Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?

Started Aug 6, 2012 | Discussions
mpgxsvcd
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Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
Aug 6, 2012

I have seen a lot of m4/3s pictures lately where the apertures are intentionally stopped down to F10 and smaller. Is there ever a good reason to do that with m4/3s?

Most of the m4/3s lenses are designed to be at least moderately sharp wide open and almost all of them are sharp across the lens within 1 stop of wide open.

The broad depth of field of m4/3s is often cited as one of its weaknesses. So why are people stopping the already slow m4/3s zoom lenses down? The 14-42mm is the only m4/3s lens that is not acceptable wide open and needs to be stopped down almost 1 stop before it even comes close to sharp. And that lens is universally known as a less than stellar lens.

The 20mm F1.7 is tack sharp by F2.0-F2.2 and really quite good wide open. Same for the 14-140mm, 25mm F1.4, 45mm F1.8, 12mm F2.0….etc.

Are people stopping it down because that is what they are used to doing with Full frame to get a broader depth of field? It seemed like the pro photographer shooting the Olympics with the G5 was doing that originally. He stopped and the image quality of his shots noticeably improved.

In this picture he is using the 35-100mm F2.8 lens at F5.6 instead of F2.8 presumably because he thinks the depth of field will be too shallow. He could not be using the 14-140mm for this shot because its largest aperture at that focal length is greater than F5.6.

Focal Length: 68mm ISO: 3200 Aperture: f/5.6 Exposure: 1/1300sec

I have also seen this a lot lately with other m4/3s shooters. They seem to want to always fix the ISO at a single value and then vary both the shutter speed and aperture.

Personally I think that shooting in shutter priority with Auto ISO is the most efficient way to shoot with Panasonic m4/3s cameras. The ISO button just takes too long to change to be useful in manual ISO mode. With shutter priority you just need to worry about shutter speed and Aperture will generally remain wide open.

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dcassat
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Subject/Setting dependent choices
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 6, 2012

That really depends on what your shooting, doesn't it? When you look at the consistency across the frame on many 4/3s lenses you will note that f5.6 often gives the best sharpness and/or consistency. So for quality landscapes with even sharpness and contrast, that's my sweet spot.

If you're shooting action, that's a different animal and whole different set of challenges and it is, frankly, out of my league.

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Jim Boutilier
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 6, 2012

Not sure what lens reviews you read, but all m4/3 lens reviews I've read show some MTF improvements (particularly in corners but often centrally as well) on stopping down (as is the case for most lenses in any format).

Because of an emphasis on "small and light", many m4/3 lenses start out relatively dim and don't have a lot of room to stop down before difraction impacts are noticeable so you are right about the optimum technical image quality often being within a stop or two of wide open.

That said, there are often artistic or aesthetic considerations that out weigh pure technical image quality. Aperture adjusts depth of field and DOF can certainly have more impact (good or bad) on an image than maximizing its technical quality. DOF is often used to emphasize (or deemphasize) a particular aspect of an image.

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sgoldswo
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 6, 2012

Part of the issue here is that sometimes you know the background bokeh will be unattractive, even with a relatively fast lens like the PL 25mm, because the DOF is much greater. That's certainly led to me stopping down to get more in focus. I would rather have everything in focus than have unattractive bokeh.

That doesn't mean I hate bokeh and subject isolation, it's just that I have realised that not every photo needs it and sometimes it can look a bit rubbish. As ever, m43s can change your shooting style.

mpgxsvcd wrote:

I have seen a lot of m4/3s pictures lately where the apertures are intentionally stopped down to F10 and smaller. Is there ever a good reason to do that with m4/3s?

Most of the m4/3s lenses are designed to be at least moderately sharp wide open and almost all of them are sharp across the lens within 1 stop of wide open.

The broad depth of field of m4/3s is often cited as one of its weaknesses. So why are people stopping the already slow m4/3s zoom lenses down? The 14-42mm is the only m4/3s lens that is not acceptable wide open and needs to be stopped down almost 1 stop before it even comes close to sharp. And that lens is universally known as a less than stellar lens.

The 20mm F1.7 is tack sharp by F2.0-F2.2 and really quite good wide open. Same for the 14-140mm, 25mm F1.4, 45mm F1.8, 12mm F2.0….etc.

Are people stopping it down because that is what they are used to doing with Full frame to get a broader depth of field? It seemed like the pro photographer shooting the Olympics with the G5 was doing that originally. He stopped and the image quality of his shots noticeably improved.

