EQUIPMENT

Lenses

Your lens is by far the most important aspect of this technique and the most important aspect of the lens is...

Entrance Pupil

The size of the entrance pupil is the key metric to the success of this technique, the larger it is the better! What is the "Entrance Pupil"?; It refers to the diameter between the aperture blades, as it appears through (and magnified by) the front optical elements of the lens (Gerald Undone has a great video here). Also below is a list of common lenses, ordered by the size of their entrance pupil. 

FL  /  f-stop  /  [Entrance Pupil]]

  • 50mm

  • 85mm 

  • 100mm

  • 50mm 

  • 50mm

  • 105mm

  • 75mm

  • 85mm

  • 85mm

  • 135mm

  • 50mm

  • 100mm

  • 50mm

  • 135mm 

  • 75mm

  • 85mm

  • 135mm

  • 200mm

  • 85mm

  • 100mm

  • 135mm

  • 105mm

f/1.8

f/2.8

f/2.8

f/1.4

f/1.2

f/2.5

f/1.8

f/2.0

f/1.8

f/2.8

f/1.0

f/2.0

f/0.95

f/2.5

f/1.25

f/1.4

f/2.0

f/2.8

f/1.2

f/1.4

f/1.8

f/1.4

[28]

[30]

[35]

[36]

[42]

[42]

[42]

[43]

[47]

[48]

[50]

[50]

[53]

[54]

[60]

[61]

[68]

[71]

[71]

[72]

[75]

[75]

Calculation

The entrance pupil of each lens can be worked out by dividing its focal length by the f-stop (see above). NOTE: The focal length is the distance from the sensor to the point of convergence (entrance pupil, nodal point). The ‘f-stop’ value is a fraction of the focal length that describes the measurement of the entrance pupil. Thus a 50mm f/1.0 has a focal length of 50mm and an entrance pupil of 50mm.

Illusion

Both the entrance pupil and focal length values are compressed by the optical elements (in front of the entrance pupil). However, this in no way diminishes the value of their metrics. With entrance pupil values never being stated, it’s easy to get hung up on things like low f-stop figures, or large front elements for being signs of a shallow depth of field, but neither are definitive. For example; Which of these two lenses do you think will provide a shallower depth of field?

 

50mm f/1.2 or 85mm f/1.8

50mm f/0.95 or 135mm f/2.5

 

If you just did the math (or looked at the above list) then you will know, but most people's gut reaction would have been to choose the 50mm lenses because those low f numbers just sound more special / awesome. They might be for single images, but for bokeh panos a greater effect is achieved by using a larger entrance pupil.

Lens Chart

A 50mm f/1.0 and a 100mm f/2.0 both have the same sized entrance pupil. They have the same potential for shallow depth of field at the same distance, so why choose one over the other? The longer focal length lens (100mm) will:

 

  • Likely be less expensive

  • Have better image quality (at 1:1)

  • Provide a higher resolution (4x) panorama

  • Have less distortion & aberrations

  • Probably be a similar weight

  • Require taking more images (4-5x)

 

The following chart (below) illustrates a balance between workflow complexity & potential subject isolation, by comparing each lense’s focal length and entrance pupil (respectively) for the technique.

Understanding The Chart

Here are some tips on how to read the above chart.

 

  • Finding a lens - First look for a focal length (top bar), follow the dotted line down to where it intersects the coloured line of the f-stop value for its maximum aperture.

  • Coloured lines - This illustrates a lense’s potential for the technique (green = great, red = not so great). The lines connects all the maximum aperture values of various prime lenses.

  • Pure Potential - Follow the black dot of your chosen lens to the left to determin the size of its entrance pupil. This is a good metric, but does not take difficulty into account like the coloured lines do.

  • Number of images - To see how many images your lens will require to create a roughly 28mm (full frame equivalent angle of view) from your resulting stitched panorama; follow the dotted line straight down...

  • Frame Size - You’ll find values at the bottom for each sensor size (used to shoot the panorama). This illustrates how larger sensors improve workflow by reducing the number of required images.

  • Weight - Lens weight is not strictly taken into account on this chart (see below). However, lenses that are higher up and further right tend to be heavier.

  • Best lenses - Apex lenses can be found in the chart where the line is more green (higher & further left). My recommendations can be found on page 20.

  • Price - Although I could not find a way to include price into this chart (it’s complicated enough already), prices are included on on the lens recommendations below.

 

NOTE: This chart (above) is geared around emulating a 28mm lens. Wide angles are part of what make this technique so impressive, but this is my opinion and if you disagree then focal lengths of 200mm or longer would come back into play. For example; Taking nine images from 200mm f/2.0 will emulate.

Potential

This next graph shows a list of lenses, ordered by the size of their entrance pupil. It starts with the classic 50mm because it’s a lens many photographers will already have. It’s also an incredibly versatile and budget option (whether you’re using a full frame or APS-C crop sensor), so represents a reasonably priced point of entry to the technique if you don’t already own any other suitable lens.

 

NOTE: All of the charts on this page retain the same lens order, to better compare their pros and cons (further right = larger entrance pupil).

Weight

This chart shows how the lense’s weight increases as the size of the entrance pupil gets bigger. Hopefully this helps to illustrate where the sweet spot is for how much weight you wish to carry.

 

NOTE: The broken lines at the top of each bar illustrate a range of weights for various lenses with the same focal length and aperture.

 

Large, heavy telephoto lenses will require exponentially more images to get to the same wide angle results. This makes them unsuitable (but not impossible) for hand held use.

Workflow

This chart shows the the amount of images required (to reach a wide angle result) for each of the lenses. Wide FoV’s are where the technique looks most different and special. This demonstrates how much more work will be involved when using longer focal length lenses.

