Can you have "too much" aperture (or too little DOF)?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by WT21, Oct 14, 2012.

  1. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    I'm exploring FF at the moment because I remember really loving the shallow DOF effects, smooth color gradation and workable files. I did try the EM5, but I couldn't come to grips with it. I will likely pick up an EPL5 once it's out.

    At any rate, in my exploration, I've been considering some of the Canon L lenses for my 5D. I currently have a 35/2, 85/1.8 and a telephoto zoom. I usually shoot 50mm, but I thought I'd stretch myself with a 35, and if I liked the 35/2, maybe try a 35/1.4, but alas, I'm not sure it's really for me.

    So, I started thinking about the 135/2. For similar DOF, that would be somewhat like a 67.5/1.0 on micro43. Of course, there is the excellent 75/1.8, so I thought to myself, do I really need 135/2 on FF, for what I want to achieve in portraiture? I'm beginning to think no. I really like to have some context even in portrait work.

    With the 135/2, there is almost TOO much background separation. Consider these pictures, which are excellent in many ways, but to me start to feel like the are in front of backdrops, rather than on location:

    Though sometimes that can work, like this one:

    But, if you were to stop down the 135L to around 3.5 (which would be a similar effect to the 75/1.8 ) you would get something more like this:
    Canon Digital Photography Forums

    btw -- all these photos I got the links from POTN ( where a number of excellent photographers post their use of Canon technology from their work. To me, POTN is like mu-43 but for Canon. Let me be clear: I LIKE ALL THESE PICTURES, but they are not the style I think I want.

    When I look through the 75/1.8 thread here on mu-43, I see a lot of work with certainly enough DOF to get good 3D effect or separate, but without too much. Such as:

    So, instead of the $700+ (used) 135/2, the 75/1.8 at $800 (new) might be just the ticket. Another side benefit I'm finding in general is that the m43 lenses tend to be very sharp right out of the gate, whereas if you want sharpness the FF and even APS-C lenses need to be stopped down.

    Lastly, the reason I was exploring the 35/1.4 was for shots like these:

    It will be very interesting to see what the upcoming Oly fast 17 will look like. I've been testing my full frame 35 at 2.0 and 3.5 to compare, and 1.8 on m43 will be very nice indeed.
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  2. jsusilo

    jsusilo Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 28, 2012
    Woww ... looking at your sample I can understand your expectation are certainly very high. Those portraiture images are good not just because of OOF area but also good lighting on the subject and or combination with great PP skill? Here is some sample from O45 straight out of E-M5...

    Attached Files:

  3. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Real Name:
    First of, sorry, but I don't like the first batch of images at all.

    They seem so unnatural that I can only consider the result a sort of special effect. This has nothing to do with how our vision works and are very confusing if subject separation is the goal. This kind of shots would work only for, say, insect macro shots, IMO.

    The second and third batch is closer -in varying degrees- to what I consider, always IMHO, proper subject isolation and sense of depth.
  4. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    Yes, there is such a thing as too little DOF. I personally hate the current trend in portraiture, where one eye is in focus, but the ears and tip of the nose are not.

    I think many in the FF crowd has harped so long, and so hard, on the "fact" that crop format sensors don't have adequate "DOF control" that they've taken shallow DOF to extremes to prove their point.
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  5. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Just to be clear, these are not my shots. I don't want to take credit from other photogs. These are samples i've found around the web.

    That was my point, though. There is so much background blur, that you almost just use an abstract backdrop to get similar effect. This makes me think that 135/2 is overkill, and that the 75/1.8 is really most of all that is needed.
  6. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    * Focal length doesn't only impact DOF. It impacts representation of space
    * Subject distance also doesn't only impact DOF. It impacts subject framed.
    * You don't have to shoot at wide open. In fact, wide open is outside of most optics "sweet" spot.
    * DOF (how much that is) is not a matter of too much or too little.

    Representation of Space (focal length), Subject Framing (focal length) and DOF are all subject to the intent of the photographer. There is no wrong and right answer. IF the lack of DOF or the vast amount of DOF distracts from the intent of the photo, then it should be learned from and reconsidered.

    Some photographers shoot wide open whenever they think "portrait". That "templated" thinking squashes creativity and threatens one to think in a single dimension.... often from not thinking things through or not putting in the time to experiment.

    Other photographers shoot with a single focal length for hundreds of frames with the intent of "learning" what it looks like when shot at wide open, stopped 1, stopped 2, etc.... They can pre-visualize. Its a very challenging thing but I find it fun to try.

    Here is one shot with a 50mm @ f/1. The ears (and mother) are out of focus which many would consider an error in judgement in portraits. In this case, it as absolutely the intent I wanted to pursue.


    Here is another... this time shot at what I usually shoot at @f/5.6 with a medium telephoto. If I had shot with the same shallow DOF from the above example, I am almost certain it would be a distraction.

