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variable aperture zoom lens

RainDog9

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Hey everybody,

So, I bought my first camera last week. I bought a factory refurbished Nikon Coolpix P530 for $150. So far I love the camera, and spent my whole weekend reading about photography and snapping pictures out hiking with my dog. To my frustration however, I discovered that there was very little I could do with my camera on Aperture Priority mode due to it having a "variable Aperture Zoom Lens." The shots I was hoping to learn how to take would allow me to focus on the depth of the scene by blurring things in the foreground and background, but unfortunately I can't get much of that effect because I need to zoom in really close to my subject (usually a trail or landmark on it) to change my aperture. Am I doing something wrong, or is this just a limitation of the camera I purchased? What can I do to add more depth to my photos? The shots are all crystal clear, which is nice, but I was hoping to achieve something a little more artistic.

I understand that I purchased a lower end camera, but i'm also a total beginner. Unfortunately the $150 I spent was a total splurge as i'm a young single guy paying rent and utilities solo. Are there any affordable cameras with "fixed aperture" lenses that would help me achieve the effects i'm looking for? What about tips on buying used?

Here is probably the best shot I got all weekend:


http://postimg.org/image/6skc8hf7d/

http://postimg.org/image/6xmsq4mhn/

Thank you all in advance!

-Matt
 
The issue is more one of sensor size than it is the variable aperture; small-sensor cameras and smartphone cameras have great depth of field, meaning they can pull almost everything into good, acceptably sharp focus, on most scenes. This article shows and explains things wonderfully. Background blur and its relationship to sensor size
 
The issue is more one of sensor size than it is the variable aperture; small-sensor cameras and smartphone cameras have great depth of field, meaning they can pull almost everything into good, acceptably sharp focus, on most scenes. This article shows and explains things wonderfully. Background blur and its relationship to sensor size

Thanks for the great article Derrel. It looks like my camera is just not going to be able to achieve a really strong blur on its own. I was hoping to learn to shoot photos that I wouldn't have to edit after the fact.
 
Yeah, the blurring of the backgrounds is often very tough to achieve with a small-sensor compact or smartphone camera. On the other hand, achieving deep, deep DOF, or pan focus as it used to be called, was at one time a highly desired capability for many people! The ability to achieve good focus on very near, and also far-away stuff is one of the strengths of the smartphone camera, and the digital compact camera--for some uses!

It is possible to get at least some blurred backdrop photos:the main subject needs to be placed fairly close to the lens, and background needs to be very far behind the subject--those are the first two needed ingredients to achieve a strongly blurred background with a small-sensor camera. Unfortunately, once the camera-to-subject distance grows even remotely close to the hyperfocal distance, on a small sensor camera with most all lens lengths, there will be deep depth of field, simply due to the immutable laws of physics involved.

Camera-to-subject distance is the big thing at play with small-sensor cameras; when the shooting distance is 10,12 feet away, you are simply not going to be able to strongly defocus the background unless the lens length is very long. However much we want defocused backgrounds these days, there was a time when people desperately craved the ability to be able to make images with near/far juxtapositions shown in the crisp, clear focus that small-sensor digital cameras give us. This deep DOF capability in small-sensor cameras is actually a real strength in many types of photo compositions. Unless...you don't want deep DOF!
 
Understood Derrel. I'm still very happy with my choice of camera! But as in all things i have to learn the hard way. I got it primarily to document backpacking/camping trips, and to catch wildlife whenever possible (hence the 42x zoom!) In the past few months i've seen deer, bears, owls, foxes, and all kinds of wildlife I would have loved to capture. I'll continue to experiment over the next six months to a year, and save up for a more versatile upgrade some time down the line. I'd also love to one day have a camera I can attache a polarized filter onto to reduce water/snow glare... So many expensive toys, so little money.
 
.. blurring things in the foreground and background..
Ah, so what you're after is a SHALLOW "depth of field".

The factors that influence the DoF are; focal length of the lens, aperture (size of opening), distance from lens to subject, and as Derrel has already pointed out; the size of the sensor.

Now there isn't anything you can do about the size of the sensor, not without trading cameras, and I'm not familiar with the CoolPix, on whether you can get a telephoto lens or not, but that would be something if it can be done, and then the distance to the subject, which of course you can do.

Most "point-and-shoot" cameras have not only a small sensor, but almost always have a wide angle lens. The reason is so that the depth of field will be as deep as possible, thereby getting nearly everything in focus from near to far. They do that on purpose.
 
.. blurring things in the foreground and background..
Ah, so what you're after is a SHALLOW "depth of field".

The factors that influence the DoF are; focal length of the lens, aperture (size of opening), distance from lens to subject, and as Derrel has already pointed out; the size of the sensor.

Now there isn't anything you can do about the size of the sensor, not without trading cameras, and I'm not familiar with the CoolPix, on whether you can get a telephoto lens or not, but that would be something if it can be done, and then the distance to the subject, which of course you can do.

Most "point-and-shoot" cameras have not only a small sensor, but almost always have a wide angle lens. The reason is so that the depth of field will be as deep as possible, thereby getting nearly everything in focus from near to far. They do that on purpose.

Hey Designer,

I regret not really knowing anything about sensors a week ago, but i'll make do with what I have. The Coolpix P530 is a Bridge Camera, so it feels like a DSLR but is still a point and shoot, just with a zoom on steroids. Unfortunately you can't unscrew the lens and swap it out for a telephoto lens, or any other lens for that matter.

As far as deep and shallow DOF goes, i've been looking at some outdoor photography that I really like in which it seems the photographer was able to focus on something in the mid ground (if thats a term?) and blur both background and fore ground while only the middle is sharp and clear. I really like this affect because it emphasizes the depth, and somehow even the gradient of a rocky trail. One of my frustrations with smartphone photography was that, no matter what I did, i couldn't even begin to capture the sheer IMMENSITY of a mountain range or trail. A sheer vertical rock face comes out looking like a bunny hill. The Kinsmen's mountain range like a few ripples on a horizon. Things to aspire toward!
 
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Welcome the landscape photography! That, unfortunately, is the nature of the beast. It seems that no matter what feeling you wish to convey in your landscape photograph, it never quite measures up.

Yes, that is a shallow DOF. (not deep, IOW)

You can try making all the variables sort of work in your favor, and see how close you get to your goal. Long focal length, (zoom it to long FL), the widest aperture you can get (at whatever focal length the lens is set to), and getting fairly close to your subject (a person, for example) and see what happens. You might not get the foreground to blur out, but if at least the distant background is blurry, then you should call that a successful attempt.
 

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