In this picture he is using the 35-100mm F2.8 lens at F5.6 instead of F2.8 presumably because he thinks the depth of field will be too shallow. He could not be using the 14-140mm for this shot because its largest aperture at that focal length is greater than F5.6.

I have also seen this a lot lately with other m4/3s shooters. They seem to want to always fix the ISO at a single value and then vary both the shutter speed and aperture.

Personally I think that shooting in shutter priority with Auto ISO is the most efficient way to shoot with Panasonic m4/3s cameras. The ISO button just takes too long to change to be useful in manual ISO mode. With shutter priority you just need to worry about shutter speed and Aperture will generally remain wide open.

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dave aston
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to sgoldswo, Aug 6, 2012

Why do you say the ISO button takes to long? Are you referring to a Panny? On an Olympus EP3' it takes a second to open the SVP and change ISO. I use aperture priority and adjust upon F11 purely for dof, controlling that is more important than worrying about where the lense sweet spot is. Which surely can only be seen when pixel peeping and not in prints.

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mpgxsvcd
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to Jim Boutilier, Aug 6, 2012

I see no evidence whatsoever that any of the Panasonic m4/3s lenses are sharper after F8. And there is only one Panasonic m4/3s lens(14-140mm) that arguably showed any improvement at F8.
http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicdmcgh1/page17.asp

http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/panasonic_45_2p8_o20/3

http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/panasonic_20_1p7_o20/3

http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/panasonic_7-14_4_o20/4

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicGF1/page19.asp

Every Panasonic m4/3s lens I have seen results for is sharper across the lens within 1 stop of wide open across its entire focal range.

Yes lenses like the 20mm increase sharpness and detail drastically with a little stopping down. However, that happens when going from F1.7 to F2.0-2.2 not at F5.6 which is where I have seen some shots occur in the past.

There is a big difference between stopping down a little(1/3-2/3 stops) and stopping down 2 full stops. Is there ever a really good reason to stop down past the point where the lens is sharpest across the frame?

Depth of field really doesn’t change much when stopping down with m4/3s and the current lenses because the current lenses simply do not have enough focal length to induce shallow depth of field. That is one of the biggest gripes against m4/3s.

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mpgxsvcd
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to dave aston, Aug 6, 2012

Yes my original post was specific to Panny cameras with Panny lenses. I have not used any of the Olympus cameras yet.

With Panny cameras you have to push the ISO button and then click both up and down arrow buttons to switch ISO or use the scroll wheel to go across individual rows. You cannot do it with a single button or dial alone.

In addition it doesn't go in order for 1/3rd stops. It goes from ISO 160 to ISO 10000 and then back down to ISO 200. I understand that ISO 160 is its base ISO and thus multiples of it should be used first. However, that doesn't allow you to do fine adjustments of ISO like you can using shutter priority and Auto ISO.

With Shutter priority I can change both shutter and ISO in 1/3 stops with a single button turn. That is very fast and effective especially in drastically changing light.

dave aston wrote:

Why do you say the ISO button takes to long? Are you referring to a Panny? On an Olympus EP3' it takes a second to open the SVP and change ISO. I use aperture priority and adjust upon F11 purely for dof, controlling that is more important than worrying about where the lense sweet spot is. Which surely can only be seen when pixel peeping and not in prints.

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mpgxsvcd
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to sgoldswo, Aug 6, 2012

Can you post an example of this. I am not doubting you that it is possible. I just happened to have never encountered that situation with an m4/3s lens.

A sample would help me to understand what this looks like.

sgoldswo wrote:

Part of the issue here is that sometimes you know the background bokeh will be unattractive, even with a relatively fast lens like the PL 25mm, because the DOF is much greater. That's certainly led to me stopping down to get more in focus. I would rather have everything in focus than have unattractive bokeh.

That doesn't mean I hate bokeh and subject isolation, it's just that I have realised that not every photo needs it and sometimes it can look a bit rubbish. As ever, m43s can change your shooting style.

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LincolnB
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Hardly ever shoot completely wide open
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 6, 2012

My shots are almost always stopped down, unless I'm dead desperate for shutter speed or narrow DOF. On close focus shots especially I'm more likely to stop WAY down for increased DOF not less. I never use AutoISO either. Never.

It always surprises me that folks demand super sharp lenses and really large megapixel resolution and then they purposely open up the lens in order to eliminate detail. Hey, thin DOF is not the holy grail of photography.

