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Friday, 03 July 2009


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Wow. I don't think you're helping yourself here.

I didn't bother to respond to the original post, because i thought it was so uncharacteristically 'off' and silly. But, you seem to be cementing yourself even further into that crevasse.... Just about everything in that "P.S. Comment" was absurd and absolute and close-minded.... I was shocked to read it, in fact. I can't imagine that a person such as yourself has not seen sufficient quantities of outstanding images to disprove all of those statements. And, if you have seen them, but dismissed them because they aren't speaking to your particular tastes, it still leaves the odd matter of the pontification against the aesthetic....

Oh, well. Have a swell weekend.

heh, heh..... this ought to be good......

but where have you been lo these many years that we four-thirds users have had to endure such torment at the hands of the Shallow DOF Justifiers?

"Just about everything in that "P.S. Comment" was absurd and absolute and close-minded"

It absolutely wasn't, and that's that. [s]

Well, I'm kidding, but more seriously: if you thought I was "pontificating against an aesthetic" (I presume you're talking about the aesthetic of shallow DoF) then you're *completely* misreading what I wrote. It wasn't written well, which is why I restated it in the linked post. But that's not what I was arguing at all.

You don't think I'm *against* the use of bokeh in pictures, do you? In the immortal words of John McEnroe, you cannot be serious.


The most amusing is when a technical limitation becomes imitated as an esthetic convention. Large format cameras cannot function in a wide depth of field manner except with tiny apertures that require very slow shutter speeds. It works fine if everything is still. However when moving objects like water are captured you get a surreal blur akin to flowing snow. This technical limitation gets mistaken for an esthetic statement and gets chosen by thousands, perhaps millions, of "creative" photographers as a cool way to portray water with equipment that is fast enough to capture water flow in a more realistic manner.


just because I like to insist on small points (and of course because I want to justify /not/ spending the money on a full-frame camera): Your point 6 is the reason while I commented regarding an earlier post of yours that you should not get too excited about the image quality of the D700 at ISO 2500, but compare it to the image quality of the D90 at ISO 1250.



Nice recap, Mike. Not that there won't be further brouhaha - it's the internet!

What you said about visual conventions; I remember an ad in a camera mag about 10 years ago. Olympus had hired a big-shot street photog to demonstrate the Camedia 3030 (? ... funny, I remember the camera's name and not the photographer's). It was a crowded New York City intersection and everything from the foreground face about six inches from the camera to distant buildings was in razor-sharp focus.

It was extremely striking and very cool.

The good thing about DOF arguments is that you can quibble endlessly, and really, what are blogs for, if not quibbling?

Mike J. said: "When a fixed-lens camera takes a picture of a flower in the foreground, we expect the background to be out of the DoF and blurry, but there's nothing artistically intentional in that preference—it's only because we've become used to the way in which cameras typically render scenes visually that we think it's appropriate and desirable."

Not really...painters use analogous effects all the time, when technically they don't have to, with the intention of focusing attention where they want it focused. They use such effects as value exaggeration, geometric pointers, color contrasts, aerial perspective, etc. Any number of painting books will note that simply putting the highest value next to one of the darkest values will draw the eye that way, without regard to what's going on in the picture.

Selective DOF works the same way, as, in fact, does light fall-off in the corners of photographs (vignetting.) There *is* something desirable about it -- it's not just the luck of the draw, physics-wise, something that we've gotten used to. If we didn't have it, if there was no depth of field, somebody would have invented a filter for it; in fact, somebody probably already has, just as they've invented soft-focus lenses so we don't have to look at pimples on portraits.

Here's a billion-dollar idea for free, for Nikon and Canon. With your small-sensor cameras, many of which already have face-detection, why not preserve the selected face as sharp, but add noise or blur to the surrounding parts of the image, thereby simulating shallow DOF that you couldn't otherwise get with the small sensors? Should be just a matter of firmware...


you are right a mobil phone is much more better then a MF camera , well done ! :-)

We might exploit the innate photographic properties to explore the visual implications of those properties

Yep. It's blur all the way down. :-)


John C.,
Obviously, photographers don't have the same control painters do. Naturally the technical properties we have to contend with do have aesthetic qualities. We can influence these within certain parameters. but you're just not going to see macro shots of insects with infinite depth of field and you're just not going to see infinity-focus shots of distant landscapes with selective focus. Photography isn't painting. We recognize and react, but we're not free to choose an infinite variety of effects.


You're making too much sense...sure you're a blogger?

