50mm with positive bokeh

AceStar

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It seems that in terms of lenses originally built for full frame, 100/105/85mm lenses are more likely to have good background bokeh than 50/55mm lenses, presumably because the former are more likely to be used for "portraits" where nice background bokeh is desireable.

But when adapted for micro four thirds, 50mm is a good portrait reach.

I have a 50/1.4 Pentax lens (actually I have both a late SMC Takumar and a Pentax-M SMC of the same lens) and the background bokeh is somewhat harsh, with sharp, ringed edges while foreground bokeh (objects in front of the focal distance) is smooth - the opposite of what you'd want for portraits.

Anybody know how I'd go about searching for a relatively fast 50mm with more positive background bokeh? How does lens design affect this? Is there a technical reason why most fast 50s don't have as good background bokeh as fast 100s?
 

Saelee

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Strange, I had the Pentax 50mm SMC-M and A both f/1.4 and both lens gave me creamy background. But I didn't use it on my m4/3, I had it on my Pentax K20D.

Do you have examples of it?
 

DHart

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Yes, the 50/1.4 is an awesome legacy lens for portrait use on m4/3.

But don't forget about the 85 offerings as well. Here is the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 with GH2. I think this is an outstanding portrait lens on the m4/3. It's a relatively heavy lens, but I like how that steadies out the camera in my hands... feels like you're working with well-built, pro gear!

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And while not a portrait, here's the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 taken while sitting at my desk... to show the wonderful bokeh...

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And some Canon FDn 50mm f/1.4 bokeh:
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stratokaster

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All fast lenses exhibit unpleasant bokeh wide open. Try stopping down to f/2 or f/2.8.

I took these 2 shots with my Canon "New FD" 50mm f/1.8 lens.

This one is wide open. Bokeh is harsh:
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This one is stopped down to f/2.8. Bokeh is much more smooth and pleasant:
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DHart

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Judging bokeh is like judging women... there is no right nor wrong, no good nor bad, one man's beauty is another man's dog and vice versa. The only way you can determine if you'll like the bokeh from a lens is to observe the bokeh. And that, in and of itself, is a moving target. Bokeh varies considerably with the nature of the OOF areas (amounts and shapes of the edges, contrast of the edges, fine-ness of the edges), color(s) of the OOF area vs. subject, the quality of the light falling on the OOF areas (broad and diffuse or hard edged and sharp), the distance from the focus point to the OOF area, and the distance from the lens to the focus point, and the aperture. Change any of these and you change the look of the bokeh significantly.

Best you can do is look at a heck of a lot of examples made under a wide variety of parameters or buy the lens and see what it does for the way you like to shoot. Keep lenses that please you and turn those that don't.


Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4

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The Konica Hexanon 50 1.4 or 1.7 are excellent and can be had for under $100. in mint condition. This was taken with the 1.4

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AceStar

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Strange, I had the Pentax 50mm SMC-M and A both f/1.4 and both lens gave me creamy background. But I didn't use it on my m4/3, I had it on my Pentax K20D.

Do you have examples of it?
Maybe I have unrealistic expectations. That's probably a fair assessment actually. I see the same characteristics in stratokaster's Canon and even dbuckle's Hexanon. That Zeiss planar looks very nice though - thanks for that recommendation. I've added some of my bad examples below.

In the first image, see how points of light in the background form circles with sharp rims.

In the second image, see how out-of-focus objects in front of the focal plane have a lovely soft blurry look about them, starting with a little bit of halo and getting very gaussian-like in the foreground, but out-of-focus objects behind the focal plane are rendered with a more typical bokeh with discs of light with hard edges.

Forgive me that neither of these are actually good pictures, just random testing. Note that I did actually get a couple of really nice shots that same day, particularly where the background didn't include bright points of light.

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iliakoltsov

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Minolta MD 50 1.4 definitely a lens to consider , I would recommend bokeh wise the Pentacon MC / Meyer Gorlitz Oreston 50 1.8. Chinon 55 1.7 is interesting but doesn't offer the same smoothness. In fact what is bokeh, how smooth is the background 3 things matter the max aperture , the optical formula and focal length. As an example try to do a portrait with a 200mm lens you will see that the bokeh is a lot smoother than on the 50mm.
This is to answer your question about 85-135 lenses with greater bokeh.

http://my.opera.com/iliakoltsov/blog/

You can find some picture from the pentacon, minolta , Chinon ( I have the rebranded version Revuenon ) on the link above.
 

drpump

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Thanks for the comments and examples guys. Useful thread!

