...In the Comments to the republication of his "What Is Bokeh?" article, émigré to Asia John Kennerdell reports that "in recent years Japanese photo writers have evidently decided they need a cool new loanword instead of 'bokeh,' so one now often sees the fractured English expression 'outo fokasu.'"
So English speakers are using a loanword from Japanese and the Japanese are using a loaner from English! Too funny.
By the way, the most sober term (in English) for what either means is "out-of-focus blur," which of course has the disadvantage of being long, fussy, and annoying to type. I think "bokeh" and "outo fokasu" are more charming and whimsical.
Creating a monster
I should mention that I'm not personally a fan of the ongoing craze for ultra-shallow focus, except if it really works. I like lenses too much to use them wide open, where almost all lenses perform less than their best, very often. And I'm thoroughly, permanently sick of seeing endless photographs in which "lots of bokeh" is equated with "good bokeh," such that parts of the main subject which conventionally should be in focus are not. Examples include flower pictures with the petals closest to the lens unsharp, and pictures of dogs looking at you with their noses out of focus. It can be nice in a portrait when a face is in focus and the ears and the rim of the hair are not, but when the tip of the nose and the hair over the forehead closest to the camera are also not in focus, well, erg.
Yeah, they're proud of owning that fast lens and that larger-sensor camera, and good for them. But a very basic part of being a photographer is nailing the correct plane of focus and getting the depth-of-field right, and the "bokeh craze" has done harm to those basic competencies.
Of course some people are deliberately exploring extreme out-of-focus blur (bokeh, outo fokasu) in a sensitive and artistic way, and more power to them. But another thing that makes me roll my eyes is the idea that "if you spent all that extra money for a superfast lens, it only makes sense to shoot it wide open all the time." Or some variant of that. I've read such comments many times. I think it's nonsense. I suppose if you paid for a fast lens, then it does make sense to shoot it wide open sometimes. Having that wide aperture available for those times when you need it should be sufficient reward for your investment. But the picture comes first, doesn't it? Do what's right for the picture. That's not always the widest possible aperture and the minimum possible depth-of-field, blindly, in every case.
But hey, it's not for me to say. Everybody owns their own photography and they can do anything they want with it as long as it's not hurting anybody. I've never actually had the courage to explore radical out-of-focus myself, although it's been in the back of my mind for years.
But please don't blame me for all those pictures out there in which the D-o-F is obviously too shallow and it's obviously just wrong. Not my fault! :-)
(Thanks to JK)
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Manuel (partial comment): "About those Japanese neologisms: I'm proud the Portuguese enriched Japanese vocabulary with so many words. The most relevant of all is, of course, 'arigato' (thanks), which derives from Portuguese 'obrigado.' And 'tempura' (spicing) comes from our 'tempero.' Germany contributed too: 'Arabaito', Japanese for 'work', stems from German 'arbeit'. But the most remarkable neologism actually comes from English, and is not 'outo fokasu': it's 'purepeido kado', from 'pre-paid card'!"
j. thvedt: "I've seen more than one cookbook where all of the photos had paper-thin depth of field. What can they be thinking? These are illustrations. We want to see the food. All of it."
tex andrews: "Thanks for the sanity on Bokeh. But now, I think I'll drum up a little insanity over at the infamous DPR forums by posting the link to this, so as to start a raging flame war. Fun!"
JK: "At the risk of getting pedantic (can’t help it—linguistics degree) I’ll try to clarify the translation and transliteration issues that several people have been talking about in the Comments section of this post and my "What Is Bokeh?" post.
" オートフォーカス means autofocus. The term has been around as long as the consumer technology, i.e. since the late '70s. Usually in Japanese text it's abbreviated to "AF" (yes, using the Roman letters).
" アウトフォーカス (literally “out focus”) is a much newer coinage. It now appears in Japanese dictionaries, typically defined as 焦点外れ (shōten hazure), which means, well, out of focus. And recently it has come to be used interchangeably with bokeh. You can see an example in the sub-head of this piece.
"Now here’s the pedantic part. That first term is Romanized as "ōtofōkasu." The macron over the "o" extends its duration, which is as close as Japanese phonetics can come to the "aw" (IPA: \ɔ\) sound in "auto."
"Confusingly, an exact Romanization of the second term would be "autofōkasu." In fact that’s a pretty accurate rendering of the dipthong in "out" (IPA: \au\) but unfortunately it conflates with our spelling of "auto." So for casual use I figured it was best to go with "outo fokasu." (Nobody ever fully realizes what a bizarre minefield English spelling is until they start to try Romanizing non-Western languages.)
"Point of all this is that Mike is exactly right: even as we English speakers have embraced a Japanese loanword for o-o-f blur, the Japanese have now adopted an English loanword for the same thing."