BOKEH, BOKEH, what governs bokeh?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by kymtman, Jan 8, 2009.

  1. Bokeh, a japanese word meaning "out of focus" that can become very pleasing to the eye in a portrait. Everyone is talking about what lens renders good bokeh. I took a few lens and tried a few shots and found a few things that will produce good bokeh. The lens may have a lot ot do with it, but it is in the background that lies the key. If the background has good color saturation and lots of contrast, you have the potential for good bokeh. The next thing is the DOF. I found if you are real close to the subject and the shorter the DOF the greater the bokeh becomes. If you shoot with the sun behind you or within 45 degrees, either side of you, this makes for good bokeh. I have gotten great bokeh with expensive and cheap lens, so don't think you have to have the best to get the best. I will show a few of my shots. These three were made with a 80mm Biometar @2.8.
    00S2yV-104309584.jpg
     
  2. Next one
    00S2ye-104309684.jpg
     
  3. I would like to see some of your shots.
    00S2yh-104309784.jpg
     
  4. No bokeh here, just some of the beauty we have in the hills of Ky
     
  5. Bokeh is governed by Lex Jenkins. He's actually the Right Honorable Viceroy Of Bokeh, not the governor per se. Also, he was appointed by Illinois Governor Blagojevich, and that makes the issue a little touchy just now.

    Now. As for lenses... the form of the aperture iris (round? hexagonal?) plays a role, especially when there are highlights in the OoF areas. To be pedantic about it, think of bokeh as the quality of the out of focus areas, not the fact that the background is out of focus. It's probably no coincidence that my more expensive lenses tend to produce a less harsh, less crunchy-looking blur.
     
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spherical_aberration
     
  7. >>>>>>Bokeh is governed by Lex Jenkins. He's actually the Right Honorable Viceroy Of Bokeh, not the governor per se. Also, he was appointed by Illinois Governor Blagojevich, and that makes the issue a little touchy just now
    lol@ Matt. Too funny!
     
  8. Somebody here once innocently referred to Brokeh . I thought we had all agreed to call it that from then on?
    As Matt says, it's easier to get the desired buttery effect with a lens aperture mechanism that has a circular profile as it stops down, but I have seen very pleasing results with less optimal aperture shape, especially in cases where the highlights are subdued, and of course most lenses wide open are circular.
     
  9. I have a picture somewhere that demonstrates bokeh very well. I was going for a hummingbird with a wide-open aperture. It darted away (and I got a photo of a bare branch for my trouble), but the circular out-of-focus areas were remarkably like dabs of paint. It wasn't the absolutely best bokeh I'd ever seen (it was a lens I basically got for nothing and had to repair), but it was very pleasing.
     
  10. You are confusing quantity with quality. The term "bokeh" is generally not used to describe "how fuzzy" parts of the image are, but how "pleasing" the fuzziness looks. (My old mentor predated the term "bokeh", and used to rattle off the phrase "the quality of the out of focus parts of the image" so frequently and so quickly that you came to think it was a single, 15 syllable long word).
    In the three images you present, the second and third have a bokeh that I don't consider to be very pretty. Although there's a lot of stuff very, very out of focus, mixed into that out of focus stuff are "hard" lines and edges.
     
  11. Just for the discussion. Bokeh is the Japanese version of the french word we generally
    use to describe a collection of (colorful) flowers. Bouquet!
     
  12. It's not the Japanese word for "bookie"?
     
  13. Bokeh is in the eye of the beer holder.
     
  14. All bokeh is beautiful if I'm the beer holder.
     
  15. "how "pleasing" the fuzziness looks."
    Define "pleasing." Some people find NASCAR racing to be pleasing.
     
  16. What exactly is the difference between "bokeh" and selective focus ?
     
  17. Yup, as others have said, it's really up to the viewer... and I've found that different lenses having different bokeh's are suitible for different kinds of shoots. "Harsh" bokeh I have found looks really nice to me with plants having a kind of paint-brush look, and not so much with people... smooth bokeh looks better with people. Some bokeh is just too smooth for my taste and just looks like a blurry watercolor mush.
     
  18. Gene, there is nothing "pleasing" by anyone's definition about the double-line bokeh that some Nikon lenses give. The OOF areas are doubled, jagged and harsh. On the other hand, the 35 Summicron gives a smoothly increasing softness with distance that enhances the in focus subject. There was an article in the old Photo Techniques around 1999 or 2000 that had great examples. Wish I could find a link to it.
     
  19. Chris: that's like asking, "What's the difference between taking the train, and the quality of the food on passenger jet?"

    Selective focus is a technique. It means that something will be out of focus. Bokeh is the quality of the appearance of the out of focus area.
     
  20. okay, but aren't by definition pictures with "Bokeh" using the selective focus technique? So the only difference is an abstract, subjective "quality" of the out of focus background?
    I'm still just kind of confused by how Bokeh is different from any picture taken using selective focus. I've also seen some websites where people seem to be confused and call any picture with a blurry background (but sharp foreground) "Bokeh"...that's why I'm asking what the difference is. Technically, isn't it all just using the selective focus technique? Maybe some pictures look better than others and make better use of selective focus than others....but aren't they still all just selective focus?

    I guess what I'm asking, is why is there even a need for the separate term "Bokeh" ?
     
  21. rnt

    rnt

    Personally I like the filters that turn bokeh into cute little hearts, or bunnies, or (my favorite for Christmas) trees. It wouldn't surprise me if Mr. Waterhouse had some of these in his collection of stops.

    In the same vein I will, in the future, call the bokeh created by my 500mm mirror lens 'Homer Simpson' bokeh... :)
     
  22. "I guess what I'm asking, is why is there even a need for the separate term "Bokeh" ?"
    Because selective focus is about the in focus area of a composition, and bokeh is about the quality of the out of focus areas as Matt put it so well. Different lenses have different quality bokeh, some of it is very harsh and ugly to most, some have beautiful bokeh. Some of my photos with my Mamiya 7 and Press cameras I can just gaze at the bokeh, or out of focus areas, because they're so smooth and beautiful.
     
  23. It is my understanding the the general character that usually causes bokeh to be considered "good" is that which turns points of light that are out of focus into blobs that are smooth centroids, rather than sharply defined circles with bright and abrupt rings at their outer perimeter. The key, again, my understanding only, is that the blob is rounded, as opposed to hexagonal for example, and smooth - ideally with a gradual decrease in luminosity from center to edge. Note that this does not mean that it only applies to out of focus point sources of light, but a lens the demonstrates a subjective "good" bokeh would behave this way when showing such. This will tend to create a "creamy" out of focus rather then a confused multiple image out of focus area.
    Finally, as I understand the physics of it, a lens will have good bokeh (if it does at all) behind or in front of the focus point, not both. A "good" lens will have it behind the focus point because usually we don't care as much about the foreground's bokeh as much as the background's.
    My 85mm f1.8 has what I consider good bokeh when wide open.
    00S3Ex-104361884.JPG
     
  24. "by definition pictures with "Bokeh" using the selective focus technique"
    Wrong. To start, a photo is not with or without bokeh. A photo may be with or without out of focus areas but not bokeh. Selective focus simply means yoh have chosen to have some of the image in focus and some not. Out of focus blur is not bokeh. Repeat that sentance as many times as needed so that it is etched in your brain. The problem is not the terminology but you apparent inability to distinguish the distinctly different concepts represented by the different terms. "Selective focus" has meaning and makes sense, "selective bokeh" is meaningless and non-sensicle.
     
  25. For those of you that want to know everything about bokeh, here is some interesting but useless information to add to your collection.
    The term, as you are aware, is derived from Japanese. The actual word is "boke" - adding an "h" at the end makes a different sound in Japan so it is an adaptation for English.
    The term means "unclear" or "blurry" as you can imagine. But funny enough, rather than for photography it is used more often to refer to the state of being half asleep, hungover, stupid, or suffering from altzheimers.
     
