Nikon D800E shallow depth of field problem

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by wademonahan, Aug 29, 2020.

  1. Hi everyone, I'm a photographer with 20 years of experience shooting film with nothing but Nikon cameras. I recently decided to invest in a digital camera and settled on the Nikon D800E due to its high resolution, the sharpness of the images it produces and, most importantly, because that's all I can afford right now.

    I have taken it out for a few rounds of shoots and have been experiencing a very odd and frustrating problem with the depth of field being too shallow, even at f/22 and it's driving me crazy. I'm attaching a few examples (all crops at 100%) with relevant information to illustrate the issue. The lenses I am using are a Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-s and a Voigtländer 40mm f/2.0 Ultron SL II-S.

    Am I missing something? Has anyone encountered such an issue? Or have any clue as to why this is happening? Did I just get a dud and should I return it to the seller? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

    Screen Shot 2020-08-29 at 6.16.39 PM.png
    Voigtländer 40mm, f/16, 1/60, ISO 6400

    Screen Shot 2020-08-29 at 6.21.28 PM.png
    Nikkor 28mm, f/22, 1/60 shutter speed, ISO 100

    Screen Shot 2020-08-29 at 6.24.23 PM.png
    Voigtländer 40mm, f/22, 1/60 shutter speed, ISO 100

    Screen Shot 2020-08-29 at 6.49.58 PM.png
    Voigtländer 40mm, f/13, 1/100 shutter speed, ISO 100
  2. You are focused on a fence which is close to the lens, and find the background is out of focus. I have not only encountered this phenomena, but rely on it to separate the subject from its background. Furthermore, depth of field is not an absolute thing, and decreases when parts of the image are magnified.
  3. In the two middle shots, the focus is on the very close fence, while the background is much farther away. I would expect that degree of blur on the background at f/22.
    NetR likes this.
  4. I agree with what all the others are saying.

    Remember first of all that DOF is dependent both on focused distance(or more correctly magnification ratio) and aperture. If you've ever done macro work, you know that even at f/32, DOF is almost non-existent.

    Also, DOF is something of an abstract concept anyway. The scales on 35mm lenses assume roughly an 8x10 print size, and will deliver an acceptably sharp result over the indicated range at that size print.

    Digital, especially high resolution digital, with super high magnification just a few clicks away, makes you appreciate that there really is only one plane absolutely in perfect focus, and the aperture just controls how quickly focus falls off. My own D800 was eye opening in this respect.
    NetR and mag_miksch like this.
  5. let me just comment on the 2nd image. I dug out something no name 28mm for film SLR. - It has a DOF scale that tells me: You have to set focus more distant than 1m (4' maybe?) to get infinity within DOF at f22. While I don't know your depicted fence; it looks significantly closer.
    There are DOF calculators too.
    Figure out how you could live with your purchase or ditch it for something with a smaller sensor. I guess an occasional glimpse on DOF scales shouldn't harm. Focus stacking might be a nice passtime during post processing and could make other approaches to subjects more appealing?
  6. to make things a liitle more confusing people introduced the CoC (circle of confusion) to determine to what degree unsharpness is accepted as sharpness. This CoC depends on format, 135 has small one, 8x10 larger.
  7. I suppose the relavance here is that the OP is an experienced 35mm film shooter, but is experiencing something different using an FX digital camera.
    All things should be the same.
    Maybe the 800E's AF is stuck on 'nearest' point, so the distance is never going to be sharp?
    Does the EXIF confirm f22?
  8. wademonahan, You may consider using a depth of field calculator and accurately measuring your distance with a tape while your body is mounted on a tripod. Your D800e has a focus point that will appear when you review the shot. In live view if you zoom in to an out of focus area you can see the depth of field focus change as you scale through the aperture settings Anyway digital allows us to immediately review images more critically than film. Your awareness of depth of field will increase since your more in the moment. Good hunting.
  9. thanks for the replies everyone! mike_halliwell brings up a good point, which is that i have 20 years of experience shooting film and i have taken very similar shots and gotten a much deeper depth of field, hence the confusion. it seems like this will be a matter of adjusting to a new way of doing things, which is totally fine by me. i just wanted to check in with people and see what their experience has been.
  10. With any digital camera, you have to deal with another issue that can impact "sharp" pictures. That is diffraction. It becomes more evident at smaller f stops like f 16, f 22, etc. I find it very noticeable in my macro work with Nikon macro lenses on my D 800e, D810 and D850. For my 200mm f4 macro lens I try to use f8 or maybe f11.

