Fadzly's blog on his photography

Bokeh Schmokeh Fish Cart (36810028)

Leica R6 | Summicron-R 35/2.0
Teluk Ketapang Beach, Kuala Terengganu (2006)

IMO, the fewer the lens elements, the more you have to stop down to get adequate sharpness in the plane of focus. This results in less blitzed out backgrounds in actual use. This applies to 3 element lenses vs. Tessars vs. Planars.

These are the findings of Mr Rick Denney which I find very useful and which you can also read at length on his site

1. Bokeh has several components, including edge effects around out-of-focus highlights and false edges in the rendering of out-of-focus details.
2. Bokeh rendering is not the same in all situations, and some lenses will be better than others in some situations and worse in other situations. The Vega in this test has produced some really ugly bokeh, not consistent with these results. Lens bokeh is not a single value, and each lens requires considerable experience to understand where it is good and where it is not.
3. Wider apertures do not necessarily improve bokeh.
4. Specular highlights and other out-of-focus bright spots don’t tell the whole bokeh story.
5. Longer focal lengths improve bokeh. If smooth rendering is important, get a longer lens and back up.
6. Double-gauss designs aren’t necessarily bad, but the bad ones are really bad.
7. Sonnar designs don’t necessarily have better bokeh, but they have the potential.
8. Reputation for good bokeh (e.g., the Jupiter) don’t always show in actual results.
9. Lens complexity seems to have little bearing on bokeh. Lens design, however, is paramount.
10. Apertures shapes are not really an issue with bokeh, especially near wide open. In none of these tests was aperture shape the main determinant in apparent bokeh quality. So, we should stop counting aperture blades. The lens with the most aperture blades was the B&L Tessar, but it had uniformly the worst bokeh.
11. Bokeh is subjective, but it is not an illusion.
12. Canon knows how to design a zoom lens. Nikon didn’t do too badly, either.
13. The Biometar is NOT better than the Vega, at least in these tests.
14. The inexpensive Zeiss Jena Sonnars provide a lot of bokeh quality for the buck.

Copyright © 1999, 2009 R. W. Denney, Jr.

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