Rethinking 4/3 Depth Of Field

Started Apr 11, 2013 | Discussions thread
Hen3ry
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Lovely pix and excellent presentation of your argument
In reply to al_in_philly, Apr 11, 2013

And my argument if it comes to that.

Razor thin depth of field is a by-product, an artifact of big apertures. They allow you to shoot in lower light but more often than not, the very shallow DoF is a damned nuisance.

Back in the day, a fair bit of the reason to have a bright lens was to be able to focus in low(ish) light situations -- because you had to focus by eye on a ground glass or (when they became available) fresnel screen. You stopped down to shoot (and thank goodness for the automatic stop down thing when it came in) so you could get a bit of DoF.

Having the most light on the focusing screen was so important that Canon's pellicle(?) mirror SLR failed. This was a fixed mirror which was half silvered so that about half the light went to the focusing screen and half went to the film. Given the advantages of this -- no mirror delay, no noisy mirror slap -- it should have worked. It didn’t, and a major reason for that was the loss of focusing capability. Given that pros in photojournalism (which set a lot of the "standard" for 35mm photography) shot only on Tri-X (or another 400 ASA equivalent) and thus mostly were shooting with the lens stopped well down, it can be seen that the maximum aperture for shooting was not often in question.

Besides, and editor might use one or two thin depth of field shots in a publication, but s/he certainly didn’t want page after page of them -- they were showing what the world looked like, not some arty-farty extract of the world governed by a super large aperture.

Then the argument was switched around so that razor thin DoF was practically the raison d'etre for taking a picture. Of course, you had to have the most expensive lens to achieve it so ordinary mortals were excluded. This was a fad for a while, then the world got back to the business of expecting photographs to show them what the world looked like.

Super thin depth of field is a choice. Those who want it can have it; I'm not interested and mostly I'm not interested in their pictures either. Very thin DoF moved from the innovative to the boringly banal in a remarkably short time 40+ years ago.

Cheers, geoff

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