Bokeh - Schärfentiefe

low depth of field Depth of field and a nice bokeh in the background are popular stylistic devices when composing images. What is important remains sharp, the rest no longer distracts from the main subject because it is blurred.

Um das hinzubekommen, braucht man eine Kamera mit großem Sensor (am besten „Vollformat“) und ein lichtstarkes Objektiv mit langer Brennweite. Auch das ist eine weit verbreitete Meinung.


But that's not true!


The picture above was taken with a focal length of 70mm and an aperture of f/11 and yet the main subject, the onion blossom, is clearly separated from the blurred background.

I took the picture with a Zeiss “Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS” (what a name!).

It has f/4 as the maximum aperture and I used to think that this is far too little for beautiful exemptions from the subject. But in the end it was the lens that I had on my Sony A7 most of the time. I liked it because it was relatively compact and had good imaging performance.  

The full format sensor was also important to me in the past because the sensor size also has an influence on the depth of field. A compact system has become much more important to me these days.


Bokeh - Schärfentiefe

So why is the background in the picture so beautifully blurred despite the f/11 aperture?


The trick, which works with virtually any standard kit lens - and not just for flowers, but also for portraits, is very simple:

That was it! In the picture here, the foreground flower was maybe 50cm from the lens but easily 2-3m from the purple flowers in the background. The background is no longer in focus even with an aperture of f/11.


Schärfentiefe am Handy kontrollieren – auch das geht!

With smartphones, the sensor is really very small and the focus area is therefore relatively large. 

But I just tried it again with the iPhone: At least with the telephoto lens, the background can easily be blurred, even without the portrait mode, in which an actually sharp background is artificially blurred.

I actually really like the blur that this creates: you can still guess what constitutes the background, but the viewer's gaze is still drawn to the foreground.

Fazit – Bokeh ist schön. aber nicht immer!

Mit einem großen, schweren, und  teuren „Bokeh-Monster“, wie einem 85mm f/1.4 Objektiv kann man sehr leicht sehr kleine Bereiche scharf und den Rest unscharf fotografieren.
If you want or have to do without such a lens, you can achieve similar image compositions with almost any lens and camera. 

So don't be fooled into believing that you need large sensors and fast, wide-aperture lenses!

Personally, I find it much more exciting when you compose your portrait in such a way that the background, as a context to the actual portrait, contributes a little to the story that the picture is supposed to tell.

But I still love bokeh and got the lens for my Fuji cameras that, in my opinion, creates the most beautiful and smoothest bokeh I know: The FUJIFILM XF56mm F1.2 APD, one of the very few lenses with a built-in apodization filter.


The picture is from 2014

The picture is old, and so is this article actually. I originally published it on A blog about photography and gadgets that I ran for 20 years (2001 -2021). Too much computer and tech stuff, not enough about photography, so I hired him earlier this year. But I wanted to bring this article over with me. The article was also one of the most read articles on in 2021 and I still find it very up-to-date today.