Well said, grab something, anything, and get on with it.

The important issue is if the camera in your hands is one you're productive with. I've yet to match the productivity I had with a slow, ugly Canon G3.

DOF be damned, just get on with it people.

You mention the properties of the medium and how these properties, represented in existing pictures, influence our expectations and tastes. You're right but we probably owe some of these expectations to the way our eyes work without additional lenses. When I look at something relatively close up (for example, the words on the pages of a book I'm reading), I'm aware of distant objects in the background of my field of view being blurred, just as in those f/1.2 pictures but when I then look directly at the objects in the background and they become sharp, I build up a more detailed overall picture that approximates what the sharp-all-over school of photography aims to replicate. It makes for an interesting conflict.

If I'm not wearing glasses or contact lenses, my myopia makes the effect of the blurred backgrounds constant and stronger and life resembles so much of the digital colour photography I've seen online from Japan that deliberately uses shallow depths of field. I'm wondering whether there's a link between that and the reportedly higher incidence of myopia in Japan.


Pure conjecture on my part—I most definitely haven't researched any potential link between myopia rate in any country and that country's fondness for shallow DoF.

I used to make a habit of removing my glasses at restaurants, cafes and pubs so I could make out the faces at my table but nothing much else—it seemed to make for a more pleasant world; perhaps that's partly why I still like pictures, particularly of people, shot wide open with fast, normal lenses.

"You're making too much sense...sure you're a blogger?"

I do data entry at Kaiser Permanente....


"you are right a mobil phone is much more better then a MF camera , well done ! :-)"

Only for some things.

" it's because people are trying to rationalize their purchase of a full-frame DSLR! "

That's what people said when I was shooting with a Graflex super D! That's what I think of as a full size SLR. (never did find a 5x7 Home Portrait to buy)

What I don't get is why there isn't more interest in faster lenses, although it could be that it's cheaper to get a full frame camera than the faster lens. I used to use a Canon super 8 camera with a f/1.0 lens that had pretty shallow DOF, not that that was why I used it.

Traditionally, most of the aesthetic control we have in photography relates to getting rid of information via composition, exposure, or focus. Control over DOF is a good way of getting less information as well as adding some depth cues.

John Camp wrote:
> Mike J. said: "When a fixed-lens camera takes a
> picture of a flower in the foreground, we expect
> the background to be out of the DoF and blurry,
> but there's nothing artistically intentional in
> that preference—it's only because we've become
> used to the way in which cameras typically
> render scenes visually that we think it's
> appropriate and desirable."
> Not really ... painters use analogous effects
> all the time ...

John, as a matter of fact painters never used analogous effects. The idea to paint a background in a blurred manner never occurred to them, simply because they didn't see that way. The closest they came up with—sometimes—was to abstract from the background completely and depict it in a uniform colour, as if the subject was placed against a textureless wall.

It's true: today you can occasionally see paintings where the background is painted in a blurred style, suggesting sort of "limited depth-of-field." But those inevitably are by artists who were born after photography was invented. In other words, those paintings are mimicking photography's visual style, which is kind of odd philosophically and simply wasn't possible before the invention of photography.

-- Olaf

Little off-topic. It is a real pleasure (and challenge sometimes) to read you, Mike :-)



I do data entry at Kaiser Permanente....


Thanks a bunch. Only available in the U.S.A.?

Hi, Mike.
I'm reading, and re-reading that original post, and it still seems like you're now contradicting your earlier words.

The bits i found objectionable and 'wrong':
• Dictating what should/shouldn't be an "issued...to any pictorial photographer shooting pictorial subjects." Maybe i'm misunderstanding that, and i'm not really a pictorial photographer after all.

• You "don't use a 35mm-e on anything to 'isolate subjects.'
I have a Nokton 35/1.2. I bought it specifically for that purpose. I've seen a large number of gorgeous pictures where just that effect is achieved. Here's just one example - not an example of a 'great' photograph, but it illustrates the separation and how the background is rendered in a 'painterly' fashion:

• "the difference between f2 and f2.8...is very slight."
So is the difference between a good lens and a great lens. Or a good photograph and a great photograph. If it weren't for our obsession with details, we wouldn't spend so much time on gear forums and in photography forums. I would also suggest that the difference between, for example, 2 and 2.8 isn't really a matter for direct comparison. Saying the difference is marginal is only of reasonable importance in a testing situation. No, i'm not saying a great photo at 2 is not a great photo if it had been shot at 2.8. But, there is nuance involved, and that's what obsesses me. What's the difference between a Noctilux and a Summilux? Some people find the difference to be tremendous and significant. Some people don't get the fuss.