  26. From the Leica FAQ, plain and simple: "'Bokeh' refers to the out of focus portions of the image - in particular its visually pleasing nature or lack thereof."
     
  27. Okay, the last two posts and most of the others have done a good job of defining what bokeh means, history, derivation, etc. I believe the OP was asking what governs good bokeh. What is good bokeh compaired to bad bokeh and what about the lens design creates good or bad bokeh? It is not just the number or shape of the aperture blades - that would be way too easy. Personally, not being a lens designer I do not know - but it is in the lens design somewhere. I have noticed that some of the very good lenses with exceptional resolution, do not have excellent bokeh. Maybe some lenses have both.
     
  28. It could be said that bokeh is what turns a snapshot into a portrait, don't you think? If you were to choose a backdrop for that snapshot and position it to capture the light the way you wanted to fall on the subject, why then couldn't you use selective focus methods to produce the same. A lot of photographs are taken and never noticed that the background is out of focus. When the photo is viewed the subject is all that is noticed. My wife has proven that to me. She will say "that is a great photo" and when I ask her what makes it a great photo, she replies that she don't really know. The bokeh is suttle and enhances the subject. Your eye is not distracted to other clutter in the photo. YOu know as well as I that beauty is in the eye of the LOOKER.
    00S3HJ-104369884.jpg
     
  29. I have two great Bokeh lenses, 125 2.5 Hector and 50 1.5 Summarit.
    Anything that is symetrical design and has a round diaphragm rather than a five or six bladed one will help toward good bokeh.
     
  30. "The term, as you are aware, is derived from Japanese. The actual word is "boke" - adding an "h" at the end makes a different sound in Japan so it is an adaptation for English.
    The term means "unclear" or "blurry" as you can imagine. But funny enough, rather than for photography it is used more often to refer to the state of being half asleep, hungover, stupid, or suffering from altzheimers."
    Or maybe baka or fool, as in, "I was an absolute baka to spend $5,000 on that Noctilux just to get good bokeh."
     
  31. Some examples. Here's are some quick back yard bokeh test shots from another thread where I got into this same subject.

    A Sigma 30/1.4 HSM, wide open:
    [​IMG]

    Then the ubiquitous Nikon 50/1.8, also wide open:
    [​IMG]

    And the the Nikon 60/2.8 Micro (a macro lens)
    [​IMG]

    Of those three primes, the Sigma definitely has the "better" bokeh, in terms of overall creaminess - which is especially obivious when you watch how it's handling those reflective glints on the object in the background. Those are glass baubles. Now, the real question is... which bokeh quality is best serving the purpose of the photograph? If the photographer wants that background well out of focus, but has a narrative reason to communicate that the OoF object is glassy... well, the harsher, ring-like bokeh of the 50/1.8 or the 60/2.8 may - in their ugliness - actually work better. It all depends what look you're after. It's nice to have choices and everything... but mostly it's nice to know how your own lenses will behave when throwing various textures and light sources/reflections out of focus. That knowledge help you to use whatever you've got to your advantage. And if you're shopping for a lens, and think this stuff matters, then it helps to inform your decision making.

    What really matters, here, is that ALL of these shots have similarly OoF backgrounds (in terms of DoF). But you can readily see how there's another dimension to examine: what does the nature of that OoF area do for the photograph, and for the person making it? The 30/1.4 loses the understanding of the glassiness of the background object... but it also helps the viewer to concentrate better on the foreground object.

    Choose your lenses (and the impact they have on such things) just as you'd choose background music for a scene in a movie, or the backdrop behind a portrait... because it resonates with your purpose in the shot.
     
  32. Great samples Matt and nice discussion of "Now, the real question is... which bokeh quality is best serving the purpose of the photograph ?". For me, because I'm in the beginning of my photography years, I just want smooth, undistracting bokeh. But your example of why one would want harsher bokeh is excellent.
     
  33. The B word is just a still photographers discovery of what film makers used and understood in the 1930's; out of focus effects. It just took still photographers 60 years to notice; they were off worried about their camera; never ready cases etc. Lenses with a pleasing out of focus look that still allows one to see the other out of focus actor; and the out of focus effects do NOT compete with the actor. A focus pull; maybe buck rogers in say 1910 was common in the 1930's. One focused back and forth between to say 2 actors; the focus is on A when A talks; on B when B talks. The burn rate in dollars per hour for a film is more than what most photo.net folks make a year with all their images. One uses a lens with great pleasing out of focus effects with say a love scene; and one with alot of discord for a horror film; one wants discord. The new B word is sort of like calling film analog; folks feel important that they discovered this new thing; and thus coin a new term. Most pre WW2 lenses have a great out of focus look; its some of the post WW2 stuff that is overcorrected in SA that has more discord; often at first it is with faster Japanese lenses; maybe after focusing all on flat test charts the len makers forgot folks shoot 3D objects? The peanut gallery has this warped model that nobody noticed lens out of focus effects; or used it before the newbie's B word was coined. In a way its like somebody moving from Miami to Barrow AK and coining words for snow.
     
  34. Other than bokeh created by lens, there are softwares that can produce very good bokeh. It make excellent result as if it is produced by an expensive lens. Then I think, it's not only lenses that have the ability to make good bokeh, the softwares also. Even one flat pic taken from point 'n shot can make good bokeh, with the help from that software.
     
  35. How is it I could sense my name being taken in vain?
    Just for that, you will all suffer the wrath of terrible bokeh, by way of my 70-210 Vivitar Series 1.
    00S3Kh-104385684.jpg
     
  36. I think Matt Laur did a great job of presentation. Seems to me it's highly subjective, but the cognoscentiseem to grasp what constitutes good/bad. As in wine tasting they often mention
    the bouquet. I think this has to do with scent. Do Planar formulas smell better? Gimme a beer!
     
  37. Enclosed is a photo of mine. Nikkor 80-200mm lens at wide open 2.8 aperture. The leafy background is pleasantly blurred, the shapes are spherical. This is one of my favourite lens.[​IMG]
    00S3Nr-104401584.jpg
     
  38. Sorry I posted it twice and can't seem to delete one comment! Hope to get some thoughts on what others think!
    Cheers, Hung
     
  39. "Out of focus blur is not bokeh. Repeat that sentance as many times as needed so that it is etched in your brain. The problem is not the terminology but you apparent inability to distinguish the distinctly different concepts represented by the different terms."
    Wow Peter. Nice tone. Your sarcasm didn't do ANYTHING to clear up the distinction. In fact, I don't believe I have ever seen a reply like this on the Classic Cameras forum. Notice that everything was going fine and civil until you felt a need to make a remark like that. What a shame. Why do people do that?

    My question was simply what is the difference between the selective focus technique and "Bokeh"? I think it was a legitimate question. Regardless of how you want to define Bokeh in some kind of abstract terms about the "quality" of the background...aren't you using selective focus? You're using a wide aperture setting to de-focus the background. Now, maybe you can debate about how much the background will be blurred, or whether it will have a "hard" or "soft" blurring effect or whatever. But isn't it using the selective focus technique? Opening your aperture to a wider setting to intentionally de-focus the background for a certain effect? THAT was my question.

    So I still wonder...why does it need a separate term? I think someone else also made the point that when things become popular, some people try to make a new term for it, even though it had already been around for a long time.

    I'm sure selective focus has been around for as long as there were lenses with an adjustable aperture. And I'm sure that at some point, someone realized that with certain subjects, it it creates a pleasing picture by using a shallow depth of field and a soft background. Like someone said, portraits...and other subjects like maybe wildflowers, insects, etc. But I don't understand why that needs a separate term at all. It's not some new discovery that was just made...it's just an optical effect that would have been around for as long as there were lenses with an adjustable aperture.

    Does "Bokeh" mean specifically the pattern in the background...but since when has any photograph drawn more attention to the background? In fact, you are drawing attention to the foreground since that's the only thing that is in focus and clear. I thought that was the whole purpose! You are trying to soften out the background to make it less distracting, and to draw more attention to the subject in the foreground.

