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Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses

  
 
thrice
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p.2 #1 · p.2 #1 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


highdesertmesa wrote:
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.


First shot looks like the 35 RX1 sonnar bokeh, second one looks like the 85GM

highdesertmesa wrote:
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.


I don't find the EVF a limitation on the 100S but then I haven't used the 100II. I hear there are some haptic issues with the 100II and it rubbed me the wrong way that they lied about using a new sensor.



Feb 27, 2024 at 10:46 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.2 #2 · p.2 #2 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


thrice wrote:
First shot looks like the 35 RX1 sonnar bokeh, second one looks like the 85GM

I don't find the EVF a limitation on the 100S but then I haven't used the 100II. I hear there are some haptic issues with the 100II and it rubbed me the wrong way that they lied about using a new sensor.


I found the 100S EVF acceptable, but I had trouble with it in low light. That's only when using adapted lenses for manual focus, though. With AF lenses, the EVF was never an issue. I think I got spoiled by the EVFs in the R5 and SL2-S. But I know it's not all about the EVF resolution. I was really surprised by how good the EVF experience was on the Zf given the specs.



Feb 27, 2024 at 10:56 PM
rscheffler
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p.2 #3 · p.2 #3 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


qdbp wrote:
...when really it is just difficult to work with -- and more rewarding when used skillfully.


I agree that skillful use of whatever kind of bokeh a lens produces is the big challenge that often is not successfully met, particularly with 'bad' bokeh lenses. Often photos are made strictly for the sake of the bokeh without much care about the actual subject content (well, the bokeh effect is the subject after all). IMO the real art or craft is knowing the characteristics of the 10-15 50mm lenses in your collection and knowing which one to use when, for the purpose of enhancing a specific scene's content. It's almost like you'd have to bring them all with you if you don't know what you'll encounter. It's probably why I mostly just use one 50mm lens from my collection that has the most neutral background character.

I think it's worth noting that many lenses have different foreground character compared to background character. Often if a lens is a smooth/neutral background type, the foreground bokeh is relatively active in comparison. The crops in the LoCA section of Bastian's fast 28mm shootout over at Phillip Reeve's blog illustrates this. Compare each lens's foreground and background LoCA crops.




Feb 27, 2024 at 11:03 PM
rscheffler
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p.2 #4 · p.2 #4 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


highdesertmesa wrote:
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.


The bokeh balls look modern to my eyes. There is no hard outlining, just neutrally balanced. That there is cat's eye at the edges likely means it's not apodization, if that even exists in cine lenses.

I'll go out on a limb and say it's Leica Cron or Lux cine lenses. Other clips looked to me kind of Zeissy. The only hesitancy I have with saying Leica is that the focus transition does not appear fast in the way I think of modern Cron APO ASPH still lenses from Karbe. No idea how Leica's cine lenses align with Karbe's stills lenses.. Maybe there's a bunch of BPM style filtration on these too?

Yeah, I noticed the flare too. I though it was used (or created?) effectively.

-----

Thinking about the topic line of this thread a bit more... while I have a bunch of lenses with active bokeh characteristics, I usually work with neutral character lenses. I really do like the active bokeh of a Sonnar lens, for example, or the VM 40/1.4, Canon 35/2 LTM. As I alluded to in a previous post, I probably just find it easier to use neutral character lenses because it's one less variable to deal with across a broad range of photographic genres. And most currently available, recently released lenses seem to be trending in the neutral direction. It's one of the reasons I got the Canon RF 28-70/2. For this type of zoom, it had the nicest looking, least distracting background rendering, to my eyes at least. For available light event work I find it's very effective at letting the subject come forward from an otherwise neutral background that remains pretty consistent in character through the zoom range (relative to other similar zooms).



Feb 27, 2024 at 11:15 PM
Kalainen
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p.2 #5 · p.2 #5 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


Interesting discussion and from a bit of different angle than usual.

