Just some stuff about photography


How deep is your DOF

in General Rants , Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Bee Gees must have been prescient when they wrote “cause we’re living in a world of fools”, because they we didn’t have internet photo nerd forums back in the 70s (we had flares - much better). If there is one thing guaranteed to wind me up most in those wastelands of joined-up thinking it is when some dweeb starts whining, posturing or proclaiming that such and such camera and/or lens doesn’t have “enough DOF”. DOF, of course, meaning Depth Of Field, but all the evidence tends to indicate that 90% of the aforementioned dweebs don’t know that. Back in the 70s (well, ok, 90s as far as I’m concerned), “enough DOF” meant being able to get a significant amount of your scene in focus. And it wasn’t easy, with 100 ISO (film, that is) being considered fast!

Canon cap snow

DOF porn Exhibit 1. Almost certainly (a) the first intentional picture of DOF I ever took, and (b) the least interesting and most pointless photo ever made in Antarctica. Canon FTb, 50mm f/1.8

In dweeb-land, however, “DOF” means getting as much of your photo out of focus as possible, preferably rendering everything in a pretty swirly smoothy hazy way so as to make the subject - usually a brick wall, or their back garden - totally unrecognisable. And it gets much, much worse when you run up against a Full Frame Cultist, who will inform you, in no uncertain terms, and with no room for discussion, that His (they’re always male) Way is The One Truth. You absolutely cannot get enough “DOF” (or indeed resolution, sensitivity, you name it), with, horror of horrors, a (micro) four-thirds sensor. Well, I beg to differ.

Drm 2012 11 16 EP31744

DOF porn Exhibit 2. Only a camera geek could love it. Panasonic Lumix 25mm f/1.4

And oh do I wish I find out where to get all that extraneous DOF four-thirds sensors apparently suffer from. Then I’d be able to get the jumbled bunches of rocks I like to photograph all in focus!

All systems, pretty much, allow you to be creative with shallow depth of field. It’s all down to focal length and positioning. Sure, there are certain configurations that are easier, or perhaps only possible, with a given lens on a full frame sensor. But exactly the same can be said for other combinations. Within reason, and excluding extreme edge cases, you can pretty much achieve whatever effect you want with any camera system. It just requires less talk, and more thought.

Of course, in 95% of cases normal people neither like nor see the point of these photos. They’re not photos of anything, just “tests” to show what “great DOF” Lens X can do. Fantastic. There are a few exceptions, but actually using this effect in a truly creative and rewarding way is very, very hard.

Extreme lenses, such as the Leica Noctilux f0.95, were designed for low-light shooting, not “DOF”. I can’t imagine trying to actually focus a Noctilux on a rangefinder! These days, with digital cameras giving good performance at ISO levels beyond film’s wildest dreams, these ultra-fast lenses are even more niche items. Typically, in the Film Age, lenses designed for soft-focus backgrounds were short teles with maximum apertures in the f/2 to f/2.8 range. Which, strangely enough, in terms of “equivalent separation”, is exactly where the Panasonic Summilux f/1.4, which I just bought in a fit of futile retail therapy, sits. And don’t let any forum troll tell you different.

Posted in category "General Rants" on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 10:50 PM

Some good, some bad, and some really ugly

in General Rants , Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Yep, it’s PHOTOKINA WEEK, and since this is some kind of a photography site, I’d better waffle about gear and stuff and all the AWE-SOME things lining up to grab our credit cards.

The good

Well, I hope so anyway. Lasersoft’s Silverfast 8 HDR Studio finally slipped out of Beta a few days ago, presumably in order to get promoted at Photokina, although Lasersoft seem to be being pretty quiet about it. The link to the new version is of course broken, bless ‘em, as it still points to v6.6, but the demo link works and the demo can be serialised. So far I haven’t had time to explore it, but when I do I’ll write a review.

The bad

Not exactly Photokina, but anyway it’s certainly bad news. No, not Fuji killing off movie film, but the acquisition by the disgusting Google of NiK software, which will almost certainly result in the disappearance of excellent products such as DFine and Silver Efx, and the mutating of Snapseed into me-too Instagram to let talentless narcissists like this one (sorry, I know he’s popular, but emperor, clothes etc) upload thousands of photos a day, have them auto-processed and handed over to Google’s scary advertising engine. Well anyway Patrick LaRoque puts it far better than I can.