    So again...tell me why there is any difference between Bokeh and selective focus? And maybe someone can answer without an attitude? There were a few good answers before and after Peter's...I'd like to see more answers like that.
     
  40. I hate the term Bokeh, and never use it it sounds so pretentious, and most of the people who use it don't understand what it means anyway, I just refer to it as "out of focus highlights".
     
  41. "I believe the OP was asking what governs good bokeh". The International Bokeh Convention of 1992 set the parameters of exactly what bokeh is and how it can be obtained. The report has never been made public because of its controversial nature and the fear that it would have a negative economic impact on lens manufacturers. The big two (Nikon and Canon) lobbied the hardest against the release, fearing that the essence of the report which explicitly stated that any lens from any manufacturer could in fact produce a pleasing bokeh, contradicting the notion that only fast and expensive glass would work.
     
  42. Ah, so the answer is: "Money!"
    00S3Qd-104421684.jpg
     
  43. So again...tell me why there is any difference between Bokeh and selective focus?​
    Selective focus is as you describe - something in the photograph is in sharp focus, the rest is blurred to some extent. Now hold that thought...

    How pleasing that bluriness is (and that can be very subjective), is the definition of good or bad Bokeh produced by a lens.

    Does that help at all?
     
  44. Bokeh could be a book with, it begins to become apparent, many chapters in it. Call it what you may, it has become like this discussion, quite unruley. I have, as well as others, been light writing for several decades and until recently didn't know squat about the term for OOF. As Chris Tobar noted if you choose to have your background OOF then you have selected the focus haven't you? Who can say what is GOOD or BAD? Some say that the horor movie was a good one while others say different. It is my opinion that Bokeh is the results of selective focus techniques. I have noticed in my techniques that the slightest change in position can produce quite large results. I will take another look at my brush and pallet from now on.
    This has been a productive discussion and I have really enjoyed it. I will leave you with much appreciation and a smile from my little sweetheart.
    00S3R3-104424084.jpg
     
  45. Chris: Regardless of how you want to define Bokeh in some kind of abstract terms about the "quality" of the background...aren't you using selective focus?

    Using selective focus is ... using selective focus. If you choose to use a shallow depth of field (or are forced to for low light), then, that's what you've done. Period. Simple as that. But once you do choose to do that, it can be helpful to talk about what that choice is doing to your image. Some lenses do one thing, and other lenses do another. There's nothing abstract about it. Just like choosing to shoot into the sun (because you want to, or have to) causes some lenses to flare terribly, while other lenses don't. There's nothing abstract about the obviously different results that different lenses will give you.

    You're using a wide aperture setting to de-focus the background. Now, maybe you can debate about how much the background will be blurred, or whether it will have a "hard" or "soft" blurring effect or whatever.

    Those are two distinctly different things. You can use a simple depth of field calculator to know - in advance and with great precision - just how out of focus something will be, based on the simple laws of physics. There is never any debate about how out of focus something will be, nor is there any debate about your "whatever" part - the hardness or softness of the results... you just have to look at it, and there it is. The design, build, and materials used in your lens will dictate the qualities of those out of focus areas (odd doubled lines, hexagonal halos, rings around lights ... or none of those things). Just like the design and quality of the lens dictates whether sun flare in the lens makes 15 green internal reflections diagonally across your image, or something else (or nothing). I don't believe there's a handy Japanese word that translates to "the aesthetic qualities of lens flare produced by a given lens" - at least not one that's in common use - because that's not something that is commonly sought as a desired element in an image, the way that a pleasing OoF background so routinely is.

    The only debate is over whether or not your choice to use the technique, and your choice of lens (and thus, the bokeh) is, or is not helping your image. And that's an aesthetic debate, not a technical one. But that doesn't change what the lens does, which is objective.

    But isn't it using the selective focus technique? Opening your aperture to a wider setting to intentionally de-focus the background for a certain effect? THAT was my question.

    No, intentionally defocusing the background is intentionally defocusing the background. The bokeh is the qualitative result of choosing to do so, and varies with the equipment you use (see my three quick examples, above). The technique is essentially identical in those three shots, but the results are qualitatively different. Different enough to significantly alter the impact of the photograph and its message.

    Deciding to drive on a gravel road to get somewhere is a technique, too. But how smooth is the ride? The quality of your suspension and tires determines how smooth that ride is. Throwing the background out of focus is choosing to take the dirt road. The smoothness of the ride is the bokeh.
     
  46. A wide aperture and a good separation between the background/foreground relative to the lens focal length does the trick. Also, the construction of the aperture in the lense really influences the quality of the bokeh.
    00S3T3-104431584.JPG
     
  47. Wow, over the years, it isn't even funny how many times I have seen this topic on various forums ("fora" ? ). I think it is fitting that we feel so "boke" about "bokeh", irony in real life. Of course, each one of us is a combined photography and Japanese maven (A lot of us use and see Japanese cameras, ergo...), so we always pontificate "the" definition of bokeh. So, here's my correct definition (OK, here's the requisite ":)" for those that lack the tongue-in-cheek detector gene):
    - "bokeh" is nothing but the out of focus area. It does not refer to the "quality of the out of focus area", but just the out of focus area itself (see next point). At least this is what makes sense from the equivalent Japanese.
    - When someone analyzes a picture and talks about the "quality of the bokeh" they are indeed analyzing the "quality of the out of focus area". The rendering of out of areas is a function of the lens as well as the subject and lighting. It does not make sense to me that "bokeh" really means "quality of bokeh"....some folks please get THAT out of your brain :)-)).
    - To really see differences in the quality of bokeh that a lens provides, you need an out-of-focus background with specular highlights. If you have a background with smooth tones, little contrast and uniform lighting then almost any lens will provide smooth and pleasing bokeh as long as you are using the wider apertures to create the bokeh in the first place. But you really need a background with abrupt changes in tone/color as well as point-sources-of-light either directly radiating or reflecting light (of course we don't always have perfect point-sources, but the closer the approximation the better for judging bokeh) to see the harshness/smoothness/sphericality of those point sources.
     
  48. First of all It does start with the Lens Iris and then it finish's with the person use-ing the camera , If one understands the DOF and use's it properly Bokeh will always be on their side and the the larger the Iris opening the Better the Bokeh will , My canon FD 50mm F-1.4 Gave me very very Nice bokeh : But I still can get it with any lens I use , But its a Matter of how good is it !
    00S3W7-104439584.jpg
     
  49. Bokeh is a quality which cannot be described in numbers, hence is poorly defined and a subject of much hubris (as demonstrated in this thread).
    I refer you to an excellent article by one of our own, Dr. Atkins (http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/technical/bokeh.html). This is the best exposition and demonstration I have seen on the elements behind bokeh. It does not say what is good or not, because that may vary between situations. The big surprise is which lens qualities (or lack thereof) contribute to bokeh. Consider this link an homework assignment.
    In general, bokeh refers to the rendering of highlights in an otherwise out of focus background. Matt Lauer presents several examples of bokeh in practice - good and bad. While many other examples in this thread show pleasant OOF characteristics, none other than Matt's demonstrate the key issue of highlights
     
  50. If one shoots the same scene with same lighting the out of focus areas maybe pleasing or with weird batwings; donuts; iris spikes; worlls.

    In the "pleasing" shot the objects ie actors in the out of focus areas still are identifible; and do not have compete with the "out of focus" effects.

    IN a suspense scene having discord in the out of focus areas can be used as a tool/effect to make the bogey/kilroy/boggie man/bad guy/monster/murder NOT as easy to identify in the out of focus movie area.
    Thus the main focus might Actor#1 that is IN FOCUS; and the villian is lurking around behind the actor; in the out of focus era.
    The plot might be such that the director does NOT want the villian to be indentified yet; to add tension and drama.

    Since movies tell a story; using lenses with lenses with good and poor out of focus effects are an ancient tool(s); think pre zoom; pre color; to the silent film era.

    In moviework one does a comparsion of lenses under lighting controlled conditions; something almost never done when folks talk about the B word; in the still camera world.

