The depth-of-field advantage of smaller sensor camera systems

If you follow various photography sites you’ve no doubt read plenty of articles and reader comments that extol the advantages of using full frame sensor cameras.

For a lot of folks full frame cameras are the Holy Grail… the be all and end all… and some folks believe that we must shoot with this format if we want the best out of the money we have invested in camera gear. Some even go so far as to say that unless a person is willing to invest in full frame gear they’re not ‘serious’ about their craft. Others make silly and rather illogical statements that “real photographers only use full frame”.

Obviously a camera is simply an image creating tool and the gear someone may own is no guarantee of their respective skills and vision as a photographer.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 61.6mm, ISO 1400, 1/800, f/7.1
NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 61.6mm, ISO 1400, 1/800, f/7.1

It is true that for photographers whose work is done mainly under low light conditions, or when subject and background separation and shallow depth-of-field are absolutely essential, full frame cameras are excellent choices. And, as can be expected, if digital files are being used to produce very large prints, using a full frame camera (or even a larger format) especially one with a high pixel density sensor like the 36 MP Nikon D810, will be preferred.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-720, 110mm
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-720, 110mm

What is often overlooked by many people is that smaller sensor camera systems, like micro 4/3 and the Nikon 1 CX format, have unique advantages in terms of providing photographers with deeper depth-of-field at any given f-stop when shooting at equivalent fields-of-view.

NIKON 1 V2 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, ISO 250, 1/250, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, ISO 250, 1/250, f/5.6

Depending on the type of client work that a photographer does this can be a far more important consideration. And, for some amateur photographers and hobbyists, shooting with a full frame camera can prove more problematic than helpful in achieving deep depth of field in their images.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-720, Vello extension tubes
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 @ 110mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-720, Vello extension tubes

Let me try to illustrate this with some thoughts related to my photography/videography business. To put things in perspective it is important to point out that I don’t do any consumer-oriented work. No portraits. No family shots. No weddings. So the typical emphasis that other photographers may place on bokeh and image separation when shooting for these types of clients is totally foreign to me.

NIKON 1 V2 + 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 7.3mm, ISO 160, 1/125, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 7.3mm, ISO 160, 1/125, f/5.6

All of my paid work is for corporate clients with my speciality being safety and training videos. The bulk of the still photography work I do for clients normally ends up on their web sites or in product literature. The odd image may be used in point-of-purchase displays or enlarged to produce modestly-sized posters . A common factor in all of my client work is that deep depth-of-field is always preferred over shallow depth-of-field.

NIKON 1 V2 + 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, ISO 160, 1/160, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, ISO 160, 1/160, f/5.6

For a couple of days last week I was on-site capturing some video clips and still images for a safety video project that I’m currently doing for a client. A year ago I would have used a Nikon D800 along with a selection of FX lenses for much of the work, and supplemented that with my Nikon 1 gear.

Well…I no longer have any full frame camera gear. After doing an analysis of my gear usage I sold my D800 and all of my full frame lenses. That happened in July.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 @ 157mm, efov 424mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-2500
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 @ 157mm, efov 424mm, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO-2500

The result was that I shot the entire project last week using my Nikon 1 CX gear… and I am so happy that I did! My two onsite days were quicker and more efficient – and it really came down to the deeper depth-of-field advantage of my Nikon 1 gear.  Let me explain…

Since I shoot all client videos in 1080 HD at 30p I keep my shutter at 1/60 to achieve natural looking motion in scenes, and I limit ISO to 800 to keep noise to a minimum. So, to achieve the desired video exposure I only have aperture left to adjust. If I can’t get the depth-of-field I need for the scene then I have to use my studio lights to allow me to stop down my lens and get deeper depth-of-field.

Note to readers: It occurred to me that many of you may be wondering why I would limit the ISO to 800 when shooting video with a D800, especially since that camera has very good low light performance when shooting stills. One of the common misconceptions that people have is that a camera’s video performance will be on par with its still image performance. These are two completely different functions and people looking to buy a DSLR or mirror-less camera to do video with it should evaluate it on that basis. The video footage with a D800 gets noticeably noisy at ISO-1600 and by ISO-3200 is unusable for client productions. At the time that I purchased my D800 the best Nikon DSLR for video in low light was actually the D5200. Unfortunately since aperture cannot be adjusted ‘on the fly’ when shooting video with that camera, as is the case with many Nikon DSLRs, it is rather cumbersome and inconvenient with which to shoot video.

NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 13mm, ISO 400, 1/125, f/6.3
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKON 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 13mm, ISO 400, 1/125, f/6.3

Under the exposure restrictions noted above, often the available light in an industrial video scene will call for an aperture of f/2.8. Let’s consider a typical situation that I face: focusing on a subject about 2 metres away. Shooting with a full frame camera and a 28 mm lens set at f/2.8 would give me depth-of-field of only 0.95 m. This is simply not enough depth-of-field to properly present a typical industrial scene.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6, f/6.3, 1/1000, ISO-160, 110mm
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6, f/6.3, 1/1000, ISO-160, 110mm

Changing the aperture to f/8 on a full frame camera would increase my depth-of-field to 4.4 m. This would have enough in focus in the scene to make it acceptable. The challenge is that I’d need to significantly brighten the scene with studio lights in order to shoot at f/8.

Note: It is important to remember that with video I need to match shutter speed with frame rate to get natural looking motion, so at 30p the shutter speed needs to be 1/60. Higher ISO’s are not a viable option either as video footage with a D800 becomes visibly noisy at ISO-1600 and unacceptably so at ISO-3200.

As you can imagine moving light stands and adjusting light intensity on three different banks of LED broadcast lights can be time consuming in order to facilitate this single video clip. Then, multiply that time by 30, 50 or perhaps even 100 video clips that may be required for a project and you’ll quickly see how important deeper depth-of-field is for the work I do.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-4000, 216mm
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-4000, 216mm

I can get about the same field-of-view as a full frame camera with a 28 mm FX lens by using a Nikon 1 CX 10 mm f/2.8 prime lens on one of my V2’s. Focusing on the same subject at a distance of 2 m gives me 4.56 m of depth-of-field when shooting at f/2.8. This allows me to shoot the same scene, get a proper exposure and achieve the needed depth-of-field, without the need to use any studio lights. This saves time, and money.

As far as my client video shoot went last week…it was the first time that I did not need to use my large studio lights at all during the entire 2 days of shooting. This made everything flow much smoother and my client loved it!

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-1600
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 10-30mm PD f/3.5-5.6 @ 10mm, f/5.6, 1/320, ISO-1600

If you’re like me, my personal photographs are often travel related or are associated with subject matter than I find interesting. In my case that would include close up images of flowers and insects, as well as various types of photographs of birds and other animals.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-160, 275mm
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-160, 275mm

It is important to consider how the gear we are using and its depth-of-field characteristics could impact the still images we create.

Let’s say you own a Nikkor FX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens and you shoot with a full frame body. Imagine that you’re trying to take an image of an egret perched about 20 feet away with the lens fully extended to 300 mm. At f/5.6 that camera/lens set-up would have a depth-of-field of about 5.5 inches. If you were shooting a profile of the bird’s head there would be no trouble getting its entire head in focus. However, if the bird’s head was angled and it was looking towards you and you had your AF point on the bird’s eye the front portion of its bill would probably not be in focus. This is because its bill is likely longer than 2.75 inches.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-400
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 @ 141mm, efov 381mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-400

Let’s change gear and now consider that you are still shooting that same egret 20 feet away at f/5.6 but this time you are using a Nikon 1 camera with the Nikon 1 30-110 mm f/3.8-5.6 zoom lens set at 110 mm to achieve the same field-of-view. This combination would give you 15.6 inches of depth of field and whether the egret was looking at you or not, its entire head would probably be in focus, assuming of course that its bill was not any longer than about 8 inches.

NIKON 1 V3 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 70mm, ISO 1600, 1/50, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V3 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 70mm, ISO 1600, 1/50, f/5.6

Using a M4/3 camera with a 150 mm lens at f/5.6 would yield a depth-of-field of about 11.4 inches with that identical subject and shooting distance.

