Is it -hard- to get really shallow DoF with m4/3?

Started 7 months ago | Questions
a13
a13
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Is it -hard- to get really shallow DoF with m4/3?
7 months ago

I've been looking at a Lumix G6 and while checking out lenses, I've read a few reviews saying, "this is how you can get shallow DoF", which seems to me to imply that it's a bit of a challenge. I.E. you need to buy good primes and on top of that you have to know what you are doing.

I don't really know too much what I'm doing, and I don't want to spend a whole bundle on lenses. A bit, sure, but not a whole bundle.

I transported a friend's new 6D a while back and was able to get some lovely shots of my gf without doing anything more than attaching the lens.. I'm not expecting anything as simple as that but I'd like to be able to get some nice soft backgrounds in more than just absolutely perfect conditions.. and if possible with some of the zoom lenses, so that I don't always have to carry around a bunch of primes.

Does this sound like something reasonable to expect? Given the G6 is basically SLR-sized anyway I'm wondering if I'm not better off with the other format.. especially considering that my other interest is low-light pictures.

Help please?

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Canon EOS 6D Panasonic Lumix DMC-G6
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lambert4
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It's easier to judge if you have an example of an image you liked...
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

The short answer is the fast wide apertures allow easier separation and blur of the background. The truth is the performance and speed of any system with a kit lens if that is what you are leaning towards will be average at best and take more preparation and effort, not hard but thought involved. To get any FF like a 6D and equivalent lens you would be out considerably more money than the m4/3 version.

Look through a few galleries on Flickr or sort this forums post by images only. DOF is a tool easily used with most longer FL lens on m4/3 or wider aperture primes.

I think your question was too vague or more so maybe I couldn't gather what you wanted other than bokeh in portraits, and that is certainly easily accomplished in most ILC systems now with a proper setup.

Regarding lowlight I have recently gotten nice 6400ISO images of moving kids by streetlight only.  This was astounding to me, and the newer sensors claim even better performance than my EM5.

I really suggest looking at the galleries and judging for yourself if the images are what you are looking for, good luck.

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Lab D
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Re: Is it -hard- to get really shallow DoF with m4/3?
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

It's not too hard.  Crop or zoom in (that is the real difference between M43 and larger sensors).  Use a longer lens (The 100-300 @100mm and F/4 does very well).  Postion yourself so the background is father away from the subject.  Use a legacy lens like the Canon FD 50mm F/1.2 or a much cheaper F/1.4.  And you can allways add more blur to a pick later.

I don't like shallow DoF.  I never liked pics where one eye is in focus and another is not.  Too often I would take a group picture and find one person looked good and the rest looked blurry.  Instead I found there are better wasy to isolate the subject such as vignetting, using a solid color background, over exposing the background, etc.

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Bob Tullis
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No, it's not.
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

You might use a lens with a longer focal length with a different distance to the subject than one would with a larger format/sensor camera.   One that is seeped in full frame practices might find that confounding, but you don't have that foundation to overcome.

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Deleted010614
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Re: Is it -hard- to get really shallow DoF with m4/3?
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

Not if you have good glass and understand the variables that affect depth of field. The m4/3 images below were all shot with a 17mm (34mm effective) Oly 1.8 lens and wider angles like this generally produce deeper DOF than more telephoto lenses can. Granted I could get shallower DOF quicker with my full frame Canon but Do you think I need to based on these images? I don't think so for me. You can do more amazing things with knowledge than gear!

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s_grins
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Re: Is it -hard- to get really shallow DoF with m4/3?
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

Show me a sample of shallow DOF that you want, and I'll tell you how hard to get it with M43 system. All speculations and calculations are pointless.

Alternative way: you may look at my (or anybody else) gallery for the answer

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a13
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Re: No, it's not.
In reply to Bob Tullis, 7 months ago

Yeah that middle shot with the people by the wall is kinda what I'm thinking of, though it's not -uniquely- for portraits, although that will make up a large part of it, but also just because I like the idea of messing with shots half in & out of focus.. like one eye vs the other, for instance.

I was unsure about the whole zoom business, mainly because it seems to be the understood fact that you need a fast lens, whereas zooms are often much slower than any given fixed-focal. But if the longer FL starts to influence more than the F/ then I guess there's some potential there.

I have seen some very nice shots on this forum already but they always seem to be with the really best cameras (eg EM1) and the expensive primes..

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a13
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Re: Is it -hard- to get really shallow DoF with m4/3?
In reply to Deleted010614, 7 months ago

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Love this one. How to do this with a 14-140mm?

