As you may be aware, I shot film for many years. With film cameras, there was only “full frame“, not “cropped” as in today’s non-Full Frame digital cameras. Working with film over the years allowed composure (and exposure) to become almost second nature and Depth of Field (DOF) was simply DOF – you either knew to use/control it or you didn’t. If this seems patently obvious and you’re wondering why I would even state this, there is a reason.
In the early 2000’s I entered the Digital Photography age with the Nikon D100. The D100 was not a full frame camera but a cropped camera with a 1.5 magnification factor, e.g., a 24mm lens “automatically” became approximately 36mm. While this was a “free” optical upgrade from a lens perspective, it also meant that the 24mm was no longer usable at it’s original focal length. In the long run, this simply meant you had to use your feet to get the wider angle shot you wanted but there were times where not having that true 24mm perspective did make a difference when you could not back up any further. At this point I would shift into taking multiple exposures and stitching them together to get the shot I originally wanted.
What does this have to do with DOF?
When I shifted to the D100, it took a while, but it seemed I had come to grips with the digital age, including how the 1.5 crop factor impacted the way I shot. The free increase in lens perspective was an unexpected gift as it was an optical increase, not digital interpolation. As I use DOF in most of my work, DOF control seemed a seamless transition from the film “full frame” camera to the cropped camera.
It wasn’t until I picked up the Nikon Df (a full frame sensor) that I realized the difference between DOF control on a cropped system to DOF on a full frame system.
The DOF on the Df seemed so much more “intense”, more immediate then I remembered on the D100. I was actually shocked the first time I did some macro work with the Df as the DOF at 2.8 seemed so shallow that I found myself stopping down more to ensure the image I was looking for was there. It was actually stunning to me to see how much more DOF control I had with the Df than the D100.
As I thought about this, I realized the difference was the lens itself. With the Df I had a true 55mm (or 24mm, etc.) regardless of the distance whereas with the D100 55mm was approximately a 80mm lens. This difference in lens perspective is what made DOF seem different between the Df, a full frame camera, and the D100, a cropped camera with 1.5 magnification.
So, today’s photo is of a wooden bear I picked up at the Yule Festival held every year at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle.
Both images are focused just behind the right eye, the first at 2.8, the second at f32. Focal distance was the same, the Df was tripod mounted with lighting from an Ott Lite set about one foot from the bear. I also held a piece of white paper in a curve to the front of the bear to add additional lighting to the bear’s chest.
Nordic Bear; Nikon Df with 55mm macro-Nikkor, ISO 200, f2.8 @ 1/4 sec.
Nordic Bear; Nikon Df with 55mm macro-Nikkor, ISO 200, f32 @ 13 sec.