 

NOTE: The vertical values on this chart are for a full frame camera. If shooting on an APS-C then multiply these values by roughly x2.25 and x4.5 for a M4/3 camera (these figures are based on a precise 50% overlap between frames).

Apex Lenses

In my opinion, these are THE best lenses for Bokeh Panos (regardless of cost). It's based on a balance of entrance pupil size, image quality, mechanical vignetting, focal length, size & weight. Autofocus speed, or even whether it focuses automatically at all is not rated particularly highly since it will be locked during shooting anyway.

1. Nikkor AFS 105mm f/1.4E ED - [75] - 985g / $2200 [F]

The original 105/1.4 lens design is still a stunning one. It isn't cheap, but then none are and this one is relatively small and light for what it is.

2. Canon FD 85mm f/1.2 L - [71] - 680g / $700  [FD]

A manual focus gem that has an almost magical blend of smoothness and sharpness, while having one of the largest entrance pupils for its size/weight. Ideal for this technique and would be rated higher if the mechanical vignetting was slightly less obtrusive.

3. Sony GM Master 135mm f/1.8 - [75] - 950g / $2000 [FE]

This new lens manages to improve on the stunning Sigma Art lens, while shaving off a bit of weight. Of course it's more expensive and only for the Sony E mount cameras (FE recommended), but if you have a Sony and can afford it this is a compelling option.

4. Sigma ART 135mm f/1.8 - [75] - 1030g / $1400  [F, EF, FE, SA]

If you like the idea of a fast 135mm and don't own a Sony FE camera (or the price of a GM lens makes you cringe) then this is an easy replacement for 3rd place. The bokeh and sharpness are almost in line with the Sony, while being a little heavier and a lot cheaper.

5. Sigma ART 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM - [75] - 1640g / $1600 [F, EF, FE, SA]

Knocked down to the number 5 spot due to being insanely big and heavy, while not fixing the dreaded mechanical vignetting issue.

6. Canon EF 200mm f/1.8 - [111] - 3000g / $2500 [EF]

This discontinued lens could easily be considered the best for this technique (similar to a 200mm f/2), if you don't need to emulate a wide lenses, or are happy shooting a ton of frames on a tripod. Shooting only 9 images on a full frame camera will get you a 100mm f/0.9 equivalent!!

7. Any 85mm f/1.4 - [61] - 800g / $1000 [All]

An honourable mention has to go to this type of lens. It was what I started shooting for this technique and is probably the most sensible balance of performance, size, weight, cost, autofocus ability etc , commonly used for this technique. They make a lot of sense because they don't cost too much and provide very respectable results for their size/weight.

Key

Canon

85mm

f/1.2

[71]

680g

$700

[FD]

= Manufacturer

= Focal Length

= Max Aperture

= Entrance Pupil

= Weight (Typical)

= Cost (Typical)

= Mount Type

Budget Lenses

For those wanting to try this technique on a lower budget, there are some great options. Some can offer entrance pupil sizes to rival the ‘Apex’ list and some even have autofocus (although not both).

1. Various 50mm f/1.8 - [28] - 100g / $30 [All]

A common lens that you many have laying around. It can be used to great effect. Focus as close as you can.

2. Various 135mm f/2.8 - [48] - 500g / $50 [All]

A better option for full frame, otherwise requiring too many shots, but provides very high quality results.

3. Various 135mm f/2.5 - [54] - 600g / $80 [Many]

Similar to the previous lens. Better, albeit a bit heavier and more expensive.

4. Various 50mm f/1.4 - [36] - 300g / $100 [All]

With a speed booster in APS-C it’s the same as a 35mm f/1.0. These are so common you can get them for even cheaper if you’re patient

5. Various 85mm f/1.8 - [47] - 450g / $150 [All]

The standard portrait lens is a great option for its size and weight. A bit more compelling on full frame.

6. Yongnuo 100mm f/2.0 - [50] - 500g / $200 [EF]

Similar to the previous lens, but with greater effect even over a standard portrait lens. A rare speed for the focal length, but very interesting if you can find it.

7. Porst 135mm f/1.8 - [75] - 900g / $250 [Many]

Not exactly cheap, but this is a stupendously big aperture for the money.

Cameras

Since you need to be able to choose your lens - an interchangeable lens compact (ILC) is a minimum requirement for the technique. We'll come back to lenses in a moment, but this seems a good of a time as any to show a comparison of sensor sizes. Here you will see how a bokeh pano has the potential to huge sensors, with otherwise impossibly shallow depth of field. Another aspect this chart is useful for illustrating is how many more frames you will need to shoot on smaller sensor cameras to get to these large sizes.

Frame Sizes.jpg

Sensor Size

A full frame sensor is ideal here. Although using the same lens on a smaller sensor camera technically has the same potential it will require you to shoot more images to reach the same result (2.25x as many images for APS-C and 4.5x for M4/3). Here are a few pros and cons to using smaller than full frame sensor cameras for this technique:

Pros

  • Higher quality parts of the optics (sharper images)

  • Less aberrations (CA, vignetting & mechanical vignetting)

  • Higher resolution (generally)

Cons

  • Missed moments & dwindling interest - due to exponentially time consuming workflow

  • Increased overlap issues - resulting in a failed stitch and/or stitching errors 

  • Memory issues - camera buffer & computer RAM running out

  • Processing - workflow speed

Larger than full frame (Medium Format) cameras are not ideal for this technique because their lenses are not as fast. You can adapt some full frame lenses to medium format cameras like the Fuji GFX and have them project over the whole sensor. This looks great for single images, but would not be great for this technique due to corner performance being unintentional (bad quality).

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