Shallow DoF. What camera combinations to get a decent bokeh

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by erick_gonzalez, Sep 17, 2016.

  1. Hello guys, before you guys start answering my question, I just want to say that I have NEVER owned or used a camera worth over $300. With that said, I am a beginner at photography but I'm only interested in bokeh effects. So if you guys can recommend some combination of cameras that I need or is there cameras that I don't need to buy extra lens for a decent bokeh effect?
    Here is an example of the bokeh I want to achieve. I mostly want to take full body pictures with a nice DoF. Also, I'm not taking group pictures, I'm mostly interested in taking 1 person's picture. I live in the US and currently on a budget of roughly $1000. If I need to spend a couple more, I would consider it in order to achieve the effect I want on a full-body portrait. Also, I am not interested in the brenzier method. I just want a small shot that can cover a person's full body.
    Please list as many combinations that are around my budget and if I can't achieve the effect like the pictured I linked (without the wide shot), then feel free to recommend other ways that I can achieve a decent bokeh of a full-body portrait. Thank you for your time!
  2. That linked image was taken with a Canon EOS 6D, full frame DSLR shot at 85mm, 1/800's f/1.2 (wide open aperture), ISO 640.
    Any good 85mm fast lens will deliver those results.
  3. Canon 6D +85mm f1.8@f2 + high speed sync flash for fill, depends if you buy new or auction.
  4. Given the price of the lens, I would expect creamy bokeh. Now, how does the OP get something similar without spending $1,800 on the lens alone?
  5. There are variety of ways to go. You could get a used 50/1.4 for fairly cheap (under $200 ?) older manual lens. I'm familiar with Nikon (full frame) and you didn't indicate which camera. If you go with more recent optics like 35/1.4, 85/1.4 or 135/2....even if it's not Zeiss, it would still be over $300.
    Although you can grab similar bokeh with a longer 300mm, however it changes the dynamics and it gives more compressed look....tho not exactly'd have to step back some distance.
  6. Just to add, I viewed at 100% the full resolution version "Original" of the linked flickr portrait and it's been heavily sharpened going by the thick haloed edges of the subjects. It's pretty bad looking compared to what I get shooting with a 2006 6MP Pentax K100D DLSR with kit lens.
    I know a Canon 6D full frame can do better than that. The photographer processed it to look optimal for online viewing. No telling what a Raw unedited version of that capture really looked like in sharpness and bokeh quality.
    My point being that you can get a less expensive fast lens and edit to get the quality you see in that flickr sample.
  7. Also, I'm not taking group pictures, I'm mostly interested in taking 1 person's picture.​
    Do you mean that you want one photograph with beautiful bokeh of one specific person? If that is the case, you are far better off renting a camera and lens. Many rentals on the web are for five days, for a reasonable price, which will give you time to get used to the camera, study the bokeh you can achieve, study what lighting you want to use, and then get your photograph. (Even if you will be using natural light, you want to plan in advance.) A rental will come in for far less than your budget.
    Still going under that assumption, and based primarily on my experience with Nikon, I suggest renting a Nikon D610 and a Nikon 85mm f/1.4D lens. The camera will do everything you need. The lens is an older model, known for its bokeh, and which might no longer be available for rental. In that case rent the 85mm f/1.4g AF-S, which should also provide wonderful results.
    Whether you are renting or buying, I am concerned about some of the advice given above. For example, while some 50mm f/1.4 lenses will result in excellent bokeh, others will not. Nikon's 50mm f/1.4D, for example is not very good at this. I still have bad memories about my old Olympus Zuiko f/1.4, for the film Olympus OM system, which created horribly busy backgrounds. Whatever you do, make sure the lens is known for the kind of bokeh you would like to see.
  8. it


