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Thursday, 21 June 2012


Oh, now you gone an dunnit. Just as the internut was showing signs of recovering from borkehmania, you publish three articles about it in one week. It's gonna be 1997 all over again. The brokehpocalypse is nigh.

I hope you realize if I outlive you, after you're gone I'm gonna edit your Wikipedia entry to blame the whole borkeh craze on you. But I'll do it in fuzzy language.

I'm still hovering unconvinced by these discussion... I'm not sure it's a case of sharp subject, blurry background. I think the differences are more apparent when you have many receding subject planes. With a larger imaging area, and given the same equivalent focal length / subject composition, would it not be the case that you have a more gradual transition between the relative sharpness of receding planes? I think this is what makes larger imaging areas produce images with more "depth" whereas as smaller ones always tend to me to look flat. Irregardless of blurriness of backgrounds / picture planes..

I'm happy to be disabused of my fad though....

I share your high opinion of the Tamron 28-75. Is it one of the better ones wide open?

There you go. Perfect.

Micro Four Thirds is a happy compromise for me, too.

Keep in mind, Mike, that there is never a depth of field advantage in a smaller sensor. Assuming similar sensor technology, you can always just stop down a larger sensor more and raise the ISO, and since the larger sensor will be cleaner at higher ISO, you end up with similar results as the smaller sensor at a wider aperture at a lower ISO.

Larger sensors give more flexibility, because they offer the potential of shallower depth of field, if needed, but you don't have to use it.

That being said, I've gotten rid of my large, 35mm DSLR gear for mirrorless, too, since the size of the system isn't worth the availabity of shallower depth of field, among other things.

Wait a moment, what was all that stuff about switching to half plate?

I've been shooting 4/3 for over four years now. I'd heard all the chatter about how it was a "bokeh-killer." Never been a problem, as far as I'm concerned.

When I shoot landscapes, I'm a fan of "long focus," so as Mike said, the ability to get that without really small apertures (and slow shutter speeds) is a big plus in my opinion. I've been able to pull off "long focus" shots with 4/3 that were difficult or impossible with the 35mm lenses I had.

And as Mike said, if you do want shallow D.O.F., just open up or whatever....

And believe me, in my concert work, I get plenty of bokeh. Since I'm usually shooting at or near max aperture in low light, the extra depth of field in 4/3 is a plus. Lost many shots shooting wide open with a 90mm in 35mm film format, because the performer happened to move a bit just as I was taking the shot...

"If I want more bokeh, I just move closer or use a longer lens." -- but then, you have a different angle of view. Unless of course, you switch to a large sensor at the same time.

"but then, you have a different angle of view."

Like there's what, only one possible angle of view? The number of possible photographs is infinity. So just pick a different one.


It was a very odd day when i first realized that I was happiest with my newly-aquired Nikon 85 1.4 set to about 3.5 - 5.6, instead of the whole reason i bought it for:) Worse? Then i go and buy a 50 1.2! I did find similar results to yours with M 4/3, the amazing 20mm would give just _enough_ separation without having to cry over lightroom when the eyes were soft.

I think 'bokeh' is right up there with 'giclée.'

So you're laying down your crown and sceptre? Pray do tell, after your abdication, who shall sit at the throne of the Kingdom of Bokeh?

The King of Bokeh is dead. Long live the King!

A longer lens doesn't give you more bokeh. The definition of bokeh is the quality of out of focus area....not the quantity.


We're channeling the same muses on this. I like smaller format for exactly the same reasons you do. The bokey gods have rarely visited my darkroom (and I use the term abstractly) or left any lasting gifts.

35mm format is *still* small format, no matter what's become of the lingo in this digital age. It does have a look that I like, which is different from FourThirds or APS-C, which is why I added it to my kit. But I still shoot with the smaller formats more.

I've been mulling this over, and I have read several of the comments on the original post, but not all. So I'm sure the "it all depends" comments have been made, and likely more eloquently than I can write.

I can't envision, however, certain photos of mine being made with extended DOF. The second is an unintentional plug for one of TOP's sponsors. :) And no, I don't know how to insert the images, not just the links. :(



If you still have a sony/minolta look up the 135stf.

Photography, as with all of life, is full of tradeoffs. One of them is size and weight of gear vs. IQ and flexibility. Despite the rapturous claims of micro 4/3 converts (Aren't all recent converts rapturous?), the format does have limitations compared to larger formats. High ISO noise is one of them, and greater DOF is another. (Don't get me started on EVFs.) Of course, greater DOF is often an advantage, but at times it is a disadvantage. At least with a larger format camera, one has the option of using shallow DOF in certain situations, whereas that option might not be available with a M43 camera. It's a tradeoff that one makes for the pleasure and convenience of using a dimunitive kit.

Mike, you must get a kick out of people explaining 'the definition of bokeh' to you.

"The definition of bokeh is the quality of out of focus area....not the quantity."

