Im interested in knowing why the depth of field(mostly the background blur)in the Old image is very different from the depth of field in the New image?

More then DoF the blur in the Old image is softer and seems to be combination of lens blur+gaussian blur + unsharp mask. But this old image probably is straight out of camera without any post processing.

Watch how New image and still from seven samurai have similar background blur where as the blur in old image and still from Kasturi Nivasa is totally different from other two.

And Still from Kasturi Nivasa is the nearest matching blur with Old image that i got but still not equal to Old image, the blur in these images seem as if a blurry scratched glass has been placed behind the people/actor.

Is it possible to achieve blur from Old image using modern lenses?

If not which old lenses can be used for modern projects?

sample1 (Old image) sample4 (Still from Kasturi Nivasa 1971 ) sample2 (New image) sample2 (Still from seven samurai 1954) sample5 (Self creation)

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see this as being related to depth of field. To me the old image just looks really soft. I don't see anything sharply in focus there. You could look into a lens with an older design such as Lomography's Daguerreotype Achromat 2.9/64 Art Lens \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Feb 8, 2019 at 14:36
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm a little confused by what you're asking. Surely you've seen modern images with extremely shallow depth of field. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Feb 8, 2019 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of How can I get dramatic shallow DOF with a kit lens? \$\endgroup\$
    – user31502
    Feb 8, 2019 at 16:44
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I have to admit, I've answered "how do I make this new photo look like this old photo" more than strictly being concerned with the DoF. Let's see if the OP will come back to clarify their intent. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 8, 2019 at 17:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ The images look like they used different lenses. You need to identify what it is in the 'old' image you want to achieve before you can find a suitable lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Feb 9, 2019 at 15:15

3 Answers 3


Since the question edit, I'm tempted to link across to my previous answer on the 'medieval look' which does cover a lot of the same ground in a reasonably simplistic way.
How can I create this 'medieval look' using an entry-level camera like the Nikon D3300?
Matt Grum's answer on How can I get dramatic shallow DOF with a kit lens? covers it very well too.

Original answer below...

I'm not, tbh, seeing a particularly shallow depth of field, mainly it's all fairly evenly out of focus.

On a modern lens you get a shallower DoF by opening the aperture, or using a longer lens from further away, or both. Alternatively, similar framing with the same lens on a larger format sensor will shorten the DoF.

Rather than strictly being concerned with the DoF, I found I could do a crude mockup to make your new photo look more like the old one just by pushing the contrast much harder, blurring & adding a dark vignette. I also removed what little colour remained in it - it was very slightly 'sepia' before.

1 minute in Photoshop gives...

one-minute mockup

Better results could be gained from a larger original & a bit more care & attention than my quick attempt. My vignette is definitely too crude.

Force-matching the light source of the original would take considerably more effort, lot of dodge & burn, by hand.

I had a bit of a go at 'washing out' the background by evening out the tones a bit like the old photo, greyer to the left, blacker to the right - the original gives me the feeling the photographer held up a [pyrotechnic] flash high & wide in his left hand.

I'm not sure it was massively successful, but I thought I may as well post it rather than just bin it... It could possibly benefit from a tighter crop.


  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Each time I see the final image, the better it looks. It really does look old, if not for that car in the background. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Feb 9, 2019 at 1:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xiota - Thank you. I'm sure that from the original at higher quality I could clone out the car & triangular sign too ;) This really was a 5-minute job, even for the 2nd version - & the original is a bit small to really do a good job on it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 9, 2019 at 10:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tetsujin updated question details \$\endgroup\$
    – user318524
    Feb 9, 2019 at 10:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've tweaked my answer & linked to two others on a similar theme. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 9, 2019 at 11:16

If background blur really is all you're after, the 'old' image was a red herring, and any modern lens can achieve it as long as aperture, focal length, and distance are suitable. In your 'new' image, the subjects are fairly far from the camera, whereas in the movie captures, the subject is close. Consider getting a nifty fifty (50/1.8).

Any modern lens with the same focal length, aperture, and distance to subject would obtain about the same depth of field as the old lens. However, it still would not have the same look. The "character" of old lenses is influenced by such factors as:

  • Focal length and Aperture
  • Sharpness and Field Curvature
  • Optical formula – Distortion and Aberrations
  • Lens coatings – Glare and Flare
  • Vignetting
  • Film format and type
  • Development and printing

More sample images would be helpful, but based on what you've provided, the old picture lacks sharpness. The lens could be soft, but it seems focus was missed entirely. Also, the image appears to have been printed on paper, which would decrease the resolution and microcontrast. There is also some veiling glare and "glow". I'd guess a slightly longer than normal focal length. Maybe something that doesn't open very wide?

For authenticity, try to get a lens from the period you want to replicate. If that's not possible, look for a single coated lens. Something made in Korea in the 70s-80s could work. (Even poor Japanese optics would be too sharp). Bonus if the lens is beat up and looks the part. Trial and error until you find something you like. Modern sensors give old lenses a newer look, so you'll still have to do a bit of post processing, such as what Tetsujin has done.

Here are some samples from a few different lenses.

  • Sears 70-210/4 (Made in Korea - 1980s):

    Sears 70-210/4 Sears 70-210/4 gray

  • Fujinon 35/1.7 (c-mount - cheap, modernish lens):

    Fujinon 35/1.7 Fujinon 35/1.7 Gray

  • Steinheil-Munchin Cassarit 50/2.8 (East German, cold-war era lens):

    Steinheil-Munchin Cassarit 50/1.8 Steinheil-Munchin Cassarit 50/1.8 Gray

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If you just want blurry, the lack of sharpness in the 'old' image is likely caused by missed focus and low-quality print on paper. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Feb 9, 2019 at 15:30

Potentially this could be from using a large format camera. Although apparent depth of field comes from different factors (size of final image, aperture used, distance to subject) one important one is the focal length of the lens. Longer focal length lenses tend to have narrower apparent depth of field than shorter focal length lenses. Large format cameras (those with image areas measured in multiple inches) need to have longer focal length lenses to cover the same angle of view as a camera with a smaller image area, so they can display less apparent depth of field even with shots with normal fields of view.

To replicate this look with cameras with smaller sensors, photographers sometimes use what's called the "Brenizer Method" where they take multiple shots with a longer lens and then stitch the images together to show a wide angle of view.


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