The Shallow Depth of Field Challenge

A common question thrown around by new photographers is whether they can get that professional-looking shots of people where the background is blurred using only their small cameras. Last night, I challenged myself to produce this shallow depth of field effect using only my m43 camera and kit lens. This challenge was brought about by proponents of full frame cameras who claim that the smallish sensors of m43 cameras are not good enough when it comes to achieving this creamy background blur.

And so I took some photos indoors using a toy as my subject. Is the m43 up for the challenge? Let’s find out:

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I think it’s more than good enough 🙂

Update: The “Impressionist” Challenge

Not really sure what that means but from the sample shots that have been provided to me it looks like make sure that “almost nothing is in focus” kind of shot.

So here it is completely unedited straight from the camera with a kit lens:

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Not sure if my shot makes sense here but I’m getting the “impression” that this is what impressionist means. 🙂

No,  I won’t even post that in my gallery. It’s just a sample of what can be done by a small camera and a kit lens.

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12 thoughts on “The Shallow Depth of Field Challenge”

      1. Some people — myself included — like to create impressionist images that hint at what the scene contains, very much like some paintings. It’s not for everyone, but it can’t be recreated with the smaller imaging chips.

      2. In your example I could have just defocused the camera. Why do I need a larger camera for a shot with nothing in focus?

      3. Am I right to assume that you don’t own a m43 or haven’t used one? That’s what I’m getting from your comments. Anyway I’ll update the blog with an “impressionist” shot.

      4. No, I’ve used an m43 – as well as nearly every other format out there, from pinhole up to medium format. I’ve never shot large format due to the weight and expense. My preference is for smaller cameras with big sensors.

        Photography is most enjoyable when you’re happy with the results, no matter what the equipment. So if you’re satisfied with your current images, then stick with it.

      5. Strange then that you look down on small cameras. I own a full frame and a MF too but I never think of m43 as inferior. In fact I use them way more than my bigger cameras.

      6. Now you’re putting words in my mouth.

        I don’t look down upon small cameras, but I do recognize that there are things they are not capable of doing — and perfectly replicating the physics of shallow depth-of-field focusing with a full-frame imaging chip is just one item they cannot match.

        Strange that you don’t recognize this yourself with your other cameras, unless you prefer to shoot everything in perfect focus. If that’s the case, then simply enjoy your results and the money you save by not chasing after the ever elusive shallow DoF grail.

      7. It was you who said that your shot is IMPOSSIBLE with smaller cameras. The whole point of the blog post is that full frame snobs told me exactly that smaller cameras can’t do the shallow DoF effect. I took the challenge and showed examples of what can be done and here you are saying exactly why I posted this blog in the first place. That small cameras can’t.

        The problems with noobs is that shallow DoF is all they ever do. Because that is the easy way out. When nothing is in focus, there is no point in composition. Just put the subject dead in the center and click. Forget rule of thirds — nothing is in focus anyway. It’s when everything is in focus that a photographer is tested in his ability. Shallow DoF looks nice and does not need much brain cells to execute. That’s why beginners love it. It’s really not much. It’s just showing what the equipment can do not what the photographer can do.

        Shallow DoF is nice as long as it makes sense. It’s a problem that needs to be solved not a feature that you can abuse.

    1. Exactly my point. Don’t spoil the fun we are getting with our tiny cameras especially that they are every bit as capable as their larger counterparts.

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