Natural FOV -- "custom 39.5mm lens"

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Jock Elliott, Mar 9, 2014.

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    I had an email conversation with Don (streetshooter) the other day and clicked through to his blog -- -- and came across a small piece he had written on "How to find your natural FOV" (field of view).

    If I read and understood it properly, the thesis is that if you shoot a camera with a lens that is congruent with your natural field of view, that will make it easier to execute shots that more accurately reflect the idea you had when you initially conceived of the shot. To put it another way, the camera will take what you saw from the perspective of your natural eyeballs.

    I was intrigued by this idea, so I did some additional research on the net and found that there are a few photographers who believe that our natural FOV is mimicked not by a 35mm or 50mm lens, but by a 40mm lens.

    So I fiddled around with my G12, adjusted the zoom until I got a shot that seemed to mimic way I see with my eyeballs. The software on my computer told me that it was equivalent to a 39.5mm lens!

    Then I got to thinking about how I could have a camera that would be ready to go with a 40mm lens? An M43 with a 20mm lens?

    As I was waking up this am, it came to me: if you have a camera with a zoom lens and the ability to save custom settings, it's easy: set your camera to a zoom setting that approximates your natural FOV, and then save it to one of the custom settings. When you start the camera on that custom setting, it will automatically go to the zoom length that you want. At least that's what my Canon G12 will do.

    So now I am experimenting with the "custom" 39.5 mm lens, and I like it so far. If anybody is interested, I'll report back later on my finding.

    In the meantime, if anyone else would like to experiment with natural FOV, I'd like to hear about your experience.

    Cheers, Jock
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  2. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    Thanks for sharing your experimentation, Jock. I had heard it before and it is the very reason for buying the Fuji 27mm lens. I used that lens once and quickly got used to the FoV.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    35 40 50 etc I can understand
    4.4 to 66mm I cannot

    the 40mm ish lens on my Halina Paulette Electric produced some of my nicest shots

    I have experimented a bit between my old SLR & this digital one but nothing gels in my brain like the old standards
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  4. Garylh

    Garylh SC Veteran

    The 40 fov has been my preferred focal length since the days of my Minolta CL w/ the 40f2. When I started using m43, the first lens I got for my gf1 was the 20 pany. As soon as the Fuji 27 pancake came out, it became a permanent fixture on my xe1. I tend to use a 50 fov only when I needed a faster lens back in the days of film, but these days w/ such good high iso digital cameras, I seldom use my 35f1.4 Fuji lens for example.

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  5. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    Been trying to re-read & compare but its as clear as mud
    Direct Comparison between SLR with 30mm lens & the 660 means I have to zoom 1.7 or thereabouts to get 40mm equivalent (guesswork)

    Exif readout gives 7.6

    How do I calculate with sensor size 1/2" ? f4.4 to 66mm to get it more accurate
  6. Ghosthunter

    Ghosthunter boo!

    Sep 8, 2010
    London UK
    Real Name:
    This is probably why people love the Lumix 20mm f1.7 so much. It's fast, Sharp and a great FOV, what more could you want?!?!
    • Like Like x 1
  7. mattia

    mattia SC Regular

    Dec 20, 2013
    Better AF. Which is the reason I rarely ever use it these days.
  8. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    Real Name:
    This is a bit of a pet pieve of mine, but 40mm is only the natural perspective if the distance from your eyes to the viewing medium - be it a computer screen or a print - is equal to the diagonal of the image. If you're closer, a wide angle lens will give the natural perspective, and if you're further, a tele lens will give the natural perspective. From what verrrrry little I know of the printing business, it seems that most people find a distance of 1.5 to 2 times the diagonal the most comfortable (for instance with posters, magazines etc), which would make a 60 to 80mm the most obvious choice for a natural perspecive. I might be wrong on the 1.5 to 2x thing, and the numbers might be different for photos than for other prints, but I know the underlying principle is as I described.

    All that being said, I find 40mm a very pleasing fov, although I myself tend to see images in wide angle, around 24mm, and I guess that's what Don was talking about.
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  9. Garylh

    Garylh SC Veteran

    I think the more important issue here is what u naturally c in. I find that I tend to think in three fov..that is, I don't need to bring the camera up, my mind already knows it will look good. The 40 fov is my preferred followed by the 21 for pano and 24.. When I was using the CL, I tended to carry the vc 21 as my second lens. The 21 was used
    - for crop pano
    - tight shooting situations
    - crop to 24 perspective
    The 40 was the default lens.

    For other people, this could easily be the 35 or 50 for example.

    • Like Like x 1
  10. Garylh

    Garylh SC Veteran

    Out of curiosity, do u know if the Sigma 19 art any much better in terms of af speed. Personally I am ok w/ the pany af speed.

  11. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY

    I would suggest looking at your file in Picasa, the free photo editing software from Google. Picasa has a facility that will tell you the actual focal length and the 35mm equivalent focal length.

    Here's a screenshot from Picasa showing the information from one of my photo's.