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targut
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Re: Is it -hard- to get really shallow DoF with m4/3?
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

I personally consider shallow DoF as poor mans composing tool (it makes pictures boring because only the subject is visible and there is no motion, no interaction, and no story in the picture).

However, in cases when it is needed, there are different ways to get shallow DoF:

  1. use wide aperture
  2. move yourself

the second one means that you need to get as close to your subject as possible while trying to keep the remaining objects as far as possible. Actually, you have unlimited capabilities with the second choice.

What I am trying to tell you: it is not difficult to get really shallow DoF with m4/3, and without knowing your subject, it is useless to discuss it further. For example, when you take a macro shot of an insect, the shallow DoF is a problem even with an m4/3 camera.

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agentul
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Re: No, it's not.
In reply to Bob Tullis, 7 months ago

Bob Tullis wrote:


this looks fake. i think it falls in the uncanny valley, and it looks like the background is completely separated from the subject, as if the latter has been added afterward. background separation is nice, but this is a little too much. also, the fact that it seems to have been shot in a cemetery makes everything look creepier.

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broody
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Re: It's easier to judge if you have an example of an image you liked...
In reply to lambert4, 7 months ago

I second what lambert said... "Really thin" DOF means different things to different people.

With some exceptions, M43 lenses are designed to be compact first and fast second. Even so, if shooting a M43 lens wide open and near its minimum focus distance, DOF gets as small as I could ever possibly want. Even the 14mm pancake. Faster and longer lenses (25mm 1.8 and 45mm easily plunge a portrait in a sea of background blur. The upcoming 42.5mm Nocticron will even give you that funny effect where you have your subject's eyes in focus yet the ears are already out of focus.

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a13
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Re: It's easier to judge if you have an example of an image you liked...
In reply to broody, 7 months ago

I'm not sure I would ever -want- "really really thin", I was more interested in how difficult it would actually be, nominally. I do really like shots where there is soft focus both in front and behind of an in-focus subject.

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harold1968
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Re: Is it -hard- to get really shallow DoF with m4/3?
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

a13 wrote:

I've been looking at a Lumix G6 and while checking out lenses, I've read a few reviews saying, "this is how you can get shallow DoF", which seems to me to imply that it's a bit of a challenge. I.E. you need to buy good primes and on top of that you have to know what you are doing.

I don't really know too much what I'm doing, and I don't want to spend a whole bundle on lenses. A bit, sure, but not a whole bundle.

I transported a friend's new 6D a while back and was able to get some lovely shots of my gf without doing anything more than attaching the lens.. I'm not expecting anything as simple as that but I'd like to be able to get some nice soft backgrounds in more than just absolutely perfect conditions.. and if possible with some of the zoom lenses, so that I don't always have to carry around a bunch of primes.

Does this sound like something reasonable to expect? Given the G6 is basically SLR-sized anyway I'm wondering if I'm not better off with the other format.. especially considering that my other interest is low-light pictures.

Help please?

Just use the right aperture and you are fine

nothing is difficult, like anything else you just have to understand how it works.

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joeletx
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Re: No, it's not.
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

Here is another example. You don't have to have a wide aperture alone. Long focal length will give you the same effect.

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Bob Tullis
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Re: No, it's not.
In reply to agentul, 7 months ago

agentul wrote:

Bob Tullis wrote:

this looks fake. i think it falls in the uncanny valley, and it looks like the background is completely separated from the subject, as if the latter has been added afterward. background separation is nice, but this is a little too much. also, the fact that it seems to have been shot in a cemetery makes everything look creepier.

It's intended to be an example of too much. I believe it was executed with a Hexanon 40 or 50mm 1.something, nothing done in post that affected the DOF exhibited IIRC (mainly tonal tweaking, maybe NR). In the 10 years prior to this, I didn't chase thin DOF much, and this was a bit of getting my feet wet with the prospect. And I purposely didn't choose examples taken with one of the Nokton's as of late, wanting to show what's possible with affordable optics.

Of course, you can provide your own examples that show what's possible in the way of isolating the subject from the background.

I don't know what you mean about 'uncanny valley', but warm and fuzzy definitely wasn't the objective.

