‘Depth of field’ or DOF for short is this nice image quality where one piece of your picture is sharp and in focus, and the rest of the image is blurred and out of focus. Pictures with a shallow DOF isolate the sharp object, like a face, from the background. Great to draw the audience’s attention to the subject.

Video camera’s like the Sony EX1 are designed for versatile deployment and quick handling. A shallow DOF makes a cameraman’s work harder since he/she needs to adjust the focus a lot. So the EX1 doesn’t usually give a great looking DOF. However, applying these tips you can get the maximum shallow DOF and in many cases it’s (more than) enough.

  1. Make sure there is some distance between your sharp subject and the blurry background. The more the better.
  2. Take some distance from your subject and zoom in a little. Go for the 50mm feel. Don’t zoom in too much or your image feels crushed and small.
  3. Open up your iris, keep it at 1.9 or 2.8. Control the light with the ND filter.
  4. Don’t use your shutter speed to control the DOF. You can do that in photography but not in videography. I usually keep my shutter on 180 degrees, or 1/50. Only use high shutter speeds for fast moving objects like sports, action or battle scenes.  A slow shutter feels dreamy.
  5. Avoid using the gain to control the exposure. 0dB has the least noise though some people prefer -3 dB. Remember: 0dB is about 400 ISO and every 6 dB doubles the ISO. I keep my gain setting between -3, 0 (preferred) en +3.
  6. You can use screw-on Neutral Density filters to control the iris even more. These Fader ND filters are great and give an extra 1 to 8 stops when you rotate them. I use a Fader ND from Lightcraft Workshop and use it on my DSLR’s as well.

DOF is hot, thanks to the film-look loving DSLR revolution. However, be careful. I have seen examples where the DOF is way too much and you cannot tell where the subject is. Could be a studio, his house or even Mars? You need some reference in the out of focus background.

O yeah, one more thing about the iris, never let your iris go over 5.6. while outdoors. If you know the EX1, you will know that blue skylines sometimes look dirty at the edges. This phenomenon is called blue fringing and if you keep your iris under 5.6 you’re good.