Before the digital takeoff, before Adobe Photoshop, before the Holga was a thing, before Lomography, and before plastic lenses were considered trendy, there was the cheap Sima Soft Focus lens. It’s a 100mm f2 all plastic affair with a versatile T mount (for maximum compatibility), deeply recessed single plastic lens element, and a manual trombone type focussing mechanism (ie: two plastic tubes sliding over each other). Here it is mounted on my Nikon D7100:

The Sima soft focus lens
The Sima soft focus lens

Mine is in pretty good condition but didn’t come with the original aperture disks. Still, they’re easy enough to make out of black card and can be slotted into the screw on plastic ring at the end of the lens. Sliding in smaller apertures will increase depth of field and cut out some of the dreamy effect of the soft focus. But where’s the fun in that? The real charm of this lens is in using it for wide open dreamy photos that cannot be easily (if at all) reproduced in a program like Photoshop. Here are some gorgeous sunset photos from our garden:

Soft focus sunset
Soft focus sunset
Dreamy sunset
Dreamy sunset

You can see that the foliage isΒ  in focus, but the dramatic bands of colour glow and bleed across them, making for a dreamy image. It’s easy to find a gorgeous sunset, but what about mundane objects? Can the Sima make ordinary things look interesting? Here’s what it does to my lamp:

Soft focus lamp - looks like a UFO !
Soft focus lamp – looks like a UFO !

Looks like that lamp is about to take-off ! The highlights are blown out and dominate the image. But what about something even more dull? Here’s the top of a can of WD-40:

WD-40
WD-40

The blown highlights are even more obvious in this one. The lines of the can retain some sharpness and clarity, but the plastic lens makes the highlights bloom significantly, making for something far less dull ! Still, being outside with this lens is more interesting, so here’s another sunset photo from a different evening:

Soft focus sunset
Soft focus sunset

It almost looks like a multiple exposure doesn’t it? Once again, the highlights bloom and bleed and contrast is low, but the thin depth of field, chromatic aberration and ghosting lend this image an unusual character. Being able to use this as a macro lens helps to create these flat ghostly layers of foliage.

In the final photo below, the unique qualities of the Sima lens really shine. The lack of contrast suits the subject matter, and the strong backlight has resulted in blue halation around some of the highlights.

Soft Portrait
Soft Portrait

 

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Sima 100mm f2 Soft Focus Lens testing
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10 thoughts on “Sima 100mm f2 Soft Focus Lens testing

  • February 12, 2017 at 5:20 pm
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    I like the abstract feel of the lamp shot. I’ll have to try something similar soon. I just got a Sima off of EBay, but I needed to 3D print new stops because I got just the lens. I used Shapeways to get them made. So now, I plan on experimenting on using different colors. Waiting for spring on its flowers, first.

    I was wondering if you had any tips on using the lens to its full artistic flair.

    Reply
    • February 14, 2017 at 3:27 am
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      Hi Leo. Thank you for your comments. Mine didn’t come with any plastic stops at all actually. There was a paper one included, but I cut my own. Of course, the Sima is soft at any aperture! Using a smaller aperture does restrict the blooming though, which may suit some subjects more. I have edited this post and added a final photo where you can see the results of using the Sima into strong light. Take note of the nice blue glow around some of the highlights. I think the lens is great when there are bright colours and plent of light, so flowers should prove a good subject for you. That said, Sima is all about glow and low contrast, so it can be used to provide mystery, as well as flattering a normally mundane subject. Let me know how you go with it!

      Reply
  • November 11, 2015 at 4:39 pm
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    Interesting! My Nikon needs new toys. I have got lazy with a Samsung “smart” camera. I’m looking at hooking the Nikon to new telescope.

    Reply
    • November 12, 2015 at 3:03 am
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      Oh, what kind of telescope is it and how do you plan to hook it up? Are you interested in astro-photography?

      Reply
      • November 12, 2015 at 3:11 am
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        I’m interested but never attempted it. I purchased a Celestron reflector telescope with 114mm mirror. I bought the t-ring adapter. So my first thought was hope for a clear night. South side of Lake Erie means cold night with little wind. First target will be moon and maybe Orion Nebula. Any suggestions?

        Reply
        • November 12, 2015 at 3:31 am
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          The Pleiades are always a classic target I think. So bright and pretty.

          Reply
          • November 12, 2015 at 3:35 am
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            Simple and obvious. Makes sense to try them out. I’ll post any success. Maybe a bad over exposed one too.

          • November 12, 2015 at 4:29 am
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            Please let me know when you’ve posted them, as I’d be eager to see the results πŸ™‚

  • October 17, 2015 at 12:52 pm
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    How happy I am to see you this morning, I was about ready to ask WP how to find you. There’s another guy named Steve but he ain’t you. Anyway, I LOVE these photos of the spray can top and the shot of the plants. When I take these kinds of photos I am the only person in the world that appreciates them. I took some shots of a beer glass on a high-polish table, and that I think are remarkable. My favorites are still the icicles I recorded in memory last winter. If you get a chance please stop over to my blog and check out my spider web shots, I thought of you when I found them.

    Reply
    • November 12, 2015 at 3:03 am
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      Thank you πŸ™‚ Ok, I’ll hop on over to your blog now. I haven’t seen you about in a while. How are you?

      Reply

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