9 Lenses with very special bokeh

Jul 24, 2016

Nitsan Simantov

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

9 Lenses with very special bokeh

Jul 24, 2016

Nitsan Simantov

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I have played with photography a little bit since I was a boy, first with an old Olympus 35mm film point-and-shoot, then with a GameBoy camera and later a pretty terrible mobile phone. At age 18 I got my first DSLR and instantly fell in love with out-of-focus backgrounds, and now almost 10 years later I still have a passion for bokeh.

Most new lenses aim to have bokeh that is very smooth. Some people really like this, and in most lens comparisons and reviews, the smoother bokeh is considered the winner. And while I do like the smoother bokeh from some lenses, sometimes I find it can be a bit boring to me. An example of this is the Sigma Art 35mm f1.4, a lens that is very highly regarded, and I have absolutely nothing against it, it’s just not to my taste.

I am not trying to say that any one kind of bokeh is “better”, but let’s take a look at some examples of lenses with some unique looking bokeh. This is not a complete list but should get you started nicely. Keep in mind that with most of these lenses, the content of the background and the distance of focus will make a big difference to the overall look. Often at the closer end of the focus range the special look of the bokeh isn’t as apparent.

1. Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 MC

Starting with my absolute favourite lens, the Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 MC.

YouTube video

2. Helios 50mm and 58mm

For those on a budget, Helios have a selection of 50mm and 58mm lenses which produce very nice results. Some can be found very cheap on ebay. Note: Their strange names are not their focal lengths.

44m variant:

photo by Oleg Makarov
photo by Oleg Makarov

77m-4 variant:

photo by by Nitsan Simantov
photo by by Nitsan Simantov

3. Olympus OM 55mm f1.2

Here is the radioactive Olympus OM 55mm f1.2, a lens with a pretty strange looking bokeh. This was my first large aperture lens, chosen purely for its f1.2 aperture, I actually don’t like this bokeh very much now.

photo by by Nitsan Simantov
photo by by Nitsan Simantov

4. Nikon 300mm f2.8

Now a “bonus” to this list, the Nikon 300mm f2.8. Not very special looking, but it sure can produce some beautiful bokeh with the right background and distance.

photo by Prachanart Viriyaraks
photo by Prachanart Viriyaraks

5. Helios 85mm f1.5

The Helios 85mm f1.5. Often referred to as the “bokeh monster”. Need I say more?

photo by by Nitsan Simantov
photo by by Nitsan Simantov, full review here.

6. Samyang 35mm f1.4

The Samyang 35mm f1.4’s bokeh doesn’t stand out as much as some of these, but it sure is beautiful.

photo by by Nitsan Simantov
photo by by Nitsan Simantov

7. Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0

There’s also the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0. I don’t dare google the price, but it’s certainly very beautiful.

photo by Alesha
photo by Alesha

8. Trioplan 100mm f2.8

This is a nice lens from brand Meyer-Optik, the Trioplan 100mm f2.8. Not one I would personally purchase, but certainly special looking.

photo by Laurette.C
photo by Laurette.C

9. Samyang 85mm f1.4

And I can’t end a special bokeh article without a bokeh panorama. This is made by stitching together 54 close-up images shot on a 5D Mark III and Samyang 85mm f1.4.

photo by by Nitsan Simantov
photo by by Nitsan Simantov

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you know of other lenses with really special bokeh, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

About the Author

Nitsan Simantov is photographer and Youtube video creator. You can subscribe to his excellent Youtube channel for lots of great tutorials and reviews.

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27 responses to “9 Lenses with very special bokeh”

  1. Maurizio Caravaggi Avatar
    Maurizio Caravaggi

    guys, you forgot the best bokeh ever with the catadioptric lense: http://www.camstrading.com/product_images/Yahoobid/500mm/sample1.jpg

    1. Stormy Llama Avatar
      Stormy Llama

      A Reflection mirror lens

    2. Maurizio Caravaggi Avatar
      Maurizio Caravaggi

      exactly, like the telescopes

    3. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      Now this is awesome and i would love to experiment with one of these lenses for a nikon body.

  2. Stormy Llama Avatar
    Stormy Llama

    What about the Nikon (Defocus Control) DC lens?

  3. Najib Saer Avatar
    Najib Saer

    Nikon 58mm f/1.4G lens has awesome bokeh. Hefty price tag, but the bokeh makes it worthwhile.

