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Old Oct 11, 2008, 5:26 PM   #1
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Hi, I am looking for a somewhat compact camera for portrait shots. I have two kids and take a lot of photos. I am hoping to get a camera that allows for good effects when taking portraits - clear subject and very blurred background. I understand that no point and shoot camera would take as good pictures as SLR, but I do not want bulky cameras like SLR. I have narrowed down my options to two - Canon G7 or XS 100 (or 110). Does anyone know which one will give me a better effect for what I am looking for? By the way, the reason that I identify G7 instead of G9 or G10 is because I may be able to buy a used G7 and the cost would be a lot cheaper than a brand new G9 or G10. Thank you!!

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Old Oct 11, 2008, 5:39 PM   #2
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You're probably not going to be able to get the impact you want with a non-dSLR camera model. Your best bet is to use an editor to blur the background if it's distracting.

The reason you have more Depth of Field with a non-DSLR digital camera is because of the actual focal length of the lens.

As a result of a very tiny sensor compared to 35mm film, the lens on most digicams can have a much shorter actual focal length, to get any given 35mmequivalentfocal length (i.e, the same angle of view as you'd have with the lens on a 35mm camera)..

Look at the front of a camera's lens, and you'll probably see the actual focal length printed (along with it's aperture ratings for the wide angle and full telephoto zoom positions).

So, your subject occupies a much larger percentage of the frame at any given actual focal length, compared to a 35mm camera at the same distance to subject with most digicams.

For any given 35mm Equivalent Focal Length, you'll have a *lot* more Depth of Field compared to a camera with a larger sensor (or film) size. This isbecause Depth of Field is computed by the actual versus 35mm equivalent focal length,focus distance,and aperture.

Your ability to blur the background for any given aperture depends on your subject size, the percentage of the frame you need it to occupy (which you can use focal length or the distance to your subject to change), and the distance to the background that you want your subject to stand out from. Of course, using the largest available aperture (represented by the smallest f/stop number) helps - but this is usually not enough to achieve the desired results for larger subjects with most non-DSLR models (i.e., your people photos).

Your best bet is to frame as tightly as possible (fill the frame by getting in closer or using more zoom). In other words, go for a tight head and shoulders, versus a full length shot. You'll want to use the camera's largest available aperture (smallest f/stop number), and put as much distance as possible between the subject and background.

You could also try focusing in front of the subject (so that your subject is barely in the area of acceptable sharpness).

Load this Depth of Field Calculator and select a camera model. Then, plug in the *actual* focal length of the lens, focus distance and aperture to calculate Depth of Field.


Of course, keep in mind that when you use more optical zoom, you'll need to be further away from your subject for it to occupy the same percentage of the frame (hence, cancelling out thebenefits of longer focal lengths in some shooting conditions where you'd want less Depth of Field, especially since the largest available aperture requires the wide angle lens position with most compact digital cameras).

Although the perspective changes (more compressed background from shooting further away), can give the illusion of a shallower depth of field, since blur in out of focus areas will be more obvious (even if the real depth of field isn't changing, since you need to take the photo from further away if you use more zoom for the same framing).

So, for many scenarios, unless you can budget for a DSLR model (which have much larger sensors compred to non-DSLR digital cameras), your best bet is to try and use software to simulate a shallow depth of field. You may want to check in theEditors forum to get some tips.

Shooting small, subjects from close distances is one thing. Trying to blur the background with larger subjects is something else entirely (since you need to be further to get them fitted in the frame, increasing depth of field).

That's one of the appeals of a DSLR (the ability to control Depth of Field for helping your subjects stand out from distracting backgrounds). The sensors are just too small for that in non-DSLR models (unless you're shooting smaller subjects).

A non-DSLR model with much greater depth of field can be a good thing, too.

You may want more depth of field versus less, and with a DSLR model, you'd need to stop down the aperture (smaller aperture represented by higher f/stop numbers) to get it (often requiring much higher ISO speeds or slower shutter speeds to achieve what you can get with a non-DSLR model shooting at wide open apertures.

There are pros and cons to both types of systems.

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Old Oct 11, 2008, 5:43 PM   #3
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Shorter answer:

The models with longer focal lengths (XS100 or 110) can help give the illusion of a shallower depth of field by shooting from further away from your subjects and zooming in more. The perspective you have from shooting from further away makes the background appear more compressed, giving the illusion of a shallower DOF. Of course, that assumes you have a lot of room to work with.

But, even then, you're probably going to need to put a lot of space between your subject and the background, shooting from further away when zoomed in more, and you'll need to try and go for a tighter head shot versus a full length shot.

You may find that blurring the background using an editor is a better bet unless you can budget for a dSLR (and even then, your lens choice will impact your results).

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