Manual focus lenses helped me rediscover the magic of depth of field

Zone focusing
With zone focusing it was easy to get both Matthew, our lens testing guru, and the background sharp at the same time. (Image credit: Rod Lawton)

Depth of field has always been a preoccupation for photographers. Or it used to be. These days we seem to be fixed on the shallowest depth of field possible in pursuit of that great god of bokeh, but it hasn’t always been that way. In the past, photographers were more concerned about how to keep things in the whole frame sharp, from right up close to far away. 

Today's best lenses for bokeh are great for blurry backgrounds but often no help at all if you're trying to estimate depth of field.

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Rod Lawton

Rod is an independent photography journalist and editor, and a long-standing Digital Camera World contributor, having previously worked as DCW's Group Reviews editor. Before that he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar, as well as contributing to many other publications. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more. Rod has his own camera gear blog at but also writes about photo-editing applications and techniques at