YMMV

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bowportes
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 6, 2012

mpgxsvcd wrote:

With Shutter priority I can change both shutter and ISO in 1/3 stops with a single button turn. That is very fast and effective especially in drastically changing light.

This doesn't make much sense to me.

I shoot in S (shutter priority) mode with Panny cameras a lot. In broad daylight, if ISO is set to Auto and you are in S mode, increasing or decreasing the shutter speed typically modifies the aperture setting rather than the ISO, which remains at 160. It is only in dimmer light, when the aperture has already opened to the maximum at ISO 160, when increasing the SS will bump up the Auto ISO as you describe. In many cases there is enough sunlight that it is impossible to take shots at maximum aperture without a neutral density filter.

F5.6 on most m4/3 lenses will give sharp results and considerable DOF.

Having greater DOF at f2.8 compared to full-frame cams can be an advantage as well as a disadvantage for M4/3. Depends on whether you're looking for selective blurring or greater range of focus in your shot.

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bedhead
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 6, 2012

I can't stop shooting at F8. I've tried, but I can't. The mountains and the vistas whisper to me: "Remember all those screwed up shots with blurry ridges and trees?" F8 F8 F8.

Gah. Then I get back onto the dark trail, and have to open it back up to the ungodly huge hole of 3.5. (yes, we are talking Kit lens)

Maybe it's time to try something different..

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rakore
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 6, 2012

Now why would I do that? I would only shoot wide open if I had to because of lack of light or if I wanted a shallow DOF. More often than not I want more DOF. For street shooting/walkaround I usually use f8 on ASP-C cameras, on m43 I would perhaps use 5.6 instead.

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Re: Hardly ever shoot completely wide open
In reply to LincolnB, Aug 6, 2012

I agree completely.

I've never used auto iso, ever, and hardly ever shoot at anything other than base iso.

And I shoot normally at F5.0, F5.6 or F6.3 to maximise DOF without damaging diffraction.

It's ironic in the film days that all the articles were about maximising DOF and setting the lens to the hyperfocal dstance.

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s_grins
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 6, 2012

I'd like to see links to the photos you are talking about (those with F10 or so) Native M43 lenses show up diffraction from this point, and they best the image somewhere F2.8 - 5.6
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Klarno
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 6, 2012

It's true, most m4/3 lenses are perfectly good wide open. The Panasonic Leica Summilux 25mm f/1.4, in particular, is designed to have rendering like other Leica Summilux lenses wide open. that's part of the charm of the lens, part of why you buy it, so you want to use it at wider aperture settings--at smaller settings, it behaves like any old lens. But with another lens, that's less "unique" in its rendering, there's not really as much impetus to use a wide aperture so often.

Optimum sharpness--something which generally matters a lot to landscape and studio photographers--is, with Micro Four Thirds lenses, generally 1-2 stops down from wide open. And stopping down even further to get more depth of field in many cases adds more to perceived sharpness than simply using the sharpest aperture setting. It all depends on subject matter. What your scene is shaped like. How close your foreground is relative to your background. And yes, it does matter with Micro Four Thirds. Landscape photographers on full frame frequently stop down to f/16, which for the same angle of view gives the same depth of field on Micro Four Thirds.

There are few reasons to stop down below f/8 on Micro Four Thirds though, just as there are few reasons to stop down beyond f/16 on Full Frame, or f/11 on APS-C. Beyond that and you start to lose resolution significantly from diffraction.

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mpgxsvcd
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to bowportes, Aug 6, 2012

For the prime lenses(F2.5 and below) that is correct you typically would not be able to shoot in true wide open in VERY bright sunlight. However, it definitely is not common that you need to stop down much past F2.8 if you are willing to let your shutter speed go all the way to 1/4000th.

F2.8 is about as wide as you can affectively go with very bright sunlight and regular mechanical shutter speeds(1/4000th of second).

Now if you are talking about inducing motion blur with slow shutter durations then yes you would need much smaller apertures. I hadn’t really considered that as a scenario. I accept that in that scenario you might need apertures that go past the point of maximum sharpness.

Please look at the links I cited above. All of the m4/3s lenses that dpreview has tested reach their maximum sharpness in less than 1 stop from their wide open aperture. Like I said before stopping down 1/3rd of a stop or 2/3rds of a stop is understandable to get maximum sharpness. Stopping down 1 stop or more just does not give you a sharper image with more detail for any of the Panasonic m4/3s lenses.

