DOF gurus, please help!

Discussion in 'Photography Techniques' started by pictogramax, Jul 15, 2013.

  1. For more than two years I'm shooting NEX3 and legacy glass, manually focusing of course. Although I've tried several lenses, most of my images are shot with Minolta 45mm f2.0 (but mostly at f2.8). I just love the handling of that lens and the creamy look it gives.


    Although I don't mind focusing manually for my personal "arty" stuff (I enjoy it actually), I rarely go on my loved photo-explorations. Just not enough time for it. What I try to shoot regularly, though, is documenting the growing of my daughter. I got skilled enough to be able to get nice shots, especially with her (as she knows it takes me a bit to get it right) and I'm relatively satisfied with the results I'm getting. But more and more I'm asked by parents of her friends to snap their kids also, and document the ballet classes or else... Getting the running kids in the heat of a birthday party is tough :) So I'm thinking of adding an auto-focus combo again.


    What I found out is that I hate changing lenses and I don't really like zooms. I develop a "feel" of a single focal length if I use it frequently enough and then I zoom with my feet faster than I decide what focal lens of my zoom to use :) I'm gravitating towards the "normalish" FOV, somewhere in the 40 - 60 mm range. My Minolta 45mm (around 70mm with 1.5 crop factor) often feels a bit too long, but I don't have the other option, so I learned to work with it. I spiced this novel-like post with several examples of NEX3 + Minolta 45mm combo.


    On top of all that, I don't tend to spend really large chunks of money on my gear. So I made a short-list of camera/lens combinations I'm interested in (all of them being older models or on sale). But these are not only different focal lengths, but also different sensor sizes, so I got curious about how much of DOF control I would be loosing or gaining by going in each direction. If someone shot with these (or similar) combinations and systems, I would love to hear your opinions of differences in actual use.


    By the table I made (posted on the end of this long rambling) you'll be able to tell what cameras and lenses I shortlisted. The obvious and least expensive option is to just add Sigma 30mm f2.8 to my NEX3. I would get AF, wider FOV and a slightly smaller package by loosing the adapter for the lens. The other NEX option, 35mm f1.8 OSS is more tempting, but too expensive for me. Not only it costs a lot by itself, but also cannot be purchased here so special-ordering and customs really put it out of my league.


    While researching I found out that I could get something even better than Sigma, a 30mm f2.0 for Samsung NX. It's a stop faster and almost half in size compared to Sigma 30mm (which are both big pluses). And I would stay in APS-C camp that way. Samsung NX1000 with a 20-50mm kit lens is on sale here; it's a smalish lens for a kit zoom, and has just the right range for me. The whole NX system seems relatively affordable compared to others.


    Another not-so-big combo would be Panasonic G3 and 20mm f1.7 lens. I specifically mention G3 from m4/3 camp as I have one with me for last couple of days; a friend offered to sell me his (I'm testing it with 14-42 kit zoom). I expected to like it a lot, as I once briefly played with it in store, but after a bit of time some skeletons came out of the closet. No actual live-preview or working histogram in M mode is a big downturn for me, as I prefer shooting manually. I managed to come to terms with aperture priority and exposure compensation, but it's more of a "forced fix" than pleasure. I really thought that mirrorless is all about WYSIWYG, but apparently not for Panasonic designers :-( Even more disturbing are, at least to me, somewhat "weird" Panasonic colors, always having some pinkish/magentish tinge to them. I shot in several ambiances I know well and it is rather constant, as compared to both my NEX3 and Nikon D70. So although I thought it would be on top of my list, day by day it falls to the bottom place.


    Last but not least is Nikon V1, also on sale here. That was, to cite Steve Huff, a camera I expected to hate, for it's "smalish" sensor and "anti-manual" user interface. But researching it after Sue got one, and playing with it in shop, left me enamored. With 18.5 (a 50mm equivalent) it would be small but hefty, fast and silent camera. While discussing with myself would I sacrifice DOF for all the other benefits of Nikon 1 system I found this review of 18.5 lens by Craig Litten:

    The Nikon 18.5 f/1.8 CX Lens Review for the 1 Series by Craig Litten | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS

    I liked the portrait samples and it inspired me to use DOF calculator for the first time. If I used it correctly, it seems that, in spite of smaller sensor, but because of longer focal length, it would give similar DOF control to both m4/3 20mm f1.7 and APS-C 30mm f2.8. A different field of view, I know, but similar DOF control. Am I getting it right?


    Thanks for adding your thoughts and experiences!
  2. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Milan, I know you weren't fishing for compliments, but these photos are ALL great. I think whatever you shoot with, you'll be good. If it were me and I was trying to keep it simple and within a budget, I'd just add the Sigma lens to the NEX. You're already familiar with the camera and getting GREAT results. I guess I would also consider the Samsung since the sensor is the same size.

