Are We Too Hung Up On Shallow DOF?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by nueces snapper, Jun 19, 2012.

  1. drewbot

    drewbot Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 21, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I think it's funny how on m43 forums so many are obsessed with shallow DoF. On FF forums, many frequently stop down to DoF's capable by m43 sensor and native lens combos at equal FoVs.
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  2. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Hear, hear, Drewbot!

    Broad DOF has always been one of the big advantages of Four-Thirds to me. I do a lot of product photography, and the difficulty is always getting enough in focus... not trying to get less. I also do a lot of stuff involving action, for which I want a fast lens speed but broad DOF. Four-Thirds has always been perfect for that (admittedly Four-Thirds more than Micro Four-Thirds, because you also have PDAF with Four-Thirds). If you ever do stock photography (I only dabble a little in that field - and am in fact morally against it), then you'll know that shallow DOF is by far your biggest enemy! Any photo which doesn't have enough in focus will be quickly rejected.

    There are many fields of photography and largely most of the commercial fields, which require deep DOF where possible. I've often seen shallow DOF as more of an "artsy" approach to photography with little commercial application, but is very popular with the b2c consumer market for professional photography... like weddings. :biggrin: Of course I'm generalizing there, but I just find it ironic because much of the consumer market claim that shallow DOF is "that look that you get from a professional camera".

    That said, I would rather have a lens that gives me the option to control my DOF by offering the widest aperture possible. Being able to get a bit more DOF while still retaining my fast lens speed from that wide aperture however, is even better. :)
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  3. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Real Name:

    I'm in a good mood generally, and not going to rant, but sometimes I get the impression that some photos have super shallow DOF because the photographer can get it, regardless of artistic value or purpose.

    That kinda reminds me my other lifelong endeavor, music, where an awful lot of (usually younger) players, seem to think that playing fast is an accomplishment worthy of wonder in itself.

    It just isn't music... as shallow DOF sometimes isn't photography. :smile:
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  4. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    ^ well said. :)
  5. playak47

    playak47 Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 4, 2010
    I guess its human nature to want what we don't have. lol Shallow dof does look more professional because it is usually the professionals with big sensors that create the photos. Honestly I do like the great dof pics coming the 25mm f1.4. :) But Ned is correct, shallow dof isn't everything but it is situation dependent.
  6. kmack

    kmack Mu-43 Rookie

    Jun 12, 2012
    Meh, photo fad of the day. I got into the m43 system because I needed an inexpensive alternative to Polaroids in my large format work. I found the system surprisingly flexible and a whole lot of fun.
  7. Zuishi

    Zuishi Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 8, 2011
    Shallow focused, contrasty, extremely sharpened, and highly saturated images may end up defining this stage in photographic history.
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  8. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    And there's this thread here....:biggrin:
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  9. goldenlight

    goldenlight Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 30, 2010
    Real Name:
    As a landscape photographer my concern is to maximize DOF, not reduce it. In this respect 4/3 suites me fine.
  10. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    I think people confuse what is said on photography forums and blogs with photography. Just looking at most photographs produced--you can look just about anywhere--I doubt you could come to the conclusion that a shallow DoF is preferred. Just because you can form an idea with words, does not mean there is any reality to that idea.
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  11. ryansinibaldi

    ryansinibaldi Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 9, 2012
    I think shallow DOF can be important in some circumstances but to me what's more important is how the OOF rendering is.
  12. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    Real Name:
    You don't need super shallow depth of field for your bokeh to be creamy.

  13. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 14, 2012
    New Mexico
    Real Name:
    Every format has its strengths -- and its drawbacks. Getting what you want in spite of what the format's natural strengths are is only partly a matter of equipment; you have to know what to do with it. Having spent hours under black focusing clothes in the hot desert summer sun to get the field of focus just right to maximize depth of field, I appreciate m4/3's strength in the matter. But working the ground glass on the 4x5 was certainly worth the trouble for the tonal and textural subtlety that large format offered.

    The shot below took a while to set up with a 4x5 film camera and a 135mm Fujinon lens (sharp but too contrasy for my taste), and even then could have been got more quickly with 35mm camera and 35mm lens. But I don't regret doing my best with the format I chose to shoot that day and like the shot despite it's weird geometry.

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  14. Monza76

    Monza76 Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 22, 2012
    I am guilty of being partial to shallow DOF but, like my bad case of GAS I am getting over it.

    I was the guy who would shoot a 50mm f1.4 wide open on an APS-C DSLR and of actually putting the blur ahead of the image. I do not even want to use the word bokeh because it was just about the paper thin focus for me. I have always read Mike Johnston's articles and I do find I usually agree with him. This article, and especially Sam Abell's image, has reminded me that an image tells a story. The shallow DOF may sometimes create mystery but often just isolates the subject to the point of excluding the story.

    Only a true fool would now proclaim "I am cured". I will continue to make similar mistakes but, with the help of the 17mm f2.8 I am learning that an image with real depth (pun intended) can put the subject matter in context not hiding behind blur. All I have used for the past few weeks is my Olympus gear, and since I just have the two bodies and two lenses I have had to learn to adapt. I think my images are showing some improvement because I am no longer striving for the pseudo-professional look created by shallow DOF.

    I still like the look of shallow DOF night shots but I appreciate having a greater degree of clarity in my work. Although it may not have the initial "Wow factor" it makes for a more enduring image. As a car fanatic I can use this analogy, the original Ford Probe had the wow factor when introduced however it looked old after only a couple of years, more modestly styled cars such as the 1960s Alfa Romeo coupes have styling that has endured. Wow is a short word and usually its effect is equally short.
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  15. hkpzee

    hkpzee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 5, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Real Name:
    Good article! Thanks for sharing.

    I have been guilty of pursuing shallow DOF with my m4/3 equipments ever since I got my first prime lens for the system - the 20/1.7. Like the article mentioned, part of the reason for wanting shallow DOF in my case is to hide the mess behind the subject in a picture. E.g. when I take a picture of my daughter in my home, I don't want the mess in the background to distract from the subject. After a while, I get so used to leaving the aperture wide open on my lenses that I sometimes forget to close it down for situations which calls for a deeper DOF (if lighting conditions permits, of course). Often times, when I look at photos I took at indoor parties and friends/family functions, I would wish I had use a smaller aperture to get everyone's face in focus...

    Nowadays, I try to be more conscious as to how much DOF I want to get in my pictures, rather than how wide an aperture I can get away with...

    BTW, just curious, does anyone still follow the Sunny 16 Rule in the digital photography world?
  16. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Real Name:
    Different shots call for different DOF. Many will use extremely shallow DOF for the sake of it, but the same can be said of the other extreme. Our job is to understand how the camera works and compose with DOF in mind. The photographer should be CHOOSING what elements are in sharp focus, which are soft and which are totally OOF.

    People who refer to their "plastic fantastic" or "nifty fifty" are ALWAYS the worst at this micro niche of dubious photography. They throw their f1.2 50mm on their camera and set it to wide open in Aperture Priority mode and treat it like it's a point and shoot.
  17. tanngrisnir3

    tanngrisnir3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 18, 2011
    As a landscape guy, shallow DOF is last on my list.

    Just means nothing to me, and allows me to sidestep all the blathering nonsense about it and equivalency, bokeh, etc....
  18. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    My comment/post was a tongue-in-cheek comment :wink: :smile:
  19. penfan2010

    penfan2010 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 12, 2010
    NJ, USA
    I use the Sunny 16 Rule when I shoot with my film cameras since none of their light meters work. Oddly enough, I don't use it when I shoot digital because I tend to shoot on aperture priority mode and compensate exposure as needed.