    A lens can have a poor out of focus look; and have a perfectly round iris too; its how the lens is corrected too.
     
  51. The B word is like weather. Folks add modifiers is they want to add info. Boston, Deytroit, and LA have weather today; but what is it? saying good or bad weather adds actual info; not bs.
     
  52. Aperture shape does have an effect, but it isn't the most important aspect. In-focus rays go where they're supposed to go, obviously. Less obviously, perhaps, out-of-focus rays do not go to a well-defined, out-of-focus location in the image. Better lenses generally produce better bokeh, but I suspect that it is because bokeh has been considered seriously in their design. I have included a link to an image of mine that has particularly terrible bokeh because the out of focus light is strangely well focused, just in the wrong place. Otherwise, I think this lens, the Sigma 20 mm, f/1.8 is really good.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/8381851
     
  53. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    The second shot is with a Russian Tessar clone; the first is with a Gauss type Japanese normal lens; teh 50mm F1.2 LTM Canon . The 2nd shot has less discord in the out of focus areas that the 1 st shot
    The two shots above are really not a well controlled test either; one has a setting sun; teh light is changing; an indoor fixed test setup would be better.
     
  54. One thing about moviemakers (especially in the old days) is that their financial resources were far greater than even the best still photographer, so they could pick and choose lenses for their cameras, often with the cooperation of the lensmaker. Irises had many more leaves in those days as well, which helped, and with uncoated lenses, spherical aberration couldn't be controlled as well, either. You were stuck with how much correction you could get in four groups of lens elements or less. More than that and you had to deal with huge light losses to the film plane.
     
  55. What you are discussing here is what we called (50 years ago) "circles of confusion". Seems like we're still confused.
     
  56. Kelly,

    Don't the squirrels/birds ever knock over your can of Bud?
     
  57. I got nothing to add here except to say thanks to everyone contributing and to the guy brave enough to post the question. :D
    It's been wonderfully informative and cleared up lots of questions for me anyway. 'Course from here on out I'm gonna set my A at 18 or higher for fear of BB (Bad Bokeh).
    -_~
     
  58. So many people running around in ever tightening circles of confusion.
    The definative English language articles on Bokeh were written in the May/June 1997 issue of Photo Techniques magazine. The articles were:
    What is 'Bokeh' by John Kennerdell
    Notes on the Terminology of Bokeh by Oren Grad
    A Technical View of Bokeh by Harold M. Merklinger
    The editor of Photo Techniques was Mike Johnston. His column, 37th Frame, explains his facination with out of focus areas in a picture. He had tested many lenses for magazines. He had strong likes and dislikes of certain lenses that weren't explainable with objective tests. He was reacting to the quality of the out of focus areas.
     
  59. I'm gonna set my A at 18 or higher for fear of BB (Bad Bokeh).

    Noooo! You'll just end up with DD (Deadly Diffraction). Really! Look it up.
     
  60. Is there such a thing as a list of older lenses that are known for good bokeh (the creamy kind)? It would be beneficial to many of us to know which ones to look for without having to buy a lot of lenses we don't need. 35mm and MF should both be included.
    Personally, I'd like a lens with excellent creamy type of bokeh for my Pacemaker 23 Speed Graphic. It's just to expensive to buy a big variety and shoot a lot of 120 film to find out.
    Dave
     
  61. I'm not so sure it's defined by aperture blades, curvature of blades, etc.... It's one of those things that makes a certain lens sort of magical; you know it when you see it. I love the bokeh from my Nikkor 105/2.5 Ais, but hated the Nikkor 50mm 1.8 Ai bokeh. Like the following nikons in terms of bokeh: 75-150mm series E, Nikkor-H 1.8, and the 70-210mm AF F4. My Pentax 645 55mm is also very creamy, and maybe even a bit better bokeh-wise than the 150mm 3.5 which is supposed to be a portrait lens. I also hate the bokeh from my Tamron 24-135mm, maybe it's the aspheric lenses that seem to do so much to create sharpness at the expense of bokeh.
     
  62. Here is my contribution for a good Bokeh, I think by definition the out of focus region should not compete for attention with the main subject, and therefore an "ugly" bokeh is one that does not do that. The image was taken with a Nikkor 28-105 zoom at f3.5.
    http://www.photo.net/photo/6858831
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  63. "Noooo! You'll just end up with DD (Deadly Diffraction). Really! Look it up."​
    Oh God! Is there no hope then? :D
     
  64. Is there no hope then?

    There is indeed hope. Try f/8 for CC (Comfortable Compromise).

    Or, you could try f/11 for SS (Surgically Sharp).
     
  65. And here I was thinking that Bokeh was how My name is mispronounced here in Massachusetts where they Pahk their Cahs in a pahking lot.
     
  66. Mike Johnston's article at the link below has a good explanation of the bokeh concept, as well as his purely subjective ratings for various lenses that he has used (if this is of interest to you):
    www.lulu.com/items/volume_1/129000/129691/4/print/bokeh rankings5.pdf
     
  67. The funny thing about bokeh is that you can never get it on purpose, it is always an accident. If you try to get it, you never will. That is the main reason that good bokeh is so rare.
     
  68. The funny thing about bokeh is that you can never get it on purpose, it is always an accident. If you try to get it, you never will. That is the main reason that good bokeh is so rare.​
    Oh, just swell. So it's like marriage?
     
  69. Accident? Why can't you get brokeh on purpose? Have you no preview, familiarity with your lens's DOF etc, etc, etc...
    I find that what you see in preview or on a GG is what tends to show up on the film. If you have a good idea of the DOF at desired f~stops one should be able to repeat results I would think. I don't seem to have any trouble with my rangfinder cameras.
    The below image was made when I was testing some film, but the background is as I saw it on a 6x9 view screen. What's the big deal?
    00S3ti-104501584.jpg
     
  70. Accident? Why can't you get brokeh on purpose?
    The B word is like weather; it requires some details; or adjectives to make it make any sense to somebody else
    Thus your sentence is like saying Accident? Why can't you get weather on purpose?
    One always has weather or an out of focus look
     
  71. "Bokeh" simply means blur, specifically out-of-focus blur (as opposed to the kinds caused by subject or camera movement). It includes, but is not limited to, out-of-focus highlights. Out-of-focus specular highlights are simply where aperture shape will show up most easily in pictures (i.e., spots of bright sky in out-of-focus foliage, for example).
    The word or spelling have nothing to do with "bouquet."
    The original articles were published in the March/April 1997 issue of "Photo Techniques" magazine, which I edited at the time. (Long out of print, unfortunately.) Carl Weese introduced me to the term. The articles were written by John Kennerdell, Oren Grad, and Harold Merklinger. Harold's article is online; I think you can find it at The Luminous Landscape. Oren and John still write for me on occasion at The Online Photographer. The only reason we added the "h" to the end of the Japanese word was that English speakers persistently mispronounce "boke." It's properly pronounced in two syllables, "bo" as in "bone" and "ke" as in "Kenneth" with equal stress on each syllable. "Bokeh" simply renders that a little more accurately. At least adding the "h" stopped all the "toke" jokes.
    The other nice unintended consequence of the spelling was that it made the term easily searchable on the internet. In the weeks following the publication of the issue, I was able to watch as the number of search engine hits for "bokeh" went from 15, to 90, to 450, to 8,000 and so on. (A Google search just now yielded 2,790,000 hits.)
    I fail to see how the term "bokeh" can be "pretentious," any more than the terms "sharpness" or "saturated" are pretentious. It's simply a descriptive word for a quality some photographs show (and some do not).
    There's also no "good" or "bad" bokeh. As my father used to say, "if it works you're right, if it doesn't work you're wrong." Same for bokeh: if you like it, then it's good. If you don't like it, then it's bad.That goes for blur itself, as well as for its specific properties. Some people just don't like blur in pictures.
    There's some agreement, but it's very rough. For instance, more people than not seem to dislike "ni-sen" (Japanese for "double-line," or near enough) bokeh, but the late Phil Davis (author of "Beyond the Zone System") showed me a picture he liked taken with a very odd, very old camera that featured a church steeple way in the distance. The lens had rendered it as TWO very blurry church steeples, quite widely separated. I've still never seen more egregious ni-sen. Phil liked the effect enough that he had framed the picture. See above, under "if you like it...."
    "Selective focus" just means that part of a picture is in focus and part isn't--and, hopefully, the photographer knows enough to control which is which. (Many photographers don't, sadly.) The opposite of selective focus is sometimes called "pan-focus," which just means that everything is sharp from front to back. The term pan-focus has nothing to do with panning, which is a different technique altogether. I know, photographic terminology is a mess, and getting worse all the time. Don't blame me.
    The Japanese term for the connoisseurship of lens bokeh--its aesthetic effect--would probably be "boke-aji," which translates roughly to "taste of blur."
    There's no perfect lens for bokeh. Please don't ask me how I know, as it's very painful to suffer from such a blatant mental infirmity.
    Learning how your lens renders blur, however, is no different from learning its other characteristics, such as whether it's unsharp at certain apertures or whether it smears the corners, or whatever. Some people like that kind of thing, some people don't. It's all good. If you want to learn it so you can attempt to apply it or control it, fine; if you don't, and prefer just to take pictures and let the chips (both the sharp and the blurry chips!) fall where they may, that's fine too.
    Most often, these days, I just say "blur" rather than "bokeh."
    There are some great examples in this thread.
    Mike
     