    I've also seen great results with that little Nikon, but my experience with it did not match the results I see from others....maybe too much pixel peeping, but I think it's more that I prefer the IQ of bigger sensors. The Pentax K-01 with the 40mm would be a good choice, too. I think the Pentax files are amazing. Good luck with your choice.
  3. wt21

    wt21 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    Shorthand, think of it in f/stops. If you like 2.8 on a 45mm on NEX, as that's like 4.0 on a 70mm on full frame. m43 is 1/2 Full Frame, so you should look for a 35mm 2.0 or faster on m43. Pentax and Samsung act just like your NEX. If you want creamy backgrounds, drop the Nikon 1 series from your consideration.
  4. entropic remnants

    entropic remnants Hall of Famer

    Mar 3, 2013
    John Griggs
    Wow, way too complex for me, brother. I wish you well, but your chart makes my eyes water sorry.

    I just shoot and if it works I keep it. My advice is carefully buy used and then you can sell it if you don't like it with very little loss.

    I'm sure somebody here will tell you EXACTLY what you need to get -- but it won't be me.
  5. Milan, I am going to get a Nikon 18.5mm f/1.8, the equivalent focal length will be around 50mm... perfect. john m flores has one on his V1 IIRC and the results are pretty spectacular. The 10mm is not so good. I'd also like to get the 32mm f/1.2 which is hideously expensive, given that its going on a little mirrorless with a 1" sensor... but god its tempting. Its only at preorder stage though.

    Here's John's thread, with input from others as well
  6. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    If you're wanting to play around with shallow depth-of-field I would skip the 20mm Micro 4/3 lens, unless you're right up close with your subject. The Samsung 30mm f2 lens will be better for that purpose, and they also have a 45mm f1.8 lens which has the exact same FOV as your Minolta, albeit at the cost of approx $US400 from memory. You do however mention kids running around and I wouldn't really describe my NX200 and 30mm (basically identical internals to the NX1000) as being lightning fast to focus.

    I must also add that you seem to be doing pretty bloody well with your existing setup as is!
  7. Boid

    Boid All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Gosh, I wish I had half as much clarity when I choose my gear, instead of behaving like a bull in a china shop and then buying everything I break!

    Sorry I'm not much help with this system, but I second Luke's observation that you probably shouldn't look at changing systems. I got someone at work to buy a Nikon 1 and spent a day playing with it, ended up hating the camera, myself, Nikon, their lenses, their engineers and the world in general. But that's just me. Really lovely pictures, and when your daughter grows up I hope she realizes how lucky she is!
  8. Rajiv I really hope your workmate likes the camera!! LOL.
  9. Boid

    Boid All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Sue, she loves it!
  10. Hyubie

    Hyubie Top Veteran

    Jun 8, 2011
    My eyes just glazed over when I came to the charts. Nothing helpful to add here, but just wanted to complement you on the pics. Your daughter will appreciate it when she gets older. (I sure wish my parents took more pics of me when I was a kid, but money was tight and the cost of film+developing is prohibitive. I just think that I'm lucky to even have a few. :smile:)
  11. bartjeej

    bartjeej Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 12, 2010
    Charts look good, all equal focus distance, and as close to correct focal lengths and apertures as the website allows. Yes, the longer equivalent focal length / equivalent field of view is what compensates for the smaller physical aperture diameter.

    So, as you can see from the charts, the Nikon 18.5/1.8 combo gives you slightly shallower DOF than the m43 20/1.7 or the NEX with the Sigma 30/2.8, but slightly less than the Samsung 30/2, and a good bit less than the Pentax with 40/2.8 or the Sony with a 45/2.8 (both of which are 60mm efov or longer).

    oh, and great pics! :smile:
  12. wt21

    wt21 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    But the chart shows the same distance to subject -- 1.5m. That would create different framing for each of those lenses.

    For example, the 20mm on m43 is equivalent to 40mm on full frame (2x crop). The 18.5mm on Nikon 1 series is equivalent to 50mm (2.7X crop). So, you have to stand 25% farther back, OR 1.875m, for the same framing. This ends up giving the Nikon a DOF of .4m vs .28 for the m43.
  13. zapatista

    zapatista Veteran

    Jul 28, 2012
    Denver, Colorado
    Same thoughts here...very nice pics! Great bokeh from only 5 blades. The 30mm Sigma is a great lens, also the 22mm f2 fire sale w/the EOS M ( may not be attractively priced in Serbia) does very nice for shallow DOF with 15mm minimal focal distance and a 1.6 crop compared to 1.5 for the APS-C Sony/Samsung sensors. You can't go wrong with MC/MD lenses which your snaps exemplify.

