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On Stopping Down

tim franklin 14 2.7k
29 Apr 2006 10:01PM
Its frequently suggested here that photographes seeking maximum DoF should stop down to f/16 or below, and is often a losing battle to argue against this idea. Hopefully the link below should illustrate why this claim should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Understanding Lens Diffraction .

The lenses used are, it should be noted, somewhat more demanding than most would appear to be, but the general truth is still there.

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steve neil 13 597 Australia
29 Apr 2006 10:17PM
I rarely go below f/11 but I mainly do close-ups. Are you referring to landscape photography where I believe they do go lower but for a good reason.
User_Removed 13 17.9k 8 Norway
29 Apr 2006 11:37PM
Fascinating reading Tim - especially 'the following page'. Thanks for the link.

BillS 11 27 United Kingdom
29 Apr 2006 11:58PM
Remember that there is always more depth behind the point of focus than there is in front . This is true whatever the lens.
miptog 12 3.6k 61 United Kingdom
30 Apr 2006 2:34AM
This may explain several of the recent threads re: "soft" images. I suspect the better quality the lens, the less forgiving it cam be. Excellent article, well worth a read. Mike
tim franklin 14 2.7k
30 Apr 2006 5:45AM
Michael Reichmann does shoot principally landscape, but the arguments against stopping down too much are just as strong in that field as in any other.

The easiest way to demonstrate this is probably to go to an On-line DoF Calculator , and just spend some time playing with it. The most used lenses in landscape work are probably 28-35mm (though of course, everyone is different) in 135 format terms, so that's a reasonable place to begin. However, even if somone was using a 200mm lens to pick out, say, a distant mountain range the result is the same. Just try inputting a focused distance of 1000 metres at f/5.6 with a 200mm (or even a 300mm) and see what pans out. Smile

PS, the calculator linked to can deal with a heck of a lot of digital cameras (of all sizes) right through 8x10"!

I have a lot of time for Roger Hicks' writing on photography matters. He has said that he also never goes below f/11 with 35mm, f/16 for medium format and f/32 (IIRC) for large format.
Camairish 12 1.4k Scotland
30 Apr 2006 8:53AM
Great link - I use the DOF scale on my lens to give me an idea what to expect at different apertures - I tend to calculate what aperture I need for the particular shot (landscape) then stop down one more to be safe. I almost never need to go lower than f16. I used to use the smallest aperture possible on my old Canon for every landscape shot and it's only now when I see those images blown up on my PC that I see the detrimental effects this can have.
steve neil 13 597 Australia
30 Apr 2006 4:08PM
I agree stopping down can result in poor quality images but I was thinking about the method of obtaining a focused foreground and background for example - doesn't that require stopping down more than normal to get the effect? I mean sometimes I guess you have to sacrifice a bit of quality if you want the shot eh! Might have a go myself and see what results I get Smile
steveb 13 343 United Kingdom
30 Apr 2006 10:13PM

Quote:but I was thinking about the method of obtaining a focused foreground and background for example - doesn't that require stopping down more than normal to get the effect?

There is a way, using either a view camera, some older MF cameras that allow front tilt, or an up to date Cambo Ultima 35 spec here with a DSLR.

By focusing far, then using front tilt to close focus, then working back and forth a few times until no further adjustment is necessary, there's no need for excessively stopping down.

steve neil 13 597 Australia
30 Apr 2006 10:32PM
For lack of a better word, interesting! Thanks for the link Smile

So, let me get this right. If I was going to try this I'd probably try and take 3 to 5 photos at different focus points and merge very carefully in photoshop - thus avoiding having to step down too far. Not an ideal solution but I've done it before using a macro lens and although time consuming you can obtain good results. So therefore, is this thread suggesting that many of the amazing, EC winning landscape single shot photos, taken at f/16 or below, are in fact sub quality images that only look good because of DM and/or shown at low resolution to avoid detection of poor quality?

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