• "Most people who consider themselves "concerned" with "isolating subjects" just as often don't have enough depth of field as too much."
That's more of a statement against 'bad photography' than about skilled photographers using DOF effectively. Then again, it could just be a statement that you personally just don't like pictures of people with one eye in focus and the other out.... That bugs some people. And, yes, when it's done tastelessly, it's just not a good photograph. But, when it is done well, it's done well. I don't know what else to say about that. There's a similar discussion on the Rangefinderforum site now, and i just linked this picture to the thread:

This image is soft, liquid, a bit flat, and to me, it's magnificent. Stop the lens down a bit and you get more detail where it's not necessary. You probably get better lens performance, which is to say the image gets a bit sharper. And, then it moves toward not being the same picture. This one is beautiful because it's not a technical exercise. This one has a soul, and i wouldn't want it tampered with.

• "The problem in photography from 1840 until about 2005 with rare exceptions (fashion photographers and their once-fashionable 300mm ƒ/2.8s come to mind) was to get enough depth of field. The problem was almost never too much."
I don't know where this statement comes from. A survey of photographers? Are you saying that all of the photographs shot were stopped down as far as possible before shutter speeds were too slow to prevent blur? And, that all of those photographers would have preferred to shoot at f22/32/64? That all of the bokeh before 2005 was only incidental or accidental? I don't think so.

Oh, that reminds me of something i just read in the new Avedon book.... That a signature of Avedon's work was "the blur." And, that he was especially skilled in achieving his signature "blur." He also used to soften his backgrounds in the enlarging process with tracing paper. Not a man obsessed with getting more detail in the background. And, what of Lillian Bass? She created techniques of bleaching and mechanically softening backgrounds in the darkroom. Doisneau, Boubat, Cartier-Bresson, Plossu.... Not to mention the choices of larger format cameras with the intention of keeping perspectives the same but eradicating backgrounds....

• "Best advice: unless you're doing technical work, and have extremely strict conditions and/or requirements to deal with, and you thoroughly understand the issues from a practical as well as a (real) technical standpoint, then ignore everything you come across on this subject.... the persistence of the error—and the knowledge that it's never, ever going to go away—makes Mike a mite testy."
That's the bit that really gets me. The way it's written, it seems like you want everyone to adhere to a strict set of aesthetic guidelines until the individual can prove (to who?) that the issues are understood. But, 1) How do you get there without the journey? 2) The only person that needs to be pleased with an amateur's photograph is the person who is responsible for making the photograph. Why would it bother you that there are a lot of poorly executed bokeh photographs? That just makes it easier to sort through the riff-raff.... People should do what they want (photographically). And, it's only my responsibility to sort through it. Besides that, even the people who are good at doing the whole 'bokeh thing' aren't ALWAYS good at it. Should they stop until they can do it with 100% proficiency?

Oh, well. I'm sure i'm still misunderstanding your point. After all this. The discussion got to be really quite academic after a while, and that's not what irked me. It's more about the dictating of standards and the associated presumption of ignorance.

Good day, sir. [I SAID GOOD DAY!]

Friend don't let friends talk about Bokeh...

Happy Independence day all you Americans.

I guess I asked for that. Should have put down the can opener and stepped away from the worms.

I was the photo magazine editor who started the whole "bokeh" craze, or at least midwifed it, by pursuing some ideas Carl Weese had introduced me to and commissioning articles from Harold Merklinger, Oren Grad, and John Kennerdell about bokeh, published together in the March/April 1997 issue of _Photo Techniques_. I've spent some of the interim being rather unhealthily obsessed with bokeh effects and the evaluation of lenses for their ability to render those effects--not to mention championing work that utilizes it. To the point of inviting parody.

You'll have to forgive me if I write sometimes as if this is background knowledge...I can only repeat it so many times without being thought a boor by people who already know it. (A line crossed long ago according to those who know me well. A number of my "photo friends" are hardly above teasing me about the subject.)

In any event, I am not against the use of selective focus in photographs. Parenthesis, exclamation point, close parenthesis. I still stand by what I wrote when it comes to online discussions by non-experts of the technical science of depth of field.


Hey Mike,

I used to use "et al" for everything, but correctly it may be appropriate only for people, not things. In other words, "Photoshop, etc." may be more correct than "Photoshop, et al".