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Chas2
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Re: Is it -hard- to get really shallow DoF with m4/3?
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

I think it is very lens dependent, of course...focal length, aperture, etc.  Clearly you do have a one stop DOF disadvantage given identical framing and conditions, but can you get thin DOF, absolutely.  It is harder with slower lenses, typically kit zooms like the 14-45 or wide primes, or even wide zooms like the 9-18.  I find the increased depth of field to be very helpful in many situations, just as the decreased depth of field can be very useful in others.  I think it is a matter of realizing the limitations of your equipment, whether tiny point and shoot sensors or larger sensors, and the effect focal length and aperture have with image circle.  For example, when I bought my first superzoom canon years ago, I was shocked to find I could get 600 mm effective focal length out of 100 mm lens.  I was just as shocked the aperture range at 100 mm was f5.7 to about f10, due in part to difraction issues...

The thinnest I have gotten, really paper thin, is with a $15.00 Minolta Rokkor-X 50 mm f1.7, first realized when shooting live butterflies in the Smithsonian, 3-5 feet distant at f1.7 or f2.0 shooting with a GX1 and EVF.  I am glad that MF magnification is available at a push of the control wheel.  You could really get the eye in focus.

That is my opinion anyway.

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John Mason
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Easy as the focal length gets higher and the F-Stop gets lower
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

Basically I set the camera to Aperture priority and shoot full wide up - or the lowest f stop of the lens. The longer the focal length the better this isolation as well.
Here's the 45 1.8

And one with the 75 1.8

And one with the 60mm Macro at f2.8

What I particularly like about the the EM1 is the face detect closest eye focusing feature which makes shots like the above very simple to get.

The reason primes are often used over zooms is twofold:

Most of the zooms don't have as low an F-stop available as the primes. And the zooms may have a busier background than the primes. The smoothness of that background out of focus quality is called Bokeh btw.
There is endless debate on these forums about FF vs m4/3 and depth of field control. A couple of points in that regard, the typical m4/3 prime is sharper shot fully wide open than many FF primes shot wide open. And on the FF primes often you need to stop down a bit or the depth of field can be so narrow as to be excessive.
Here's a FF 50mm f1.2 shot of the same grand daughter as above when she first tasted a chip with salsa. In this case I stopped down 2 stops to f1.8. The 50 f1.2 shot full open can be too thin. You can buy an adaptor and use these lenses with m4/3 as well, though there really is no need.:

The best value I've used for getting thin DOF in a m4/3 system is the 45 f1.8 from Olympus. While the best lens I've shot with for this purpose, but it's not cheap is the 75 f1.8 also from Olympus. This is just my personal experience. There are tons of options. You can pick up a used 50mm f1.8 for the OM system and stick it on a m4/3 camera with an adaptor and spend less than 150 bucks too. There are also the .95 f-stop lenses that can equal the FF dof made specifically for the m4/3 format. There are gobs of lens choices for this system, which also adds to the fun.
Hope some of the above is useful in your quest for 'that look' !

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rcjim
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Re: DOF and High ISO
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

Below are a couple of shots of the the family cat shot with my GX7.

Decent DOF using Panasonic 25mm 1.4 lens @ 3200 ISO

High ISO using Panasonic 45-150mm @ 8000 ISO

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JeanPierre Martel
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Re: Is it -hard- to get really shallow DoF with m4/3?
In reply to a13, 7 months ago

a13 wrote:

I'm not expecting anything as simple as that but I'd like to be able to get some nice soft backgrounds in more than just absolutely perfect conditions.. and if possible with some of the zoom lenses, so that I don't always have to carry around a bunch of primes.

You don't need prime or expensive lenses to get shallow DOF. The rules are simple:
a) Shoot with the widest aperture that your lens has
b) Shoot as close as you can
c) Shoot at the longest focal length that you can.

For example, a 14-42mm m4/3 zoom F/3,5-5,6 (by Olympus or Panasonic) will give you the shallowest DOF at 42mm and F/5,6 at their minimal focus distance (25 to 30 cm). Let's say at 30 cm, the DOF will be 0,74 cm (7,4 mm).

You can calculate it yourself at:
http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

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agentul
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Re: No, it's not.
In reply to Bob Tullis, 7 months ago

Bob Tullis wrote:

agentul wrote:

Bob Tullis wrote:

It's intended to be an example of too much.

i thought so.

Of course, you can provide your own examples that show what's possible in the way of isolating the subject from the background.

here's an affordable example. i'm sure that others can do better.

I don't know what you mean about 'uncanny valley', but warm and fuzzy definitely wasn't the objective.

i used the term loosely. basically, it's an aesthetic interval between what looks completely fake or artificial and what looks entirely plausible or natural. for example, some people find 48 FPS movies to fall in the uncanny valley .

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