    What Is Lens Diffraction?
  11. But all the images that you posted look normal and to be expected.
    chulster likes this.
  12. joseph_smith|3 thanks for bringing this up. i took a bunch of landscape photos at f/22 when i first got the camera and they all looked like crap. i then looked it up and found out that diffraction was the culprit. i've been shooting at f11-13 ever since and been quite happy with the results.
  13. This level of magnification is something you couldn't easily do on film, and even if you did, all you'd see would be grain/dye clouds and a fuzzy-edged image of even the sharpest-focussed detail.

    Having 36 megapixels (giving you a clean resolution up to 100 line-pairs per millimetre) changes all that.

    There really is no such thing as depth of field, since there is one plane of focus only and everything before and after becomes increasingly out of focus. Depth of field is a convenient concept that assumes certain viewing conditions - like a 10"x 8" print viewed at 18" distance. Viewing 5 micron pixels at 100% on a 23" monitor grossly exceeds those expected viewing conditions by perhaps an order of magnitude.

    So. If you plug a CoC of 0.0029mm instead of 0.029mm into your DoF calculator, it'll spit out an apparent result closer to what you're seeing by pixel peeping.

    P.S. Another contributory factor is that a film emulsion has depth, which spreads the image plane and therefore deepens depth-of-field. Whereas a digital sensor is absolutely planar with essentially no depth.

    Welcome to the unforgiving world of digital photography. No slack given here I'm afraid.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
  14. yes, i am learning this the hard way. i posted this in a bit of a panic because i was getting close to the date where i could return the camera, but i am not realizing that i need to readjust to these new standards. it's exciting.
  15. wademonahan, The D800e is the camera that changed everything. Since its release many companies have followed with high resolution bodies and even third party lens companies such as Sigma, Tamron and Tokina have had to keep up by producing quality optics that they were never known for but are now envied. You will not miss much with the D800e. It’s still an outstanding performer after 8 years and at base ISO nothing is lost but you can shoot it at ISO 3200 with results that IMHO are much better than Provia pushed to 200 or for that matter not pushed at all. It will make all of your present lenses better and also show you the limits of your glass. The newer bodies like the D850 have a deeper buffer and faster frame rate but the image quality improvements are incremental. Good hunting.
  16. Even the D800, which of course has an AA filter(as opposed to the 800E de-anti-alias filter behind the AA filter) is still unforgiving. The D800E might squeeze a small additional amount of sharpness out of lenses that have it to give, but really the D800 shows for a lot of purposes.

    I'm basing this on the D810, which I bought a few months ago. I still have my D800, especially since I can walk around without changing lenses and it's a good back-up that operates essentially the same, but all the small improvements in the D810 over the D800 all add up to an overall nicer camera. Of course the complete lack of an AA filter is a plus, along with the even cleaner ISO 64(it's about equal at 3200 or 6400 IME, which are places I've never been afraid to venture on my D800), is more comfortable to handle, and probably one of the most important things to me-that you don't notice until you have them side by side-is just how loud the shutter on the D800 is, and how quiet the D810 is.
  17. As it is a 'new to the OP' 2nd hand 8yr old camera, are we still sure it's doing as requested?
  18. What possible camera fault can you suggest that would narrow depth-of-field?

    If the aperture wasn't stopping down properly, that would show up as overexposure.
  19. Arree, partially, unless also auto-iso is on...
    mike_halliwell likes this.
  20. Not so much narrow as put in the wrong place. The result in these type of pictures with a clear foreground and background but not much mid-ground.would look the same.

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