  72. Hum? If you can't get the blur you want on purpose, either try a different lens/diaphram combo, practice, test, read, learn,compare, try harder, or maybe just continue doing accidental images. I looked at some, what would have been, good images except I had unacceptable blur, too much in my case. So I worked on getting what I wanted. I consider accidental brokeh to be purely that. Purposeful selective focus that turns out a succesful image would be more of a well executed process wouldn't you think. Just a thought, don't get riled about my opinion on the matter. Just get a lens you like and learn what it will do !
     
  73. Wide open appiture. Here's one[​IMG]
     
  74. Bokeh was how My name is mispronounced here in Massachusetts where they Pahk their Cahs in a pahking lot.​
    No kidding, I had a friend named Keller who in Bahstahn was thought by everyone to be Irish.
    Lex, no horror at at all on your insect bokeh--it's surely appropriate for the subject.
     
  75. It is interesting that a both weather and "lens out of focus looks" can be great or poor; but this concept is hard to undertand by many still photographers.
    The poor and great look of cine lenses was well understood in movie work eons ago; it just takes still chaps 70 years to see this quality.
    A child or pilot understands good and bad weather.
    A pilot doesnt tell another pilot what the weather is by saying "weather" he uses actual nouns and adjectives.
    In lenses; one might have a 1950's Japanese lens with a poor weird out of focus look; ie distracting artifacts that draw the movie viewer away from the actor; or one might have a simple American or German 1950's lens with a different optical design; a more pleasing less artifacted; less batwinged; less distracting out of focus area.
    These two good and bad out of focus types are often hard for many still photographers to fathom; because as most amateurs they have no clients; it doenst matter if there is clutter and discord. A real estate agent might notice cars on blocks; while neighbors do not :)
    The reason the B word is so lame is as this thread shows many folk are not seem unable to use adjectives.
    Saying a city has weather today or a lens has B is abit stupid; one "waits" for the adjective; folks brains are disconnected once they type. :)
    Saying Detroit has great sunny weather; Camarillo has Santa Anna winds blowing like hell today; or Ames Iowa has torrid rain has meaning. Saying a lens has Bokeh is gooble gook; like saying a city has weather today.
    If one says Janes personality is ; it leaves one wondering if it is good or bad.
    Here I do not like the newbie terms Analog for film; or bokeh for lens out of focus effects; its a stamp of markerting bs. As an engineer who has worked in optics; it is real weird that most folks cannot use adjectives or nouns to describe things. Out of focus look have enough issues that are hard to define;its worse when folks cannot mention adjectives.
     
  76. After looking at 115,789 photos here on Pn in the last two years, I have yet to see some bokeh that I find interesting and unique. I have come to the conclusion that bokeh is a gear head thing, fodder for those who eschew the virtues of f stops and shutter speeds and ignore the bliss of post-modern conceptualism. In other words, I have come to the conclusion that bokeh is totally and utterly silly.
     
  77. "or bokeh for lens out of focus effects; its a stamp of markerting bs."
    Name one marketing department that has used the term in its advertisements? I realize that you are late to the party but I once found a reference to Bokeh in a 1961 Japanese magazine.
    "I have come to the conclusion that bokeh is a gear head thing,"
    Actually just the opposite. It is from people looking at prints. They came up with the terminology to better discuss what they were seeing.
     
  78. Here is a kind of half-technical response. My understanding is that good vs. bad Bokeh is mainly the result of optical aberrations in the out-of-focus image, and that spherical aberration is the most important.
    You may ask "but aren't most lenses well-corrected for spherical aberration?" The answer is "yes, but..."
    Yes, spherical aberration is generally well-corrected for the in-focus image, but in the out-of-focus image spherical aberration tends to be either over-corrected or under-corrected. This is a separate issue from the just being out of focus. The result is that the out-of-focus image of a point source is not just a uniformly lit circle (or polygon), but tends to have the light either pushed somewhat toward the outer edge, like the image from the Nikon 50/1.8 given above, or pushed somewhat away from the outer edge. I think the last behavior gives better bokeh. Often, it is one behavior for items closer to the camera than the focal plane, and the other behavior for items further away from the camera than the focal plane. However, usually it is background that concerns the photographer, so given the choice of good bokeh in the forground vs. the background, most photographers would prefer good bokeh in the background.
    The above explanation is, to the best of my recollection, something I read on the subject once, and it may or may not be right.
     
  79. Kelly Flanigan wrote:

    "Here I do not like the newbie terms Analog for film; or bokeh for lens out of focus effects; its a stamp of markerting bs."

    Yup, I agree and that's exactly what I was asking about. Why use some new hipster or pop culture term for something that is just an optical effect and a technique that has probably been around for as long as there were lenses with an adjustable aperture? I'm sure it's been around for a 100 years. I mean, I don't see anyone using some exotic pop-culture term for long exposures, right? Just call it what it is. Selective focus. You are purposefully changing the aperture and using a shallow depth of field to create a soft background. Isn't that what SELECTIVE means in "selective focus"? Putting one subject in focus, and intentionally de-focusing others to give a certain look to your picture, usually to draw more attention to something in the foreground.

    I know this isn't a really great picture. (Although I like it). I took it with my Argus C3, and I think Kodak Gold 200 film. I deliberately wanted to make the background softer to draw more attention to the flower. So I used a wider aperture, I'm pretty sure f/5.6. I would call that selective focus.

    [​IMG]

    And I HATE the hipster term "analog photography." It's lame and just sounds corny. What's wrong with just saying "film photography"? It's lame because it just sounds like people are just trying to come with a term that's an opposite of digital cameras. But anyway...that's a whole other topic.

    In fact, from now on I take an oath to never say the terms "Bokeh" or "analog photography." Selective focus and "traditional photography" or "film photography" (or just plain "photography") works just fine.
     
  80. The term selective focus still does not cover the out of focus areas of an image. I'd rather say a one or two syllable word than "out of focus areas".
    "The bokeh of that image is really harsh and distracting." vs "The out of focus areas of that image are really harsh and distracting."
    I still really don't get your argumentativeness on this point.
     
  81. Interesting that out of all these posts no one has mentioned software that simulates this i.e.
    http://www.alienskin.com/bokeh/index.aspx
    I have absolutely no experience with this software except what I've read and I'm sure many people will dismiss this out of hand but it points to a very real trend in photography where the line and responsibilities of hardware and software blur (forgive the pun).
    For example it used to be the domain of film characteristics and sensor characteristics to handle dynamic range. Software processes like HDR and Active D-Lighting (the Nikon term) starts to take over some of these responsibilities. DXO software is another example I can think of.
     