I'm going to quote myself here () from the ZEISS Nano Primes discussion as I think my earlier post fits perfectly in this discussion (and it didn't get much attention earlier):

ZEISS has made a lot of effort to distinguish what makes lens rendering beautiful and tried to apply this into Supreme Primes (ie. translating human-culture-centered 'taste' into physics of optics). They've worked with various established cinematographers trying to understand all this. To me, this sounds like a very ambitious effort and different what many other manufacturers seems to be doing. For example, with Sony GMs and Sony's description of the development process, it sounds to me that Sony figures out people want sharp lenses, so they will produce a lens that 'breaks sharpness records' (135 GM). Then Sony figures out people...Show more

So basically photography and cinematography are different species. Most photographers prefer rather modern rendering (smooth and clean backgrounds, microcontrast, etc) while cinematographers are looking for something more unique. This is perfectly understandable as most photographers are photographing everyday scenarios and cinematographers are creating stories that happen in other times & worlds. But this kind of difference brings up an interesting contrast between them and also shows how we can speak endlessly about the rendering differences of photographic lenses even though most of them have the same 'modern look' with them. Sigma 85/1.4 vs Sony GM 85/1.4 anyone? It's basically the same modern look. We have just 'lost it' in the trivial details..

I know, I know I've put this in a bit provocative way, so don't get triggered.. It's just these cinematic examples showcase so perfectly that with 'the characteristic', it's all very relative...



Feb 28, 2024 at 03:20 AM
BastianK
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p.2 #6 · p.2 #6 · 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...

Curious to read Bastian's response.

Well, first thing, if you think you cannot pick up lens characteristics in moving images I recommend to watch season 3 of Narcos.
In many scenes they used lenses so bad with such ugly field curvature, loads ot astigmatism and undefined focal plane. Ugh.

On the other end of the spectrum is Stranger Things. Here it looked so good that I also felt the need to look up the lenses that have been used and apparently it were the Summilux Cine lenses.
I would love to know more about the optical design of those, but I could not find any information on that.

My take on wide angle bokeh is the same as it is for any other focal length:
Bokeh is to the subject, what the pot is to a Bonsai tree.
It should enhance the scene, but not distract from the actual subject.
If it distracts from it, it failed its purpose.

Bad:


Good:



Feb 28, 2024 at 04:11 AM
rscheffler
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p.2 #7 · p.2 #7 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


I know, I know I've put this in a bit provocative way, so don't get triggered.. It's just these cinematic examples showcase so perfectly that with 'the characteristic', it's all very relative...

Provocative in the respect that it makes me think about this more, which is good.

The target market for high-end cine lenses is apparently a very small group that likely have a deeper visual imaging experience than the average still photographer interested in fast lenses. They've 'been there, done that' at the various extremes of lens performance and have apparently realized that 'dashes' of optical 'flavoring' usually do more for the overall effect than options that turn the dial to 11 for emphasis of specific imaging characteristics, often to the detriment of other characteristics.

My thoughts go to the Canon EF 50/1.2L and perhaps the Nikon 58/1.4. On the forums both are shredded for being soft wide open. My experience is with the Canon and indeed when I got it, I was hoping it would be a 50mm version of the 85/1.2L. It wasn't. It had a lot of under corrected SA at wider apertures and corresponding focus shift (despite use of an aspherical element). It simply wasn't modernly sharp in the plane of focus at wide apertures (compared to something like a Sigma 50/1.4 Art or even a 24-70/2.8 at 50mm), and never really all that sharp stopped down either. But it had a 'lush' rendering that I really liked around f/2 for environmental portraits. IMO it was a curious decision by Canon's product planners because it clearly wouldn't be a technically impressive lens at a time when online discussions were increasingly about wide open sharpness. I still have pleasant thoughts about the EF 50/1.2L, but it wasn't enough for me to keep it through the transition to mirrorless. In its place I've opted for the 28-70/2 which gives up most of the SA yet IMO has good modern/neutral bokeh while not being excessively sharp wide open. I do a lot of people/events work, often with middle age to older subjects where a lens that takes sharpness to '11' isn't necessarily the best thing.