I’ve had a number of readers contact me and ask why they can’t seem to be able to get a subject bird or animal’s head in focus. The answer has almost always ended up being associated with the depth-of-field characteristics of the camera/lens combination they are using, the distance from the subject, and the f/stop used.

Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-2200, 300mm
Nikon 1 J5 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, f/5.6, 1/125, ISO-2200, 300mm

Landscape photography is another area where many folks swear by their full frame gear for the beautiful dynamic range and colour depth the sensors in their cameras can deliver. Other folks swear at their full frame gear as they find it difficult to get deep depth of field in their landscape images.

NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 160, 1/2, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 30.0-110.0 mm f/3.8-5.6 @ ISO 160, 1/2, f/5.6

Let’s consider a typical landscape scenario. A photographer is using a 35 mm full frame lens and camera body. There is a very interesting, gnarled old tree stump in the foreground about 3 metres into the scene and the photographer has their AF point set on that stump. They want that to be in focus as well as the balance of the image going off into infinity.

NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKKOR VR 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 11.3mm, ISO 160, 5 sec, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 1 NIKKOR VR 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 11.3mm, ISO 160, 5 sec, f/5.6

If the photographer selects an aperture of f/8, they will end up being disappointed as the furthest point of sharpness will be at under 8 m using that full frame gear. Stopping down to f/11 will only move the furthest sharp point out to just over 20 m. At f/16 they will achieve a furthest sharp point at infinity, with a nearest sharp point at just over 1.3 m.

If they are using a high pixel density sensor full frame body like a D810 they now have to deal with the image softening effects of diffraction at f/16.

Note: from a practical standpoint when I owned my Nikon D800 I would typically limit my aperture to f/8 for landscape photography and on rare occasions shoot at f/11 because of diffraction.

NIKON 1 V2 + 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 9.2mm, ISO 160, 1/250, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 9.2mm, ISO 160, 1/250, f/5.6

Another photographer standing right next to the first one is shooting the exact same scene, focusing on the exact same tree stump that is 3 m into the scene. They are using a Nikon 1 body with the Nikon CX 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens at 13 mm with an aperture of f/5.6. They confidently press the shutter knowing that their point of nearest sharpness is only a bit over 1 m into the scene and the balance will be sharp to infinity.

NIKON 1 V2 + 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 21.9mm, ISO 160, 1/80, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 21.9mm, ISO 160, 1/80, f/5.6

As is often said, there is no such thing as a perfect camera or a perfect lens. Every piece of photography gear comes with some kind of trade-off.

Perhaps some folks reading this article are thinking, “Yeah, so the depth-of-field is deeper with a smaller sensor camera system at identical f-stops because you’re using a shorter focal length lens to get the same field-of-view, but you’d be giving up a lot in terms of dynamic range and colour depth”. That is true – there is a trade off. Depending on the specific cameras we may be comparing it may not be nearly as big as we may think.

Nikon 1 V2, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-3200, 110mm, efov 297mm
Nikon 1 V2, f/5.6, 1/100, ISO-3200, 110mm, efov 297mm

The dynamic range of some M4/3 cameras like the Panasonic GH4 (12.8 EV) and Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II (12.4 EV) compare favourably with many Canon DSLRs like the 7D Mark II (11.8 EV), as does colour depth (GH4 23.2 bits, OM-D E-M5, Canon 7D Mark II 22.4-bits). The new 20-8 MP BSI sensor in the Nikon 1 J5 also bodes well for the future as its dynamic range is much improved at 12 EV and colour depth at 22.1-bits.

And, while smaller sensor cameras will not match the IQ performance of full frame cameras in terms of noise, using good noise reduction software can help level the playing field to some degree.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-2000
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm (efov 810mm), f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-2000
NIKON 1 V2 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 165mm, ISO 3200, 1/40, f/5.6
NIKON 1 V2 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 165mm, ISO 3200, 1/40, f/5.6

While many folks see the CX-sized sensors used in Nikon 1 cameras as a ‘problem’ or a ‘weakness’ I see them as a decided strength and one of the major reasons why I love shooting with Nikon 1 gear. If the Nikon 1 system used a larger sensor it would not be nearly as appealing to me or as useful for my client work.

