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 Archive 2012 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?
gregv
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 p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

Hey guys, ive been into photography for about a year now and have learnt alot. I hear about the hyperfocal distance as it applies to landscape photorgraphy. Could someone explain this a bit for me and how to take advantage of it during your landscape shots?

Thanks!

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:16 PM
oldrattler
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 p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:41 PM
dswiger
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 p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

I will try to give you a short explanation & a link
There are three things that affect depth of field

Sensor size
Focal length
F stop.

The sensor size affects a number, called the circle of confusion, which describes the size of of spot not in perfect focus. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_confusion
For a full frame camera, this is 0.03 mm

The other two numbers, focal length & f-stop, you can control by lens selection or settings.

Best depth of field is at largest numbered f-stop. Like f16 would be "larger" than f5.6.
Remember the larger numbered f-stops allow the least amount of light, so its an inverse relationship.

Best depth of field is also at the smaller focal lengths.
So 35mm lens will have a larger DOF than a 200mm.

Hyper focal length is a distance that you focus on that gives you relatively in-focus detail from half that distance to infinity.
An example for a 24mm lens, at f8, focused at 9 feet would have relatively in focus from 4.2 feet to infinity

Here is a link with a Hyperfocal distance calculator
http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

Best thing to do is go out & practice at different settings to see results
AND don'f forget when you zoom on something as this will change a lot

Also, although f-stop numbers like f22 sound tempting, remember that each lens has a sweet spot.
This typically for a lens with a wide open f-stop of f1.4, might have best focus sharpness at f5.6.
A lens that is f4 wide open, , might have best focus sharpness at f8.0
As you chose larger f-stop numbers, especially f16 & beyond, the lens sharpness degrades do to diffraction. At f22, diffraction is definitely taking its toll.

So you might have to compromise. Picking the sweet spot of f5.6 might yield a hyperfocal distance too far away for your composition. By "pushing" this to say f11, you might get an overall sharpness result that is satisfactory, but not perfect. You can always alter your composition to take advantage of your lens.

Remember there are other tools for DOF, such as Tilt Shift lenses and a technique called focus statcking.

Dan

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:44 PM
RobDickinson
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 p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

Dan you missed focus distance.

Sensor size and CoC are probably to far along the path to madness for this discussion.

Greg -

DOF is dependant on focal length, aperture and focus distance.

If we keep focal length the same , we set the aperture to a small size/large number and we can find a point where the focal distance and the aperture create a plane of focus that in essence covers everything.

Its good for some situations but it doesnt result in critical sharpness for foreground objects IMO.

Sep 24, 2012 at 10:55 PM
gdanmitchell
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 p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

camera ----------- ----------- close subject ---------------------- hyperfocal distance ----------- far subject

Focus on hyperfocal distance and select an aperture that provides sufficient depth of field to more or less place both close and far subjects in sufficiently good focus.

If shooting landscape, rather than "calculating" (which is based on a series of arguable assumptions anyway) try shooting in live view on the tripod. Press the DOF preview button, zoom to 5X or 10X and "zoom" around the frame to inspect elements at various distances.

Dan

Sep 25, 2012 at 01:06 AM
ramdisk
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 p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

after my learn about it check out these tools

http://www.dofmaster.com/

Sep 25, 2012 at 11:11 AM
gdanmitchell
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 p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

ramdisk wrote:
after my learn about it check out these tools

http://www.dofmaster.com/

If you are tempted to consult and rely on "tools" like this, be aware that DOF is not a binary - as in "inside the DOF is sharp and outside the DOF is not."

Depth of field turns out to be a very subjective thing, and predictions about it rely on a bunch of assumptions that may or may not fit your circumstances. Essentially, there is a "plane" of optimum focus (or close to a plane) in which subjects are as sharp as the lens camera system can make them. At all apertures, anything closer than this or farther than this (assuming you are not focused on infinity) will be less in focus. The sharpness declines more gradually when smaller apertures are used, but it does decline.

DOF is a way of describing how far in front/back of the plane of optimal focus a subject can be and still be out of focus so little that it remains sharp enough - though not "perfectly sharp." The generalizations about predicting usable DOF depend on things such as how much you will enlarge the original image, how picky you are, and even the nature of the subject. If I recall correctly, the original tables presumed that a 35mm film photographer might make a 8 x 10 or 11 x 14 print or so. If your output tends to be small on-screen jpg images, these tables provide you with more than enough DOF. On the other hand, if you print there is a good chance that you'll push your image further than anticipated by the old formulas. For example, I regularly produce 18" x 24" or 24" x 30" prints from full frame DSLR... and some do this from the even small cropped sensor DSLRs. If you do this you will find the DOF predictions from the tables or software to produce unacceptable levels of softness.