    Bokeh has nothing to do with the camera, just the lens IMO. You could get a used Fuji XT1 and the 35/1.4 (50/1.4 equivalent in 35mm terms) for your budget. That gives OK out of focus backgrounds.
    I kind of like the effect of the Petzval which I use on Canon and Sony.
    And can't go wrong with the Canon 135/2, although it costs around your total budget for a new model.
  9. Ian, the camera has little to do with bokeh except in terms of sensor size. It's easiest to minimize depth of field with a full-frame camera. If he were to do this in Nikon, the D610 is the least expensive current model.
  10. Sensor size and fast lenses would of course get you greater depth of field, but you don't have to break the bank to achieve this. There is much to be said about how close you are to your subject and how far objects are behind your subject. This was taken with a ten year old Canon 5D (full frame but so old now) and an 85mm f1.8 lens at f2.2.
    You need to have a play with your subject and see what works best for you.
  11. I don't need to buy extra lens for a decent bokeh effect?​
    Bokeh isn't an effect, but an inherent quality of a lens, so you will need to buy an extra lens, as the standard zooms tend to have pretty poor bokeh.
    Most of the time, people confuse "bokeh" for shallow depth of field, which is not the same thing - and I think this is what happens here too. Bokeh is only about the aesthetic quality of the out of focus parts of the photos, not about how much or little there is. It very much comes down to taste (i.e. the Petzval Ian showed is a type of bokeh that does not please all, I quite like it).
    Shallow depth of field instead is far more defined. There are fairly cheap lenses that can do very shallow depth of field. Most of those, though, do not have great bokeh. Among the cheaper options that in my view delivers a really pleasant bokeh is a Nikon 105mm f/2.5 - manual focus, but smooth out of focus rendering. As a fully manual lens, fairly easy to adapt to many camera mounts other than Nikon F-mount too, so that gives a nice bit of flexibility.
  12. Full frame DSLR, like a Canon 6D or Nikon D610 plus and 85mm F1.8 lens would run about $2K today new. It
    is possible a used FF camera plus the same lens may be in the $1500 range. Next step down would be an
    APSC camera with the same 85mm F1.8 lens. I would think that both Canon and Nikon models (various
    Rebels / D3300 or D5300) could be bought new at a price within you budget. There are likely mirrrorless
    options from Sony and Fuji that would work but I know less about them and the availability of a fast, reasonably inexpensive native 85 or 90mm lens, and there is of course endless possibilities when you add in used equipment and adapted lenses. The image you posted appears (to
    me) to be heavily processed with sharpening on the subject and likely blurring of the background to enhance
    the effect.
  13. So if you guys can recommend some combination of cameras that I need or is there cameras that I don't need to buy extra lens for a decent bokeh effect?​
    My cheap SMC Pentax-A (aperture ring) 50mm/f2.0 manual focus prime I bought on Amazon for $30 about 6 years ago gives me some nice bokeh (see below). So I think price doesn't necessarily reflect the quality of bokeh, more like distance of lens to subject, sensor size and focal length.
    The shot below I took in my kitchen at f/2.0, max wide open. My hand was almost arm's length and the background around 6ft. I white balanced, added +20 Clarity and increased Exposure slider in ACR 6.7 with some sharpening and got pretty creamy smooth bokeh.
  14. Bokeh has nothing to do with the camera, just the lens IMO.​
    Actually, the sensor format (and thus size of the "box") does affect bokeh, or, more precisely, depth of field. A shallower depth of field is easier to achieve with a larger format camera, everything else being equal. Tiny cameras tend to have very long depths of field: darned near everything can be in focus.
    Another useful generalization is that short lenses tend to have a longer depth of field than do longer lenses.
    So, if you want really shallow depth of field (with most everything but part of the subject being out of focus), then shoot larger format cameras with long lenses. Of course, keep in mind that it is possible to get a depth of field that is too shallow for a particular application.
    If you want a very long depth of field, with everything in focus, then put a short lens on a small format camera--if that is the effect you want.
    Keep in mind, of course, that all of the above leaves out the really big variable which you can control with any camera/lens rig: aperture. Everything else being equal, the larger aperture will give you a shallower depth of field. Small apertures will give you long depths of field, with most everything being in focus.
    So, if you really, really, really want the shallowest depth of field imaginable (and there is absolutely no reason why you should), then get a big format camera (say, full frame), put a long lens on it (say 300mm), and then open the lens t maximum aperture (lowest f-stop number).
    With these general principles, you can finally come up with your own combos that have the desired depth of field. Some trial of error is usually required for a particular type of shooting.
    So, remember these three variables in particular: format, focal length of lens, and aperture. I won't get into other variables right now which can affect depth of field, such as distance of the subject from the lens.
    It can get complicated, and so I can't blame you for wanting a "formula" that works right now without having to think about all of the above. Sooner or later, though, you are going to want to think about the various combos that can give you what you want for the subjects that you wish to shoot.
    As for the quality of the bokeh, that is an entirely different thing from having part of the image out of focus. You have raised more questions than you know.
  15. A fashion photographer might consider good bokeh is the quality that gets most commissions:
  16. Hi, for a similar effect (as in the link the OP provided) you could try the Brenizer method. With stiching multiple photos you could simulate the effect of a ultra fast lens. Google for examples and see if it works for you. So you may not need to buy a new lens but to adopt a new technique.
    Hope this helps.
  17. Ian: which Petzval is that? It's very nice.

Share This Page