  7. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I think there are fashions around depth of field, and in recent years there's been a fashion for shallow depth of field. I often like more depth of field than less, but really it comes down to distance you're shooting at, the light level, and the focal length you use.

    When I'm shooting nesting birds at a couple of hundred feet with a 40-150 at the 150 mm end which means a maximum aperture of F/6.3, the nest is in shadow due to the angle of the late afternoon light, and I'm pushing my ISO setting to manage 1/400 sec at F/6.3 because I'm shooting handheld, then I can tell you I have too little DOF. I don't want to stop down further for more DOF because I'd either have to use a slower shutter speed or increase ISO or both and I don't want to do either.

    On the other hand, shooting a street scene at midday at ISO 200 with a shutter speed of 1/4000 using the Oly 17mm at its max of F/2.8, I find myself with too much DOF.

    In both cases I find myself wanting a faster lens. I think you can have too much or too little DOF but it's hard to have too much aperture. In fact, the only problem I can see with having more aperture is not enough money.
  8. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Real Name:
    Reading about "sweet spots" I have a question about :43: lenses, which applies to other systems with short flange distance: isn't it true that it's easier to build a lens that, at the same cost, would perform better from wider apertures (even wide open) than for a system with longer flange distance?

    That would mean, and we have seen sometimes in practice, that a given lens would need to be stepped down 1 stop only instead of 2 to perform at maximum sharpness. Thus somewhat eliminating the need for an ultra wide aperture lens for :43:. I know it's a simplistic way to put it, but is it applicable?
  9. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    Eyes, I think the answer is more complicated that yes or no.

    For telephoto lenses, I don't think it makes any real difference. For wide angles, there are issues affecting digital that tend to minimize any advantage that would otherwise exist (and do exist with film).

    SLRs, with their mirror box and longer flange distance, generally require wide angles to be of retrofocal (inverted telephoto) design. This is more complex, and generally results in larger lenses with more elements to control distortion.

    If you look at a film camera like the Leica M series, or the old fixed lens rangefinders, the short flange distance allows simpler wide angles, which can be smaller and more easily corrected. The rear elements of many Leica wide lenses actually protrude well inside the lens mount. (There used to be a number of ultra-wide angle lenses for SLRs that required the mirror to be locked up and an auxiliary finder to be used, too.)

    But these lenses have a serious drawback when it comes to digital. The light from the edges of the image circle hit the film / sensor at a very oblique angle. Film doesn't really care. Digital sensors, however, want the light coming in perpendicular to the sensor plane (or parallel to the lens axis, if you prefer). Digital photosites are "deep", and photons hitting at a strong angle don't make it down to the bottom of the photosite where they are detected. (Think of a water well: at noon, with light coming straight down from over head, the bottom of the well is illuminated. In the evening, with the light coming from low in the side, the bottom of the well is in darkness.)

    So the reality is that wide-angles for digital cameras are retrofocal (or telecentric, which isn't quite the same thing but entails similar compromises) designs anyway, because these output the light rays parallel to the axis of the lens. What about Leica and it's traditional wide angle lenses, you ask? Leica uses a specially developed, and quite expensive, sensor that has the photosites towards the edges of the sensor angled inwards, toward the center of the lens, to accommodate the steeply angled light rays from the lens. It's a compromise, though, because there's no single configuration that will be perfect for wide angles, normal lenses, and short teles.
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  10. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Great explanation!
  11. jeffryscott

    jeffryscott Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 2, 2010
    Shallow depth of field certainly has its uses and its place, but, in most cases a fast lens is necessary because of the limitations of the light itself. This, I think, is a huge and often overlooked advantage to m.43. We can get the faster aperture, but slightly better depth of field in a given situation than we can with FF. I have found the 45 1.8, specifically, (and other lenses by example) to have a shallow enough DOF wide open to give pleasing background blur without making the DOF too shallow. An 85 1.8 on a FF has the same light gathering ability, but if shooting wide open sometimes the DOF is too shallow for what is ideal, but shooting wide open is necessary because of the lighting conditions. The 45 1.8 has about the same field of view, but greater depth of field which can make a big difference. I'm speaking from my perspective of having been a newspaper photographer for over 25 years. Photographers in other fields, and in journalism, may disagree.

    Are there times you want a more shallow plane of focus, certainly. But I think more often than not having a slightly greater plane of focus is an advantage.
  12. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    What meyerweb posted is true but it doesnt answer your question.

    I have not seen a correlation between wide angle retrofocus vs nonretrofocus optics in terms of cost, complexity, and resolution. In theory, yes... but from what I have seen out there, the biggest factor is weight and size. The actual design of the optic plays a much larger role in the lens "sweet spot" than whether ot not the design is a retrofocus one or not.
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