  82. Oops, sorry Nasrul did mention software earlier which I missed. However, I would be interested in hearing if anyone has tried the alienskin bokeh software and what their impressions are.
     
  83. Every time I get my wife a bokeh I score, bokehs is good.
     
  84. yeah, but Paul...seeing as how this is the Classic Cameras forum, I would think that hardware is part of the whole reason for being here. Classic manual cameras and film. Why "simulate" something when the whole reason for being on this forum is that you want to do it for real with a vintage mechanical camera?

    If you want to use software, there are plenty of digital forums on Photo.net
    And yeah...with that, I can see where this is going. This happens on the Film and Processing forum sometimes, but I didn't think it would ever creep into the Classic Cameras forum. So I think I'm finished with this topic. Chris is geting outta here, while the getting is good.

    But have a good night \ early morning everyone!

    See you later on another topic.
     
  85. Have you de-railed? My post was to define the things that govern BOKEH, not explain the term its self. I had a good idea what it meant. For the last month I have viewed thousands of photos leading from the word. Some I liked and others I could live with, and a very few I adored. That goes with the most of us who has been light writing for some time. I knew what it was and how to get it in a photo and what I didn't understand was the technical aspect of it and now I have a very good understanding with what has been presented here on this forum. As for the term, it has been aroung for ages and no one can stop it now even if you tried, so deal with it. I will re-enterate that what I previously stated " it is what makes a snapshot a portrait". Now for those of you that have been enlightened, go out there and shoot some good and bad BOKEH, BOKEH, BOKEH.
    Woe, Woe! The waters have been disturbed.
    See you guys in some other forum!
     
  86. Chris: I think you're still missing the point. "Selective focus" is a compositional technique. When you say "the photographer shrewdly chose to use selective focus" you're talking about a tactic. Saying, "the use of selective focus on the ornamental fencepost caps focuses the viewer on the architectural details of the landscaping, rather than on the colonial facade of the house in the background" means you're talking about the photographer's approach, or the art director's communication requirements.

    But when you say, "The harsh, ringed highlights in the bokeh are competing aggressively with the subject of the photograph because they are the same size as her eyes," you're having a different discussion. One that's driven by the behavior of the lens. You might also be talking about the photographer's choice (to use that lens, on purpose, vs. another with different bokeh characteristics), but that's not the same things as "selective focus." You can selectively focus any lens. The resulting bokeh artifacts are a separate thing. They are separate topics with separate causes, and separate vocabulary to define them.

    You can play the same note on fifty different pianos. Choosing to use selective focus is like choosing to play a a Midde C note. But they won't all have the same exact tone, will they? A cheaply made institutional Wurlitzer upright isn't goint to have the same lovely character as a Steinway concert grand. Is it just "hipster" talk to not be confused by the fact that playing a middle C note (just like choosing to selectively focus on something in a photographic composition) is not the same as the very real, and very varied results from different instruments (or lenses)?

    I posted three back-to-back example shots above. They all involve selective focus on a foreground subject, and an out of focus background. Can you tell any difference between them? Do you really find it more linguistically graceful to say, "the selective focus of the 50/1.8 is harsher than the selective focus of the 30/1.4?" That doesn't even make sense. The photographer uses selective focus. The lens produces objectively visible artifacts in doing what the photographer asks. Different lenses do it differently, and some photographers are nuanced enough to see that, and communicate about it using specific vocabulary. That's not being hipper than thou, it's being specific - and not conflating two completely separate topics and dumbing them down into one.
     
  87. What governs Bokeh?
    I am still recovering from the split rib I hurt after reading Matt Laurs first comment and Lex's Heart of Darkness response! Hilarious.
    I'll probably get lampooned for this comment, but it seems to me that if you compose without strong highlights far from the subject, the background blur will be "creamy" with even the lousiest of lenses. For instance (not that the lens here is lousy- it certainly is not) the fantastic SG Adams flower shot has no strong, far-off highlights to even give an opportunity for "Bad Bokeh". The equally beautiful tiger cub shot, while taken with what appears to be a stellar lens, picks up the "ring dings" of the highlights way off in the background. Here the lens has been given an opportunity to create the circles, (not that they detract at all from the wonderful shot, because they don't). But, it seems to me that the b-word is at least partially controlable by avoiding those highlights. ( Seldom possible in practice, I know). I used to think my older lenses (some zeiss and leitz) had better B-word, but usually because I was comparing those slower softer lenses to new fast lenses wide open. When I do a shootout at the same apertures, I never see a huge difference, but they do each seem to have their own inherent qualities.
     
  88. Chris Tobar wrote: "Why use some new hipster or pop culture term for something that is just an optical effect and a technique that has probably been around for as long as there were lenses with an adjustable aperture? Just call it what it is. Selective focus."
    But it isn't "selective focus." That technique is how you get bokeh, but it's not a synonym for bokeh.
    As its original U.S. importer, Mike Johnston, patiently explained the term above, "'Bokeh' simply means blur, specifically out-of-focus blur (as opposed to the kinds of blur caused by subject or camera movement)."
    I suppose that if the word "bokeh" causes revulsion, one could refer instead to the quality of "the out-of-focus blur caused by selective-focus technique." But that's quite a mouthful when one word will say the exact same thing: "bokeh. "
    On Jan. 10, 2009, Mike Johnston addressed this photo.net thread at this http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2009/01/what-is-bokeh.html .
     
  89. Mike Johnston has a nice article on bokeh but I thought he was rather pretentious about saying that some of the posters here on PN believe the whole issue of bokeh is rather pretentious.
     
  90. Props to Matt for being quoted on Mike Johnston's blog.
     
  91. there are some excellent answers here. i particularly like matt l's analogy of the different pianos playing the same 'c' note differently. kelly f's response, with samples from the 'same' birdhouse picture done with different lenses, i would have thought would put the confusion to rest once and for all. it has the virtue that the picture with 'good' bokeh is shot at a smaller aperture, which ought to make clear that the presence or degree of blur is not the same as good bokeh. in fact i think it bears emphasizing that *amount* of blur is not the same as good bokeh; using a longer lens, getting closer to your subject, and shooting wide open will all increase the amount of blur, but are not ways to get better bokeh, really.

    to drive home this point, it would probably be good to have a look at samples of the bokeh from different 50mm lenses at, say, f/4 or f/5.6. then the utility of having a term like bokeh to help discuss those objective differences clearly might also become more clear, dispelling the notion that there is something pretentious about using the word (yes, i am a dreamer). of course, the quality of oof blur is not the same for the same lens at f/2 as it is at f/4, and etc, which makes these discussions potentially quite long... for instance, the bokeh from my canon ef50/1.4 shot at f/4 is pretty good, while shot wide open it is rather bad.
    as a more concrete contribution, here's a comparison of the blur (bokeh) between two 50mm lenses shot at the same aperture, same perspective, same subject, same processing, etc. hopefully it is clear that there are still differences, including in the rendering of the blur, which some people may be interested in. (cropped image, 100% from 5d)
    [​IMG]
    in case someone thinks that these differences are too subtle to show up in print, here's the two shots reduced for view on the web:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    finally, bear in mind that other differences in lens performance can accentuate the significance of the qualities of bokeh. for instance, since the 50/1.4 loses a lot of contrast wide open, i am usually printing it with increased contrast, which exacerbates the existing choppiness of the bokeh. otoh, the 50/1.2, which starts out giving smoother bokeh, also has better contrast, so i am less likely to bump that up in post processing.
     
