Laser Rangefinders For Landscape Photography?


Tallmanirl 5 238 Ireland
23 Mar 2016 12:16AM
Hi guys!
I use online hyper focal distance calculators but often get different answers from each. I don't know the distance of the nearest items that appear in my lens and that's often asked for. I use the Canon 5D and 17-40 L generally set at 17mm, F16. I sometimes set that to 40mm though and also use my 70-200 L.

A tape measure is awkward when you're handling all the other stuff. What about using laser range finders? I'd generally be measuring the distance of the nearest ground, rocks or perhaps beach or shoreline. Do they work well with these or not?

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keithh 16 25.6k 33 Wallis And Futuna
23 Mar 2016 12:44AM
At F16 on a 17-40 who gives a monkey. You're getting far to worried over nothing. If you have 'things' relatively close just set the lens at 3ft or even up to infinity and then back a notch, if the nearest 'thing' you want in focus is so far off you need a surveyors wheel to measure it, then focus on it.
Tallmanirl 5 238 Ireland
23 Mar 2016 12:51AM
Ok!
Thanks Keith! I had thought if I didn't have the hyper focal correct I was losing sharpness. As it is I set to 3.1 (from a previous calculation) but many are giving me two but great if it's not worth bothering about!
23 Mar 2016 4:56AM
I detect here the lack of understanding of what hyperfocal distance is. Why? For once, this distance can not be measured by any means. Simply because it is theoretically calculated value. Lens, being set to this distance makes pictures sharp from nearest depth of focus border to infinity. Please read this.
To find the distance one only needs a basic table like the one found here.
Cheers!
23 Mar 2016 5:34AM
Corrections. On more careful reading ( my bad) the problem lies not with hyperfocal distance calculations or estimating the distance to the nearest subject in the photo. This is rather about connection between hyperfocal distance and near DOF limit. Or, more precisely, aperture choice based on near DOF limit and hyperfocal distance. And yes, it is complex and Keith is correct, it does not need to be defined with laser precision.
If you do not do it the same way as me already here is how I do it:
1.Use one of multiple Android DOF calculators to find aperture where DOF covers nearest subject;
2.Use hyperfocal chart to find hyperfocal distance.
If I cannot or do not wish use calculators I usually take near DOF limit as about 3/4 of hyperfocal distance. Works for me.
That's all.
arhb 12 3.4k 68 United Kingdom
23 Mar 2016 8:16AM
Or, take an AF reading of your foreground interest, before setting focus to manual and composing your capture.
LenShepherd 11 4.1k United Kingdom
23 Mar 2016 9:28AM
Nothing seems readily available through regular camera sources.
Nikon make laser rangefinders for longer distances such as golf but not for shorter typical photographic HD distances.
Devices must exist because most estate agents and many surveyors use laser devices to measure room sizes.
Back to hyperlocal distance tables - to some extent they are an historic irrelevance. The concept goes back pre world war II when standard paper size was 10x8 inches, 35mm was not generally used, and medium format film was generally used.
The idea was you made a 10x8 inch print from the whole negative area, viewed it at 12-15 inches, and used HD as a guideline as to what would be acceptably sharp on the basis 1/100th of an inch blur was OK.
In 2016 the sharpness standard is low, images are often cropped before viewing, contrast and sharpness/softness is often locally adjusted, zooming in to around 100% on a monitor is common, maybe 90% of lenses change their focal length for depth of field purposes when focussed close and relatively few prints are made.
Put another way HD is useful if all 75 year old guidelines are still in place and an acceptable modern standard.
There are now so many variables that measuring 17 feet because a historical table says you should is highly unlikely to accurately measure the point at which image detail becomes unsharp.
Liveview zoomed in an appropriate amount is useful - assuming you do not manipulate zones of sharpness much post processing.
Other historical concepts best largely ignored are that depth of field is 33% in front and 66% behind the point of focus (it rarely is) and that 18% reflectance (2.3 stops darker than paper base white) is a mid grey.
23 Mar 2016 10:32AM

Quote:...
Back to hyperlocal distance tables - to some extent they are an historic irrelevance. The concept goes back pre world war II when standard paper size was 10x8 inches, 35mm was not generally used, and medium format film was generally used.
...
Put another way HD is useful if all 75 year old guidelines are still in place and an acceptable modern standard.
There are now so many variables that measuring 17 feet because a historical table says you should is highly unlikely to accurately measure the point at which image detail becomes unsharp.
Liveview zoomed in an appropriate amount is useful - assuming you do not manipulate zones of sharpness much post processing.
Other historical concepts best largely ignored are that depth of field is 33% in front and 66% behind the point of focus (it rarely is) and that 18% reflectance (2.3 stops darker than paper base white) is a mid grey.



Knowing history is a definite strength. Historically HD guidelines were developed for set formats that found mass use. Computing in modern its understanding did not exist even in the most daring science fiction writers minds. Nowaday smartphone posesses intimidating computer power that would be a dream of Moon landing pioneers. As well as a camera in the same phone.

Is HD relevant at all in modern world? On phone camera level-definitely not. Unfortunately, camera makers share the same approach even in professional level camera lenses abandoning depth of focus scale. Yet at the foundation of photography lies pretty much the same process as a century ago. Namely - creating small image on photosensitive surface by means of optical device called lens.

