Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Group F 1.2

In 1932 a group of eleven American photographers formed Group F64 to promote a new direction in photography. The name referred to the smallest aperture available in large-format view cameras at the time and it signaled the group's conviction that photographs should celebrate the medium's unrivaled capacity to present the world "as it is."

These were some of the biggest names of the day, to include Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, and Edward Weston to name a few. As most of you know, the higher the F-stop number, the greater the depth of field. So what their name sake implied was the greater the depth of field, the better.

In the world of photography these masters, were and are some of the greatest photographers of all time. I am not, and will NOT criticize any of their wonderful images; but I will ask this, "does more depth of field really show the world as it is?"

Try this experiment. Hold your thumb up and extend your arm out at full length. Focus on the tip of your thumb, then try to focus on anything 10 feet past that. You can not do both at the same time. The human eye does not have the ability to see everything sharp from edge to edge regardless of the depth of the image. If I were to form a group today, I would call it Group F1.2 .

A narrow depth of field has several unique advantages. A) It is much closer to how the human eye views the world. B) It forces the photographer to be very selective about what they want to show. C) Distracting backgrounds are almost nonexistent.

Obviously, no one rule can fit every situation, but . . . let me open this for discussion, which type of depth of field do you folks find most realistic??


  1. How does one get to the f-stop #1.2? I am still trying to get to 2.8. I like the type of images called bokeh in which the subject is the only thing in focus...the background is blurred.

  2. The Minimum f-stop available would depend on the lens being used. F-stop 1.2 is the smallest I have ever seen which was on an old Alpa si500 camera many years ago. Many standard lens (50mm) will go down to F 1.8 or even F 1.4. All of this is refering to SLR cameras with interchangeable lens.
    Most of the modern all in one built in lens do only do down to F 2.8