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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 08 Jun 2013 (Saturday) 21:35
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When is bokeh just blur?

 
Preeb
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Jun 08, 2013 21:35 |  #1

I'm almost 3 years into shooting with a DSLR and I'm still not really sure if I understand the term "bokeh". It seems to be used a lot as generic word for any sort of out of focus blur, but I don't think that's what it's supposed to be. Isn't there an inherent aspect of quality included in the proper used of the word? I see a lot of photos displayed here and elsewhere which are supposed to be examples of bokeh, but which to me just look badly blurred. Am I right in thinking that just because part of the image is out of focus, that doesn't automatically mean that it has bokeh?

I'm posting a photo (which I also posted in the "Bokeh" thread in the Lens Archive forum) as an example of what I think it's supposed to be like, but I'll take any critique, good or bad, to learn. My thinking is that the background blur is bokeh, but the stem on the left of the photo which is out of the focus field is not. Am I right? Thanks for bearing with me.

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Jun 08, 2013 21:39 |  #2

In Japanese it means "blur or haze" in our photography world it means the quality of the blur.

Any blur can technically be called bokeh though. Who cares just keep shooting.


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Jun 08, 2013 22:08 |  #3

Your confusion is fueled by a general lack of understanding.

Now I am going to re-post what I feel to be both one of the best explanations we've seen on this forum, and what will throw doo doo in the face of about 90% of the people on the forum that think they know what it means.

First, in my own words, any Blur is absolutely positively NOT Bokeh! :p
There is no such thing as bad bokeh, nor good bokeh, bokeh already means it is "good" or "pleasing".

rdenney wrote in post #2320659 (external link)
We should keep in mind a few points when discussing bokeh:

1. Bokeh is about the rendering of out-of-focus highlights, not specifically about depth of field. Out-of-focus highlights may be rendered with a harsh edge, a neutral edge, or a faded edge. The neutral edge shows a lens with the best overall correction, but the faded edge is the thing most people are meaning when they talk of good bokeh.

2. Bokeh is not about quantity of blur. You'll get more blur with longer camera-to-subject distances (allowed by longer lenses) and with wider apertures. It's quite possible that a fast lens with poor bokeh will provide a more nicely blurred background than a slower lens with excellent bokeh. The Canon 70-200/4L provides excellent bokeh, but it won't blur the background as much as an 85/1.8 when used at 1.8, though you might get close by backing up and using the 200mm end. A photo with profound use of selective focus to isolate the subject is not necessarily an example of good bokeh, but rather an example of selective focus. If the blur is smooth rather than edgy or clumpy, then it also has good bokeh. Good bokeh is mostly what produces the creamy three-dimensional effect for which old Sonnars are justifiably famous.

3. Bokeh is not about aperture shape, though you can see the shape of the aperture in out-of-focus highlights, especially if the lens has bright-edge bokeh. Some lenses have poor bokeh even wide open when their apertures are round.

4. It's not about lens quality. In fact, good bokeh depends on a bit of undercorrected spherical aberration, though that usually is corrected out at smaller apertures.

5. You can't generalize about bokeh. Lens design is the primary influence, but not the sole influence, and can be overcome by other factors. Each lens really should be evaluated on its own merits. Lenses with more aperture blades may or may not have smoother bokeh. Lenses with more or fewer elements, faster or slower, prime or zoom, or any of the other things people generalize about, may have good or bad bokeh.

6. A bare midriff always looks better than a blurred background, no matter how nicely blurred it is. Therefore, the best bokeh is the one where the subject is so compelling that nobody cares about the background.

See here: http://www.rickdenney.​com/bokeh_test.htm (external link)

Rick "who likes a wide, smooth brush" Denney

Shortly dictionaries and translations may be proferred, but the confusion on this started well over a decade ago. The term has been morphed into something ti wasn't.
If you want to know what the people using this term 15 20 years ago meant, this post above is likely as close as you will get.

When Canon (A Japanese Company) published in EF Lens Work sample images and referred t Bokeh, it was an image with round highlights visible,. the highlights were what wa being referred to, not a blurred back ground.


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charro ­ callado
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Jun 08, 2013 22:16 |  #4

Preeb wrote in post #16012763 (external link)
It seems to be used a lot as generic word for any sort of out of focus blur, but I don't think that's what it's supposed to be.

I don't think that's what it was supposed to be, but that's what it has become by virtue of common usage. In any case it involves highly subjective judgments so the lack of precision is not really surprising.




  
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yogestee
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Jun 08, 2013 22:19 as a reply to  @ CyberDyneSystems's post |  #5

Here is my take on bokeh or background blur. If the subject can't stand alone on its own merits without the inclusion of "lovely bokeh" (or should that read lovely bouquet ;) ) then something is wrong with the image.

Now,, the term bokeh is relatively new to photography. Before it was coined, I could never remember anyone commenting on "lovely background blur".


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Jun 09, 2013 05:11 |  #6

yogestee wrote in post #16012844 (external link)
Now,, the term bokeh is relatively new to photography. Before it was coined, I could never remember anyone commenting on "lovely background blur".