    Another thought on NEX 3 vs. EOS articulating screen and focus peaking, while not essential are really nice to have!
  14. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    The OP is primarily interested in creating shallow DOF shots and is willing to work with different focal lengths to that least that is my understanding of his post.
  15. wt21

    wt21 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    Of course, but you have to account for framing.
  16. First of all, thanks a lot, everybody, for so many nice words!

    I gather I've been going in the right direction generally, although wt21 raised the proper question regarding these comparisons; the FOV is different for these combinations. I know it, but was looking to get at least a vague idea how these combinations might perform relative to each other.


    Seeing that V1 +18.5mm would land me near m4/3+20mm or NEX+30mm is reassuring. Even more as 30mm on NEX gives 45mm FOV, which is not the same, but similar in composing to 50mm. As I have shot with Vivitar 28mm f2.8 on my Nex3, I now have an idea of what is possible with little Nikon V1. The first two images in this post were shot with that combo. While no doubt less DOF control than 45mm, some separation is obtainable. Given how smaller the sensor of Nikon 1 is compared to NEX, I find it OK.


    Sue, thanks for reminding me of John Flores, I remembered I've seen some of his 18.5mm samples also and that those were very good. I researched a bit more and found his other interesting comparison of "fifties":

    What Blog is This?: The New Normals

    The other reason I'm drawn to V1 is that diminutive but fully articulated flash for Nikon 1 system:

    Nikon SB-N5 Speedlight | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
    Nikon SB-N5 Speedlight | Flickr - Photo Sharing!


    I used to do a lot of flash photography while shooting with my D70 and SB600 flashgun. I dropped that practice altogether when I switched to NEX, as my NEX3 has the proprietary hot-shoe and just an upwards-facing dinky little flash. To go back to flash photography with NEX I would have to step up to NEX6 (which would be great, but is too expensive for me). Have to check what would be the smallest fully articulated flashgun for Samsung NX.


    Nick, as you mentioned you have NX200 and 30mm, would you mind sharing a couple of portraits done in similar fashion to my samples? Not necessarily kids, of course, just anything to give me a rough idea of DOF possibilities :) I don't think that AF speed of Samsung would bother me - anything is fast compared to manual focusing:)

    Luke, Pentax files I've seen really do seem extraordinary in depth and richness, I completely agree. But on one hand, K-01 looks so weird to me, and on the other cannot be seen in flesh here, to try and bond with it before the eventual buy.
  17. rbelyell

    rbelyell All-Pro

    May 14, 2013
    NY Mtns
    first, your shots are lovely. you have a knack for timing.

    personally, i would discount the nikon, which i owned and sold. first the IQ is simply not as good as your present setup. second, its crop factor is greater than yours, greater than m4/3, which means its that much harder to get shallow DOF. lastly, its manual capability stinks. so, imo, based on my personal experience, it has none of your requirements.

    the samsung nx delivers very good quality, as ive seen on other forums. i'm not sure about the ease of its manual capability. if you are set on an m4/3 type sensor, i used an ep2 for years and loved it. combine it with a reasonably priced oly 17/2.8 and you have a pretty good combo. and the oly has good manual control capability, though i typically shoot in aperture priority.

    imo, neither the samsung nor the older oly pen series work well over iso800. i do think you might want to re evaluate your next desired FL, because 45or so mm's may not offer you enough of a different FOV than your present 70. i personally really like a 35-75mm split in the gear i carry. thus, i think a great choice might be a used fuji x100. its IQ you may find even better than your present setup, especially at iso over 800. the DOF at 2.0 would rival your 70mm at 2.8, and the quality of the wide open jpegs are just awesome. manual exposure cintrol is the easiest of any of your choices because its all analogue! aperture on the lens ring, shutter speed as a seperate dial. just some more food for thought.
  18. Covey22

    Covey22 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Feb 3, 2012
    18.5mm f1.8 CX is great fun!

    Hi Folks,

    As some of you know, I wrote the Nikon J1 Field Report here on SC so I have a particular interest in the system. I have also written on m4/3 articles, so I enjoy both product families. :biggrin:

    That being said, I am very much enjoying the 18.5mm f1.8 CX. It's a great prime for the Nikon 1 system, and coupled with the V1 feels very natural - it harkens back a lot to the days when I was shooting an old Ricoh KR-5 and a fast 50, and very much replicates my preferred "light" setup in DSLRs - a D3100 with a 35mm f1.8 DX.

    I don't find it too challenging to get good subject isolation with small sensor cameras. It's really a matter of positioning, get close to the subject and make sure you've got adequate background separation. The lens results are very sharp and exhibit good contrast and color reproduction. In this case, I converted to B&W to get a bit of artistry in an otherwise mundane grab shot. Happy to answer any questions about the lens.

  19. Thanks for the additional opinions! And for samples also; do not refrain yourselves from adding more, from any of the combination mentioned.