Truly embarrassed, I couldn't find my printed copies of Webster's or American Heritage dictionaries. So sufficing for a reference taken from Dictionary.app on my Mac:

USAGE Et cetera (a Latin phrase meaning 'and the other things, the rest') is sometimes mispronounced ' : ex cetera,' and its abbreviation, properly etc., is often misspelled 'ect.' The phrase 'and et cetera' is redundant, for : et means 'and' in Latin. This abbreviation should be used for things, not for people. Et al. (an abbreviation of : et alii, 'and other people, and others') is properly used for others (people) too numerous to mention, as in a list of multiple authors: : Bancroft, Fordwick, et al. In general, both terms (and their abbreviations) are common enough that it is not necessary to italicize or underline them.

I should give you some bucks for the pleasure and enlightenment of dropping by but don't know how. (Ah! I found the subscribe button.)

You hit the nail on the head with point #7: "the visual (aesthetic) conventions of photography we're all so used to are essentially an accident of the medium's technical properties".

You have just described the fascination with FILM. Thank you.

Hey Mike,

Rather than subscribe, can I just send you a check? Paypal and me don't get along. I've had a PP account I've tried to get rid of but Paypal keeps locking back into it when I try to enter my credit card.

Is there a P.O.Box or address I can send you a check for ten or twenty bucks? That may not be a lot of money (volume counts!) but it's in scale with my assets. Honest, I wouldn't share your address.


In your reply to my post, I suspect a certain slipperiness, a discontinuity between the first part of your comment and the second part...the "thus, therefore" connection...I will spend the night laboring to prove it.

I'm sorry, you're simply wrong. You don't have to believe me, look at almost any painting by Rembrandt.

Or, for that matter, look at Leonardo's notebooks, or look up the term "sfumato" in the dictionary (hint: it means "smoky" in Italian.)

Here's Leonardo on sfumato: "without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane."

Is there are better 15th-century, four-word definition of "shallow DOF" than "beyond the focus plane?"


I get the sense that Pixar movies must drive you absolutely insane.

Dear Derek,

Mike is not in a position to "dictate" anything, as he lacks the authority to impose rule. You misuse the word.

He is in a position to say something is a pointless notion and a waste of the photographer's time.

So am I.

Obsessing over THEORETICAL nuances of DoF is just such a waste of time. And that's what is happening when someone declares, absent testing of specific lenses, that an f/2 lens will give better control of (and narrower) DoF than an f2.8 lens.

REAL DoF depends upon the unique optical characteristics of some specific lens design. The differences between designs swamp a mere 1-stop change in aperture.

That is why Mike says that worrying about one stop of control is worrying about the miniscule, or, as I put it, focusing on the chihuahua and ignoring the mastiff.

When you have tested a pair of f/2 and f/2.8 lenses and actually know what their out-of-focus behavior is, then you have information about which you can speak knowledgeably... about those two lenses. When the lenses are unspecified, there is nothing intelligent that can be said about their relative merits for your purpose.

pax / Ctein

Let them eat software...

"The Joys of Extended Depth of Field", by Mark Dubovoy http://luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/Helicon.shtml

When in doubt I ask myself what that guy who sleeps under the bridge would do.

"...I will spend the night laboring to prove it."


It's okay with me if you don't. I will stipulate to a certain slipperiness. (Notice that word "certain," itself slippery.)

Also, I admit that my additions to the comments are tossed off, not well thought through, and thus not worthy of in-depth textual analysis.

Thank you, though.


"Rather than subscribe, can I just send you a check?"

Thanks for the very kind offer. However, rather than send a check, please just remember to make your Amazon.com and B&H Photo purchases through the links on the site page. Those stores then pay me a small "finder's fee" for bringing your business to them; and that's how I make a good bit of my living.

The best thing about doing it that way is that it doesn't cost you anything extra. Either store will charge you the same amount for your purchase either way. If you go there directly, they keep all their profit; if you go there through TOP, they share a little of it with me. So it really is a good way to support me--and it's REAL material support, make no mistake--without you being out of pocket for the purpose.

And thanks again for your kindness.


Dear Mike,

You wouldn't end up being half so slippery if you hadn't picked up that damned Can Opener Of Doom.

That's how you wound up covered in worm slime.


pax / always-helpful Ctein

I suppose there's nothing like a bokeh conversation for bringing out the compulsive in photographers. Personally, if I want to fixate on blur I just take out my contact lenses. You should have let this dog lie, Mike, and left your readership to its medication

My wife says I have selective focus. I just tell her my mind is wide open.