Whether a smaller sensor camera system is right for you or not is a personal decision. If deep depth-of-field is one of your most important image factors then taking a serious look at a smaller sensor camera system could make a lot of sense for you.

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Article and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.

31 thoughts on “The depth-of-field advantage of smaller sensor camera systems”

  1. Hi Thomas,
    I am seeking for your advices to improve the sharpness of pictures taken by V2 and nikon 1 70-300.
    Normally, I use AF-S with centre AF, electronic shutter and keep 1/400 second or faster. Any comment?
    And do you feel that electronic shutter will increase the noise when compared with mechanical shutter?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Faith,
      The settings you use with your Nikon 1 V2 will depend on the subject you are photographing. For example, 1/400th would be far too slow to take sharp images of birds in flight, and typically AF-C with subject tracking would be used for birds in flight. There shouldn’t be any difference with noise based on whether electronic or mechanical shutter is used. The lower the ISO you use the less noise that you will have in your images.

  2. Hi, Thomas
    Thanks a lot for sharing this informative post
    I’m not a novice, but not a professional too!
    I have these gears:
    Canon 70d
    Canon 50mm prime f1.4
    Canon 400mm prime f5.6
    tamron 90 mm vc usd macro lens

    As mentioned I have a crop sensor camera. Now the question is that; Can I make great shot for print poster of flowers or landscape and maybe wildlife. How much sharpness will be missed!?
    And again Can I make money with this camera and lenses? because of less quality of crop sensor compare to full frame.

    I want to know because I decided to sell my gears and buy a Nikon D750 with a macro lens for now. I’d like to know if I’m in the right way or not?

    Thanks a million

    1. Hi Mahdi,

      I’m not sure rushing out and changing your camera gear at this point makes a lot of sense. Being able to take interesting, good quality images is an entirely different issue than being able to market them and sell prints.

      Many wildlife photographers use cropped sensor cameras for much of their work and depending on how you intend on going to market to sell prints your Canon gear may be perfectly fine. Unless you are intending on selling very large prints there may not be much reason to switch your gear and go full frame. The sensors in Nikon DSLRs do provide more dynamic range and colour depth than those currently in Canon DSLRs and that may be helpful with landscape image which is something you may want to consider.

      You’ll need to keep in mind that switching camera brands is an expensive proposition and it is no guarantee of success in terms of marketing prints of your images. For example, the images on my posters were taken with a range of cameras with different sizes of sensors over the years, and has made no difference at all in the marketability of individual posters. I’ve sold 12″x18″ prints of images taken with my Nikon 1 gear and clients have been very happy with them. I recently sold my D800 and all of my full frame lenses as I determined that I didn’t need it for the type of client work I do, which is mainly video, and since I never sell prints larger than 12″ x 18″ image area my Nikon 1 gear does a great job for me.

      The point in all of this is that your talent and vision as a photographer is more important than the gear you use. I would be inclined to work with many of the fine images you have already taken and focus on developing a marketing approach to sell prints…then see if you have any success. As I mentioned earlier, taking images and being able to sell them and make money from them are two very different things.


      1. Hi
        but one of my main reason to go for full frame is their Low light capability and Taking Low noise images with high ISO and also high dynamic range.
        I dont know how much it works and Is it worth to change or not?
        I agree with you. it’s very expensive to change brand.
        I think it’s better to keep my gear and spend my money for more Lenses, filters and flashes.
        What do you think about Canon dynamic range in real world photography? Is there great difference with nikon in real world or not?
        Tanks for your time.

        1. Hi Mahdi,

          I’d suggest you visit the DxOMark web site and look at the sensor testing that they have done with various cameras, and the lens testing that they have done. This will give you some independent assessment of various cameras and lenses. If you then think that it makes sense to change camera format and brand then you should do what you think is right for you. Since I have never shot with any Canon gear so I cannot give you a first-hand opinion.

          I may have misunderstood your comment as I thought you were asking whether it would make sense for you to change format and camera brand in order that you could sell some of your work. While full frame cameras do provide more dynamic range and colour depth and do perform better in low light, changing gear won’t automatically make it easier for you to sell some of your work. That’s why I suggested working on a marketing plan to sell some of your images to see how you make out with that before spending more money on any kind of gear.