In addition stopping down 1 extra stop is really not changing your depth of field noticeably with the current m4/3s lenses unless you are talking about the macro lenses. And once you stop down past 2 stops you are deteriorating sharpness and resolution with diffraction.

Other than the two rare instances I described above(motion blur and macro images) I don’t see a reason to shoot in any mode other than Shutter priority with Auto ISO. That will typically select wide open unless you are in very bright sunlight where it will usually select within 1-2 stops of wide open.

Can you guys post some examples(other than motion blur and macro) of situations where shooting at or very near wide open would present an issue with the image?

bowportes wrote:

mpgxsvcd wrote:

With Shutter priority I can change both shutter and ISO in 1/3 stops with a single button turn. That is very fast and effective especially in drastically changing light.

This doesn't make much sense to me.

I shoot in S (shutter priority) mode with Panny cameras a lot. In broad daylight, if ISO is set to Auto and you are in S mode, increasing or decreasing the shutter speed typically modifies the aperture setting rather than the ISO, which remains at 160. It is only in dimmer light, when the aperture has already opened to the maximum at ISO 160, when increasing the SS will bump up the Auto ISO as you describe. In many cases there is enough sunlight that it is impossible to take shots at maximum aperture without a neutral density filter.

F5.6 on most m4/3 lenses will give sharp results and considerable DOF.

Having greater DOF at f2.8 compared to full-frame cams can be an advantage as well as a disadvantage for M4/3. Depends on whether you're looking for selective blurring or greater range of focus in your shot.

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mpgxsvcd
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to Klarno, Aug 6, 2012

According to all of these dpreview tests the maximum sharpness is much closer to wide open than it is to 1-2 stops down for all m4/3s lenses they have tested. None of these are Leica lenses. However, the 7-14mm and 14-140mm are particularly good lenses. They just don't have the Leica name.

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicdmcgh1/page17.asp

http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/panasonic_45_2p8_o20/3

http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/panasonic_20_1p7_o20/3

http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/panasonic_7-14_4_o20/4

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/panasonicGF1/page19.asp

Klarno wrote:

Optimum sharpness--something which generally matters a lot to landscape and studio photographers--is, with Micro Four Thirds lenses, generally 1-2 stops down from wide open.

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mpgxsvcd
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to rakore, Aug 6, 2012

Can you show me a street photo with an auto focusing Panasonic m4/3s lens where there is too shallow of a depth of field without any post processing to enhance the shallowness? I have not encountered that situation yet.

rakore wrote:

Now why would I do that? I would only shoot wide open if I had to because of lack of light or if I wanted a shallow DOF. More often than not I want more DOF. For street shooting/walkaround I usually use f8 on ASP-C cameras, on m43 I would perhaps use 5.6 instead.

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sgoldswo
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Re: Why not always shoot wide open with m4/3s?
In reply to mpgxsvcd, Aug 6, 2012

Sure - here is an example of a photo of some public art near spitalfields in London. Shot at F1.4, 25mm PL on E-M5:

To me, the background here is more distracting than it would be if it were all in focus. I will admit this is all in the eye of the beholder but shots like this made me prefer stopping down (or using a slower lens) to get background in focus, particularly if the background adds to the picture. Here is an example of that, where I choose to stop the Oly 12mm down to F7.1 to purposefully keep the trees in the background in focus:

It is a balancing act because you don't want to have a distracting background. Nevertheless I know I adjust aperture very differently on M43s compared to a M9 or an X-Pro1.

mpgxsvcd wrote:

Can you post an example of this. I am not doubting you that it is possible. I just happened to have never encountered that situation with an m4/3s lens.

A sample would help me to understand what this looks like.

sgoldswo wrote:

Part of the issue here is that sometimes you know the background bokeh will be unattractive, even with a relatively fast lens like the PL 25mm, because the DOF is much greater. That's certainly led to me stopping down to get more in focus. I would rather have everything in focus than have unattractive bokeh.

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mpgxsvcd
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Re: Hardly ever shoot completely wide open
In reply to LincolnB, Aug 6, 2012

Why? Because you think it won't select the proper ISO or because you just have never tried it?

With the older m4/3s cameras it was not usable because it would start raising ISO way too late(Slower shutter durations). With the GH2 and later cameras it is better(1 over 2x focal length instead of 1 over 1x focal length) but not quite perfect(User selectable algorithm).

Auto ISO Bug with older cameras
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfY2am3NYC8

LincolnB wrote:

I never use AutoISO either. Never.

YMMV

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