If you’re by chance interested in unconventional photography, you may, or may not, have heard about Lensbaby lenses and accessories. They’re famous for their soft focus lenses: a part of the image gets out of focus, creating a nice artistic blur comparable to the one you can get using Photoshop-like software.
Here are a few examples of said lenses:
In my opinion, this is a waste of time and money and I prefer to “software blur”. However, I can understand the desire to optically attain such effects, as opposed to using software. Also, it brings a whole new universe in photography to people who cannot / won’t use a computer, and I’m sure that for such people owning the entire Lensbaby kit can be a lot of fun.
First image taken with a Lensbaby soft focus lens (John LeJeune), second image taken by me with a little software-created (Picasa) soft focus:
I voluntarily added only a little blur instead of a strong one on my photo but except that, it’s pretty much the same thing. If you use a good quality lens, the software-blurred picture might even be better than the Lensbaby soft focus effect.
To take other factors into account, let’s say that whereas the whole kit is expensive ($500+), one lens is a good price (~$150-250 for Canon mounts, less for some other brands). Lensbabies are considered to be a great sturdy build and to have a nice finish. For a little more info about the Lensbaby, there’s a very good review here.
In the end, for people like me, maybe the real interest of soft focus lenses would be to experiment on how to build them. A lot of DIY projects are available on that matter. Most of said projects can be found here on the Instructables website, but I also noticed Martyoh project which uses an enlarger lens, and a few other ideas:
Maybe I’ll try one someday if I get my hands on some cheapo old lens.