  92. Chris Tauba, why don't you think the background is far enough away? DOF on a 135mm is pretty shallow when composing that close, and I wanted texture and form and not completely blown out. Too much blow out and yeah, you start getting those wonderfully confusing cirles, ha ha. As far as I care, and this is what I care about sometimes, is how a lens, in focus, and out, deals with a subject. Esspecially the edges. Depending on one's approach, this can be a function of lens, aperture, development, grain, and lack of grain etc... If one is only concerned with the appearance of distant background blur, as in brokeh, that's fine with me, and call it what ever you like as it is always nice to have a special word for something. And even if some folks disagree, they probably still know what you are talking about.
    However, the point I was trying to make with that image is that I got exactly what I intended, esspecially with the focus throught the image and it is full 6x9 uncropped. But I found I have another that perhaps will re-estasblish my original premise. This image was composed with the camera a little farther away and the backround deeper (farther away) and again, I remember focussing very carefully so that I got the back ground you see here even though the image is cropped in quite a bit (probably using about the size of a 35mm neg from a 6x7 frame).
    00S4Ns-104616484.jpg
     
  93. Chris that's really hard to look at; just a bunch of circles that get bigger as you crop in. If this is brokeh I'll stick to selective focus. Uck.
     
  94. rdm

    rdm

    OK there is alot to read and figure out here. But i have a question i was wondering about and i see this may be the place to have it answered. I recently aquired a Canon FD lens thats a 50mm/1.2 lens with a canon t70 camera. It is the Only canon anything i got. I have always used minoltas and Rokkor lenses. the fastest minolta lens i have is the 50mm/1.4 however. Somone wants to trafe me my canon camera and lens for the Rokkor 50mm/1.2 . But i dont know what is a better lens the Canon FD lens thats a 50mm/1.2 lens or he Rokkor MD 50mm/1.2.
     
  95. to sg adams--
    oh, you wanted a *pretty* picture? those previous examples were designed to torture the lenses in order to evaluate the results for situations (like the street photography i usually do) where you don't have a lot of leeway in choosing your backgrounds.
    how about this one?[​IMG] or maybe this one?
    [​IMG] both of these are better photos coming from the lens they do (50/1.2) not because of the use of selective focus per se, but because the quality of the bokeh from that lens is pleasing; they would be less pleasing shot with the 50/1.4, for instance.
     
  96. SG Adams.... Actually I was complimenting your composition and choice of background control- it is a truly beautiful shot with what I consider to be most pleasant "b-word." The point of mentioning it being that you exacted control over the situation to get a dreamy gaussian fade instead of a shot like Chris B's "torture test"
    That said, if you had chosen to recompose and include in the background harshly lit trees with shiny leaves 150yards away (as I invariably would have), the shot would be a turd.
     
  97. Ron Tincher,
    To answer your specific question, the only thing that governs bokeh is the specific lens you use on a specific film or sensor, and how you deploy (use) it. The appearance of the bokeh can change with the aperture used, the focus distance, the contrast of the subject matter, flare, how far the out-of-d.o.f. objects are from the plane of focus, and whether the out-of-d.o.f. objects are in front of or in back of the plane of focus. Nowadays it can also change with the post-processing (I almost always select the specific areas of a digital print that I want to sharpen, because sharpening the whole picture can have nasty effects on the bokeh). If your lens is a zoom, the character of the bokeh can change at different focal lengths. That's already enough variables to make the number of possible combinations of conditions effectively infinite; but fortunately, as you use a lens, you'll gradually get an idea of what its bokeh looks like, and how to avoid situations you personally feel are unattractive or how to elicit results that please you.
    There's really no substitute for just learning your own lens and how it behaves. Allegedly (I've never been able to find the exact quote--I heard it from Arthur Kramer, former lens guru of the old "Modern Photography" magazine, and he doesn't remember where he heard it either), a Leica lens designer once said that the only real way to test a lens is "to use it for a year--everything else is a shortcut." Whether that's a real or an apocryphal quote I don't know, but it's true.
    Mike
     
  98. SG Adams,
    That 135mm Xenar you have is a Tessar-type long noted for beautiful out-of-focus rendition. The Nikkor 45mm f/2.8P is a modern Tessar-type with beautiful blur. That Xenar of yours is gorgeous.
    I know a portraitist who uses a Tessar-type large format lens, a Goertz. The out-of-d.o.f. effects she gets from it are lovely. Every now and then she makes noises about switching to a modern lens and I have to talk her out of it.
    Nikon discovered in the 1960s that people think lenses are sharper when the background blur is harsher and the transitions not as smooth. It makes the in-focus objects stand out more. So they started overcorrecting for spherical aberration. Many lenses from the '70s on (to this day) are designed this way. It's no accident that many Nikkors are known for "bad" bokeh--it's in part the same thing that made them known for "good" sharpness! But there are some really good Nikkors too. The most recent example I've used is the new 24-70mm f/2.8. That's a great lens in a great many ways, one of which is that it has very nice blur, especially for a zoom.
    Mike J.
     
  99. Nikon discovered in the 1960s that people think lenses are sharper when the background blur is harsher and the transitions not as smooth. It makes the in-focus objects stand out more. So they started overcorrecting for spherical aberration. Many lenses from the '70s on (to this day) are designed this way. It's no accident that many Nikkors are known for "bad" bokeh--it's in part the same thing that made them known for "good" sharpness!​
    Funny you mention that, Mike. I noticed that years ago, early 1980s, while a journalism student and college newspaper editor. When selecting photos I could tell which photographer took which photos by the character of the out-of-focus areas. A couple of the students used Nikons; one used a Canon A1. The Nikkor shots always had distinctly harsher blur. The other students thought I was nuts - they couldn't see any differences.
    But it actually influenced me to go with Canon FD gear later (at the time I was using a Ricoh K-mount system with indifferent OOF blur). I've since switched to Nikon, but bokeh wasn't really a factor.
    Only much later, when I read your comments on the CompuServe photo forum, did I realize that not only did other photographers notice this stuff, they actually coined a term for the concept. That must've been during the mid to late 1990s?
    I've said it before, I'll say it again: I blame you for this mess. From http://theonlinephotographer.blogspot.com/2006/01/fame.html...
    Will the last brain-addled photographer to leave the party please turn out the lights and lock the door on this fuzzy concept? ;>
     
  100. Chris Brown, just absolutely beautiful !
     
  101. Mike J., isn't one of the Nikkor 105 lenses supposed to be sort of a cult classic for 35mm portraits? The only primary I have over 50mm that is not a zoomer is an Asahi Pentax 135mm 3.5 SMC for K-mount. I've only run a couple frames behind it. Now I'm curious. I figured I couldn't go wrong for $25. I don't know if I'd consider the Pentax K stuff classic or not so haven't done much with it.
    And thanks everyone for all these great comments whether you believe in bokeh, blur, or selective accidental purposefulness...
     
  102. I took this with a Z612 kodak p&s, f/4 ,ISO 80,1/500sec,33mm away. Ive found you can get good BOKEH if you know what you are doing,just play around with your camera, and if you have any common sense about yourself you will figure it out. Happy shooting!!
     
  103. My picture did not make it so i will try again. thanks
    00S4cB-104656784.jpg
     
  104. ...isn't one of the Nikkor 105 lenses supposed to be sort of a cult classic for 35mm portraits?​
    Yup, but not especially for the bokeh. It's very sharp even wide open. But the bokeh depends on the background - shape of OOF objects, distance between in-focus subject and OOF background objects, and all the usual voodoo and hocus-pocus.
     
  105. Hum? This was my first impression of the Asahi 135 lens. Very sharp wide open, in fact too sharp I would think for portrait work, but while the Asahi doesn't have the rep the shorter Nikkor does, it seems to be reasonably well known.
    But, here we go again... Hocus-pocus and voodoo are two very different approaches much like hokey-bokey has now been established as not only purely accident, but also part of a technical approach. Personally I prefer voodoo, though hocus-pocus was prominent in my early work. Now it all seems to be poo-poo...
     
  106. FWIW, I find the Nikon 105mm f2.5 to have a consistently attractive boke-aji (to use MJ's term of the day).
    With regards to this discussion of boke as concept, I have found that my Japanese brethren are very keen to capture the intangible feelings one has when observing the world. It is a very emotion driven culture in that sense, thus words like natsukashii - a classic example of a feeling that is hard to translate into English (something like nostalgic). When it comes to good bokeh, it is like that famous phrase "I know it when I see it." I don't think any lens always delivers, but some certainly do a lot more than others.