Modern computing gives us incredible power in taking into account a lot of variables and adopting old rules to modern life. And modern HD tables are customised by sensor size, etc. Basically, one who wishes to use it may have it custom built for their camera and lens set. Takes a couple of minutes to calculate and print.

But must one do it? Maybe not if they are able to discern a separate pixel on 4 inch high definition camera screen on a sunny day. Ican not and must thus resort to my knowledge of "archaic" photography basics and thumb rules,and intuition developed by personal experience. For now it works, but of course I am not Jules Verne to fantacise of photography ways in centuries to come. Just trying to do a good job today.
Tallmanirl 5 238 Ireland
23 Mar 2016 10:40AM
Ok! Thanks guys!
alansnap 16 577 26 United Kingdom
24 Mar 2016 11:58AM
I'm interested in reading this because with a full frame DSLR at 17mm the dof is going to be huge at any aperture. Tape measures are important only for plate cameras where the depth of field is shallower than for 35mm equivalent sensors, and even there I'm not so sure on landscapes.

You should consider what you want to viewers to focus on and image quality. At 17mm hyperlocal distance at f8 is 1.2m using a calculator I have. That will get everything from 1.07m to infinity acceptably in focus. Using f16 reduces hyperlocal distance to 0.6m and puts everything from 0.57m to infinity in focus, but at f16 image quality will already be degrading. Best image quality for most lenses is in the region of f8 to f11, so you need to balance dof and quality. f16 is only really necessary for focussing on something close such as a bird or macro subject that you need to have sharp from front to back. Once you're into vistas f8 is a good optimum aperture.That's why I say what matters is what you want the viewer to focus on. For critical focus on a 5D II or III use live view, enlarge to !0x and shift the image on screen to show what you want in critical focus. You can then adjust focus manually to suit. So that foreground rock that is key to your composition should be sharp.

On a practical note, if your camera is on a tripod at extreme wide angles nothing is likely to be closer to the lens than the hyperlocal distance at f8 - a typical tripod is more than 1m from the ground anyway. So get you foreground risk a couple of metres away in focus and the rest will follow. My advice is not worry about these complexities, at wide angles just find some close and relatively close and focus on that.

You may have to make more adjustments at longer focal lengths, but my guess is that you'll be using those to compress perspective. If you focus on something about 75m away at f8 everything from 8m out will be sharp at 135mm. Again on a tripod with a telephoto that will pretty much be everything in the frame.

Finally, art is not about precision, it's about the impression your image provides the viewer. As photographers,we all spend too much time with our noses stuck up against our images, and that's not how to enjoy them. How many times do we hear, "That's not pin sharp." The idea of normal viewing distance is key - about 50cm for an A4 image and more for bigger ones. If you get the chance to see a full size Seurat pointillist image, try viewing it at different distances. Up close all the dots are visible, but as you move away the image appears to be more coherent. That's an extreme example, but photography is the same. An example is an advertising hoarding that looks fine across a road, but up close it's grainy. You can see the grain up close but not the subject.

Viewing an image to assess critical focus is essentially an academic exercise, so whether you are focused a few cm either side of the hyperlocal distance really shouldn't matter at normal viewing distance. I would err slightly on the far side.

As to your question - laser range finders are useful for surveyors and golfers, but to me they are overkill for photographers.

Enjoy your photography,

Alan
alansnap 16 577 26 United Kingdom
24 Mar 2016 12:37PM

Quote:On a practical note, if your camera is on a tripod at extreme wide angles nothing is likely to be closer to the lens than the hyperlocal distance at f8 - a typical tripod is more than 1m from the ground anyway. So get you foreground risk a couple of metres away in focus and the rest will follow. My advice is not worry about these complexities, at wide angles just find some close and relatively close and focus on that.



This should read:
On a practical note, if your camera is on a tripod at extreme wide angles nothing is likely to be closer to the lens than the hyperlocal distance at f8 - a typical tripod is more than 1m from the ground anyway. So get your foreground rock a couple of metres away in focus and the rest will follow. My advice is not worry about these complexities, at wide angles just find something close or relatively close and focus on that.

Doh

Alan
Tallmanirl 5 238 Ireland
24 Mar 2016 3:23PM
Thanks again guys! I'm taking good note of all this by writing it down.
Tallmanirl 5 238 Ireland
10 Apr 2016 3:10PM
Hi guys!
I haven't commented in a while but I've actually been writing all this stuff down. How does it all apply to the 70-200 L though?
11 Apr 2016 4:31AM
Well... With this lens used for landscape work practically every existing handheld rangefinder might be out of tange. Here we are talking maybe tens to hundreds of metres to the nearest foreground object.
themak 6 1.0k Scotland
11 Apr 2016 5:32PM
A typical golf rangefinder has a range of approx. 6m up to 200m - more if the object is big enough. Holding it steady enough at longer range to be sure of what you're targeting becomes the problem. They need a surface to bounce off, so 'ground' or 'beach or shorelines' are no good unless you can find a marker to target.
However, I agree with the people above who say there are better ways of doing it than by numbers. Even trial and error, reviewing on screen sounds quicker than measuring and consulting charts.

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