View Full Version : which point and shoot produces the best depth of field effect?

05-23-2009, 11:30 AM
to all experts (which is all of you since i am a complete novice),

i am looking to purchase a point and shoot camera. however, almost all my friends have dslrs that produce a great depth of field effect. i would like to do the same without carrying around an anvil tied around my neck.

please help. i thank you in advance.


05-23-2009, 01:01 PM

Tell us what you mean by that "great depth of field" effect? If it means the ability to isolate a single subject from the back ground, where the background is blurred, that is difficult for a digicam to do because the physical design of the small imagers used with small lenses in most digicams created a great depth of field where everything from the foreground to the back ground is in sharp focus.

Please take a look at the attached photo. In it the main subject is in sharp focus while the background is slightly blurred. I think that is the effect that you are looking for in your search.

Sarah Joyce

05-23-2009, 06:18 PM
The Panasonic LX3 is probably your best bet, as it has a relatively large (but still tiny!) sensor, and a very fast f/2.0-f/2.8 lens. It's till going to be nothing like you can get from a larger-sensored camera, though.

05-23-2009, 06:53 PM
Also, the rumor (http://www.echenique.com/index.php/2009/05/15/more-olympus-micro-43-rumors/) is that Olympus is going to announce their micro four-thirds cameras in a few weeks. Unlike Panasonic's G1, their earlier mock-ups are styled more like compact cameras (rather than mini dSLRs).

The 4/3rds format sensor is 18mm 13.5mm, large enough to get a decently-shallow depth of field. (Here's a random example (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomdauben/3557246224/in/pool-fourthirdssystem) I found in 30 seconds of looking on Flickr.)

But also worth considering is that the low-DOF look is mostly a recent obsession. Traditionally, most photographers have wanted more in-focus area, not less. Even for portraits, having an in-focus nose and in-focus ears is generally a good thing. There's a place for subject isolation, but I think people are excited because it's something obvious that their expensive dSLRs can do that even a fancy point & shoot can't not because it's all that important of a technique.

05-23-2009, 07:21 PM
recent obsession ? hmmm. i dont know about that matt. fast portrait glass has been around and mainstream for 20 years. people are excited about it cos they like the look of it. photography changes as people become more adventurous and brreak out of traditional moulds. more evidence of that is the strobist phenomenon.

the lx3 does have a fast lens but it has quite a limited zoom so subject isolation isnt quite as easy as you would expect cos you dont have a long focal length.

05-23-2009, 08:06 PM
fast portrait glass has been around and mainstream for 20 years.

Fast glass has been around longer than that, and I think arguably was a lot more mainstream before today's kit zooms. But I'll stand by the statement: until recently, people were generally concerned about getting more DOF, not less. For example, this article on DOF from Luminous Landscape (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/dof.shtml)(which is almost 10 years old and written by an "old school" photographer Michael Reichmann ) mentions in passing:

On a personal note, unless I'm struggling with depth of field and simply can't stop down far enough with a particularly lens to achieve enough depth of field for a particular shot, I always use the lens' DOF setting for one stop smaller than indicated. This ensures that even if I make a very large print, I'll still have adequate DOF. In essence what I'm doing is doubling the effective COF.

That said, photographers have always experimented with different styles and what they can do with their equipment, and the portrait with an out-of-focus background has certainly been a standard for a lot longer than 20 years.

And, as for tastes changing, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing that we have a current fad for lots of blur. I just think it's important to recognize that it is a fashion thing, not necessarily a reason a certain camera is better than another. (Unless that fashion is a must for you!)

05-25-2009, 12:29 AM
That went off on a bit of a tangent...

Short answer: No

Long answer: You can control depth of field with some point and shoot cameras by playing with the aperture settings, but you will never get the kind of shallow DOF and subject separation that a dSLR is capable of. Physical size of the sensor and glass are paramount.