Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The Sima Soft Focus Lens
Your basic plastic tube with a single lens, the Sima Soft Focus 100mm lens is a 1980s-vintage accessory that predates the Holga and the Lensbaby line. Nominally a maximum aperture of f:2, the lens has inserts with smaller diameter openings (much like the original Lensbaby) that allow for greater depth of field and less aberration. An additional bonus is that the lens also can be used as a macro, providing a different effect for those wanting to get close-up to the subjects. The Sima lens is a T-mount, meaning you use the proper screw-on adapter to fit you camera lens mount.
Years ago I saw these lenses for sale and didn't bother buying one because they seemed so cheap. However, preferences and approaches change, and when I saw one in Huron Camera in the bargain bin for $10, I snapped it up. It didn't have the aperture disks or the T-mount adapter, but I already had the adapters, and it's easy to cut out a black paper circle with an aperture.
Today, it's most likely that any users of the Sima lens will place it on a digital body. However, the problem with that is that on an APS-sized sensor, the effective focal length is 150mm, perhaps too narrow a field of view for portraits, etc., but really nice for macro. The other problem with using the lens on a DSLR, is that there will be fringing on any light-colored reflective subjects -- it does occur on film, too, but the effect is magnified by on a sensor.
I like using this lens with a camera like the Nikon FM, as it's a lightweight combination, and of course, there are no external lens adjustments, save for the focusing of the tube within a tube. The single element plastic lens is certainly capable of producing some very dreamy effects. I found that using it with a grainier 400 speed film, the effect is quite "pictorial"...
In macro mode, the lens is a lot of fun, too:
This one was taken with a Nikon D70s.
So, is the Sima Soft Focus lens something you should buy? If you like the effect in the images I posted here, you'll have a blast with the lens. I think it would be fun with portraits and nudes in black and white, too. You'll need to keep an eye out for it on ebay, or at a camera show. Expect to pay more than $10, though!