't restore detail that isn't there.

Pentax Q: I've seen and held the mockup at the local camera shop. It is _tiny_. It feels rock solid, and extremely high qulality. It's not a competitor to the 4/3 system. It's Pentax' answer to the Canon G12 or Nikon P7000. Same compact size (or smaller I suspect - it's _tiinyy_), same small sensor size and high quality build - but with interchangeable lenses.

Ricoh: How about a Pentax K module for the Ricoh GXR? Pentax would get its mirrorless body without in-brand competition with the DSLR lineup, and Ricoh would have first-party access to a mount with a lot of high-quality lenses.

Any one have any useful articles on softening portraits? Soft lenses look different than just reducing contrast or blurring a photo from a sharp lens. I can think of numerous methods off the top of my head, but having never done it before, wondering if anyone has some useful advice.

I have my 45mm preordered and I just clapped with embarrassing glee. I have the 20mm f/1.7. I think I will be very pleased with this combination. The 12mm would round out a very nice trio of primes.

I think Olympus is making a intelligent move investing in such great lenses, it's the big advantage of the m43 system now and diverts the attention of the fact that they still don't have a pro body and improved sensors (while panasonic is working on a pro GF body).

I liked my E-P1 + panasonic 20/1.7 but had to sell it recently because the Fuji X100 was the camera I wanted the E-P1 to be all along.

It's ironic that on a certain forum based site or two that "sharp" is the only game in town. The quality of your photography is directly based on the 100% crop. :)

Mike We've read about some of your favorite 50's so how about a run down on some of your favorite portrait lenses?

Some years back I was talking to a friend who had just taken his portrait studio digital.

He did the shooting and his wife did the post processing and printing (up to 24", the rest went out of house).

He started with D2H cameras and stepped up to D2Xs bodies. It wasn't long before his wife started grumbling about 12MP files being too crisp and that she was using a lot of extra drive space to store them and a lot of time softening up the images as they were brutally sharp.

A nice little lesson there about one size fits all thinking when it comes to things like sharpness.

How about bringing back the Imagon in mounts for digital cameras?

It's great that Pentax is launching the Q with a fast standard (47mm-e f/1.9, with OVF) rather than just a f/dark consumer zoom. With such a prime the camera may appeal to advanced amateurs who want to take casual family photos in good light, or who want a carry-everywhere camera. There's also potential for street and travel photography. Add a 24mm-e and a 100mm-e (with OVFs: a three-in-one might be better) and I'd seriously consider it if I had the money.

The big problem with all small-sensor cameras is that it's near impossible to blur backgrounds and it will be interesting to see how Olympus' "Bokeh Control Filter" performs.

Hopefully the AF is a good as that on Panasonic's m4/3 cameras.

Thankfully Pentax has the sense to use DNG rather than create the millionth proprietary format.

Will we ever see a Pentax QT?

Detail within a soft glow, not just poor resolution, that is what those wonderful portrait lenses have. I've read that some lens designers left in an amount of some aberations for that very purpose.

Mike Johnston wrote:
> I have a feeling that the Q System might become collectible one day.
> Especially if they don't sell very many of them.

Indeed. Shades of the Sony Qualia 016. The Pentax Q's price point seems quite reasonable in comparison  :-)

I get that same kind of feeling when I use my vintage collapsible Summicron 50 compared to the modern one... I know you could probably deal with it in post, but still all the same it's funny that I now almost always go for the collapsible for that look, and not the fact that I could probably make the new version look like the old in post.


The block diagram of the Olympus 45 reveals a rather simple design. No aspherical surfaces and no ED glass to spoil the smoothness. Edge sharpness won't be a strength of this lens. Prepare to be happy.

"wondering if anyone has some useful advice"

I can give you my all-purpose Photoshop tutorial: "Fiddle with it till it looks right."

That might not qualify as "useful," though, I realize.


I would say the opposite--that the block diagram shows a highly complex design for a lens of this specification.


Actually, use "guys" all you want, Mike. Prior to its current meaning, it referred to anyone poorly or raggedly dressed. It came into use in reference to the effigies of Guy Fawkes, the British guy who tried to blow up parliament back in the 17th century, that folks used to burn (or maybe still do?) on Guy Fawkes Day. Heck, Edith Wharton had a female character in one of her novels (I've forgotten which one) use it in reference to another female character, so you'd be in good company.

