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Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses

  
 
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


I thought it might be fun to separate out some recent discussions in the Leica/Alt Forum about the bokeh character of wide aperture lenses.

I don't want to put any limitations on the discussion, but I thought a sample photo would be a good way to start the discussion. Attached is a screenshot from Dune 2 that shows a certain retro bokeh character that is popular in modern cinema that is often perceived as less than desirable for stills. Is this bokeh more successful in cinema because of the nature of the medium Ė that is, movement works with this bokeh, but it's more distracting as a still image?

[cross-posted to Sony forum for increased eyeballs on the topic]







Feb 27, 2024 at 05:53 PM
RoamingScott
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


They shot Dune on a Helios?!

I'd want to see this in motion before making a comment.

Overall there's a bigger trend of using vintage glass with "character" for cinema..The Lighthouse and The Batman immediately spring to mind.



Feb 27, 2024 at 05:56 PM
rscheffler
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


IMO in a moving image your eye doesn't have time to pick up and dwell on these characteristics the way it does with a still image. Yeah, I'd like to see this in motion...

Curious to read Bastian's response.



Feb 27, 2024 at 06:07 PM
RoamingScott
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


I see now that the DP of Dune also did The Batman, so that explains that

Fun fact: there's a company called Ironglass that rehouses popular Soviet era optics into modern cinema housings for this very reason. https://ironglassadapters.com/



Feb 27, 2024 at 06:09 PM
nehemiahphoto
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


highdesertmesa wrote:
I thought it might be fun to separate out some recent discussions in the Leica/Alt Forum about the bokeh character of wide aperture lenses.

I don't want to put any limitations on the discussion, but I thought a sample photo would be a good way to start the discussion. Attached is a screenshot from Dune 2 that shows a certain retro bokeh character that is popular in modern cinema that is often perceived as less than desirable for stills. Is this bokeh more successful in cinema because of the nature of the medium Ė that is, movement works with this bokeh,
...Show more

I don't find the lens over distracting in this photo, though I could see where some might. I find it distracting that the brightest part of the photo is in the outer frame while the center and subject is dark.

Great idea for post.



Feb 27, 2024 at 06:17 PM
rscheffler
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


I think it depends on the image. In this screenshot I think it works because for me it is similar to adding vignetting to put focus on the subject in the center of the image. The swirl moves my eye back to the calmer center. It also probably depends on how sensitive one is to this type of bokeh.

I just watched three Dune 2 trailers and this was the only instance of this type of bokeh I noticed. It's possible it was used very sparingly, or only for scenes not on Dune (Arrakis), and thus for effect to emphasize a different time and/or place. And IMO this is also where in stills this type of bokeh is most effective - used sparingly and with images where it complements the content. Too much of it and it's overload. I noticed that pretty much every other scene in the trailers has modern looking, fairly neutral/sterile background bokeh.


nehemiahphoto wrote:
I don't find the lens over distracting in this photo, though I could see where some might. I find it distracting that the brightest part of the photo is in the outer frame while the center and subject is dark.

Great idea for post.


It's unclear how this scene in the full movie compares to the trailer, but in the trailer, this scene is very short, starts bright and quickly darkens. I'd have to rewatch it in slow-mo but it felt like a vignette was transitioned over the clip that counteracted the bright outer area of the scene as it transitioned to the next clip. The screenshot is taken from the beginning of the clip when it's brightest. Also, in the trailer this is a locked down scene - there is no camera movement that could possibly amplify the effect or the distracting nature of this bokeh. With it being part of a movie, my eye is anticipating movement and therefore focused on the people in the scene to see what they do. They happen to be in the central calmer area of the image and the busy bokeh is in the periphery. Another consideration is that this movie will be playing on IMAX where on a massive screen the busy peripheral bokeh really would be in your visual periphery and likely acts to steer your eyes onto the subjects. On a small screen, especially the laptop I'm viewing this on now, I'm not even remotely immersed in the scene.



