Other than the shapes of lens flares, what difference is made by the number of blades in the iris mechanism?
number of iris blades
Posted 06 September 2013 - 11:01 AM
The diaphragm usually has two to eight blades, depending on price and quality of the device in which it is used. Straight blades result in polygon shape of the diaphragm opening, while curved blades improve the roundness of the iris opening. In a photograph, the number of blades that the iris diaphragm has can be guessed by counting the number of spikes converging from a light source or bright reflection. For an odd number of blades, there are twice as many spikes as there are blades.
In case of an even number of blades, the two spikes per blade will overlap each other, so the number of spikes visible will be the number of blades in the diaphragm used. This is most apparent in pictures taken in the dark with small bright spots, for example night cityscapes. Some cameras, such as the Olympus XA or lenses such as the MC Zenitar-ME1, however, use a two-bladed diaphragm with right-angle blades creating a square aperture.
Similarly, out-of-focus points of light (circles of confusion) appear as polygons with the same number of sides as the aperture has blades. If the blurred light is circular, then it can be inferred that the aperture is either round or the image was shot "wide-open" (with the blades recessed into the sides of the lens, allowing the interior edge of the lens barrel to effectively become the iris).
The shape of the iris opening has a direct relation with the appearance of the blurred out-of-focus areas in an image called Bokeh. A rounder opening produces softer and more natural out-of-focus areas.