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