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

Started Mar 5, 2014 | Discussions thread
Erik Magnuson Forum Pro • Posts: 12,247
Re: Potential dead horse: how bad is FF's deep DoF disadvantage?

GeraldW wrote:

Erik Magnuson wrote:

Films were slow and precision focus aids were relatively expensive.

I'm not sure what you meant by that. Films were quite slow, although Ektachrome 160 was around, and Agfa had a usable ASA 200 slide film.

Today ISO 200 is the minimum ISO of some cameras. But if you were shooting color in 1955, you were shooting at ASA 12 for Kodachrome and ASA 32 for Ektachrome -- Highspeed Ektachrome @ASA 160 did not come out until 1959. Thus if you were shooting color film in anything but bright light and/or needed a decent shutter speed, you were shooting at pretty wide apertures and could easily desire more DOF.

My first good camera was the Argus C4 with a pretty decent rangefinder. Lens was a 50 mm f/2.8,

Decent for a 50mm f/2.8. Marginal for a 50mm f/1.9 (for the C44) unless you kept it religiously adjusted.

but my next camera, a Miranda F SLR did have a 55 f/1.9 & a Soligor 135 f/2.8 by the late 60's, and Agfa ASA 200 was of pretty good quality by then.

But were the magazine articles still about getting/needing more DOF by then? You had a lot more exposure options. And now you had TTL split-image or microprism focus aids that worked well enough to shoot those lenses wide open reliably for less than Leica prices.

My point was that while isolation of the subject was discussed in magazines & photography books, it was always in a limited context - portraiture being the most prominent. For most other subjects

What are most other subjects? Landscapes & other scenics? Certainly not sports or wildlife or many of the things we shoot easily today that were much more specialized back then.

discussions seemed to be more about how to increase DOF.

Back then getting more DOF was harder - because of the slow films you frequently needed a tripod to shoot at f/11 or f/16. You needed DOF markings and tables. Getting it all sharp was the technical challenge. It was even more technical for medium format or large format. Today, we have ubiquitous small sensor cameras that have tremendous DOF and our base ISO is what they considered high-speed.

Now, the pendulum seems to have swung too far the other way with isolation of the subject being of paramount importance for a much wider range of subjects.

That's because shallow DOF is affordable and yet still somewhat difficult to do right. Any camera you buy (including phone cams) can easily do sharp, deep DOF landscapes easily handheld in good light so there is little to write about.

I've always regarded DOF as just another tool to be used when needed. I suppose the great DOF on small sensor cameras has lead to a kind of frustration on the part of those who value subject isolation, so they keep harping on it.

Well, yes. It's something they can do that will still wow someone who's mainly used compacts and phone-cams.

The buyers of those kinds of cameras could care less;

The buyers of those cameras are not typical DPR forum readers either.

Only in the better enthusiast cameras are we seeing larger apertures and therefore, some opportunity to limit DOF.

Exactly: these days being able to limit DOF is a signature of a more capable enthusiast camera. Some like bigger, bolder signatures and some don't.

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