That slideshow was amazing. I was staring mesmerised at it for a long time, unable to direct my attention to anything else. Thanks for an amazing experience.

Here's Leonardo on sfumato: "without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane."

I'd say sfumato refers to something else: "a painting technique in which the colors blend softly into each other, rather than objects or shapes having sharp outlines or hard edges."

Looks more like soft focus effect, doesn't it? Particularly if you take a look at Mona Lisa and see that the background is nothing more blurred than her.

As for Rembrandt, yes, he lost a distinct background, but he did that with his use of colour, not of blurring.

It's only with Impressionism that the painting started to lose the detail. But then it was the losing of _complete_ detail, not only in the background. Monet, for instance. Haystacks and Impression, Sunrise lost all the details. Japanese Bridge, on the other hand, has the equal amount of detail both in the front and the back.

On the third hand, Degas is the only one I can find that has something like OOF blur: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/degas/ballet/degas.etoile.jpg. But it was after photography was born and I really don't know enough about him to say whether he was influenced by photography or not.

Use an SLR with DoF button. 'Nuff said.

>>We should remind ourselves from time to time that the visual (aesthetic) conventions of photography we're all so used to are essentially an accident of the medium's technical properties.

Sure -- look at painting before photography. Did anyone paint with a shallow DOF? Not that I remember. Shallow DOF was an invention of photography, as you point out.

I was excited to learn about Alien Skin's Bokeh software, until I found out that *I* have to carefully select the subject in photoshop. That's lame. I'd assumed that the software could do that based on existing (but insufficient) blur.

JC, I don't see much evidence of bokeh in Rembrandt's work. Lots of dodging and burning, and vignetting, but no bokeh to speak of. However, I do like the word sfumato and will use it in online discussions from now on to freak out the people who just learned the word bokeh.

Mike, I find your point #5 somewhat condescending. Probably some people point to a full-frame dlsr's (for the same perspective, same focus point, at the same f stop) shallower DOF as a way to justify their purchase of one, (and no, I wouldn't spend my own money on one, at least not while they're so expensive) but others are perfectly right to prefer them precisely because they can more fully emulate the look of a 35mm film camera at least where issues of depth of field are concerned. That is an aesthetic choice, and who are you, I, or anyone else to question these people's intelligence on the matter.

But perhaps I found your point negative only because after reading all these recent DOF articles on TOP, I still don't really know which misinformation on the subject you were referring to. Did you ever say specifically what had you so irked in the first place?

Good grief; great, greasy, gobs of gelatinous worm slime. Da Vinci, Degas. Sfumato.

TOP is the real "Top Cat", though there is a definite "beaukay" to some of it.

[What I'm saying is that if the physics of lenses happened to dictate that far focus distances had little DoF and close ones had large DoF, then that's what we'd be used to, and expect, and demand.]

And if things fell up, “dead nature” would feature apples resting on the ceiling. :)

A preference for shallow DoF is not a random imposition from Principia Mathematica, it's an aesthetic choice. Ours eyes will never have the DoF of a fullframe 50mm f/1.2, even in utter darkness, yet a lot of people love it. It's hyperrealism if you will, like some HDR images which are also quite popular. In fact, precisely calibrated and crazy fast autofocus systems may have freed photographer from having to play it safe, which could explain this surge in shallow DoF images.

The image projected onto the retina follows optics laws but its assembly and processing in the brain does not. So you may, as Bahi said, focus your attention on a flower and blur your awareness of the background, or focus on several spots and puzzle together an all-in-focus mental image to create an impossible DoF.

Cameras, however, still can't stitch or isolate focus points on the fly. So while you argue that we like such images out of habit, I would say such medium's technical properties were chosen precisely because they are flexible enough to better approach the mental image we may have while still being luggable. I was once asked by a complete layman why did her digicam photos sucked: "they look flat", she said, "it looks like those from disposable (focus-free) cameras of yore".

[For the time being, however, DoF is less a parameter that we have to "control" than it is a property we can't do all that much about, and which we must simply accept.]

I have to disagree. With the sensitivity we have today, most of the time you are no longer at the mercy of your aperture, and for those rare exceptions, there is combining or selecting focus areas in software.