  3. Wonderful work. Thanks for inspiring us.

    I have started working with the trial version of DxO Elite based on your work. So far, very impressed with the software.

    Do you have a basic “starting point” preset you might suggest.
    Shooting a V-3 w/ 18.5 and 10-100 and D750 (which does not need much help from Dxo but I did run a shot I thought was quite good thru perfectly clear and it really made it pop )

    IMHO, from what I can see at this point , if you own a 1 series, DxO is the magic bullet.

    1. Hi Jerry,

      I use OpticsPro on all of my images regardless of the camera with which it was shot. When I still owned my D800 and FX lenses I also used OpticsPro as my RAW processor. I agree completely that if someone is shooting with a Nikon 1 camera OpticsPro really makes a difference. In terms of the more typical settings that I use with Nikon 1 files here’s pretty much what I do:

      – allow all auto adjustments to be done by the software
      – depending on the image I usually take highlights down -10 to -20
      – I will often add micro-contrast – usually no more than 10
      – if the lens I’m using is covered by the lens softness function I will often use 1.20 on global and 70 on detail
      – I apply PRIME noise reduction to all Nikon 1 files regardless of the ISO at which they were shot

      Obviously depending on the image I may use a few other adjustments in OpticsPro but the ones listed above are my ‘standard’ starting points

      Typically I export a DNG file into CS6 and if needed tweak a few things in CS6 and perhaps a couple of very minor adjustments in Nik

      Hope this has helped…

      1. Tom–thanks so much for your help. I will try your suggestions.

        We recently came back from Turkey/Greece and had processed most of my favorite shots. ( my first venture out with just the V-3) After downloading the DXO, I went back to the NEFs and have now re-worked them. Big difference from Lightroom and CS6.

        Now, I just have to get more comfortable with DXO as I know I will now be using the V-3 with more confidence.

        Thanks again. Jerry

        1. Hi Jerry,
          It is always a pleasure to help a reader – I’m very pleased you are seeing an improvement with your images! Once you get more familiar with OpticsPro you may want to try to export a DNG into LR or CS6 to see what you can do when combining both programs.

          1. I have been sending the pics to CS6 for final touch up.
            Works well.

            ps. When the trial is over, I will be buying the program from B an H. I will use your link. Its the least I can do as thanks for your guidance.


  4. Tom,

    great article and as usual great images. i have been using my V2 and J3 (FT1 + 70-200 f4) more and more over my D7000 (150-600 tammy) for BIF and my daughter’s softball games.

    you are absolutely right in saying that each camera has its place and that’s why I’m not parting (yet) with my DX gear.

    I’m patiently waiting for Nikon to deliver the V4 with the ‘right’ stuff 🙂


    1. Hi Jordon,

      Thanks for the positive comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I also used a Nikkor 70-200mm f/4 a lot with my Nikon 1 cameras/FT-1 adapter and found that lens was terrific as it provided an efov of 540mm at f/4 and was so light and easy to handle! I also have my fingers crossed for a V4 with the ‘right stuff’.


  5. Nice input, and will written.
    I use my V1 and V2 when traveling, and more and more for all other things except sport, as the optical viewfinder is better for that. Wild life with the cx 70-300 is so much more interesting than before when using DX and FX 😉 You don´t need to buy a very expensive 800mm F5.6.
    I do advocate for the Nikon 1 system when asked as well, but it does not cover everything, but for traveling it is a delight, light and compact.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the article Bent – and thanks for the positive comment! It sounds like you are enjoyed your Nikon 1 gear…and I certainly agree for travel photography it is a delight!

  6. What an excellent post! It’s so good to hear a different view from the current obsession with full frame and shallow depth of field. Most of my photography also benefits from having more depth of field, though a faster lens and distance between foreground and background are sometimes useful for me, and of course there are plenty of photographers of other types of subject for whom shallow depth of field is important. I do wish Nikon would exploit the 1 series properly: a few more faster primes, a macro, a V4 with the best features of the V2 and V3 and the Sony sensor would be good news.