Feb 28, 2024 at 11:55 AM
retrofocus
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p.2 #8 · p.2 #8 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


Great thread, this will be some fun to see! Will start with a few lenses of mine shot wide open:


Leica M-E 240, Canon 50/1.4 LTM lens @ f/1.4



Leica M6, CV 35/1.2 II M lens @ f/1.2 with Ferrania P30 film



Leica M3, Leitz 90/2.8 Elmarit-M lens Vers. I @ f/2.8 with Ektachrome 100 slide film



Leica M3, Leitz 90/2.8 Elmarit-M lens Vers. I @ f/2.8 with Ektachrome 100 slide film



Leica M-240, CV 75/1.5 M lens with 2 stop ND filter @ f/1.5



Feb 28, 2024 at 03:18 PM
Alan Parker
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p.2 #9 · p.2 #9 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


We are currently watching the Shogun TV series here. Goes very well with this thread! Makes me excited to go and see Dune II as well.


Feb 28, 2024 at 04:07 PM
joakim
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p.2 #10 · p.2 #10 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


A bit off topic but at IMDb.com they have a paragraph titled Technical specifications for each movie and often they list what camera system and lenses was used. Maybe this is old news 😀 but I discovered it recently after I spotted a scene in a movie where some vintage lenses clearly was used, IMDb told me it was Canon Fd lenses.


Feb 28, 2024 at 04:43 PM
 


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oscartb
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p.2 #11 · p.2 #11 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


Alan Parker wrote:
We are currently watching the Shogun TV series here. Goes very well with this thread! Makes me excited to go and see Dune II as well.


Liking the show a lot so far!

I did notice some hard vignette in some of the scenes, definitely some funky lenses being used



Feb 28, 2024 at 05:30 PM
coralnut
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p.2 #12 · p.2 #12 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


Sometimes you just don't notice the subtleties of bokeh in moving pictures as much as you notice it in stills.

I remember watching The Shining and never noticing the Zeiss B-speed lens' triangular bokeh until I looked at still images.



Feb 28, 2024 at 07:59 PM
Alan Parker
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p.2 #13 · p.2 #13 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


oscartb wrote:
I did notice some hard vignette in some of the scenes, definitely some funky lenses being used


Oh absolutely! Some of the lenses also looked really decentered, or they are using some funky tilt-shifting with non-full frame lenses on full frame? Regardless it's fun to see in shows; a lot of purely western shows are really optically perfect and that's not always my cup of tea.



Feb 29, 2024 at 03:34 AM
Nushi
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p.2 #14 · p.2 #14 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


Kalainen wrote:
So basically photography and cinematography are different species. Most photographers prefer rather modern rendering (smooth and clean backgrounds, microcontrast, etc) while cinematographers are looking for something more unique.


Camera manufacturers are known to design lenses to taste, the Nikkor 58mm and the Pentax Limited lineup for instance. The optics of the latter are evaluated in house by a select bunch of people looking at prints again and again.



Feb 29, 2024 at 02:35 PM
azenis
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p.2 #15 · p.2 #15 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


qdbp wrote:
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
...Show more

Well-said.

I think regardless of still or cinema, the way "character" or any optical signatures can add value and either tone or sensation to the shot and some people explore that to the max. And I think when properly used, it could give a very different perspective.

Here's a shot of my son that I took with Canon 50mm F0.95


It's not a particular great shot or anything to write home about. But the reason I like this picture is that the flare that the Canon produced actually gave me a sensation of immersion. If the shot was taken with a lens that had an amazing flare control, it'd still look pretty good (ok, dad bias here), but just without that sense of immersion of the sun shining on my eyes.

Same with how Stanley Kubrick used the Zeiss 50mm F0.7 to shoot the Barry Lyndon scene without any artificial lighting and just candles. They weren't particularly sharp or anything, but the sense of realism was incredible.



Feb 29, 2024 at 04:22 PM
ytwong
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p.2 #16 · p.2 #16 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


I have watched that army of the dead and I find the extreme shallow bokeh distracting and it was very uncomfortable to watch, especially in scenes like left eye is in focus while the right eye is oof. I also don't think it is aesthetically pleasing.

Movie and still use are quite different. In movie they can use certain look or bokeh for particular reason, like for example when (not related to Dune) dreaming, having a vision, telling a backstory etc.. no such thing in photo. Also, movies (not any video) are entirely a scripted story, it's all about story telling, but photo are not always scripted or have a story.

Personally I prefer some might describe as "sterile". I hate strong swirl bokeh. I prefer vignetting if the aim is for the viewer to focus on the centre. Sometimes I find Meyer Optik bubble bokeh interesting but I won't buy a special effect lens at crazy price.



