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Wellington Wedding and Portrait Photographer | Kent Photography | Kent Photography Blog: Hyperfocal Distance for Landscape

May 16, 2009

Hyperfocal Distance for Landscape

From wiki
Hyperfocal Distance is the closest distance at which a lens can be focused while keeping objects at infinity acceptably sharp; that is, the focus distance with the maximum depth of field.
So you can set the focus to hyperfocal distance (using appropriate aperture and focal length), then everything from half of the hyperfocal distance out to infinity will be acceptably sharp. Now you can snap away without thinking about where to focus but still achieve maximum DOF.
I love to use this technique when I am taking landscape.
Below is an example - a panorama image of Lyall Bay. I set the focus to the hyperfocal distance with AE lock and took a series of images to create this panorama. I did not need to re-focus, so it was fairly quick to take a bunch of images and all images will have the same DOF. I also had the focus decoupled from the shutter (AF-ON). This gives me instant control of AF-C, AF-S and MF modes without changing any settings.


The lens used for this image was Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, based on the below Hyperfocal Distance chart, for focal length =24mm (x-axis) and an aperture of f/8, the hyperfocal distance is about 8 feet (y-axis). That means if I set my focus to 8 feet, I can expect everything from about 4 feet – infinity will be of acceptable focus. I could achieve even sharper image by stopping down to say f/11.
Alternatively, If I focus on the rocks on the right hand side (about 100 feet away), the DOF would only be 7.3ft – infinity instead of 4 ft to infinity (area with acceptable focus will be ~3ft less).

Traditionally, lenses are marked with DOF scale (the numbers above the screws), so you can easily set the focus to the hyperfocal distance by aligning the infinity to the corresponding f-number. However this DOF scale can only be found on older lenses such as this older model of Nikon 20mm f/2.8 AiS.

The newer model of the same lens Nikon 20mm f/2.8 AFD, only has a simplified DOF scale (the scale beneath )

For the newer Nikon AFS lenses such as the 24-70mm f/2.8, the DOF scale has been scrapped. I had to label my own DOF scale, but it is hard to label the DOF scale in detail due to the lack of distance information on the ring.

Lastly, example of hyperfocal focusing
Focused at the mountains
Focused at hyperfocal distance

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5 Comments:

Blogger wastedyouth said...

A very impressive blog, Kent. And thanks for this wonderful explanation on Hyperfocal Distance...But tell me a thing, in a scenario where you do not have any object on that hyperfocal distance nor close or beyond (Consider a flat field with tress at the far end)....How would you focus then to that hyperfocal distance?........Eg: Just in your above picture, imagine you didn't had any stone objects there at Hyp Distance and instead had a flat snow bed till the mountains at the end...where and how would you focus on the hyperfocal distance without having any object there, using an AF-lens with no DOF scale and less informative distance scale (like on Nikkor 16-85mm DX) ??

August 30, 2009 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Kent's Photography Blog said...

First, thanks for your visit. To your question re: Hyperfocal distance, if the image is instead a flat snow bed all the way to te snow mountains, you can still use the hyperfocal distance approach. For example, using a Nikon 16-85mm DX at 16mm, the hyperfocal distance is ~7.5ft, 5.3ft and 3.8ft for f/5.6, f/8 and f/11 respectvely (http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html). So if you are using f/8 and set you focus to ~5.3ft then everything from 2.6ft to infinity will be in focus. That is a huge coverage. To answer your next question, how do you focus at hyperfocal distance if there is no object there. You need turn to manual focus and set your focus to ~5.3ft. When using lenses that do not have DOF scale, just remember the hyperfocal distance for each setting, eg: 16mm, f/8, hyperfocal distance is ~5.3ft, etc...

August 30, 2009 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger wastedyouth said...

Thanks again Kent, that was cool...but wondering how do I focus on my Lens at 5.3 as after 5ft. it goes straight to infinity. So where do i place the manual focus ring mark...and same goes with 3.8 Ft....The lens has just 3 marks @ 1.5 ft., 3 ft, 5 ft....infinity...(Lens pic : http://images.autokvartal.ru/user_img_cache/51/26051.jpg)....so how to guess those decimal numbers between 1.5, 3,5 and infinity marks. ...I'll be gald if you can provide some tip on this sir !! :)

August 30, 2009 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger Kent's Photography Blog said...

Don't be too concern on getting the exact focus. For 3.8ft, you can just set it in between 3ft and 5ft. A rough focus would be good enough. But, if you need to be exact, the easiest way is to stop down by 1 stop i.e. use 7.5ft for f/8, 5.3ft for f/11 and 3.8ft for f/16. Happy shooting

August 31, 2009 at 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read that post. Thanks for it. I like such topics and everything connected to this matter. I would like to read more on that blog soon.

November 22, 2009 at 2:26 PM  

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