Dan

Sep 25, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Bsmooth
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 p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

So If after reading this you are aren't totally confused, especially for someone relatively new to Photography, you should be.
So find the "sweet spot" of the lens you use most often for Landscapes, and shoot around that and see what you like the best.
I'll make a wild assumption here and bet the person who started the thread doesn't print much bigger than 11 x 14, so If they find that sweetspot they should be golden.
Theory is great , but getting out there and shooting will also help a great deal.
Just another wild shot in the dark, but I would say if your shooting landscapes, your probaly shooting wide angle of around 28, so F16 would be a great place to start.
The information here is great too, but in this case, just may be too much of a good thing.

Sep 25, 2012 at 04:39 PM
gdanmitchell
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 p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

Shooting as a way to learn to understand these things is a great idea - it is perhaps the best way to understand these concepts. Fortunately, it is easy to do some really basic experiments related to aperture and DOF and the so-called hyperfocal distance.

(First, though, about shooting at f/16. This can be a great aperture to shoot on full frame. Contrary to what some will tell you about diffraction blur, f/16 produces very sharp images on full frame when you need large DOF. However, if you shoot a cropped sensor camera, be very cautious about stopping down that far since diffraction blur becomes an issue sooner on the smaller sensor cameras. In general, I would avoid f/16 on crop.)

To find out about the effect of aperture on DOF, just do the following:

1. Put the camera on a tripod and compose some reasonable test image that includes subjects at various distances from the camera position.

2. Focus on your primary subject within the scene.

3. Shoot a series of images at apertures ranging from the largest to perhaps f/16.

4. If you want to be a bit more methodical, you can use your DOF tables/software to "calculate" your hyperfocal distance and repeat the process.

5. Spend some time (well under an hour) looking over the results on your computer.

Another great way to understand the effect is to shoot in live view. Here you can press the DOF preview button, zoom in the live view display to 5x or 10x magnification, and pan around the image on the rear display to see a very good approximation of the effect of your aperture choice on elements of the scene at various distances from the camera.

SIMPLIFICATION: A SECRET

Finally, let me share a little secret. From reading some forum posts, you might imagine that lots of photographers are going around making careful and technical calculations of hyperfocal distance and DOF and all the rest and then making precise and accurate choices about aperture on each shot. In general, it doesn't work that way in the real world, where photographers often tend to select aperture in basically three ways:

1. In a shot where the subject doesn't have a lot of depth and DOF isn't really an issue, we tend to shoot at some default aperture that we believe is more or less optimal for overall resolution, corner resolution, and perhaps vignetting. On full frame, this might frequently be roughly f/8, though there are reasons to vary from that a bit.

2. When working a subject on which we want very large DOF, we tend to go straight to the smallest aperture that we feel will produce large DOF and very good resolution. For me, this is typically f/16 on full frame. (There are rare situations in which I might use a smaller aperture, but very rare and they involve acceptance of some tradeoffs.)

3. When faced with a shot in which we want very narrow DOF, we tend to open up as much as we think we can, perhaps tending toward the largest aperture on the lens we are using. (There are some additional factors to consider here, but I'll leave them out in the spirit of simplifying.)

So, simple generalized approach: Shoot at some middle-of-the-road aperture when DOF isn't a major concern. Shoot at the smallest acceptable aperture when you want large DOF. (f/16 on FF or f/8-f/11 on crop). Open way up when you want to limit DOF.

Dan

Sep 25, 2012 at 04:56 PM
GCasey
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 p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

My totally unscientific method is to use a small lens opening, like f/16, and focus at a point that is about 1/3 of the distance between the foreground and the backkground.

Another is to use the depth of field scale on the lens and set it so both foreground and background distances are within the lines that mark the boundaries.

The human eye can detect differences of about 1,000 of an inch. A perfectly focused image is a pin-point. When it is out of focus, it creates a circle. When the circle is larger than 1,000 of an inch, it is perceived as being out of focus. That is usually called a 'circle of confusion.'

Sep 25, 2012 at 05:06 PM

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newhaven
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 p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

Hyperfocal calculators are still useful, but the standard circle of confusion value of .030 mm for 35mm is too high for most digital cameras.
This article has a couple of guidelines for choosing a more appropriate circle of confusion value for your camera and expectation of sharpness.
http://www.ludd.ltu.se/~torger/photography/focus-landscape.html

To summarize the recommendations for high resolution digital cameras:

COC = 2 * pixel size

5dmk2 (pixel size = .0064 mm)
COC = .0128 mm

D800 (pixel size = .0049)
COC = .0098 mm

However, at small apertures, diffraction becomes a significant factor.

