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Thread: Beyond "Bokeh"...

  1. #1
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Beyond "Bokeh"...

    We need another word.

    "Bokeh" refers to the "out of focus" areas, and how the lens defines the light and shapes therein. But with some of us, especially in large format photography, there's a lot in the "personality" of the lens that goes far beyond that. It's the spherical and chromatic aberrations, the halation, the coma, the internal flare of the uncoated lens, the curved field, the "swirlies" (whatever thery are...)

    If you read Merklinger's article introducing the term "bokeh" to the western photographic world, (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/bokeh.shtml), it seems pretty clear that the "bokeh" phenomenon he refered to was tightly defined to how aperture shape influenced the depiction of out-of-focus edges. But we've expanded it to include so many other things. Is the nature of a Verito, a P&S, a Heliar, or a Petzval really so related to the shape of the aperture?

    In our laziness, we talk about the quality of these lenses in terms of their "bokeh", when really, it goes far beyond that. And in my own snobbiness or snootiness, I silently harumph to myself when I hears dslr users argue whether Canon or Nikon lenses have "better bokeh".

    Is there already a term that refers to the particulars of how one lens uniquely and distinctly depicts the world? A term that is more suitable to describing Plasticcas, Strusses, Imagons, and 99-cent lenses, as opposed to the lenses designed to all look alike?

    I suppose referring to a lens' "personality" is the prevailing terminology. If it weren't for "bokeh", I'd suggest we refer to a lens' "bouquet", (not unlike a fine wine!)

    Anyways... Is there already a term in use for a lens' particularly special way of seeing the world? Or suggestions for a new term?
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  2. #2
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Re: Beyond "Bokeh"...

    Sometimes people talk about the visual "signature" or "character" of a lens to describe these overall effects.

    Personally, I prefer "out of focus rendering," which seems more in line with descriptions of lenses from the age of soft focus lenses, to "bokeh," for that specific phenomenon.

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    Re: Beyond "Bokeh"...

    I would agree with you Mark, except I have never perceived that anyone meant anything besides how the aperture shape influences the out of focus edges.

    I can't stand the word in the first place...

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    Re: Beyond "Bokeh"...

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sawyer View Post
    If you read Merklinger's article introducing the term "bokeh" to the western photographic world, (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/bokeh.shtml), it seems pretty clear that the "bokeh" phenomenon he refered to was tightly defined to how aperture shape influenced the depiction of out-of-focus edges.
    Mark, I'm afraid that's not right. Please read Harold's article again, paying attention to the section that begins with the following:

    "But photographers also know that particular lens designs have individual boke character, even when diaphragm shapes are similar. The Leitz 35/2 Summicron, for example, is reputed to have "good boke" while other some other lens designs give rise to "ni-sen" (double-line streaks) and other forms of "bad boke". What makes the difference?..."

    That said, I agree that OOF rendering is far from the only important aspect of optical character.

    Matt, saying you can't stand the word "bokeh" is literally equivalent to a Japanese person saying he can't stand the English word "blur".

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    Re: Beyond "Bokeh"...

    Quote Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb View Post
    Sometimes people talk about the visual "signature" or "character" of a lens to describe these overall effects.

    Personally, I prefer "out of focus rendering," which seems more in line with descriptions of lenses from the age of soft focus lenses, to "bokeh," for that specific phenomenon.
    *(****
    For myself, I have long thought the whole concept of "bokeh" is nothing less than a tellibly precious form of cockamamie for people who would rather talk (or email) about photography, than just doing it.
    Before it had a "name" and a "cachet," it really only mattered when dealing with those little out of focus donuts which showed up with those new-fangled mirror lenses back in the late 1950s-early 1960s.
    It strikes me about the same as a bunch of yuppies years back comparing the merits of the various swills coming from "micro"- breweries: take it from someone who lived and worked in Munich, most of the micro-stuff is bilge that would be flushed down the nearest town drain in "the beer capital of the world." But it's oh, so much fun to comment upon, by people who would not know a decent beer if they tasted it.
    I feel the same about bokeh.

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    Re: Beyond "Bokeh"...

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    Matt, saying you can't stand the word "bokeh" is literally equivalent to a Japanese person saying he can't stand the English word "blur".
    That is almost true, except as you have illustrated the word is "boke". I have never understood how it turned into "bokeh" except that that is how it is pronounced, so I assume someone just bastardized it. It annoys me, I can’t help it.

