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  1. #21
    lxdude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 5stringdeath View Post

    So I'm just wondering how people put them to practical use.
    In your case, you clearly don't have much need to preview depth of field, for the exact reasons you stated.



    Depth of field preview is useful because it allows seeing what the final image will look like, instead of just visualizing it. This is especially useful when DoF is very limited. I do use it with wide angle lenses too, when I stretching the limits of the lens' DoF. For me, what's out of focus, and how much, is as important as what's in focus. While not a perfect representation of how the final image will look, DoF preview gets darn close. Being able to see size and shape of out of focus highlights affected by a closed aperture is also very useful.


    DoF preview allows one to take greater advantage of the SLR's strongest point: the ability to see and focus through the lens that makes the image.


    At close focusing distances, like say a couple of feet, and in low light, I can determine the aperture needed to give me the DoF I need, and then I can tell if I have enough light to hand hold.

    I shoot a lot of macro. The DoF preview gives me the chance to see what aperture I'm going to need to get what I want. For example, if f/16 gives me enough depth of field, then I don't have to lose definition due to diffraction by using a smaller stop. Scales are of limited use in a situation like that, and if my judgment says DoF is marginal for what I want, I would have to go to a smaller stop to be sure.

    By seeing what the film is going to record, I can use out of focus areas to my advantage. A lot of my macro work is done with larger apertures for the selective focus and blurring I can get. Selective focus and selective blurring are powerful compositional tools. Both can strengthen a composition and can complement each other. Without DoF preview, I would not know what the finished image would look like with as much certainty, and that would affect composition.

    At regular distances too, it helps in visualizing. I can see directly and therefore fine tune the effects of different apertures on the zone of apparent sharpness, and on the foreground or background: not just in terms of sharp or unsharp, but how unsharp. For example a person might be standing to the side and somewhat behind the subject, and I want to get them out of focus, but not too much.

    Maybe I want to frame a scene with tree branches and might either want the branches sharp or want them just unsharp enough to de-emphasize them, while still having them clearly recognizable. DoF preview is a big help at seeing what the final shot will look like.


    It's also good for evaluating the quality of the blur in the image. Say a lens tends to double lines if far enough out of focus. By using DoF preview I can see at what point the background looks best, where not enough out of focus and too far out of focus will make it more distracting.

    It's a tool. I use it frequently. I think it can help a beginner avoid surprises, though without it they'll just have learn the hard way. IMO, the Pentax K1000 would have been a better learning tool if it had allowed beginners to see and understand the effects of aperture on depth of field, either by a DoF button or by stop-down metering.

  2. #22
    lxdude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by photomem View Post
    I would thing that a DOF preview would be pointless on a digital, since you could just shoot it and look at it.
    I would say that depends on the quality of the LCD image. Magnifying it helps, if available, but either way it takes longer than pushing a DoF button, if one is available, and requires taking your eye away from the viewfinder. It also doesn't allow seeing the effect of changes as the aperture is being changed.

  3. #23

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    I like them a lot and I sort of miss them on rangefinders, but not that much - a different type of shooting, I think. Nice to check for near focus in landscapes when you're using hyperfocal focusing. But I also find them useful when using dark filters such as an R25, then if the aperture is smallish, I can get a good sense of contrast, especially in cloudscapes.
    Steve.

  4. #24

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    To me DoF preview is like filters, a cable release, delayed action shutter release, tripod, lens hood, extension tubes and all the rest. It's one of many tools at our disposal, and though we may not use any of them all of the time, it's useful to be able to call on them when we need them in particular circumstances. Personally, I find it one of the more useful tools and indeed it was the main reason why some 24 years ago (doesn't time fly!) I traded in my old Pentax K1000 in exchange for a KX. I don't usually look at DoF preview from the point of view of "how much is sharp" but rather from the angle of "how much out of focus do I want to throw the unwanted elements of the shot.

    Steve

  5. #25
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    If you use selective focus, DOF preview is useful. If most of the things you photograph with a wide to normal lens are about 15 feet away or farther, then DOF preview isn't going to tell you much.

    Of course the screen gets darker when you stop down, so it's a good idea to make some tests so that you know what you're looking at on the dark screen. Set the lens at or close to its near focus point with the camera on a tripod and set up a few focus targets on a table--they can be anything you have handy--then try different f:stops, opening and closing the lens and seeing how the DOF changes. If the screen is very dark, you need to let your eyes adjust, and you may need to shield the space between your eye and the finder with your hand and wait a moment for your pupil to open to get a clear view. It's a matter of practice.

    Rangefinder shooters just develop a different feedback loop to predict the DOF based on the subject distance, focal length and aperture, and often tend to shoot at about the same distance, with one or two lenses most of the time, preferring a certain aperture range that produces the look they're after. To develop this ability, it is necessary to be conscious of these variables and to process film and print relatively soon after the shoot. You can work this way with an SLR as well, but DOF preview lets you check on the spot before you take the photograph.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  6. #26

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    I use it some but not much.

    Jeff

  7. #27
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    Also useful for evaluting any effect of flare or reflections under critical lighting situations...
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa

  8. #28
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    I admit I don't use it very much. Of course, most of my manual lenses have a depth of field scale where I can guestimate the range I want if need be. That's one annoyance of AF lenses, most that I've seen or own have the focus scale compressed into such a short space it's no wonder they don't have DOF markings. If one is doing product type shots, DOF preview can be useful -- with continuous lighting -- but may run into the dimmed image problem with low power modeling lights.

  9. #29

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    About the only time I use it is when I'm shooting large groups - sports team pictures etc. - in crappy light. I use it to check that the faces on the back row and the front row are in focus. Its hard to sell pictures to out-of-focus subjects.

  10. #30

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    I could not agree more with the original post...and with Steve Smith's comment in #20. I have used SLRs for years, and have yet to pry any functionality out of a DOF preview button. I can hardly even discern what is going on (or what I am supposed to discern) when I press the button. Thus, I have never understood the "lacks a DOF button" complaint. With some cameras, DOF preview also offers a joint functionality with exposure settings, but this is also rather useless for me as I use a hand-held light meter 99% (or more) of the time. I have yet to see an in-camera light meter reading agree with a hand-held reading.

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