I recently acquired the need for a quality filter to help with a forthcoming wedding commission.

When it comes to any visual element of photography equipment, I am a bit of a snob. Carl Zeiss lenses are the world finest lenses so when it comes to filters, the only contenders to consider are Lee or Carl Zeiss. I already own the Lee Kit with 3 ND grads and the filter holder, making it useful for both Hasselblad and Nikon work. But the Lee system is a bit bulky, and I need to travel light for this commission.

The Softar range of filters are famous around the world for achieving a look that simply softens the skin a little. It doesn’t make the images look blurred, as is often the assumption, but just ‘softer’. It’s rather hard to explain but they make portraiture of (in particular) women a little more pleasing. Women are naturally rather conscious about their faces, especially after the age of about 24! I think often they imagine things are there when they are not. But nevertheless, the Softar filters allow a softer look but without reducing contrast and so on. Highly recommended for portraiture.

Carl Zeiss Softar Filter

Carl Zeiss Softar Filter

Anyway, for starters, there is startling little about the Softar range of filters for anyone who is curious and wishes to read up on them. Which seems a shame given their prowess. I struggled for a bit to find interesting articles but found a few so I’ve compiled them below for anyone who is interested. If anyone can add any others, please let me know :

Expressing Emotion: The Zeiss Softar

  • A good technical write up about the Softar range


  • A good general write up about proper filters overall. Page 40 refers to Softar specifically.

And for anyone wishing to purchase Bay 60 Softars in particular (that fit the bayonet style of Carl Zeiss lenses like the 80mm Plannar CB\CF lens or 120mm or 150mm lenses), I find that FFordes are particularly good usually with a decent range of stock (whenever I check, anyway) for about £20-£30. Don’t be confused with the B57 sizes, that are for the older thread lenses.

The I, II and III refer to the strength in which they soften the image. I think I is about right myself. II and III take it a bit too far for my particular style of photography.