COC = fstop/750
COC at f16 = 16/750
COC = .021 mm

If you are shooting at f16, there is no reason to use a smaller COC.

In conclusion, when shooting at f16 with full frame, there is no point in optimizing the COC based on pixel size. But, the COC value is still lower than the old film standard of .030.

Sep 25, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Greg Campbell
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 p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

I strongly agree with Dan's general philosophy. HF distance and the supposed DOF it describes are are not some theoretical numbers calculated to 5 decimal places. DOF is a subjective judgement made by the photographer - hopefully while looking through the eyepiece! With experience, you may well decide that the 'acceptable' CoC blur (and corresponding HF/DOF distances) do not apply to your photography, either in general or on a single-case basis.

Try a few tests. Compose a number of near-far scenes and determine, one way or another, the HF focus distance. Try both subjective (visual) and 'correct' (mathematical table/chart/lens scale) solutions. Focus accordingly, then do some aperture bracketing. Take plenty of notes and later pixel peep to compare the full-size results to what you saw through the viewfinder. At wider apertures you may well find yourself in some level of disagreement with the 'book' solution. (, I had just finished typing this when I noticed Dan has already said much the same. Sorry!)

People go Gung-Ho over exposure bracketing and the resultant HDR monstrosities that are all the rage. I think aperture bracketing is more important for many scenes. The effects are much more subtle, and few will gush over your latest Flikr masterpiece, but some types of landscape shot benefit greatly. Megabytes are cheap, give it a try!

Also IMO, a little diffraction softening of an edge-of-DOF subject is vastly preferable to an out-of-focus subject!

Sep 25, 2012 at 07:59 PM
gregv
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 p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

Great stuff guys, appreciating all the input!

Sep 26, 2012 at 08:15 PM
JohnJ
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 p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

It's the focus distance at which everything is out of focus, yet acceptable when viewed at sizes that don't show up how fuzzy the image really is.

A lens will always render the sharpest image at the distance at which it's actually focused, even when stopped down.

Sep 26, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Mike V
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 p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

The Hyperfocal distance is the focus distance that provides the greatest range of subject in focus.

Which is basically the closest that you can focus on the lens, yet still have infinity in focus.

Sep 27, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Lars Johnsson
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 p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

gdanmitchell wrote:
If you are tempted to consult and rely on "tools" like this, be aware that DOF is not a binary - as in "inside the DOF is sharp and outside the DOF is not."

Depth of field turns out to be a very subjective thing, and predictions about it rely on a bunch of assumptions that may or may not fit your circumstances. Essentially, there is a "plane" of optimum focus (or close to a plane) in which subjects are as sharp as the lens camera system can make them. At all apertures, anything closer than this or farther than this

+1

DOF (acceptable focus) what is acceptable to one person is not acceptable to another.

Sep 27, 2012 at 05:22 AM
lou f
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 p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

focus on something on the bottom 1/3 line of the frame and stop down...

Sep 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Alan321
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 p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

GCasey wrote:
My totally unscientific method is to use a small lens opening, like f/16, and focus at a point that is about 1/3 of the distance between the foreground and the backkground.

It was once a very common rule of thumb that DOF was split about 1/3 towards the camera and 2/3 away from the camera relative to the focus plane. In fact it was a very flawed rule. There are occasions when it applies but far more often the split is about 1/2 and 1/2 until you get to very large focus distances. Play with a DOF calculator to confirm this for yourself.

Oct 14, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Alan321
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 p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

Mike V wrote:
The Hyperfocal distance is the focus distance that provides the greatest range of subject in focus.

Which is basically the closest that you can focus on the lens, yet still have infinity in focus.

Make that the greatest range of distances in focus, because the subject my or may not be within that range

Oct 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Alan321
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 p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Can someone explain the hyperfocal distance?!?

JohnJ wrote:
It's the focus distance at which everything is out of focus, yet acceptable when viewed at sizes that don't show up how fuzzy the image really is.

That should be when viewing a print. DOF has always been about acceptable sharpness as perceived when viewing a print. No print = no DOF. Viewing an image on a monitor does not count when trying to evaluate DOF.

Likewise, viewing on the camera LCD screen also does not count.

Oct 14, 2012 at 12:31 PM
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