Feb 27, 2024 at 06:25 PM
oscartb
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


I think cinema has an advantage over stills when it comes to character lenses since a lot of stuff that matters to stills doesn't matter for cinema. Not having to contend with the tradeoffs means there's less of a penalty to choosing character than there is in stills.

Cinema has controlled lighting so stuff like flare is a non factor. Corner sharpness, and infinity performance in general, is less important as well. Digital IMAX is projected at 2k x2 resolution and an Arri Alexa LF is ~14 MP so it's hardly demanding compared to modern high MP stills cameras. Focus shift doesn't matter since the focus puller can adapt to it.

There's some interesting character lenses I'd be interested in for still if not for the "but XYZ is bad" tradeoffs I'm not willing to make




Feb 27, 2024 at 06:51 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


rscheffler wrote:
I think it depends on the image. In this screenshot I think it works because for me it is similar to adding vignetting to put focus on the subject in the center of the image. The swirl moves my eye back to the calmer center. It also probably depends on how sensitive one is to this type of bokeh.

I just watched three Dune 2 trailers and this was the only instance of this type of bokeh I noticed. It's possible it was used very sparingly, or only for scenes not on Dune (Arrakis), and thus for effect to emphasize
...Show more

I saw the early fan screening in IMAX this last Sunday night, and honestly I remember the scene but nothing about how it was filmed. So everyone saying it works differently in motion, I have to agree. I just remember being focused on the Emperor character at that moment. I also remember it being hard to look away from him to the other character, so I guess the stylistic choice worked. And yes, it must have been used sparingly. Most of the scenes looked like high end cinema lenses were used and/or CG applied, in which case the director/cinematographer can build the look they want.

On a separate note, I find it a bit odd given our current technology that our cameras don't record the "live" versions of our still photos the way iPhones do. That "Harry Potter" effect that loops and that was overused for a while in social media (Boomerang video). I think it's because we're stuck with legacy "photo uploader/storage" systems in forums like these, on Flickr, etc. For a while now, I've preferred to make final choices on whether a lens stays or goes in my bag by recording a few short video clips of things I would normally photograph, including panning around to better evaluate flare character.

Edited on Feb 27, 2024 at 07:19 PM · View previous versions



Feb 27, 2024 at 07:18 PM
RomanMF
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


To start, Greig Fraser can do whatever he wants.

Secondly, you do whatever feels right for the image you're trying to create. I don't think this lens characteristic works more or less because of the medium. It may work better because the scene is crafted with more care and consideration than your average stills shot using a lens with similar characteristics.

The photography space feels overcrowded with salesmen and technicians. The way people talk about modern cameras & lenses outright confuses me sometimes.

Great opening post & thread idea though. I can see this getting spicy (in a good way!).

P.S. I worked as a DIT on commercials and indie flicks for many years. I'm a reformed image snob.

No f**** given from Greig and Reeves on the Batman. $150M movie shot on de-tuned Alfa lenses. Legends.
















Edited on Feb 27, 2024 at 08:28 PM · View previous versions



Feb 27, 2024 at 07:18 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


rscheffler wrote:
IMO in a moving image your eye doesn't have time to pick up and dwell on these characteristics the way it does with a still image. Yeah, I'd like to see this in motion...


On the IMAX screen, the scene had a lot less contrast than this still image has, and I don't even remember the bokeh standing out. I'm guessing that's a byproduct of lower contrast projection versus our higher contrast computer screens. The still I posted looks a bit jarring, but it didn't feel that way in the movie.

I remember a while back seeing a Netflix production that must have used a wide aperture S35 anamorphic on a full frame sensor, because the image was just out of control. And they used the same look from one scene to the next. I couldn't watch the show because it made my eyes hurt not being able to look around in the scene.




Feb 27, 2024 at 07:34 PM
 


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highdesertmesa
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


nehemiahphoto wrote:
I don't find the lens over distracting in this photo, though I could see where some might. I find it distracting that the brightest part of the photo is in the outer frame while the center and subject is dark....