    1. Thanks for the positive comment Mike – much appreciated! I am also hopeful that Nikon develops some additional lenses for the Nikon 1 system. A patent was recently filed for a 13mm f/1.8 prime as well as for two rather interesting zoom lenses: a 9-30mm f/1.8-2.8 VR and a 10-600mm f/4.5-6.7 VR. At this point I think the only lens that Nikon has not introduced for the CX line that was on the original lens roadmap is a macro…perhaps we’ll see that one soon!

  7. Tom, as usual, you bring up important points that go against the grain of common photographic thoughts. These are slowly changing. Ultimately, the image is the final statement, but knowledge of the details of the “art” of photography play in the planning.

    Remembering to put distance between an object and the background while using a small aperture is one that seems many people miss, so they lose the blur they want and get more detail than desired. By the same token, people forget that smaller apertures also give greater detail in fore and background, but because of software, layers can be created to continue detail even more by changing focal point and merging images. Compositional elements, perhaps the most subtle, are perhaps the most difficult to master.

    I love my V1 system, and always have a good laugh when people complain about it. I also have full frame, cropped, and film. As with anything, practice and education, experimentation, and analysis are what we learn from.

    Keep the articles coming – always a pleasure to read!

  8. Thanks so much for this enlightening post. Are there tables that show dof/fstops/camerasensor size? Or is your information gained from using many types of cameras and studying and analyzing the results?

    I am considering a Nikon D750 and this information about comparative advantages is so helpful because I am in the decision making stage and was only considering sensor size.

    1. Hi Pam,

      Thanks very much for your positive comment – I’m glad you enjoyed the article! If you do an internet search for ‘depth of field calculator’ you’ll find a number of good resources. The measurements in the article came from one such site…although I don’t remember exactly which one I used. I believe there are apps that folks can get for their Smartphones as well.

      A lot of this comes from really knowing your gear and how individual lenses perform. Once that is in your head it becomes more second nature.

      As far as the D750 goes…this is a truly wonderful camera that folks do rave about. I’m not sure if you have ever shot with a full frame camera. I often suggest to readers that if they haven’t shot with one that before investing a bunch of money in that format that they first rent one with a couple of lenses that they would use a lot and try it out by taking some typical images. That way you can buy with more confidence knowing that you like using that format.


  9. Well done Tom! Such a good point – I had not considered any of that! We talk about shallow DOF all the time, but in reality there are many times when that isn’t needed or desired especially in travel, landscape work.

    I do admit there are times when I don’t think as much as a should when shooting regarding DOF. I have a couple of shots of my lizard in the front yard, I shot with the wonderful 70-300cx lens and was surprised how the eye was perfect but the tip of his nose/mouth and neck were already OOF, since I was so close to him when I shot! I was wide open but needed to stop down a touch to make the whole head in focus.

    So many things to think about! Great article…


    1. Glad you found it useful Mike! There can be lots to think about when trying to shoot critters that’s for sure. DOF is certainly one important factor. Little tricks like waiting for the subject to change the angle of its head so it will all be in focus can help too…

  10. Thank you for your article. You are hundred percent correct.
    I have recently sold my Sony A700 and halve a dozen expensive lenses and replaced it with a Panasonic DMC-FZ1000. Leica Lens 25 to 400 mm. 20megapixel/ one inch sensor. large 2359k dot OLD viewfinder
    4K UHD video, 12 mpixels still from video etc. big camera similar to DSLR. Exelant HDR etc. See review by “camera labs”
    and DPREVIEW. a Local based Photographer that does
    Videos etc like you specialy purchased this camera, swears by it.

    1. You’re welcome Ben – I’m glad you enjoyed it! The Panasonic DMC-FZ-1000 is a terrific camera and provides folks with a ton of functionality and quite good IQ in one, integrated package! I had the chance to read the Camera Labs review a little while ago and the camera earned some great scores.

  11. Bravo, Thomas!

    As in so many areas of life, one’s perceived weakness can be another’s coveted strength… Thanks for detailing and demonstrating the DOF strength of the Nikon 1 system– a needed voice of reason and balance in today’s clamor over shallow DOF 🙂

    And beautiful pictures, by the way!
    Keep up the good work…

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