    Cheers, Jock
    • Like Like x 2
  12. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    well done Jock


    Focal length of 7.6 gives me 43mm equivalent

    edit so 1.6 x zoom gives FL of 6.9 equates to 39mm
    • Like Like x 1
  13. CM_SK

    CM_SK SC Regular

    Apr 23, 2013
    Saskatoon, SK, Canada
    I do understand this concept of "how the eye sees…. etc", however for me, just shooting exactly what my vision sees is not always conducive to shots I necessarily like, or believe to be well composed etc. I have done long trips with just a 35mm (my X2), but ended up cropping many to produce much better compositions. For these reasons, over time, I am gravitating, at least in decent light, to shooting with lengths of at least 80mm, and often 100-180mm, in landscape and even city shots. The only limitation is usually the slower speed that mid-zooms necessarily entail, so that low light work still needs a faster lens and usually a nice prime. For example when using my Pentax K5, my fave lens that generates the most keepers, is still my FA77 (115 mm equiv), again miles away from the "natural view" concept. I guess all this says is… YMMV etc. :wink:
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  14. Ripleysbaby

    Ripleysbaby supernatural anesthetist

    Sep 9, 2011
    Cumbria UK
    Real Name:
    I also prefer to see slightly long .
    Or is it the fact that I like the perspective more ?
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  15. Chrisnmn

    Chrisnmn SC Veteran

    Jul 8, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Real Name:
    Chris Leskovsek
    Im personally a 40mm person. and yes the P20 was my favorite lens of all. Now I have a 35 and a 55 lens. And i keep going back and forth. I still havent found a good full frame 40mm. Im still deciding in between the minolta rokkor/leica summicron 40mm or the voigtlander 40 f1.4 will see.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. MoonMind

    MoonMind SC Top Veteran

    Dec 29, 2013
    Real Name:
    I think there's a big difference between what's called "natural FOV" (i.e. the actual angle of view that is similar to the human eye) and the *impression* you have, i.e. your idea of what you actually see. The image we perceive is produced by our brain out of lots of singular glimpses, if you will ... And out of that, we choose an image we want to capture - which can be a "crop" or a "stitch". And there's the matter of formats, too - a portrait mode picture should look highly suspicious if we were to advocate natural FOV - yet it's one of photography's primary and more useful choices ...

    In short, the way you see isn't equivalent to or, more precisely, limited to the natural FOV (which, to my knowledge, actually does equal the 40mm angle).

    The rest is a matter of preference and habits. I find that I tend to choose a slightly wider angle than 40mm - 35mm in the past (alas, I still haven't found a true replacement for my Minox GT(-E)), 28mm or wider at the moment - that's why I find the GR such a wonderful camera.

    But of course, some subjects just call for a longer lens, regardless of genre - I did some of my more interesting (not that interesting, actually) street shots with the Olympus 45mm ...

    So, my take would be: Don't limit yourself, even if the natural FOV certainly lends itself to some experimentation. I myself adore the Panasonic 20mm - in spite of all the great alternatives I have (including the fiendishly good Panasonic 12-32mm pancake), it's still my go-to lens on MFT. But I admit that I'm very much looking forward to the announced 15mm f/1.7 Summilux ...

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  17. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    Real Name:
    you should be able to figure it out...
    THIS! ^^^^

    Photography is about conveying what we saw, but since we're conveying it in a small frame while what we see has no such constraints, I think rules about natural fields of view get pretty meaningless pretty quickly. I know that the focal lengths I'm personally most comfortable using about 95% of the time, if not more, are at the wider end of the spectrum - anywhere from about 21 to 35mm. I can go wider on rare occasion, but I almost never go longer unless I'm jumping all the way up to portrait length or full telephoto, which I do rarely and is usually event specific. Anything in that roughly 40-80mm range simply doesn't work for me. Natural though it may be, I've never been able to see creatively in those focal lengths. My problem, nobody else's, but its a clear indication that rules about natural fields of view just don't matter. At least to me. Use what you like - sometimes play around outside of that zone to see if you can grow into other focal lengths, but don't force it. If you're more comfortable in one range than another, it's probably just something about how you're wired. I wouldn't fight it...

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  18. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Well, I'm just doing the experiment to see if "shooting with a natural FOV" helps, hinders, or makes no difference. After all, I DO love my zoom lenses, the zoomier, the better.

    Cheers, Jock
    • Like Like x 1
  19. eskiltin

    eskiltin New to SC

    Mar 5, 2014
    Thanks, that was very illuminating!

    And acctually possible to confirm: looking through the viewfinder with one eye and on the subject with the other, zooming until what you see with each eye are equal size. For me that was about 35mm close up, about 55mm for 3-4 m distance and about 75mm for infinity.
    • Like Like x 1
  20. Djarum

    Djarum SC All-Pro

    Jul 10, 2010
    Huntsville, AL
    Real Name:
    Yes! DING DING!

    "Impression" is everything.