Not sure I am sufficiently convinced to get this new lens. Still very happy with the lack of sharpness and technical amazingness of the adapted Konica hexanon 50mm f/1.4!

I guess I can skip the whole unsharpening process :-) Now, if only olympus would do a X100-inspired camera with integrated EVF...

I certainly hope the lens isn't a soft, portrait-only number. A short telephoto prime is the perfect tool for architectural detail, and "dreamy" is not at all the look I'm going for.

sneye's comment, in particular, makes me glad I decided to wait for reviews for ordering it. I hope he's wrong.

So, what's supposed to glow softly? I mean, what parts of the picture? I can envision actions to do things that meet the "detail within a soft glow" description, but whether the visual effect would actually be satisfactory is another question. Somebody familiar with what they want should be the one to really work on this. (I think it's entirely possible that this is another thing that can't be simulated very well after-the-fact, but it's still interesting to talk about and try.)

I'm using an old manual focus 50mm 1.8 legacy lens on my E-pl2 for portraits. It works well enough but the out-of-focus rendering is horrible. Hopefully this new lens will be better. It will certainly be more convenient to have auto focus.

Concerning the circa 1935 portrait. I'd be surprised if such a soft focus would win any accolades with online photographers these days. It is beautiful and has obviously stood the test of time but the soft mood is out of current fashion. So who cares about fashion? Any practitioner who makes a living selling photographic images and most who only wish they did.

With Nikon lenses having a real bitingly-sharp lenses with harsh out-of-focus characteristics (obviously there are exceptions). I have found the newer 50mm AFS 1.4 is a great example of what you describe above. Stopped down is a sharp splendid performing normal lens, but wide open it has all the charm of an older style portrait lens with just enough softness, vignetting, aberrations, with an excellent micro-contrast reminiscent of old Minolta Rokkor 58mm 1.2 lens (one I wish I could use on my Nikons) but with a better coating, one of my few lenses I don't mind using wide-open for almost every shot. It's the one lens that my wife immediately noticed how it stood out when I added it as my main lens for my wedding arsenal.

And I thought this was going to be news of the long-awaited 'best small cameras' post. Still...that 45 looks mighty tempting, and great value compared to it's 12mm cousin and the stop-and-a-half slower Leica 45.

Mike, this post just killed my bank account...

After much procrastination, you finally made me break down and order this guy (with your link of course!) to complement the oh so popular 20mm f/1.7 I have for my EP-2.

The problem with this lens is that it isn't fast enough for a very shallow DOF. Sure, it is a 90mm equivalent, but it is also about an f3.5 equivalent in terms of DOF, because of the small m4/3 sensor.

I'm excited that this lens along with Panasonic's 14mm and 20mm form a set matching the effective focal lengths of Leica's CLE, with the bonus of all three lenses being smaller than their German counterparts, and all three being faster too. I'm hoping that the E-PL3 turns out to be the camera I think it'll be; those three lenses on that body could make a perfect walkin' around and travel kit.

can't say "guys" because they were men and women

The language police called. Yes, you can now. :) Guys. Informal . persons of either sex; people


The closest thing to a review, with samples :



Page layout seems off but still a nice preview.


I did manage to make an astute purchasing decision a few years ago (by luck, not judgement) that plays into the same game as this article. A Nikkor AF-DC 105 f2 lens with "defocus control" or adjustable bokeh. It works intuitively for me - defocus the front, or rear of the plane of focus by an amount you can choose. Not cheap (about £600, is that about $950?). I got the hang of it on my last film SLR by bracketing the defocussing, but when I got the D200 with the ability to review shots on screen I really started knowing how it worked.

I find the DX crop factor quite workable as it gives more distance, but it certainly works well on FF film as well.

It is an astonishing portrait lens. Maybe I am easily astonished, but it does it repeatedly.

I'd give my wisdom-teeth to have a lens module equivalent to this lens for my GXR. (Actually, I have no wisdom teeth.)

Funny thing that I was just trying out its sibling, the 12/2 today. I didn't buy (yet), but have a feel it could be a classic and I don't say so often... First the ergonomics and looks of the lens are clearly in premium class. Second, the image quality seems to plainly deliver, I actually had a hard time telling my shots at f2 and f4 apart (though I shot at ISO 400, GF1), although I'm quite picky of these things. Yet, the resulting image seems natural and sharp, not forced in any way. Some lenses may produce in-your-face sharp pictures, but with this the image simply looked good, balanced, with only very minor technical faults.

