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Old May 18, 2008, 3:24 PM   #1
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I have a Canon SD550 (point and shoot), which I love. But, I want to take better portrait pictures of my kids. Specifically, I can not get the SD550 to focus on the subject and blur the background. No matter what I try.

So, I am looking for an inexpensivecamera with a wider lens/aperture. The fuji finepix s700 seems to fitthe bill.

Any thoughts? Will the fuji take good portrait pictures?

Thank you

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Old May 20, 2008, 5:48 PM   #2
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The Finepix S700 / S5700 should be fine for the job, it seemed to get a pretty good review on here + also the user reviews on Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk seem to be extremely complimentary.

Personally I've got a Fuji Finepix S6500fd (UK model name for the S6000fd), and consider it possibly one of the greatest digital cameras yet made... as do most owners of cameras in the Fuji S5000 / S6000 / S8000 / S9000 linage.

I've tried an Olympus SP-500uz(?) before while on a workplacement for unemployed British people a few years back (similar idea camera, replaced by SP-550 + SP-570) which are a similar line of camera, and was just as good..... but the Fuji's don't seem to eat batteries quite as quickly.
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Old May 21, 2008, 1:36 AM   #3
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It is almost impossible to achieve what you want to do with a P&S camera.

The reason is that because of the tiny sensor the focal length of the lens is very short, so you have very large depth-of-field, which means everything in focus.

A wider maximum aperture will help, as will trying to make sure you have good separation between the subject and the background. Put the subject as close as you can, with the background as far as you can. But with the subject close you need to be careful of distortion.

If you want to achieve the blurred background you really need to move up to a bigger sensor and a longer focal length with wide aperture lens.
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Old May 21, 2008, 8:53 AM   #4
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peripatetic hit the nail on the head.

The type of cameras you're looking at are just not well suited for that purpose. You really need to move into an entry level dSLR for better results.

The much longer version:

I answer this question (why can't I get a blurred background) periodically. So, I'm just copying an answer from another recent thread to here:

Zoom in, get closer, frame tighter. Go for a head shot versus a full length shot.

As a result of a very tiny sensor compared to 35mm film, the lenses used on non-dslr digital cameras 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 your 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, and you'll have much more Depth of Field compared to a camera with a larger sensor (or film).. 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 zooming in and getting closer). 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 selectyour camera model. Then, plug in the *actual* focal length of the lens, focus distance and aperture to calculate Depth of Field. Keep in mind that "acceptable sharpness" is not the same thing as "acceptable blur" though.


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).

But, the perspective change (more compressed background from shooting further away with a longer focal length lens) will 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, zooming in can often help a lot (even though you'll have a smaller aperture, represented by a higher f/stop number with a compact lens design like yours).

So, for many scenarios, unless you can budget for a DSLR model (which have much larger sensors compared to non-DSLR digital cameras), your best bet is to try and use software to simulate a shallow depth of field for larger subjects.

Sbooting 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 away 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 your shooting smaller subjects).

A non-DSLR model with much greater depth of field like your camera 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.

Shorter Answer:

Use the largest available aperture (smaller f/stop numbers), zoom in, get closer, frame tighter. Go for a head shot versus a full length shot to have a better chance at more background blur, putting more space between your subject and the background.

Some of the entry level dSLR models are available for around $500 now. The entry level Olympus models are probably the least expensive of the bunch right now. But, they've got the smallest sensors of any major brand, and will have a bit more depth of field compared to the entry level Canon, Nikon or Sony models. So, for better results (a shallower depth of field for a given focus distance, aperture and focal length), I'd stick to a larger sensor with your needs in mind. You'll also need to factor in lens costs. The kit lenses are not really ideal for this purpose. So, let members know what your total budget is for more suggestions.

Again, software is another way to do it (blurring the background using an image editor). There are a few posts with different techniques in the forums here. Here's one example:


But, even the free Google Picasa edtor has a tool for that purpose (it's just not very refined compared to a more advanced editor).

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Old May 22, 2008, 1:34 PM   #5
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Great information. Thank you very much.
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