And the Ugly…

It’s no contest really, is it ? Unbelievable. Aghast doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Hasselblad Lunar wooden grip 550x388

Swedish design meets Italian engineering. Or is the other way around ? I’m sure half of Saudi Arabia is already sending the slaves out to queue up for it. Poor old Victor must be doing about 180rpm.

Posted in category "General Rants" on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 10:24 PM

m.zuiko 45mm f1.8

in Olympus E-System , Friday, October 28, 2011

One of my favourite-ever lenses was the Canon FD 135mm f2.0.  This fast telephoto would let me pluck a detail out a scene, beautifully sharp, with the fore- and background smoothly blending into a creamy smooth bokeh. And it had great contrast. And I gave it away, with most of my Canon FD gear, to the daughter of a friend who wanted to study photography but had no way of affording the gear. 

I never really found anything to compare to that lens, but now maybe I have: the Olympus m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8, which has the added advantage of being almost absurdly low-priced.  Mine arrived today. And here’s a sample of what I’ve found it can do.

Drm 2011 10 28 A282560

Stray leaf. Olympus E-P2 with m.Zuiko 45mm f1.8, wide open

So far I’ve found that the E-P2 tends to underexpose by 1/3 to 2/3rds of a stop with this lens compared to the 14-45mm. But that’s not much of a problem.

This is a fun lens to use, much more so in my opinion that the highly-rated Lumix 20mm. It is light, but well built, with a large, well damped focus ring. It looks gorgeous. And the results are pretty much guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. This is a must-have lens for and Micro Four Thirds camera owner. And an absolute bargain.  I’ll post some more examples soon.

Posted in category "Olympus E-System" on Friday, October 28, 2011 at 08:23 PM

Emperor’s Clothes

, Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Well I still can't bring myself to buy a digital SLR. I came close, but then I did a quick calculation, and worked out that by the time I'd finished making up the theoretical savings in film and processing cost, then whatever I bought would be terminally obsolete - i.e. in about 18 months. Of course it would still work, it would still take photos as well as it ever did - but some new device would be on the market driving gear lust, and I'd be spending hours rationalising to myself why I have to have it. And that is pretty much where we come in - I have, to a great extent, all I need now to enjoy photography. Even too much. I have some growing doubts that there is something slightly wrong with the focussing of my Canon T90, but it could just as well be my eyes.

Yesterday I saw a shop window with more or less the whole array of DSLRs proudly lined up, from Canon 1Ds to Pentax *istD, via Nikon, Olympus and Fuji. And all at, let's face it, breathtaking prices. Yes, really. Magazines, internet pundits, manufacturers (obviously) are lining up to tell all photographers that without a DSLR they can't take photos anymore. And that they should "upgrade" to a camera which, in terms of basic picture-taking capability, is on average 5 to 10 times more expensive than an equivalent film camera. And yet, even with these wonders, you can find endless discussion lists all over the internet devoted to desperate owners trying to debug their new wondertoys.

I know this sounds like sour grapes, but it isn't. I cannot deny my credit card was twitching outside that shop. But I'm getting more and more aware of the fact that I'm only prone to DSLR envy when I'm not out taking photographs. When I'm happily using my Hasselblad Xpan, my Canon T90, my new (old) Fuji GS670, or even my little Ricoh GR1, I don't think about whatever DSLR XYZ1000 at all. I don't even think about it when I'm stuck for hours in front of a film scanner. The only time I do think "hmm, well, maybe" is when I'm trying to find space to store away the latest box of slides.

And in that same shop, in the secondhand window, were devices like a Canon EOS 1v, a Leica R8 and M6, a Hasselblad 503cw, in pristine condition and at frankly jaw dropping prices I would not have believed a year ago. And these, I think, would help me to improve my photography.

If I was a pro, with deadlines and income-limiting workflow issues, then, obviously, a DSLR would be in many (most?) cases a no-brainer. But is it really a good idea for amateurs such as me to end up multiplying their gear budget by such a huge factor, and yet end up with, at best, slightly better results and slightly more convenience, and at worst, worse results because they can't afford quality lenses any more ?

There's nothing wrong with digital on technical grounds - quite the opposite - but I think I can wait until the prices make sense, even if, somehow, this means I can't be taken seriously any more...

Posted in on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 at 05:09 PM

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