I fully agree with that.

It's only in fairly recent years that I've run across people who are obsessed with background blur issues.


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Preeb
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Jun 09, 2013 08:45 as a reply to  @ SkipD's post |  #7

What it is to me is, I look at a photograph and I either like it or I don't. Sometimes the background is out of focus, and sometimes it isn't. Some images work better one way, some work better the other.

I don't spend my whole life shooting at f2.8 just for the narrowest DoF in my kit. I try to pick what works for the subject and don't really worry about what it's called. If I was obsessed with blurry backgrounds, I'd have a lot of fast primes instead of of a kit with f2.8 as the fastest lens. But then all of my photos would be pretty much the same. I have no claims to great artistic talent, but I just do what feels right at the time.


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Jun 09, 2013 09:07 |  #8

Examples of different QUALITY of bokeh from different lenses, from Rick Denney's web page

http://www.rickdenney.​com/bokeh_test.htm (external link)

Note particularly the highlights seen in the glass which is near the right edge of the frame, particularly as portrayed in both

  • Test Scenario 2, Kachina Dolls at f/4
  • Test Scenario 3, Background Doll More Distant, f/4


The differences seen in the examples are the differences of portrayal of blurred areas of the photo...the 'bokeh' of different lenses.

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Jun 09, 2013 20:47 |  #9

SkipD wrote in post #16013348 (external link)
I fully agree with that.

It's only in fairly recent years that I've run across people who are obsessed with background blur issues.

I agree with that. I've used some Canon lenses that are known for having 'bad' bokeh (24-105L and 50/1.4) and I can probably count on one hand the number of shots from each where I really thought the bokeh detracted from the shot.

But to back up what others have said, bokeh as a term meaning the quantity of blur is useless. We already have a word for that in English....
"blur".

I think this is a good article on the topic:
http://www.stevehuffph​oto.com/2010/02/11/wha​t-is-bokeh/ (external link)


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Jun 09, 2013 21:06 |  #10

I read somewhere that the Japanese word which is anglicized as "bokeh" is frequently used in Japan to mean mental fuzziness or senility.

Somehow, that seems right... ;)


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Jun 10, 2013 05:29 |  #11

RTPVid wrote in post #16015385 (external link)
I read somewhere that the Japanese word which is anglicized as "bokeh" is frequently used in Japan to mean mental fuzziness or senility.

Somehow, that seems right... ;)

You only have part of the correct information. Please read this article (external link) to understand the whole truth about the origin of the word "bokeh" in the English language. The adaptation of the Japanese word for English use is not intended to replace the word "blur" but to describe aesthetic qualities of background blur in photographs.


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Jun 10, 2013 08:36 as a reply to  @ SkipD's post |  #12

Just what I able to see right away in terms of different bokeh.
Where is no_name from most of modern Canon, Sigma and Tamron lens bokeh. Which is often nothing but blur.
Here is nervios bokeh from some Zeiss ZE glass at wide apertures.
And here is swirly bokeh from some FSU glass, which is under production again, BTW.

Here is one of the best article about bokeh, skip first part right into the p.25.
http://www.zeiss.com …/$File/CLN35_Bo​keh_en.pdf (external link)

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Jun 10, 2013 09:48 |  #13

SkipD wrote in post #16016148 (external link)
You only have part of the correct information. Please read this article (external link) to understand the whole truth about the origin of the word "bokeh" in the English language. The adaptation of the Japanese word for English use is not intended to replace the word "blur" but to describe aesthetic qualities of background blur in photographs.

I wouldn't depend on wikipedia to be the whole truth about anything, really. ;)

Besides, a pedantic "correction" was hardly necessary, since I was jokingly suggesting that continuing to argue about the "correct" definition of an anglicized Japanese word may actually be a form of dementia! ;)


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Preeb
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Jun 10, 2013 11:41 |  #14

RTPVid wrote in post #16016729 (external link)
I wouldn't depend on wikipedia to be the whole truth about anything, really. ;)

Besides, a pedantic "correction" was hardly necessary, since I was jokingly suggesting that continuing to argue about the "correct" definition of an anglicized Japanese word may actually be a form of dementia! ;)

bw!


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Jun 10, 2013 16:12 |  #15

I would say bokeh is the way a lens renders the out of focus area.
And for this kind of point spread function (like the Airy disk for sharp area) are the blurred highlights what some name bokeh.
But even the blurred background is a mass of such single point results added together.

The Meyer Trioplan (external link) is a good lens to show:
Some only call the edge boosted highlight circles bokeh:

IMAGE: http://www.4photos.de/galerie/Natur/slides/Soap-Bubble-Bokeh.jpg

But all the structure of the background is rendered the same way, not only highlights:

IMAGE: http://www.4photos.de/galerie/Natur/slides/Blaetter-Grafisch.jpg


With normal Canon EF lenses with their kind of bokeh this image would look very different.

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When is bokeh just blur?
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