Is it possible to show following by using a point-and-shoot camera?

  • shallow depth of field

  • deep depth of field


I'll offer a (partially) dissenting opinion. Point and Shoots, it's true, don't have the ability to shoot as narrow a DOF as most DSLR cameras, both because of the sensor size and the aperture of their lenses.

That doesn't mean you can't get the effect you're looking for in your photos, though -- it just means you've got to be a little more deliberate in setting up your shot. The following shots were all made with P&S cameras:




All three of these had some things in common -- they were zoomed in, and they were all subjects that had some physical separation from their backgrounds. This allows even a P&S to show some background blurring, even if it's not the super-creamy bokeh of a 50mm f/1.2 or a 70-200 f/2.8 on a full-frame DSLR.

(edit) - For a more detailed look at DOF on a P&S, look at this online DOF calculator, which will let you select your camera from a list and shows actual DOF at various apertures & focal lengths. The basic idea here is that even though P&S cameras don't have the performance envelope that a DSLR generally has, all of these cameras have DOF capabilities that you can exploit if you understand how DOF works. You can use your camera controls and compositional techniques to make the most of whatever envelope you've got once you understand the formula.

  • Basically, if focus on small subject with zoom in help to achieve shallow DOF. Mar 21 '11 at 14:39
  • That's one way to do it, yes. I edited the answer to be a little more complete, including a link to an online DOF calculator that might be helpful. The basic idea is that your camera & lens gives you a performance envelope that's capable of certain things, and you control how you're going to use that envelope. Higher-end equipment gives you a bigger envelope (so you can do things you couldn't do with a cheaper camera), but the principles that govern DOF are similar.
    – D. Lambert
    Mar 21 '11 at 15:05
  • Not sure you got shallow DOF here. It is still large, you just framed the background far enough to be beyond the large DOF. This is not generally applicable since one cannot always change the relation between foreground and background.
    – Itai
    Mar 21 '11 at 16:04
  • I added the link to the DOF calculator to help solidify the original answer. Frequently, I think when people ask about "narrow DOF", or even just "DOF", they're really trying to ask how to blur the background in their shots. I'm also not sure that "shallow" in this context isn't sort of a relative term (2" DOF at a distance of 2' isn't shallow, but at 20' it is, right?).
    – D. Lambert
    Mar 21 '11 at 16:29
  • "... super-creamy bokeh of a ... 70-200 f/2.8 on a full-frame DSLR." You've obviously not compared the bokeh of, say, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II and the EF135mm f/2 or even the EF 200mm f/2.8 L II. While high end 70-200/2.8 lenses have a lot going for them, creamy bokeh is not usually one of them. Yes, they will blur out the background, but they usually do it in a fairly harsh way compared to well designed prime lenses.
    – Michael C
    Oct 30 '18 at 9:17

No for shallow depth of field under most common circumstances. It is possible for at very short focus distances, at least less than 1m (3').

Yes for deep depth of field.

In case you are curious, this is an indirect result of the small sensors they use. Smaller sensors require short focal-lengths which give more extensive depth-of-field for the same angle-of-view. So even though a point and shoot can have a 28-140mm equivalent angle-of-view, for example, the actual lens can be a 4-20mm lens.

A few advanced compact cameras (they have full manual controls, not just P&S) now use slightly larger sensors and have F/1.8 lenses which helps have a relatively shallow depth of field but does not compare to what you can get on a DSLR. See for example the Olympus XZ-1 and Nikon P300.

  • That is what I think that deep depth of field can be shooted by point to shot camera, but shallow one is not. Mar 20 '11 at 18:58
  • Nice, concise, and to the point.
    – rfusca
    Mar 20 '11 at 19:18
  • and a very good debunking of the "focal length multiplier" myth as well :)
    – jwenting
    Mar 21 '11 at 6:42
  • 1
    That is true, but for most practical purposes, it's not possible. Mar 21 '11 at 10:29
  • 1
    I've edited the answer to specify this, however I think Itai was answering out of practicality, not technicality. For most uses, it's simply not possible. Mar 21 '11 at 22:50

Shallow depth of field is hard to achieve with most point-and-shoots for most shots, since their sensors and lens focal lengths tend to be small. There are some exceptions though, based on a fast lens and film or bigger sensor.

However, if the point-and-shoot has macro capability (i.e. is able to focus very close) or has some way to attach a close-up lens, a shot focused very close (a macro shot) will have quite shallow depth-of-field.

For static or semi-static scenes, you could also use Brenizer method of shooting multiple images at a longer focal length and stitching them into a panorama. Thanks to the longer focal length, this would result in a shallower depth of field than taking the same picture at wider angle.

Since deep depth of field can be achieved simply by focusing to infinity, there are hardly any cameras which cannot show it. Even fixed-focus point-and-shoots are focused so that infinity is reasonably in focus.


Is it possible to show following by using a point-and-shoot camera?

  • shallow depth of field


  • deep depth of field


The only caveat is that to get shallow depth of field with a small sensor you need to be focussing relatively close (which only works for small subjects) or be at the long end of a superzoom lens.


The Short Answer:

Deep DOF (Depth of Field): YES, in near all conditions. Way easier than with and SLR with a normal lenses.

Shallow DOF: An almost definitive NO. It’s next to impossible to imitate the DOF of an DSLR. You will only have it when shutting in macro mode or selecting a telephoto zoom setting while being relatively very close subject with a very far away background and only if you are using the widest aperture of the lens which usually reduces as you zoom in. Only expensive zoom lenses have a constant wide aperture in all their focal range, they can cost more than the camera body, and usually are quite heavy. Thus are mostly made just for DSLR and Mirrorless, both with full frame sensors.

  • Try to get shallow DOF in a point and shoot, referring to the one you get in portraiture on an 35mm SLR, it’s still a big no no. Try to get the same shallow DOF with an 35mm SLR than the one you get in a Medium Format Camera 120 mm with the same focal length and you will be in trouble.
    – abetancort
    Aug 29 '18 at 23:55

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