    So my main issue is not so much the word itself, but the fact that we have imported a word, albeit a very descriptive one, and forked it into this thing we write. So it comes across as a buzz word, and that annoys me. I'm sorry, I can't help it.

    I honestly can't stand the word "bokeh" and I wish the Japanese people no ill.

    ....

    But anyway, in the text you reference, by Harold, all of the characteristics being referred to are dealing with out of focus edge rendering, whether it be a condition of the shape of the iris, internal reflection, group placement, front element shape, or what have you, and in that sense is still boke by nature as Mark described it, no? I guess someone should explain these double line streaks to me, but if they are not an OOF characteristic, I don't think they should be considered as "bokeh" no matter what the author originally stated. I do believe that the word is used in Japan, etc. to describe just that.

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    Re: Beyond "Bokeh"...

    Quote Originally Posted by aphexafx View Post
    That is almost true, except as you have illustrated the word is "boke". I have never understood how it turned into "bokeh" except that that is how it is pronounced, so I assume someone just bastardized it.
    Please read this post, in which Mike Johnston explains where "bokeh" came from as well as some other context that you're missing.

    Quote Originally Posted by aphexafx View Post
    But anyway, in the text you reference, by Harold, all of the characteristics being referred to are dealing with out of focus edge rendering, whether it be a condition of the shape of the iris, internal reflection, group placement, front element shape, or what have you, and in that sense is still boke by nature as Mark described it, no?
    Again, that's not correct. The point of Harold's article is to explain OOF rendering in terms of the mathematical concept of convolution or, to put it in terms of the non-mathematical analogy he uses, to understand how OOF character is affected by the nature of the "brushes" used to "paint" the picture. If you think it's about the rendering of edges, you're either not reading the whole article or not understanding it.

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    Re: Beyond "Bokeh"...

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    Please read this post, in which Mike Johnston explains where "bokeh" came from, as well as some other context that you're missing.
    Will do, but the word still annoys me, sorry if that bothers you. No issue.

    Again, that's not correct. The point of Harold's article is to explain OOF rendering in terms of the mathematical concept of convolution or, to put it in terms of the non-mathematical analogy he uses, to understand how OOF character is affected by the nature of the "brushes" used to "paint" the picture. If you think it's about the rendering of edges, you're either not reading the whole article or not understanding it.
    I understand this and I understand convolution. However, all of this is referencing how the lens handles OOF rendering, thus it is the lens' OOF characteristic, whatever the source of this characteristic, be it the shape of the iris or the type of cement used to hold the groups together. etc., that is referred to as "bokeh". I agree with this. I don't agree with anyone using the term to refer to anything other than a component characteristic of OOF rendering, is all.

    Added: I see the issue now, and I did say "OOF edge definition" in the last post (yipes, even the one before that, but I was led on my Mark and I am not responsible). I agree that it is not tied only to OOF edge rendering, and that this is just a very visible part of the "bokeh" spectrum.

    Now I have to explain. I DO agree that "bokeh" refers to OOF rendering beyond edge definition. However, in my haste, and laziness, I got caught up in the fact that this is how people generally see "bokeh". My point has been that it shouldn't be used to refer to things such as contrast, coloration, tint, vignette, or anything else that is not an OOF characteristic of a given lens. I thought Mark was refering to people referring to these non-OOF characteristics as "bokeh" and I was noting that I had never encountered such a misuse, even though I was cutting myself short by my own references to edge definition which is only part of the picture.

    Whew.

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    Re: Beyond "Bokeh"...

    Many Japanese people spell their names with an "h" when the vowel is drawn out longer. For instance, some people spell their name Ito while others spell it Itoh. The Japanese spelling is the same.

    Because English speaking people would normally rhyme the terminology "boke" with smoke, the "h" helps with pronunciation. I can't see how this should cause you such consternation.

    I think the bigger problem with the terminology is the bastardization of the word. Some people use it to describe shallow depth of field, selective focus or characteristics of the focus plane of soft focus lenses.

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    Re: Beyond "Bokeh"...

    Quote Originally Posted by John T View Post
    I can't see how this should cause you such consternation.
    Well, I still sleep at night.

    I think the bigger problem with the terminology is the bastardization of the word. Some people use it to describe shallow depth of field, selective focus or characteristics of the focus plane of soft focus lenses.
    I agree with this completely, does Oren Grad???

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