DoF is a big deal. Composition, speed and aperture make the tripod of photography to me. Maybe one shouldn't be obsessed about it, but then again I find it hard not to be when I'm obsessed by Photography. I sold my Sinar, because I found that when I wanted utmost control and no convenience, I was using Free Transform and Masks anyway. And I still keep my Canonet for DoF control in my pocket (well sort of).

[We recognize and react, but we're not free to choose an infinite variety of effects.]

What about this neat software solution you just spoke of?

[When that happens, the properties of "camera vision" will be even less fixed, and in that case peoples' expectations and preferences will evolve further. When that happens, artistic intention will play a greater role than it does now.]

Agreed, wholeheartedly.

[Photography isn't painting.]

Can you honestly tell precisely where to draw the line? I was recently speaking to a photographer about his latest work, in which he painted emulsion with a thick brush on a cotton paper and would then project images or fire colored flash lights onto it. In times of such convergence and cross-insemination between artistic mediums, statement like these seem reactionary.

Probably some people point to a full-frame dlsr's (for the same perspective, same focus point, at the same f stop) shallower DOF as a way to justify their purchase of one

You'd be surprised how many people on... DPReview, frex... point the ability "to control DoF" as one of the advantages of 35mm sensors. And in newsgroups, too.

OTOH, given the nature of forums and newsgroups, it is doubtful how many of them really own a camera with a 35mm sensor.

OTTH, you can get extremely shallow DoF with any DSLR. My link up there shows photos taken with an E-3.

The vast number of persons (here in particular and elsewhere in general) who are confusing bokeh with narrow depth-of-field keeps amazing me ...

-- Olaf

I think there's been entirely too much talking about DOF lately, and not nearly enough photographing. Mike, I think it's time you surprised us with something new and typically mundane from the dog park.

"DoF is less a parameter that we have to "control" than it is a property we can't do all that much about, and which we must simply accept."

Funny that every time I take a portrait I consider exactly what DOF I want. I would call that control. I also have more of it with a FF than I would with an APS.

So what, exactly, is your point?

"Funny that every time I take a portrait I consider exactly what DOF I want...."

...Within the limits of what your equipment will give you. Try a headshot portrait with a 135mm lens on FF and get a background half a mile away sharp. Try a full-length portrait with a 7mm lens on a 1/1.75" sensor and get the eyes sharp and the hair unsharp. I never said you have no control at all. Obviously. Within the limits of what your setup and working distance allows, you have some flexibility. Sometimes, even meaningful flexibility.

"I also have more of it with a FF than I would with an APS."

Uh, no you don't. You have LESS DoF with FF than with APS-C, given the same angle of view.


Dear Mike,

Um, you misunderstood Rob. He meant he had more control with FF, not more DoF.



Dear Rob,

Um, no. You don't. You have DIFFERENT control. Larger formats let you make the depth of field shallower but limits your ability to make it deeper.

If you want to assert that a larger format gives you more of the shallow-side control that you want, I don't think you'll get an argument from anyone. Asserting that overall it gives you more control is wrong.


And... ...

Mike is correct. For any given format and lens, Rob's ability to control DoF is highly restricted, compared to the total range of DoF's possible from plausible format/lens combinations. One can only work within a very narrow slice of those possibilities. Rob, perhaps you are so accustomed to having to do so that you don't even think about it that way. But it's still true.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

"Um, no. You don't. You have DIFFERENT control. Larger formats let you make the depth of field shallower but limits your ability to make it deeper." - ctein

Whilst absolutely true, in reality that's not quite the case as many other factors are involved. I rarely struggle to get enough in focus with a FF camera as I have f22 at my disposal whilst f8 is the minimum aperture with many compacts. Diffraction limits on small apertures happening earlier with crop sensors negate their apparent DoF advantage over FF, as you cannot use as small an aperture before degradation occurs. Plus I can use higher shutter speeds, as higher ISOs also tend to be be better with larger sensors [DSLRs that is]. So I may have to shoot at f2.8 on the compact to get a sharp picture that isn't ruined by digital noise [my Ricoh GX200 is awful above 64ISO] or motion blur, whereas I may be able to shoot at 6400 ISO on FF and still have a nice quality image. So yes in reality, you do have more control overall over DoF with FF than a compact sensor, due to these other factors.
4/3rds will suffer less from these issues than pocket cameras with their tiny sensors, but still suffer in comparision to FF sensors, as you will be able to increase/match DoF to match crop sensors with FF [in real world use], yet you cannot decrease DoF to match FF. Diffraction will be the limiter of sharpness with increased DoF more than sensor size I would say.

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