The secret to those dreamy shallow depth of field shots in Army of the Dead was a 60-year-old Canon lens

May 27, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

The secret to those dreamy shallow depth of field shots in Army of the Dead was a 60-year-old Canon lens

May 27, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

YouTube video

Whether you love or hate Zack Snyder’s latest flick, Army of the Dead (which I have now watched since my last post about it), it sure did have some beautiful cinematography. One shot in particular really stands out. It’s the Michael Bay-esque spinning shot around our heroes as they blast away with their weapons while being told the plan for… Ok, if you haven’t seen it, stop reading now, because there will likely be spoilers here.

If you’ve already seen it, you know which scene I’m talking about – and if you haven’t, watch the trailer above and you’ll figure it out. But that isn’t the only part where we see the ultra-shallow depth of field effect being used to give Las Vegas its slightly surreal appearance. But how did they do it? In an interview with Cinema Blend, Snyder puts it down to the Canon “Dream” 50mm f/0.95 lens.

Mixing those old Canon lenses released back in 1961 with shiny new 8K RED Monstro cameras produces a look that’s quite unique and definitely stands out amongst the rest of today’s movies. Usually, they’re high-end cinema lenses costing tens of thousands of dollars or more. But this moderately rare (although apparently not in Japan) can be found these days for around $2-4,000 depending on mount and condition.

Even for Snyder, this is a pretty unusual look, although it’s one that I think works really well to show off a zombie-infested Las Vegas in the desert heat of the day. Shooting with lenses this wide definitely isn’t used all that often for moving subjects, even if such lenses are used quite regularly for stills – and we’ve shown off the Canon Dream 50mm f/0.95 lens for shooting stills here on DIYP before. Twice.

What strikes me the most about the sequences shot with this lens on that 8K RED Monstro aren’t just how great they look, though. Oh no. My thoughts are with those focus pullers. I don’t know how much those guys were paid, but it wasn’t enough, because they nail the shot every single time! Not to mention the actress playing the zombie “queen” who steps into the plane of focus during the shot and gets it absolutely dead on (pun possibly intended).

I like to hope that they all hit their marks on the first attempt, but part of me is curious just how many takes some of those shots took in order to get the focus perfect for each of them with that super shallow depth of field.

Anyway, if you want to see the whole movie, Army of the Dead is streaming now on Netflix. It’s been described as a sort of “Dawn of the dead meets Ocean’s 11”, but whether it’s greater (or even as good) as the sum of those parts is for you to decide. Even if you’re not a fan of the story, the visuals are pretty epic!

If you want to find out more about the lens, head on over to the online Canon Camera Museum and if you want to grab one for yourself, there are bargains to be had, from time to time.

[via Cinema Blend]

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 responses to “The secret to those dreamy shallow depth of field shots in Army of the Dead was a 60-year-old Canon lens”

  1. Rick Odell Avatar
    Rick Odell

    You left out “overused” in the title of the article

  2. Daniel Venter Avatar
    Daniel Venter

    I have to say that there is something special about the DOF rendering of canon glass – Just acquired the 85 1.2 and 200 f1.8 and thrilled

    1. Bruce Dean Siegelaar Avatar
      Bruce Dean Siegelaar

      Daniel Venter what was your shooting distance from subjects?

  3. Jason Henrie Avatar
    Jason Henrie

    Certainly separates the subject from the background. I love the look but my mind always thinks it’s a composite. Even though I know it’s not.

  4. Jason Ferdinando Avatar
    Jason Ferdinando

    I think it was over used tbh – there are some shots where it jarred for me – but twas nice in some instances for sure

  5. Just telling the truth Avatar
    Just telling the truth

    Terrible movie and I’m a zombie genre fan

  6. Charley Plowman Avatar
    Charley Plowman

    Cory Plowman so dope. i need to see this movie