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That Elusive "3D Pop" Defined


Active Member
This article took a long time to research and write. I might say three decades! I find it's worth diving deep into a contentious topic, if only to gain clarity in my own mind. Hope it's useful for others. That Elusive "3D Pop" Defined is available on my blog. Contains simple explanations of MTF, DOF, and sharpness that will help beginners cut through the technical details. Examples provided from three Pentax lenses.


3D pop is a desirable characteristic of an image where the subject is rendered with a pleasing dimensionality that allows it to be clearly distinguished from its environment. This effect is created by a combination of ideal light, appropriate subject to background distance, and perspective. Furthermore, it requires a lens that is free from optical defects, with high measurements for sharpness and contrast, at least in the part of the frame where the subject is located. Furthermore, a lens that does not perfectly correct field curvature can enhance 3D pop.

Background blur and separation are not the same as 3D pop, though they might enhance the effect. A wide open aperture is not essential and might even be counter-productive. Instead, choose the aperture that most clearly isolates the subject.