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Hyperfocal Distance

13 Jan 2013 10:20PM
Hi Everyone,

I have always been a bit confused about the hyperfocal distance foir some time. I am pretty sure I am over complicating the whole thing

I have always focused a third away from the bottom of the image. But I want to do this better than this....

Lets say I am photographing Big Ben from the other side of the bridge. I have nothing in my foreground apart from water, that is a good 20 metres or so from me. I am on 16mm @ f8 which the hyperfocal distance is 1.1 metres. I then use the manual focus and put it to just after 1 metre on the scale. Everything will look out of focus through the lens. I assume that is fine. I would use the dof preview but I don't like it v much.

Is that the right thing to do? If I haven't got anything in the immediate foreground that I need to worry about I just automatically set it to 1.1 and start shooting. Obviously I have to start to worry about dof if I have some flowers next to my lens I would increase my aperture to f16 or so but if I don't does that method work? Is it what people do?

Another situation.

I am photographing a mountain scene with my 70-200mm, how do I focus this on the hyperfocal distance at 167 metres away at f8? Would I just focus a third of the way from the bottom of the image in this case?

Thanks everyone,


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Ploughman 5 28 3 United Kingdom
13 Jan 2013 10:53PM
The easy way is to focus where you think and then use the stop down button and adjust lens as needed.

Nick_w Plus
11 4.3k 99 England
13 Jan 2013 10:55PM
Hi John, hyper focal really works best with wide angle lenses. I use it all the time with landscapes. What you get with hyper focal length is the from HF is perfect focus on the HF point and acceptable sharpness everywhere else.

It gets complex, with circles of confusion etc. you should also think of what you need in perfect focus, eg Big Ben in your example. Many cameras have live view these days - use it zoom in and get the whole of the image you want in focus.

If the HF point is say 20 feet, but the first part of the scene is 30 feet away, using HF would be a waste,.

Get an app for your phone it's great, but don't get hung up on it, use some common sense.
Gudgeon 11 128 England
13 Jan 2013 11:13PM
Hi John

I think you're on the right track but you need to sort out in your own mind what you want to be in 'acceptably sharp focus'. So in your 1st example you are going over the top with HF distance if the water is over 20m away and are you that fussy if it is in sharp focus, whereas you will want Big Ben sharp, so best probably to focus on or near it.

The thing to remember with HF is that it gives you everything from that point to infinity in acceptable focus but only from that point halfway back to you, closer than that will be progressively out of focus.

In the second example you could do a number of things, is there a particular reason you want f8 rather than f16? You could also focus on something around 167 m away, but remember that anything closer than about 85 m away will not be acceptably sharp. The 3rd of the way from the bottom of the image can work well but depends on many things to do with the lie of the land and won't necessarily give you the best solution - I see it as a last resort best used when you aren't sure of the HF.

I know what you mean about depth of field button, it seems to have little effect on the image for me (certainly not enough to feel confident in using it to set the focus point).
flatfoot471 12 25 Scotland
14 Jan 2013 2:13AM
David Noton used to have a download on his website which was a chart with appropriate Hyperfocal distances. Was a very handy thing to print and keep handy in camera bag.
Have a look for it on his website.
joshwa Plus
7 847 United Kingdom
14 Jan 2013 9:19AM
We've got charts here for each sensor size / focal lengths:
snapbandit 14 2.3k 3 Northern Ireland
14 Jan 2013 9:28AM
there is also a handy app for Android mobiles (possibly others too?) which I use (handy for carrying with you!) called 'Exposure' where you can input lens & sensor size details as well as aperture & it will calculate the hyperfocal distance.

Joe B
14 Jan 2013 10:46AM
Thank you everyone,

does the live view show you what will be in focus on different apertures? I can't tell if it does or not?

Nick_w Plus
11 4.3k 99 England
14 Jan 2013 10:51AM
Live view, shows you what the sensor is seeing through the lens.

So is shows you what's in focus at the aperture you are using.
User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
14 Jan 2013 4:00PM

Quote:Hi John, hyper focal really works best with wide angle lenses. .

I actually find the opposite to be the case, Nick.

If I am using a wide-angle lens for landscape I find that virtually everything I want to be in focus is, just by using AF. For w/a landscapes I am unlikely to be using an aperture smaller than f/8 and at, say, 16mm the depth of field is enormous. Just avoid having the AF points concentrated on the sky, the sea, or distant mountains. Place them over any "middle distance" zone in the landscape and Bob's your Uncle.

With telephoto lenses, on the other hand, (which I find that I am using increasingly for landscapes), then I do have to think about what will or will not be in focus. At 200mm, even f/8 will not give me huge depth of field and I may want to settle for focussing at a point one-third of the way into a landscape which might, say, give me good sharpness from 30 metres to infinity.

The only time I use any numerically accurate definition of hyperfocal distance is when doing very close macro work.

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