Soft Focus Lens: Congo 150mm/F4.5

One nice thing about using a large format camera is that you have access to the best lens ever made most of the time for a very good price (e.g. a standard $200 150mm Plasmat lens is as perfect as they get).

Azreal and the Queen of the Damned, taken on a Fuji 150mm $200 lens. It looks great even printed 6 feet wide (!)

On the other end of spectrum are the soft focus lenses. I have a couple hundred years old Cooke soft focus lens which I will write about later. Today I want to talk about the almost-unobtainable Congo 150mm/F4.5 lens. Almost-unobtainable because this thing never comes up for sale, and I even had a couple people looking for it in Japan for me to no avail.

Made by a small Japanese lens maker Yamasaki, the Congo 150mm is a Cooke Triplet design. There used to some info on the web, but the site seems to have disappeared :-/ What it does do is 180 degrees from the world of ultra-sharp high resolution lens. Wide or close to wide open at F4.5 or so, the highlight areas glow with luminosity.

The image circle isn’t great, so a vertical shift, about 15mm in this case, causes a shearing effect that you can see in this image. 

The peril of a too small image circle

On smaller apertures, maybe around F16 or so in the next image, the photograph takes on a classic B&W look. The in focus area is definitely quite sharp.


To best show off the soft focus and glowing effects, look for hard lights, where there are bright and dark areas. Combining the classic narrow depth of field of large format images, and the soft focus effect, these images produce dream like quality. 

Images taken on Shanghai GP100 4×5 film, on a hike through the Garrapata State Park in California.

#largeformatcamera #softfocuslens #garrapatastatepark