From what I remember reading about the first Dune movie, the widescreen version was cut down from the taller IMAX format. It's possible the bright areas weren't chopped off in IMAX.



Feb 27, 2024 at 07:41 PM
RomanMF
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


highdesertmesa wrote:
On the IMAX screen, the scene had a lot less contrast than this still image has, and I don't even remember the bokeh standing out. I'm guessing that's a byproduct of lower contrast projection versus our higher contrast computer screens. The still I posted looks a bit jarring, but it didn't feel that way in the movie.

I remember a while back seeing a Netflix production that must have used a wide aperture S35 anamorphic on a full frame sensor, because the image was just out of control. And they used the same look from one scene to the next. I
...Show more

Was it Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead? The film was shot on the Red Monstro VV, which features a sensor roughly the size of full frame, it's a little wider but less tall. He then compounded that by shooting it on rehoused vintage Canon still glass at like F1.0. Most of the damn movie feels out of focus and it gave many people headaches.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CPW7HceDfrR/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=18611876-7194-4cd8-895c-3dd7544b312d






Edited on Feb 27, 2024 at 09:49 PM · View previous versions



Feb 27, 2024 at 07:45 PM
Grenache
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


RomanMF wrote:
Was it Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead? The film was shot on the Red Monstro VV, which features a sensor roughly the size of full frame, it's a little wider but less tall. He then compounded that by shooting it on rehoused vintage Canon still glass at like F1.0. Most of the damn movie feels out of focus and it gave many people headaches.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CPW7HceDfrR/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=18611876-7194-4cd8-895c-3dd7544b312d



All Snyderís films give me a headache, but I think that is because he doesnít employ an editor. 😄

Netflix has a limited series from Poland (?) called Forst that had much of its footage shot on some vintage glass - looked like Helios or early Leica - with huge field of curvature, sending most of image not in the center increasingly out of focus and stretched. For some scenes, that worked brilliantly- the viewer was as disoriented as the actor in the scene. In others, it just looked distracting. Interesting cinematic choice either way, I guess. Caution, the show is pretty gritty.




Feb 27, 2024 at 07:58 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


RomanMF wrote:
Was it Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead? The film was shot on the Red Monstro VV, which features a sensor roughly the size of full frame, it's a little wider but less tall. He then compounded that by shooting it on rehoused vintage Canon still glass at like F1.0. Most of the damn movie feels out of focus and it gave many people headaches.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CPW7HceDfrR/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=18611876-7194-4cd8-895c-3dd7544b312d


---------------------------------------------

Grenache wrote:
All Snyderís films give me a headache, but I think that is because he doesnít employ an editor. 😄

Netflix has a limited series from Poland (?) called Forst that had much of its footage shot on some vintage glass - looked like Helios or early Leica - with huge field of curvature, sending most of image not in the center increasingly out of focus and stretched. For some scenes, that worked brilliantly- the viewer was as disoriented as the actor in the scene. In others, it just looked distracting. Interesting cinematic choice either way, I guess. Caution, the show is
...Show more

Interesting looking shows. Iíve wanted to watch the Snyder Army of the Dead just because one of the film locations was here in New Mexico, but Iíve never gotten around to it.

I think the one I saw was some fantasy type show, I canít remember exactly.





Feb 27, 2024 at 08:31 PM
qdbp
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


The thread-opening capture works as a still photo; the swirl brings attention to the center subject, and the hard-edged bokeh works as a compositional counterbalance against the left side of the frame; if the blur was Gaussian, that framing of that subject wouldn't work well as a still photo. The thing it does more poorly as a still than as a one of many frames is telling a story; the capture represents a dramatic pause, perhaps, but not a decisive moment.

I think many stills folks dislike such bokeh because the photographer wants things that are out-of-focus to be minimized as compositional elements. The surprise of having their blurry elements compete for the viewer's attention makes them think that style of lens is bad, when really it is just difficult to work with -- and more rewarding when used skillfully.



