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:
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:
You can see that the foliage is 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:
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:
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:
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.