This article shares a selection of flower images and discusses some of the techniques that can be used to achieve shallow depth-of-field with M4/3 camera gear.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
We should begin this article by stating upfront that it is absolutely possible to create shallow depth-of-field when using M4/3 camera gear. In fact, it is quite easy to do.
So much of the sensor size/shallow depth-of-field discussion seems nonsensical to me. It’s like asking two musicians to play the same song with their instruments. One musician has a piano, the other a guitar.
They both play the tune well, then the second musician is criticized because their version didn’t sound like a piano. The point is to be able to play the song… not to have them sound identical. This is at the heart of the pointless full frame versus M4/3 comparisons. They are different tools that can each be used to reach a similar destination.
Regardless of the camera gear that you may own, and the sensor inside your camera, there are three things that you can do that affect depth-of-field. You can change the focus distance to the subject. Change the focal length of your lens. And, change the aperture of your lens.
A wider angle focal length lens will always have more depth-of-field than a longer focal length telephoto lens when shot at the same aperture. This holds true regardless of the camera format.
Knowing these simple guidelines enables us to use our M4/3 camera gear to create shallow depth-of-field… as you can see with the first five images in this article.
One of the best tools we can have in hand to create shallow depth-of-field is a fast, constant aperture telephoto zoom lens with a short minimum focusing distance. The lens that I immediately grab when I know I want to create shallow depth-of-field with my M4/3 kit is the M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8. I also reach for my Kenko extension tubes… but more on that a bit later.
If you check the EXIF data on the images that you’ve viewed thus far, you’ll see that I used a focal length of 150 mm (efov 300 mm) for all of the photographs. I did that purposely as longer focal lengths will always have less depth-of-field than wider focal lengths. And, I kept my aperture set at f/2.8 as that setting produces more shallow-depth-field. You’ll also notice that I got in fairly close to my subjects.
So, creating shallow depth-of-field with your M4/3 gear is really simple when you remember those three things. Get in close. Use a long focal length. And, a fast aperture. Obviously composition comes into play. Choosing subjects that are more distant from the background in your compositions is also important.
There may be times when you want even more shallow depth-of-field with your M4/3 gear. When you do… reach for some extension tubes. As you can see in the image above, shortening our minimum focusing distance when using extension tubes helps us create even more shallow depth-of-field.
When using extension tubes it is critical to be able to focus on a very precise point in your composition. So, using a single auto-focus point is highly recommended.
We can even isolate an individual stamen in a flower or other small details when using a single auto-focus point.
When viewing the above image, you’d have no way of knowing that the background that I chose for this composition was the solar blanket on my pool. As noted earlier, shortening the focusing distance reduces depth-of-field. This can completely mask the background in an image.
Achieving shallow depth-of-field with M4/3 camera gear (and other format systems) is simple to do when you remember three things. Get in close. Use a long focal length. And, shoot with a fast aperture.
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Image were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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