Feb 27, 2024 at 09:04 PM
thrice
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


The other similar comparison would be a preference for distortion characteristics. Then show a wide scene from La La Land and say we should stop correcting for high degrees of barrel distortion in still imagery.

In both cases it's horses for courses. The defocused areas tend to be less of a distraction when one is intently focused on the point of interest (like an actor in a scene). Likewise in a character centric film you're less likely to notice geometric distortion than distorted shape of heads so inherent barrel distortion works well.



Feb 27, 2024 at 09:10 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


thrice wrote:
The other similar comparison would be a preference for distortion characteristics. Then show a wide scene from La La Land and say we should stop correcting for high degrees of barrel distortion in still imagery.

In both cases it's horses for courses. The defocused areas tend to be less of a distraction when one is intently focused on the point of interest (like an actor in a scene). Likewise in a character centric film you're less likely to notice geometric distortion than distorted shape of heads so inherent barrel distortion works well.


Perhaps part of the challenge for stills photographers using lenses with a lot of distortion has to do with the 3:2 and 4:3 ratios that make distortion more relevant on all sides of the frame. Widescreen and even 16:9 crop a lot of that out from the center of the frame making it easier to place a subject there with less ill effect.



Feb 27, 2024 at 09:27 PM
thrice
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


highdesertmesa wrote:
Perhaps part of the challenge for stills photographers using lenses with a lot of distortion has to do with the 3:2 and 4:3 ratios that make distortion more relevant on all sides of the frame. Widescreen and even 16:9 crop a lot of that out from the center of the frame making it easier to place a subject there with less ill effect.


Perhaps, but you're also then not seeing as much of the corner bokeh either in that instance. I dare say the majority of cinematography for feature films is not cropped and instead is stretched anamorphic, meaning you do have the full image and all aberrations are exaggerated. The bokeh in from anamorphic lenses is truly unique though, and quite attractive.

My bokeh preference is inverted field curvature. I got that by using native Sony lenses on my modded A7RII where the bokeh gets blurrier towards the edges of the frame because the subject is invariably in front of the the defocused areas in 95% of my photography. I personally dislike swirly bokeh. The RX1 35mm Sonnar is right up my alley bokeh-wise.

That said, for some reason the 55/1.7 Fuji GF lens has some swirl in front of the plane of focus and very little behind the plane of focus. This works really well to draw the eye in and not distract too much. Not sure how they did that.

Mediocre photo but it illustrates my point:



Feb 27, 2024 at 09:55 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


thrice wrote:
Perhaps, but you're also then not seeing as much of the corner bokeh either in that instance. I dare say the majority of cinematography for feature films is not cropped and instead is stretched anamorphic, meaning you do have the full image and all aberrations are exaggerated. The bokeh in from anamorphic lenses is truly unique though, and quite attractive.

My bokeh preference is inverted field curvature. I got that by using native Sony lenses on my modded A7RII where the bokeh gets blurrier towards the edges of the frame because the subject is invariably in front of the the defocused
...Show more

I recently owned the S5IIX, and I had intended to try at least one anamorphic on it since it can do in-camera desqueeze and open gate to record the entire sensor area. But I couldn't handle the Panasonic menu system for stills shooting after having the SL cameras, so I never got to try one. Hopefully more manufacturers will move to offering open gate shooting in the future. I may try an anamorphic for stills anyway at some point.

Interesting about the GF 55 1.7. I keep hoping Fujifilm will put the 100 II on sale at some point. I really want that 1.0x magnification high res EVF if using that sensor.



Feb 27, 2024 at 10:38 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


A few more stills from the Dune 2 trailer that seemed to fit into groupings with regard to rendering. Always hard to know if lens flare and hard vignetting in movies is real or added in post, though.





Different bokeh ball renderings but both are pleasing







What's a movie about the desert without lens flare?







No real bokeh here, but interesting shallow DOF




Feb 27, 2024 at 10:41 PM
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