I've recently been playing with portraits using a Canon nifty-fifty (on a Canon body) and have found the bokeh a little too harsh for my liking, but it was probably a difficult setting too (daylight showing through trees in the background). I'll ask my subject if he will let me post the photo so you can see.

I'm wanting to buy a 50mm lens for portraits on my E-PL1 and I had two current front runners: a Pentax M f/1.7 and the Olympus 50mm f/2 macro. Anyone with those lenses want to post?
 

Hikari

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Judging bokeh is like judging women... there is no right nor wrong, no good nor bad, one man's beauty is another man's dog and vice versa.
Actually, there are technical characteristics of Bokeh. The rendering should be smooth with no harsh edges. That is considered good bokeh. And there are design considerations that will improve or degrade the Bokeh. Your personal preference can be different from the definition.
 

Brian S

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There is over-correction of spherical aberration, under-correction of spherical aberration, astigmatism, coma, and all sorts of other trade-offs that go into lens design that affects the rendering of the out of focus area. Bokeh is subjective. What works for one image may not work for another.

Now, lenses that are under-corrected for spherical aberration and that are highly corrected for astigmatism tend to give smooth out of focus areas. Blended with a Gaussian smoothing operation.

My newly acquired 50/1.1 Nokton seems to be very neutral with regard to out of focus highlights.


Cosina/Voigtlander 50/1.1 Nokton wide-open on the M8:
 

Brian S

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But I love the 5cm F1.5 Jupiter-3 with it's over-correction for spherical aberration and curvature of field.

Also wide-open on the M8.

 

Brian S

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And the Uncoated 5cm F1.5 Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar, at F2 on the M8.



This is my favorite lens. Remounted to LTM using a J-3 focus mount.

And wide-open.



Pretty Colors. Every wide-open shot of Fall leaves is an abstract art painting....
 

Brian S

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Same uncoated 1937 Sonnar again.

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Brian S

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Okay. 99.9999% of the time it is determined by the manufacturer.

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Hybrid 1958 Jupiter-3 with 1974 front optic, shimmed for the Nikon S-Mount. Wide-open on the Nikon S3.

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This lens has much smoother Bokeh than any other J-3 that I've seen. Lucky mix of parts.

More typical of a Sharp Sonnar, wide-open.

1953 KMZ Jupiter-3, wide-open on the Canon P.

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DHart

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Actually, there are technical characteristics of Bokeh. The rendering should be smooth with no harsh edges. That is considered good bokeh. And there are design considerations that will improve or degrade the Bokeh. Your personal preference can be different from the definition.
Actually, the design of the lens determines the lens characteristics but the "look" of bokeh you see in an image is variable, depending on a large number of factors which are controlled by the photographer, not the least of which are the visual characteristics of the background, how it's lighted, relative distance from camera to focus point and from focus point to background, and aperture. But characteristics and bokeh appearance are simply that and desireablility is subjective. I appreciate bokeh for how it appears to my eye on an image by image basis, not by a predetermined basis that someone somewhere else decided to define.

This is the nature of art, man, that's it! You may like a look or may not, either way doesn't make it good nor bad. It's like soft focus images vs. razor sharp images, holga vs. 5DMkII... neither is good nor bad, they just are. And whether you like it or not is likely to be on a case by case basis, not by someone else's standard. It's all in the eyes of the beholder.

The Zeiss Planar has a characteristic hexagon impression, which you may dislike or you may like. It's not universally good nor bad.

Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 shot @ f/2.0

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Also Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 shot @ f/2.0 - see how the characteristics of the background, distance from camera to focus point, distance from focus point to background, and the lighting change the look of the bokeh?

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Is it good? Bad? Neither, actually. Some may like it and others not, that's all.

Just for reference, here's some bokeh from a Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2
Aspherical

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And some more from the GH2 and Canon FDn 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

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The bokeh is different from all three of these lenses.

Bang for the buck, I think the Canon FDn 50mm f/1.4 is a great choice for shallow DOF portraits on m4/3. Shot wide open at f/1.4 you suffer a loss of some contrast (easy to make up for this in post, if you shoot RAW) and a slight hit to sharpness, which you may appreciate with a portrait. Stop down to f/1.8 or f/2 and the contrast pops back up and sharpness increases. I like this lens at f/1.4, 1.8, and 2.0, where you still get very shallow DOF. I like the bokeh as well, at least with the subject/lighting/distances parameters I've applied it to so far.

For deeper depth of focus work, I would choose a native m4/3 lens which bring auto focus and image stabilization features, along with great sharpness and deep depth of focus.
 

Brian S

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Probably more important than choosing the right lens, choose the right background.

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Uncoated Sonnar again, F1.5 on the M8.

But if you can't, just get a Sonnar.
 
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