  4. Nate Hudson Avatar
    Nate Hudson

    The Minolta Rokkor X 45mm f2 has an amazing textured bokeh! It’s definitely one of my all time favorite lenses! I also love the Jupiter 37A 135mm f3.5! I constantly seek lenses that have more of a textured bokeh even though I have a rather nice set of sigma primes, a canon 70-200L f2.8 IS, and a tamron 16-28 f2.8. My old manual lenses I have acquired lately produce such amazing results I hardly touch my newer lenses.

  5. Nate Hudson Avatar
    Nate Hudson

    The Minolta Rokkor X 45mm f2 has an amazing textured bokeh! It’s definitely one of my all time favorite lenses! I also love the Jupiter 37A 135mm f3.5! I constantly seek lenses that have more of a textured bokeh even though I have a rather nice set of sigma primes, a canon 70-200L f2.8 IS, and a tamron 16-28 f2.8. My old manual lenses I have acquired lately produce such amazing results I hardly touch my newer lenses.

    1. Thinkinginpictures Avatar
      Thinkinginpictures

      Oh yeah? Funny- I own that lens but haven’t used it much due to the short focusing distance. I’ll have to give it more of a go.

  6. Aaron Aldrich Avatar
    Aaron Aldrich

    The Asahi Super Takumar 50/1.4 is one of my all-time favorites… https://www.flickr.com/photos/16410567@N02/15130444177/in/photolist-p42tVc-myahpt-itxBL3-dDd1jM

  7. David M Milstien Avatar
    David M Milstien

    What about the Petzval 50 and 85. Fuji 56 1.2?

  8. TheInconvenientRuth Avatar
    TheInconvenientRuth

    For all out weird swirly bokeh and very shallow DoF, just add the Vivitar 135mm f/1.5

    1. NitsanSimantov Avatar
      NitsanSimantov

      Cool. I was wondering if there was a super fast 135mm. Hard to find photos from that, and also seems rare to purchase.

      1. TheInconvenientRuth Avatar
        TheInconvenientRuth

        My husband is obsessed (no, really, he needs professional help..) with collecting every FF lens between 50 and 135mm that fits on an F-mount. To be fair he uses every single one for a shoot now and then so they do pay for themselves, but still.. He’s been hunting this one for years but he doesn’t like buying on eBay. (“I’m not going to buy somehting I can’t pick up and look at first..”) He finally found the 135/1.5 in a little shop in Hong Kong. Paid 850 pounds for it, but to be fair it was as new in box, full papers etc. There’s on on eBay right now, ending in 24h, bidding is up to GBP 650 now.

    2. Eastwestphoto1 Avatar
      Eastwestphoto1

      Impossible to find that lens for sale only 197 ever made.

  9. Jim Avatar
    Jim

    I would have gone with the Nikon 200mm f/2 over the 300mm f/2.8

    1. Hannah Abbott Avatar
      Hannah Abbott

      100% correct. . .

    2. Eastwestphoto1 Avatar
      Eastwestphoto1

      nikkor 135/2 very nice

  10. gigi gigiotto Avatar
    gigi gigiotto

    Daamn the Samyang 35mm and the Helios 77m-4 variant have beautiful bokeh. What you suggest? The Samyang 35 or 50mm 77m-4? I have an aps-c sensor, alright the image is cropped of 1,5x (nikon d3300)

  11. Jaakko Avatar
    Jaakko

    Summitar 50mm f2 has also unique bokeh

    1. manas vatsal Avatar
      manas vatsal

      I have also written an article praising the greatness of this lens. Hope you like it.

      http://photoxperience.in/50-mm-bokeh-monster/

    2. Eastwestphoto1 Avatar
      Eastwestphoto1

      Summar 5cm/2 is better only if you get a very clean coated example.

  12. manas vatsal Avatar
    manas vatsal

    Great article as usual. I have also written an article praising the greatness of this lens. Hope you like it.

    http://photoxperience.in/50-mm-bokeh-monster/

  13. N Rusli Avatar
    N Rusli

    Pentacon av80 is good too

  14. Cyril Veakspey Avatar
    Cyril Veakspey

    Try Meyer Optics Oreston 50mm f/1,8

  15. sanch Avatar
    sanch

    The Sony 85 f/1.8 produces beautiful bokeh as well.

  16. Carlos Randolfo Torres Vargas Avatar
    Carlos Randolfo Torres Vargas

    excellent