Potential dead horse: how bad is FF's deep DoF disadvantage?

Started Mar 5, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Re: SmartPhones and Shallow DoF - no large sensors needed

Ontario Gone wrote:

sportyaccordy wrote:

Lab D wrote:

If you haven't seen smartphone camera makers are working hard to not only create very shallow DoF, but to also let you pick the focal point AFTER the picture is taken. There are many benefits here. One is, no longer will you slightly miss focus and ruin a shot, and another is you can change your mind later after evaluating what looks better.

This will trickle up to the larger sensors too. And NO, at this moment you can NOT do it for EVERY situation, but it is only a matter of time.

Interesting stuff indeed, but ultimately those techniques are utilizing clever ways to simulate a larger sensor, usually through an array of small ones. I'm excited to see that, and I'm sure it will make for interesting stuff, but ultimately sensor area is sensor area.

Im not sure the end all should be defined by sensor area. Lets say for the sake of discussion a brand could affordably make a sensor that was 1' by 1.5', and a F1.8 lens to match. Sure the low light capability wide open would be absolutely crazy, but how much of a shot would be visible and sharp? If you framed a person's head and shoulders for a portrait style shot with a FF 50mm equiv lens (whatever FL would give that FOV, maybe a 300mm?), you would be lucky to have an entire eyeball in focus.

This is the point of many people about FF, when you need larger apertures for low light shots the DOF is too thin. For more and more people, F1.4 or F1.8 is sufficiently thin enough on apsc or MFT, and anything more becomes a detriment. Yes better light gathering is nice, but i would rather have a little too much noise than too thin DOF. Afterall, if you look at the pricetags in the long run, it's cheaper to buy a spendy super fast F1.2'ish lens once for a smaller format than it is to buy a FF camera every time you buy a camera.

I think i speak for many when i say, F1.X on MFT/apsc gives me as thin of DOF as i will ever want, to go thinner just because a camera offers it is a waste of money.

It is, of course, a matter of personal preference. However, let's give a context in terms of photos. the following are all at 50mm f/1.2 on FF:


Not "too shallow" for me, but, for sure, others may feel otherwise.  By the way, all but one of those photos was at ISO 100, so it's not like I just use wide apertures for lower noise.  However, I will say that when it comes to lower noise vs deeper DOF, most people choose lower noise, even if they'd normally prefer a deeper DOF.

That said, if you are one for whom you'd choose the more noisy photo with a deeper DOF, then, for sure, the larger format is not your best choice in low light.  Likewise, if the detail given by 36 MP FF sensors and lenses doesn't translate into your photos for the size you display them, then, once again, FF is not going to be your best choice.

My personal opinion is that the vast majority are better suited with the smaller formats, but this is based solely upon size, weight, and cost considerations.  If FF were the same size, weight, and cost as smaller formats, I don't think many would choose the smaller formats.  That is, the IQ of smaller formats is "good enough" to where the IQ advantages of larger formats are overshadowed by the operational disadvantages for the majority.

Then again, how often do you see a photo where the IQ makes or breaks it?  That is, the photo would have been more successful if it had had "higher IQ" or less successful if it had had "lower IQ"?  For sure, I can give examples of both, but what I'm saying is that, for the vast majority, the IQ differential between systems is not a factor in the success of the photo with pretty much any modern (and many not so modern) systems.

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