Bokeh Comparison of a Full Frame 58mm DSLR vs iPhone 7 Plus 58mm in Portrait Mode

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Shot with a 58mm f1.4g at f5.0 on a Nikon D600.

The iPhone certainly can produce amazing images, but I wonder if it could be a replacement for a full frame camera. I think for certain photos it can produce identical results, but I was curious to see how well “portrait” mode would work. So I did a quick test shot with my DSLR versus my iPhone.

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Shot with an iPhone at 6.6mm (58mm equivalent) at f2.8.

So the answer is, it actually does a pretty good job blurring things, but it has trouble blending around sharp edges with high contrast. For whatever reason, this photo exposes the weakness of portrait mode.

The biggest difference to me is that my DSLR lens can shoot all the way down to f1.4, letting in more light and can potentially blur the entire background. The bokeh also has much more character versus the iPhone. The iPhone photo also feels like it was a still photo from a video, and the photo from my DSLR feels like it was shot on film. Keep in mind that both of these photos had little to no post processing.

Anyways, you can see the difference yourself. The iPhone portrait mode has a lot of potential, but still lacks a natural feel. I bet in the right environment with the right subject matter, it could actually work pretty well… but that’s an experiment for another day.

Another 58mm 1.4g Test Shot

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Photo of Annie getting ready to watch Logan.

I slipped in a couple of photos using my 58mm 1.4g at the mall today. I think I’m starting to figure out the sweet spot for this lens.

When your subject matter is at the right focal distance, the background is rendered in such a way that it looks almost like an anamorphic lens effect. In addition, the image is soft like film—an analog feel. That is the je ne sais quo. And I kind of like that.

I think this lens is showing its strength when shooting portraits and candids. The image has the ability to focus on the person and a little of the environment.

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Photo of my ticket stub and the Logan movie poster.

As I play with it more, I believe that the 58mm would pair well with a 20mm or 24mm. That could be an interesting duo. But it would be a hassle to constantly change lenses or carry a second body to dual wield. I could see a professional photographer doing this, but it would be strange for someone like me to carry around that much gear just as a hobby.

I’m hoping take some more photos tomorrow morning with Annie. If I’m not convinced that this is the right lens for me, I’ll may have to return it. I want to love this lens, but right now I only like it…

Then again, I felt the same way about my 35mm when I first got it.

58mm 1.4g Test Shots

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Photo of a Nikon 58mm 1.4g, shot with my 24mm.

I’ve had my eye on the 58mm 1.4g for a year now, and I’m past due on a new lens. I’ve always wanted a 50mm, and this seemed like a really interesting choice. This lens is either loved or hated by photographers.

Right off the bat, I can tell you that I love the way that this lens renders images, but the focal length is boring as hell. 50mm lenses render what the human eye sees, so it’s nothing extraordinary. A lens like this demands the photographer to be more selective and focus on composition, lighting and the story.

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Photo of Noodle’s paws shot at 58mm 1.4.

This lens is best used between f1.4-f2.5. Anything beyond that feels close to a standard feeling you get from a 50mm. It has the most character when things are shot wide open—bokeh is super soft, and images have an almost 3d effect, popping out from the background.

The challenge of shooting wide open is that the depth of field is razor thin when your subject is within 3′. Most of the time with moving objects (like cats), the autofocus isn’t fast enough. I recommend shooting manual for anything within two arms reach. After that, I think autofocus works fine in decent lighting. I can already tell you that I miss at least 50% of my shots in low light with moving targets.

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Noodle at the dinner table looking for food.

One of the downsides of this lens is that the minimum focal length is about 2′ (one arm length away). Now, that doesn’t sound like much, but it’s really hard to get in tight and capture an expression. It’s also hard to use in tight quarters and “zooming with your feet”.

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Photo of Mango and Annie, shot at 58mm 1.4.

As you can see in the photo above, Mango is in focus while Annie is blurred. I think this is a nice effect, but to be really frank, I think that an 85mm would be a better choice for this kind of shot. With an 85mm, I could get in 1.5x closer to create some drama, and it would feel candid. And perhaps for a little more reach, a 105mm could probably get me in even closer for something really interesting.

I’ve seen some people do some amazing portraits with the 58mm… so I’m hoping to find that sweet spot as well. Check out Sam Hurd’s photos for superb examples.

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Test photo of Annie standing in her driveway at 58mm 1.4.

I think this lens could be potentially used to shoot photos of people outdoors–to separate the foreground/background in an interesting way. This photo almost looks like something shot using the Brenizer Method.

This is where I think I can unlock the super powers of this glass. I’ll see if I can make some time tomorrow evening to shoot some more photos to test this theory.

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Self portrait shot driving down Georgia Avenue in Maryland, 58mm 1.8.

I think I could have stopped this photo down even further to help render the background, but I think I like how dreamy it looks.

As I look at this photo, I ask myself: Could I have done this with my 35mm 1.4 or a nifty 50mm f1.8? And the answer is yes.

The 58mm f1.4 didn’t really provide any extra value for this photo… and if anything, I think my 35mm 1.4 would have been more flexible and given more context.

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Photo of the 58mm in front some of my other lenses.

So this is where I have to ask myself: Does this lens deserve to be part of my prime kit? Well, I currently have a 24mm f1.4g, 35mm f1.4g, 55mm f3.5 ais macro, and 85mm f1.8 ais. Out of my current lenses, I use the 24mm the most, but I’ve found myself using the 35mm a little more when I’m shooting photos that have people in it. And the 85mm only comes out when I need to shoot a portrait.

I think that the 24mm and 58mm would pair nicely as a duo kit… but to really take advantage of it, I think I would want to have a second body. As you know, changing lenses on a DSLR is kind of a hassle.

On the other hand, lugging around two bodies is kind of a hassle too. Eek.

Alright, I’ll see if I can capture some decent photos find that sweet spot with the 58mm. Stay tuned.

Mom Cooks a Surf and Turf Meal

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Lobster tail.

My mom cooked an awesome surf and turf meal for us this weekend.

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Lobster, filet mignon, mashed potatoes and asparagus.

She also cooked an amazing lunch that weekend as well. She served home made shumai, egg rolls and congee.

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Freshly steamed shumai.

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Salty black bean fish for the congee.

What an amazing meal this weekend. I think I just put back on all my weight.

Snow in Maryland

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Shot from inside Annie’s house.

Looks like we’re going to be trapped indoors for the next day or two with all the snow. Good thing we picked up some extra food & water before the late-winter storm.

Also, on a side note, this was shot with a 58mm. I’ve just ordered it to give it a test. Not sure how well it’s going to perform—I’ve heard mixed reviews, but I’m leaning towards keeping it right now. It’s got a really dreamy look, which really adds to the character of a photo. I’m going to do some more test shots this week, so stay tuned.

More Photos of Noodle and Ellie

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Noodle giving her uber-cute look.

These little critters are so photogenic. It’s been a joy taking pictures of them over the last few days.

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Noodle getting a treat from Annie.

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Ellie looking up, giving an evil face.

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Noodle sleeping on her ultra-soft blanket.

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Ellie observing the world from her favorite spot.

Ps. I just ordered a new lens. I told myself that I would add a new piece of glass to my collection every year. It’s been kind of crazy over the last two months, so I haven’t had a chance to invest into some glass. I’ll do a post on it soon. Stay tuned for more cat photos.