In Black & White photography,
a soft focus filter on the camera will bleed the highlights on the blacks making them softer and give some glow.
A soft focus filter under the enlarger will do the opposite and bleed the blacks on the whites, giving an effect similar to ink drawing.
Of course the differences are subtle and have to be studied to be noticed as the main effect, the softening, will take priority.
You can use special soft focus filters (there are more than one design and usually two-three strengths of each that can be combined), women's black stockings, gel (preferably on a clear glass filter) and maybe other things.
Take a look at this thread: http://www.apug.org/forums/forum41/1...diffusion.html
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Ari's description is a good one. Wollensak even made a Verito enlarging lens for soft effects in the darkroom.
If you overdo softening under the enlarging lens, you can get a really ghoulish effect, which sometimes is interesting, sometimes is undesirable, and that's the main reason to do it on the camera rather than in the darkroom. The most skillful use of softening in the darkroom that I've seen involved using a Softar #1 under the enlarging lens for a portion of the exposure.
Another reason to do it on the camera, is that you might like the effects of certain lenses for soft focus, and those effects can't be replicated any other way.
In my mind, there is no method that matches the use of a soft focus lens on the camera. Filters are just not the same.
I have not tried one of the Veritos as an enlarging lens, but may do so the next time I print silver.
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Neither soft focus filters on the camera nor diffusion in the darkroom can reproduce the effect of a soft-focus lens; for one thing (of many...) the filters cannot adjust the amount of diffusion in relation to the depth of field. In other words, an image that was originally sharp in the background will, in the filter-softened version, have a background that is diffused to the same extent as the foreground. Soft-focus lenses, on the other hand, are normally used at large aperture, and the softness varies quite strongly with distance from the plane of best focus. Furthermore, amount of aberration typically increases with radial distance from the optical center, an effect that is not quite reproduced by even gradient-diffusion filters.