Personally, I'm wishing for the 45/1.8 to be sharp at all apertures. Softening can be applied later and there are all sorts of interesting lenses out there for more 'dreamy' images, but I'd rather have one with good AF that delivers a very good image already at max aperture. For a soft look, I'm more interested in the recently announced Voigtländer 75/1.8 for Nikon (yes it's not micro 4/3, but still, first I want sharp, then I may consider soft)

I have photos done with a 6mp Nikon D70 and ancient Kodak Photo CD scans mixed in with 8x10 drum scans and D7000 shots... reproduced on a book's pages or in my 11x14 inkjet portfolios, they all "weigh" the same. Some images show more detail but I can't say the lo-res stuff looks bad at all.

Kudos to Oly for finally releasing an affordable prime portrait lens for digital 10 years after widespread acceptance. If only Canikon had the same nimbleness!

And speaking of total vs. centre-only sharpness, there's this study just in: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/333465/title/Lost_in_the_periphery_

I have an old Pentax SMC 55mm f2 lens - one of the M42 screwmount ones that was the kit lens for the entry-level Spotmatic that my Dad bought in the early '70s. Having inherited it, I still use his camera from time to time and that lens is the sharpest of the lot - I'd say it is sharper than any of my modern Canon L lenses. It's interesting that Pentax seemed to repeatedly make ultra-sharp lenses in that focal length even over multiple generations.

A great time to be into little cameras. I too want that little 12mm. Talk about yer tonal merger. That Johnston portrait is a stunner.

Hi john,
There were, and were you lucky, you can still buy them, several so called "soft" lenses, such as the pentax 85 soft.


I am referring to pentax as it is the system I use. Minolta had very good soft lenses as well. As someone pointed out, they work differently to blur filters, and if a similar effect is desirable on sharp pictures you will need to stack two photos together, as soft lenses preserve large amounts of sharpness on high contrast areas and dark to midtones.

Soft focus lenses do not have to relay on spherical aberrations only. Some early examples, as noted in antique cameras site, used chromatic and demi_chromatic aberrations to produce that softness in b+w images.

I have a grocery box of beautiful Kern and Angenieux lenses that might be just right for the Pentax Q , but I don't know if I want to spend $800 to find out.
I predict a price spike for those 10mm and 8-64mm Leica M mount lenses for the Leicina however.

I am struggling to decide between this new Olympus 45 and the older Panasonic/Leica 45 macro. It is only 2.8, but macro is occasionally useful. It is a bit bigger and almost twice the weight, though still small and light. It also has the same 46 thread as the 1.7/20 and comes with a hood. Published MTF graphs are much better for the Leica lens than for this new Olympus. Olympus seems to excel at f/2 lenses, the new 12 has been excellent in all reviews, the 2/50 is superb, as is the 2/150.


You are wrong: The smaller sensor doubles the effective focal length of this lens, but it has no effect on the aperture or depth of field. So in use, this will behave as a 90mm/f1.8 lens with the DoF of a 45mm lens.

@stephen Connor,

Yep, we still burn Guys on bonfires; especially in Great Torrington, whose displays are awesome;

cheers phil

Sylvain, thanks for the link to those test shots; they were very reassuring. There was plenty of nice detail, and it's clearly better than the 40-150, to which I do not object. Assuming the reviews and test shots remain good, I will likely buy the little thing as soon as I have the wherewithal to do so.

The one trick to make a lens a little softer is cover the center with a black circle of tape right on the lens. Now you are only using the outer area of the lens which has some of the aberrations for the softer look. Some of the 50mm lenses are cheap enough to do this with. Probably an ƒ/1.8 would do just fine an ƒ/1.4 better. All lenses will give a different look but the cheaper the lens the better the effect might be.
Good Luck.

GH, the whole not-so-shallow depth of field problem with 4/3 and m4/3 is there. Nothing in 4/3 land will duplicate an 85 1.4 on a full frame camera (at least until someone releases a 42 f.7). But I love shooting with my Oly 50 f2 at f2, even though compared to a full frame the blur is 100mm f4 style. The bokeh still looks nice too, and I get lots of keepers. I suspect this new lens will make many m/43 users quite happy.

I'm thinking an OM 50/1.2 or 55/1.2 might do the job for less $ and with more DOF options. No AF. but who cares? And the 55 may have lanthanum "glow", depending on condition.

New lenses seems great but why only silver? It wouldnt be Olympus not to make something wrong..

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