Feb 29, 2024 at 05:48 PM
Desmolicious
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p.2 #17 · p.2 #17 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


JJ Abrams went loco in the coco with flare in "Star Trek - Into the Darkness"






Feb 29, 2024 at 06:29 PM
Kalainen
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p.2 #18 · p.2 #18 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


BastianK wrote:
My take on wide angle bokeh is the same as it is for any other focal length:
Bokeh is to the subject, what the pot is to a Bonsai tree.
It should enhance the scene, but not distract from the actual subject.
If it distracts from it, it failed its purpose.


Generally, I agree with this, for most general photos, bokeh should not distract the subject. But putting it like this, it sounds like similar rule as 'always use the rule of thirds, don't put anything in the middle', etc. In a sense, taking a way the aesthetic decision.

The thing is, not everyone is reaching for Bonsai aesthetics. Or to put it more precisely: not all photography is about aestheticizing the subject, ie. depicting the subject as being pleasing or representing in an idealized or refined manner. Most of the photography is of course this (professional photographers get payed for this), and this is what most photographers are doing without being really conscious about it, but there are also situations where photographer might go for more 'raw' outcome.

As an example Sally Mann's come to my mind. Looking at her work from todays lens design standard's point of view, the pictures have ridiculous amount of field curvature, vignetting and all, but it's of course a deliberate choice. I didn't found very good examples, don't have time for google, but here's a few.














Another example could be, The Pillar, work of Stephen Gill. He photographs birds with the whole different concept, essentially removing the standard aestheticizing aspect of the bird photography. And because of it, it become much more interesting than the million already seen bif-pictures. If interested, read more about it here














In short, I think that in general your definition of the good bokeh is on point, as long as one remembers that aestheticizing the subject is just one, though most of the used, approach to photography.



BastianK wrote:
Bad:
https://phillipreeve.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Laowa_28mm_1.2_Argus_Sample_Bokeh_far_5.jpg

Good:
https://phillipreeve.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/sigma_35mm_1.2_art_dg_dn_sample_38.jpg


One might also discuss the bokeh in the context of single pictures. For me, the first picture's bokeh is more pleasing (even with the field curvature). The fault with the second picture is that the skyline looks like it was photographed through a 'greasy glass'. I'm sure the lens, whatever it is, produces fantastic results in other situations, I have no doubt about it, but here I just find it a rather dull looking.

Edited on Mar 01, 2024 at 05:01 AM · View previous versions



Mar 01, 2024 at 04:09 AM
Kalainen
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p.2 #19 · p.2 #19 · Bokeh Character Preferences for Wide Aperture Lenses


Nushi wrote:
Camera manufacturers are known to design lenses to taste, the Nikkor 58mm and the Pentax Limited lineup for instance. The optics of the latter are evaluated in house by a select bunch of people looking at prints again and again.


Of course camera manufacturers design lenses to taste, that's not to point. The point is that within the still photography, the taste is more or less similar (standard) between different manufacturers (and often driven by technical aspects such as smooth bokeh, no CA, sharpness, etc.). Not many are taking risks here. The Nikkor 58mm is a delightful example of going 'against the flow' and I'm not familiar with the Pentax Limited, but for the most part manufacturers produce the more or less the same. With cinematography there is more variance, at least in that some cinematographers use old beaten up lenses, rub of the coatings, etc. Might not, and usually does not, work in still photography, but nevertheless is an interestingly different way of looking lens characteristics.



Mar 01, 2024 at 04:18 AM
RexGig0
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p.2 #20 · p.2 #20 · 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.

Is this bokeh more successful in cinema because of the nature of the medium that is, movement works with this bokeh, but it's more distracting as a still image?



Short answer: As my eyes and brain perceive it, yes, much retro bokeh looks better when seen as moving pictures, in a cinema setting, than in still images.

I can enjoy the occasional still images that have retro bokeh, but, the effect can become tiresome in large doses.

On a personal level, I have little desire to own more lenses that produce retro bokeh. Two are enough, and I tend to use them stopped-down, so that the bokeh is not visible. My Summilux-M 50mm ASPH, when used wide-open, is more to my taste.



Mar 01, 2024 at 06:36 AM
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