    It is because of the boke, shallow depth of field and selective focus, that I hope that we will continue to see the development of beautiful fast lenses despite the ISO trends that seem to be swinging us away from fast primes.
    00S4fT-104673984.jpg
     
  107. I noticed that years ago, early 1980s, while a journalism student and college newspaper editor. When selecting photos I could tell which photographer took which photos by the character of the out-of-focus areas. A couple of the students used Nikons; one used a Canon A1. The Nikkor shots always had distinctly harsher blur.​
    Hi Lex,
    Yeah, I used to be able to go through Sports Illustrated and pick out who was using Nikons and who was using Canons.
    And people do respond to these things even when they don't know what they're responding to. It's like they sort of "sense" it, semi-consciously. Some people prefer certain kinds of "looks" in pictures even if they can't describe for you what the effects are that are making it look the way it does. It's very interesting. I keep threatening to do more research in this area, but it's a lot of work to make the prints, and nobody pays for that.
    There's a lot of individual taste involved. Certain tonal properties drive me nuts, for instance, like HD curves that sag in the middle. I always strive to keep my preferences in check when looking at the work of others--it's very limiting to reject other peoples' work just because you don't like their technique. So I always try to be "open to convincing" when looking at other peoples' stuff.
    I remember once showing some prints to Phil Davis, and he mentioned that I was getting a lot of edge effects and suggested a few steps I might take to reduce them. I was a bit hurt, because I had worked hard to figure out how to produce the effects he was talking about! I loved the look; to him it looked more like a problem. De gustibus....
    Mike
    P.S. The older I've gotten, the more important perpendicularity becomes. [g]
     
  108. re: instinctively telling Canon from Nikon by the Bokeh -- something like that distinguishes complex scene photos in the leica world between pre-asph and the later 1990+ aspherical lenses. To me the more corrected background scenes look like they are stage-painted with a broad brush but clear lines. This is more aggressive inclusion of background details than the pull-focus shifting from actor A in the foreground to B in the background that was mentioned above. But if the picture is about A and there is no single B in the background, just a lot of people doing their thing, I prefer the more definite drawing style. Here's an example, I hope:
    [​IMG]
    scott
     
  109. zml

    zml

    I generally measure bokeh in the number of beers I need to find that out-of-focus crap pleasing: say, the OOF areas obtained with wide-open Leica or Zeiss lenses start looking fine after about 5-6 beers whereas the results from the same lenses closed down to f/5.6 look OK just after one Hacker-Pschorr.
     
  110. Here is a kind of half-technical response. My understanding is that good vs. bad Bokeh is mainly the result of optical aberrations in the out-of-focus image, and that spherical aberration is the most important.
    You may ask "but aren't most lenses well-corrected for spherical aberration?" The answer is "yes, but..."
    Yes, spherical aberration is generally well-corrected for the in-focus image, but in the out-of-focus image spherical aberration tends to be either over-corrected or under-corrected. This is a separate issue from the just being out of focus. The result is that the out-of-focus image of a point source is not just a uniformly lit circle (or polygon), but tends to have the light either pushed somewhat toward the outer edge, like the image from the Nikon 50/1.8 given above, or pushed somewhat away from the outer edge. I think the last behavior gives better bokeh. Often, it is one behavior for items closer to the camera than the focal plane, and the other behavior for items further away from the camera than the focal plane. However, usually it is background that concerns the photographer, so given the choice of good bokeh in the forground vs. the background, most photographers would prefer good bokeh in the background.
    The above explanation is, to the best of my recollection, something I read on the subject once, and it may or may not be right.
     
  111. My version[​IMG]
    00S4rg-104729884.jpg
     
  112. That makes sense Alan where you discuss over and under correction and how it would effect an image. Though not a technoweenie, I like to learn the charteristics of the vintage lenses I get, personality if you will, and then use these traits to advantage whereas some folks might consider an old outdated chunk of glass not worth the trouble and consider edge flare, lack of contrast, or wide open softness shortcomings. I don't remember the technical terminolgy folks use to describe the edges where high values meet low or dark, but this is one thing that, even when one might think it is only noticeable in big enlargements, I look at, and look closely. I think what Alan discusses also effects these sharp edges to some extent.
    Here is one example of what I am talking about. This is a very small crop taken from a WWII Speed Graphic 4x5. The film area used is smaller than a 35mm neg, and I was probably 15 ft give or take from the subject field of focus.
    00S4sZ-104731984.jpg
     
  113. Wow, IIRC this is a lot smaller than 35, but anway you can see what I am talking about in middle bottom of the image. Note how the dark edges of the stranded rope (line on a boat) and the dark edges of the winch bracket mount etc are seemingly outlined with sort of flare. The background water is also OOF and while the grain of the HP5 is quite apparent, I really like it for subject matter like this. There is also aninteresting edge dynamic right where the hard dark edge meets the lighter. I don't know if you all would consider the soft background bokeh or not.
     
  114. One final BOKEH!
    00S581-104787684.jpg
     
  115. One final BOKEH!

    That's the thing about bokeh, Ron. If it's good, you can't tell when it ends.

    Thanks for the fun thread, by the way.
     
  116. bad harsh bokeh can easily draw your attention away from the main subject... that's why you have to be concerned about it. If you haven't experienced then you either don't notice, have excellent lenses or don't shoot with wide apertures...
    You don't want good bokeh so people will be drawn to the background, you want it so the background just gives the illusion of being in the distance... in a *pleasing* way.
    >>Does "Bokeh" mean specifically the pattern in the background...but since when has any photograph drawn more attention to the background?
     
  117. This has been one of the most interesting threads I have seen in a while! I think with all the fine input, info, and excellent examples, it should be clear that good bokeh is about characteristics beyond just how far out of focus a background is. And it pertains to all out of focus areas, both nearer and more distant, and transitioning. There is indeed also a subjective element, according to preferences for a given effect.
    The difference between bokeh and the use of selective focus was well explained, especially by Matt. Kelly's report regarding the use of different background effects by cinematographers is facinating! The info about lens design causing good bokeh in foreground instead of backgound, or visa versa, or in best cases in both fields, was very informative in addressing causes.
    I have an example at hand I can offer. In this case used on a DSLR, but this lens is well-designed for full use on my old MF film camera bodies as well, which I sometimes do. It has an aperture ring, and fine MF characteristics and feel.
     
  118. Not being so great with computers, I did not get my example in. BTW, there was no post processing used. So here goes..
    00S5eH-104895884.JPG
     
  119. That's a good picture, and illustrates what good bokeh is.
     
  120. rdm

    rdm

    I guess no ones got an answer for me, or a comparison between the Canon and Minolta.
     
  121. Here's another example of bokeh - also taken with a pentax, but using a the sigma apo 70-300mm zoom.
    00S6F7-105027984.jpg
     
  122. I don't think I've ever seen quite so many digital photographs taken with modern lenses on the Classic Cameras forum in the few years I've been putting around here.
     
  123. That's what happens when the "B" word is tossed around with such disregard for the consequences of invoking the spirits. Who knows what will come out of the woodwork.
     
  124. Hi All,
    My introduction to "bokeh" came from an article by John Kennerdell in the May/June 1997 issue of Photo Techniques. Mike Johnson finished up the subject with a nice piece at the end of the magazine, and the photographs used to illustrate the article are really stunning.
    Here's a photo I took back in 1996. This is my AE-1 with the Tokina AT-X 90 2.5 Macro. I've seen this lens referred to as "The Bokina" and here's why. That's a chain-link fence in the background! This was hand-held at f4 on Plus-X, probably developed in Rodinal.. Thanks, Mark
    00S7em-105303684.jpg
     
  125. Here's a good link on bokeh: http://www.vanwalree.com/optics/bokeh.html
     

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