Spiratone Portragon 100mm f/4 soft focus lens

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by JDMvW, Apr 8, 2021.

  1. Back in the golden age of the SLR film camera, there was a marvelous supplier of odds-and-ends, bits, and accessories called the Spiratone Company in New York. They were often the first US importers (I think the Maksutov mirror lens fell in this class), they provided thingies of marvelous inventiveness like the Colorflow™ filters, and they also beat everyone else pretty regularly in the introduction of affordable lenses of special kinds and for special uses.

    One of these was a (purposely) soft focus lens called the Spiratone Portragon 100mm f/4 lens, especially to meet the 'classical' photographic need for flattering, not too sharp images.

    Portragon ad.jpeg
    May 1982 ad​

    This is not perhaps the heart's desire of today's sharpness fetishists.

    A portrait of my favorite 'sitter' taken with the Portragon


    with a trifle of massaging for a 'sculptural look'
    That's all folks!
    Jochen and James Bryant like this.
  2. I never ordered from Spiratone, but looking back at all my old magazines I can tell I really missed out many unique and sometimes hard to find items. The preset 400mm f 6.3 was a bargain in long telephoto lenses. Of course many different vendors had a version of this lens. Mine is a Seimar purchased in the late 70's. I remember the 135mm f 1.8 that they offered. Those fast 135's are going for a lot of money these days.
    Thanks for sharing, JDM.
  3. AJG


    I also remember Spiratone fondly--their electronic enlarging timer with a foot pedal worked perfectly for me for about 30 years before i moved on to a Zone VI enlarger/cold light that required its own timer that was linked to a photocell in the head to accurately time the cold light that varied its light output according to how warm the fluorescent tubes were after being on. I never knowingly bought a soft focus lens, although i have had a few...
  4. An interesting post, thank you JDM. We never had access to Spiratone products down here in New Z and as a teenager I used to look longingly at all the fascinating gadgets on offer in the ads in magazines such as "Popular Mechanics". On the subject of soft-focus, a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to come by a tidy copy of the Tamron Adaptall II SP Model 51a, a 75-150mm f/2.8 lens designed principally for portraiture, with adjustable degrees and types of OOF characteristics. I'll have to admit that I have very rarely used the soft focus feature as the lens is a truly excellent performer in it's un-softened state, but one day I'll post some examples. I see the asking price for these is climbing towards $1000 on Ebay...

    There's a full description of the lens here: Tamron SP Adaptall-2 70-150mm F/2.8 SOFT Model 51A
  5. I came onboard in the early to mid 80s and Spiratone products were loudly advertised in many photo magazines. I believe in a Nikon bag I have the 300mm mirror lens. I do remember the hype and subject of making flattering portraits. I seem to recall recommendations to have a SF filter or tips to smear the lens with vaseline to cut the sharpness and flatter the subject. My desire for sharpness was usually dominant, but I can appreciate this look for sure and the lens seems like the right tool for it.
  6. I have the "Tele-Astranar" version of that 400mm f 6.3 lens. That along with my Olympus 135mm f 3.5 are two of the highest level of fun per dollar invested lenses that I own.

    If you end up keeping one of your OM cameras I highly recommend the 135. They're relatively plentiful, inexpensive, and have a built-in retractable lens hood.
  7. We used Spiratone graded paper in our college darkroom in the late 60s. May still have a box in a trunk somewhere. Also seem to remember running across a lens recently.
  8. I like using the Portragon with a 2x telextender. It gets rid of the super-fuzzy perimeter and only uses the center of the image. Two examples:

    A straight forward portrait, of someone who won't object if I post their portrait:
    NOL Chaise.jpg

    And a cyanotype print from an enlarged negative, Portragon, extension tubes & 2x extender:
  9. This reminds me of why I like photography, lots of interesting stuff like this and it often didn’t cost a kings ransom. I imagine many people started a long career or hobby this way. I did until I became such an total Nikon snob.

    Rick H.
  10. Then a TC200 attached to a pre-Ai 55mm f/1.2 S.C.Nikkor, and used wide-open at f/2.4, should almost perfectly imitate that old Portragon for you.

    On second thoughts, the above combo might be a tad too soft.

Share This Page