OOF blur = bokeh. Bokeh = OOF blur. When people talk about quality of bokeh, they are talking about the quality of OOF blur, not the quality of quality of OOF blur.

The quality of the bokeh or boke is called boke-aji.

Nothing wrong with talking about the quantity of bokeh except that it's more interesting to talk about the quality of bokeh :).

"Keep in mind, Mike, that there is never a depth of field advantage in a smaller sensor. Assuming similar sensor technology..."

There's the rub. Square millimeter for square millimeter, smaller sensors often use better sensor technology. Not always but usually. Example and discussion here: http://www.seriouscompacts.com/f42/small-format-deep-dof-advantage-fact-myth-153/

James W and Amin Sabet:
Ha ha ha ha.........
OMG..... Ha ha ha ha.....

You're very mature. I'm still struggling with sharpness-obsession, and I doubt I'll ever get rid of bokeh-fascination.

And that's despite most of my pics having plenty of DoF, and even as a teen in the photo club I defended somebody else photo, which I really liked, but which some of the member dismissed because it was not wholly sharp.

BTW, I just had a night run, making a couple of bokey-fetish photos:


This is M4/3. Like you say, it has a good balance.

Amin, that may be the case with some sensors, and especially with the old Canon sensor you tested several years ago, but Nikon and Sony designed sensors have come a long way in the last few years.

It's a slippery slope once you compare sensors of different quality, and that of course moves the scale. Either way, in terms of m4/3 vs. Sony and Nikon aps-c or 35mm, it's still very much the case.

Rob: High ISO noise? I shoot 4/3 at ISO 1600 much of the time, and there's no appreciable difference from what I get out of my full-frame digital camera (in fact, the 4/3 seems to be better at rendering true colors under tungsten light)...

But then I come from the Dark Ages of film, with pushed Tri-X and T-Max 3200, where serious grain was the rule, not the exception. So to my eyes, the images my 4/3 camera pumps out seem nearly "grainless," if you like, to my eyes...

Granted, at really high ISOs my 4/3 images can get noisy. But I rarely need to go that high...and I understand things have been improved on the EM-5....

Besides, isn't "grain" one of those "classic" looks from the Film Age that people are now trying to recreate digitally?

All this talk about "bokeh" It is a pretend word for the character of the blur, as is different depending among others on the number of blades in the aperture. So call it what it is. Another thing is that the sensor size has not the least bit of depth of field to make. If you shoot at the same distance with the same aperture as will the depth of field be the same but the framing varied. The magnification rate and the selected aperture that determines the depth of field. If you change your shooting position, change the magnification and thereby the depth of field.


"All this talk about 'bokeh' It is a pretend word"

No it's not. It's a transliteration of a Japanese word that means "fuzzy," which, when applied to photography, means "blur," specifically out-of-d.o.f. blur rather than other kinds such as motion blur or camera shake.

"Bokeh" does NOT specifically refer just to the visual character or quality of the blur. It means the areas of an image that are out of focus.


@PWL. I am aware that shooting above ISO 1600 is not often required, but when it is, it's nice to have a camera that can handle it. Think churches, museums, old warehouses and the like. And what about all those photographers who seem to spend much of their time shooting concerts and club performances? I have never understood the appeal of that genre, unless one is doing it for a living, but it seems to have quite a few practitioners.

Mike, I cannot fully accept your denigration of sharpness. True, it can take on all the aspects of a fetish for some photographers, but there are certain images that owe their lifelike quality to high resolution and sharpness. Too sharp is bad, but not sharp enough can be bad also. As with most things, one must strive to find the golden mean.

Exactly, it is the CHARACTER of the blur. But of course one can call it "bokeh". Wines has "bokeh", not blur in images.


"Amin, that may be the case with some sensors, and especially with the old Canon sensor you tested several years ago, but Nikon and Sony designed sensors have come a long way in the last few years."

So have phone camera sensors.

I've owned a lot of recent Sony sensors (D700, K-5, NEX-5N), and they don't change my impression that more often than not, small sensors actually do have a deep DOF advantage because of the tech they use. I'm not claiming this for 4/3. I'm saying its true for most sensors (even for APS-C vs 135, the D7000 got sensor tech well in advance of the D800), and I expect things to remain this way as tremendous R&D goes into small sensor development.

Latest example: http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/06/22/Sony-invests-in-stacked-CMOS-production

"It's a slippery slope once you compare sensors of different quality"

It's also slippery when you make statements based on the assumption that sensors have the same quality. Would you argue that most current 135 format cameras have no deep DOF advantage on current medium format cameras?

Overall, considering the full range of modern cameras, it is my experience that small formats usually enjoy a deep DOF advantage (under shutter speed-limited, low light conditions).

Eh, bokeh-schmokeh.

It was all so 90s anyway.

I would like to disabuse any readers (specifically Richard Tugwell) of the notion that "irregardless" is a valid word (if it were it would mean "not regardless" - the opposite of the sense in which people seem to use it).

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