The Bokeh Effect: How Sensor Size Affects Background Blur

The Bokeh Effect: How Sensor Size Affects Background Blur

Of all the things that photographers argue about in our secret monthly meetings, sensor size and its impact on our work is perhaps one of the most heated topics that can come up. From the true “bigger is better” snobs (“Sensors? Bah! 8X10 film is where it’s at!”) to the ones who prize portability above all (“Micro-Four-Thirds rules!”), the debate between advocates of MFT, APS-C, and full-frame sensors often reaches religious fervor. Contentious topics related to sensor size include resolution, high-ISO performance, and dynamic range, but the quality and characteristic of bokeh, or out-of-focus backgrounds, is perhaps the most fiercely contentious. While there’s no contest that the bigger sensors can clearly produce much smoother and, well, blurier (not a word, I know), it’s also an unfair statement that the smaller sensors like the ones in Olympus and Panasonic Micro-Four-Thirds cameras can’t produce good bokeh. The Prerequisites Now, before you get into this article, if you have questions about what crop sensors are, how they work, etc., you want to read a few of these articles: Tip of the Week: Understanding Sensor Crop Factors, Part 1 Transitioning from Point-and-Shoot to DSLR: Understanding Full Frame vs Crop Frame Sensors Best Wide Angle for a Crop Sensor Camera These articles will give you a good understanding of what crop sensors are, and what using a crop sensor camera implies, for the most part. In this article, we’re going to drill down to one specific thing. We will take a look at just how the size of your camera’s sensor affects the bokeh characteristics of your image. To do this, we devised a pretty...
Fuji X-T1: First Impressions

Fuji X-T1: First Impressions

One of the most eagerly awaited cameras of the year arrived earlier this month, and I took some time to put it through its paces. A more detailed review will follow, but I’ve worked with it long enough to put forth a few first impressions. The tl;dr version of it is this: the Fuji X-T1 is the best camera Fuji has ever made, and is the best mirrorless camera on the market. In my personal opinion, anyway. I’ve been a Fuji fan since the X100s came out, and eventually started using the X-E1 and X-E2 as my primary stills cameras (with a D800E for specific projects requiring high megapixel images and the Canon 5D MKIII for video). When the X-T1 was first announced, I looked at the images leaking onto the web and my first impression was, “WTF??” Looking at it, you can see that it kind of harkens back to retro SLR cameras. To me, it looks a bit like a blunt-top version of the Fuji STX series of film SLRs, and at least at first, it wasn’t something that caught my attention the way the rangefinder aesthetic of the previous X cameras did. Then I got one in my hands and my first thought was, “uhhh… what…?” On the one hand, this is most definitely a Fuji camera. It has loads of dials means you rarely have to drop into a menu once you set it up right. There’s a nice, firm heft to it that we’re used to with the X-E and X-Pro series. It’s small and light despite feeling dense. It is, in other words,...
New Gear: The Fuji X-E1 Is Here

New Gear: The Fuji X-E1 Is Here

The Fuji X-Pro1 has been in our inventory for some time now, and we’re pleased to add its newer sibling, the X-E1, to our rental offerings. This younger, lighter, and smaller version of the X-Pro1 ditches a few features of the critically acclaimed (and very successful) X-Pro1, while adding a few welcome ones. Read on to find out what you need to know about the Fuji X-E1. First things first – the X-E1 is, as I just said, lighter and smaller than the X-Pro1. By weight, it’s about 25-30% lighter, but by size, the difference isn’t as drastic as I thought it would be when I bought mine (yes, I bought one not too long before we started carrying the X-E1 – figures!). The X-E1 is shorter than the X-Pro1, and while the difference isn’t great, folks with large hands will notice the difference. The X-E1 is also thinner than the X-Pro1, but again, not by much. The button layouts have also changed a bit. Fuji has relocated the playback button to the left of the display, but otherwise, everything on the back is about where it was on the X-Pro1. The X-E1 also retains the dual dials of the Pro, as well as the assignable “Fn” button on top. Besides the size and button layout, there are some other key differences between the bodies, so let me sum them up. The X-E1 doesn’t have an Optical Viewfinder (OLF). Unlike the X-Pro1, which has a “hybrid” viewfinder that can be switched from OVF to Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) mode, the X-E1 just has an EVF. It is a higher-resolution EVF...
New Gear: The Metabones Nikon to Fuji Speedbooster

New Gear: The Metabones Nikon to Fuji Speedbooster

Not too long ago, following the release of Fuji’s most recent firmware update for its X lineup of cameras, I posted an article about extending the Fuji system with Leica lenses using the Fuji X mount to Leica M mount adapter. Indeed, this adapter, along with the Leica 90mm Summarit f/2.5 lens, is my standard portrait setup today. Recently, however, we got in yet another adapter for the Fuji X-mount, and this one’s a total doozy.   The Metabones Nikon to Fuji Speedbooster does for Nikon lenses (including the “G” lenses, which don’t have a manual aperture ring) what the M to X-mount adapter does for Leica lenses – it lets you put them onto Fuji’s X-series cameras, including the X-Pro1, which we rent. Now, if that’s all it did, I’d be pretty pleased as punch that we had added it to our inventory. But adapting the lens is only part of the equation here. First, the adapter works for a much wider variety of lenses. Traditionally, Nikon’s “D” series lenses have been the most easily adapted lenses for other systems, as they have a manual aperture ring and therefore can be used in aperture-priority mode on almost all the mirrorless cameras out there, with adapters. The “G” lenses, however, don’t have aperture rings, so they’re not as easy to adapt. The Metabones adapter gets around this limitation by offering its own aperture ring that maneuvers the tiny iris lever inside the G lens to change the aperture. The aperture ring has an 8-f-stop range ring, with half-stop markings. I have to wonder how accurate this is; what if...
Fuji Meets Leica: One of the Best Street Cameras Gets Even Better

Fuji Meets Leica: One of the Best Street Cameras Gets Even Better

To hear some photographers tell it, Fuji is the new Leica. The company, which saw rave reviews for its X100, has been on something of a tear of late. What began with an interesting concept morphed into a camera with a cult following, and was followed up by an entire system that has turned much of the photo world on its head. The X100s, for example, is a body we can’t seem to keep in stock (though it is right now – go get it before it sells out again!), and the interchangeable lens-capable X-Pro1 is one of the finest low-light performers we’ve ever seen in a body that size. That X-Pro1 has now gotten a breath of fresh air. Fuji seems to be the sort of company that really listens to its users, and with the latest firmware update, has made a lot of those users very, very, happy indeed. The 3.0 firmware update for the X-Pro1 brought with it one very important feature: focus peaking. For those of you who don’t know what that is, focus peaking is something that’s made its way over from the video world. It’s a tool that helps photographers and videographers ensure that they’re achieving critical focus in manual mode. When enabled, this feature adds white outlines to objects that are in focus, as shown below. As you can see, the subject’s eyes and parts of his nose have what we colloquially refer to as “white squigglies” on the edges. This tells me that those are the parts of the frame that are currently in focus. In the image above, I’m using the...