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What lens for best dof?

Nicholas Martinson , May 30, 2010; 01:30 a.m.

Hi Im a noob. I have a Nikon D5000 with the kit lens (18-55mm). I was wondering what lens I should get for a much lower depth of field. I already know how to lower the dof with the lens I have but I want the background much more blurred.


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Bob Sunley , May 30, 2010; 01:41 a.m.

For a shallower depth of field you want a larger aperture and a longer focal length. A 600mm f4 has a really shallow depth of field, but at $10k, you might be looking for something in a lower price range like a 50mm f1.4. :)

You have to know what focal length range you are looking at to be able to choose a lens to get that shallow depth of field.

Steven Jackson , May 30, 2010; 01:58 a.m.

I agree, the 50mm 1.4 is the cheapest solution, next would be the 85mm 1.4d little pricey, but you get what you pay for here.

Lex Jenkins , May 30, 2010; 02:00 a.m.

Take a look at the online DOF calculator. Plug in the data for your camera, the lens you're considering, aperture, distance, and it'll give you an idea of what to expect.

Samuel Lipoff , May 30, 2010; 02:42 a.m.

First of all, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AF-D lens is the least expensive solution, and the background blur at f/1.8 is similar to that at f/1.4. However, on a Nikon D5000 the 50mm focal length may be useful for portraits, but it is often a little long. You might find that the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 AF-S is a better choice. Personally, I'd prefer a 24mm lens on a DX body (such as the D5000). Nikon does make a 24mm f/1.4 lens, but it is extremely expensive. I don't know anything about this offering, but Sigma makes a 24mm f/1.8 lens that is less expensive. You may already know what focal length from your 18-55mm lens you most often use. If not, you may want to try ExposurePlot (http://www.cpr.demon.nl/prog_plotf.html) and analyze a set of your favorite images. If you often find yourself wanting even longer focal lengths, the 85mm f/1.8 is a less expensive way to get into very blurred backgrounds.

Leslie Cheung , May 30, 2010; 04:03 a.m.

It depends on what you want to shoot and a budget would be cool too. Subject to camera distance is also a very important variable in determination of dof.

Jose Angel , May 30, 2010; 05:20 a.m.

"I already know how to lower the dof with the lens I have but I want the background much more blurred."
Hence what you need is a faster aperture lens. Keep in mind that if you look for background blur, some lenses perform more nicely than others.

Matt Laur , May 30, 2010; 06:22 a.m.

Note that the 50/1.8 and 85/1.8 lenses mentioned above will not auto-focus on the D5000. You need lenses that have built-in AF motors ("AF-S" lenses from Nikon, Sigma's "HSM" lenses, etc). Especially when you're shooting with a wide aperture to deliberately throw the background out of focus, AF accuracy is all the more important. And Jose touches on a potentially important issue: the quality of the background blur. Some lenses handle that in a more pleasing way than others (search here on the term "bokeh" for many interesting and/or maddening discussions!).

You can use your current zoom lens to help establish a sense of what focal length is actually going to be useful to you compositionally (should you go with a fixed focal length "prime" lens). Certainly Nikon's 35/1.8, at around $200, is going to be the least expensive fast lens you can get, and that focal length leds itself well to many types of shooting ... but it might be a little too short for you, portrait-wise, if you're not doing full-length stuff. The 50/1.4 mentioned above will be a more flattering portrait length, and you could use either Nikon's newer 50/1.4 G, or Sigma's 50/1.4 HSM. I'm partial to the Sigma, specifically because it performs so well at the wide apertures you intend to use, and does a really beautiful job on the out-of-focus bits.

Long Tin Lo , May 30, 2010; 07:51 a.m.

This may not seem interesting, but you should also look into the lens construction.
In order to give a smooth and creamy bokeh, you will want a lens which has around 9 circular aperture blades , like the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, which is potentially a good lens for DOF, and will AF with the D5000

Conrad Hoffman , May 30, 2010; 09:20 a.m.

And for a really useless suggestion, think about a larger format. A lot of fashion and advertising work with really nice blurred backgrounds is the result of using a 2 1/4 camera like a 'Blad and an f/2.8 lens or faster, or even large format. Look at classic large format portraits- no DOF there at all. Too much never being enough, a lot of work gets blurred in Photoshop too.

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