Why SLRs have shallower DOF than point-and-shoot cameras

Started Jul 25, 2012 | Discussions thread
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mmilkov
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Why SLRs have shallower DOF than point-and-shoot cameras
Jul 25, 2012

I hope you can help me settle an argument with my friend.

A few days ago he and I started talking about depth of field (DOF) of SLRs vs. point-and-shoot cameras. He thinks that SLRs have shallower DOF because they have larger pixels. I think that SLRs have shallower DOF primarily because the imager size is larger. My explanation is the following. Suppose the distance to the subject and the lens f-number are the same in both cases. The larger imager size of an SLR requires that you use a longer focal length in order to get the same field of view as the point-and-shoot camera. This in turn means that the DOF will be shallower for the SLR.

As to whether the pixel size matters - here is an experiment. Suppose you take the D700 and D800, which both use FX-sized sensors, but one is 12 Mpixel and the other is 36 Mpixel (different pixel size). Given the same lens and distance to the subject, will you be able to tell any difference in the DOF on an 8x10 print when the print is viewed from the same distance (1 foot)? I'd say 'probably not' because the imager resolution is much higher than what your eye can resolve.

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