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10-13-2011, 12:10 AM   #1
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A question on perspective

I've always been rather impressed by the perspective in old WWII war photography.
Many times I've seen up to date photo's of the same sites and the perspective in the shots is totally different, somehow it's all rather too deep, infinity falling off very sharply.
What I was wondering is, can anybody explain to me how to achieve the same effect with a modern camera?
Is it something to do with the angle of the lens?
What lens do you suggest?
Sorry if I seem a bit dense, I've recently taken photography up as a hobby and it's a steep learning curve for me at my age.
I'm using a K-r at the moment and only have the kit Pentax 18-55, 50-200 and a Tamron 70-300 tele-macro.
My budget is very limited and consequently spend my weekends trawling car boot sales looking for bargains.

10-13-2011, 02:55 AM   #2
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I think you're confounding DOF with perspective. DOF is the range of distance from a camera where stuff seems to be in focus. Perspective is controlled by the distance from subject to camera, nothing else. DOF is a complicated function of photography, presentation, and perception, but at the camera level it's controlled by frame size (film or sensor), distance, aperture, and focal length.

The critical factor here is frame size. Many of those WWII pictures were shot with 4x5in or 6x9cm cameras. Those frames are MUCH larger than the tiny ~24x16mm frames on our APS-C dSLRs. Thus they have MUCH thinner DOF. That means that a narrow slice of territory around the subject will be in focus, and everything else (especially the distance) is OOF, out-of-focus. As you put it, infinity falls off sharply.

Simply put, such images cannot be replicated with a dSLR. There are no lenses fast enough, with apertures wide enough, to have such thin DOF at such distances. Ah, but there are tricks...

* Spend thousands of bucks for an ultrafast lens like a Canon 50/0.95. That puts you in the DOF neighborhood. Good luck.
* Get a 4x5in or 5x7in or 6x9cm or 9x12cm view camera. Rig a dSLR to focus on the's groundglass. Snap the image.
* Use a LensBaby to tilt the image field. This thins the DOF, but skews it at odd angles that won't have the look you want.
* Cheat. Fix the image in PP. Shoop the picture, using an image editor to render everything but the subject OOF.

So the affordable way is to use your PP warez. Don't buy another lens. (What?!?! Did I actually say that?!?) If you really want to do this with hardware, not software, then LensBaby is the item. You can spend hundreds of bucks on such, or you can make one with a 35mm FF lens and a rubber plumbing fixture. Google for LENSBABY DIY and you'll find instructions. See the Lensbaby Club here for example images. Have fun!
10-13-2011, 04:52 AM   #3
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Something like the sigma 30mm f1.4, focused at about 5 yards, will render infinity oof. Not to quite the same extent though, and the bokeh won't be as smooth.
10-13-2011, 06:44 AM   #4
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If I read this correctly, I think the answer is one of format and focal length selections.

Let's assume, for example that the WWII photographer had a Standard 4"x5" press camera, this may have had something like a 75 or 125mm lens

If we consider the format, the 4x5 has a diagonal of 162.6 mm, compared to troday's DSLR of 28.8mm As a result, if you take the ratio of the diagonals as a guide, the 75mm lens would be a 13 mm equivelent, and the 125mm lens would be a 23mm equivelent

I hope this answers the question.

Note that the "faster" lines come to a point, the wider the field of view of the lens

RioRico has one additional point to consider, by suggesting the lensbaby. A press camera could do tilts and shifts, also.

10-13-2011, 10:32 AM - 1 Like   #5
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The 13mm and 23mm lenses Lowell suggests would give the same FOV as the Standard lenses, but with tremendously thicker DOF. Hmmm, a 13mm or 23mm LensBaby or other T&S (tilt-shift) lens? There's no way to thin the 13's DOF; but a 23, maybe could happen. I'm not going to dismantle my Kiron 24/2 to find out though.
10-13-2011, 01:30 PM   #6
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I think this was the information I was looking for Lowell Goudge. Thank you

Last edited by bazbo; 10-13-2011 at 01:32 PM. Reason: repeated text
10-13-2011, 06:12 PM   #7
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There's a Pentax 6x7 for sale in the marketplace at the moment...
10-14-2011, 04:16 PM   #8
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Without seeing the image you mean, we're really just guessing. But the famous saying, "if your images aren't good enough, you'renot close enough" would seem to apply quite literally guess is you may just be seeing the different between shooting up close with a wide angle lens versus from far away with a telephoto.

10-15-2011, 01:42 PM   #9
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Here you go Marc, like I said it's the perspective that intrigues me, I'm not certain but I don't think DOF comes into it because the whole picture seems in focus. File:LondonBombedWWII full.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
10-15-2011, 05:34 PM   #10
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The aspect ratio of that image is 1.4:1, so if it's uncropped it was probably shot with a 5x7in press camera. The lens was probably around 200-240mm ('normal' for a 5x7), stopped down to about f/20, and focused at about 8-10m. Notice that the car and people in the foreground show much more detail than the covered truck and adjacent people at the more distant center right. A similar shot from a 135/FF camera like a Leica would use a 50-55mm lens at around f/11 and would have thicker DOF. That's how I see it.

Last edited by RioRico; 10-16-2011 at 12:46 AM.
10-15-2011, 07:44 PM   #11
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No, I don't see any perspective control being applied here, this is strictly DOF. Why don't you try the same thing, go outside and try recreating the shot. Set your lens to 35mm @ f16, focus about 20 feet in front of you and take some shots, vary the aperture up and down until you get all of the FOV in focus. Make sure the horizon remains horizontal.

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