Hyperfocal Distance for Landscape

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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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About Kent Yu

Kent is a professional wedding and portrait photographer based in Wellington, New Zealand. He and his team specialise in modern and contemporary weddings. Kent has his work published in international magazines and is a regular author to a number of photographic publication. He is fascinated by photographic equipment and enjoys showcasing the gear used in creating his images. You can find him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+
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Comments and Feedback? Fire away !

avatar Hui Wang says:

Hi Kent, great post! I just have one question. Is your chart universal for all 35mm lenses or just for the nikkor lenses? Thanks in advance

avatar Kent Yu says:

Hi Hui,

The chart is for all 35mm , FX lenses. Thanks for visiting.

Regards,
Kent

avatar Anonymous says:

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.

avatar Kent's Photography Blog says:

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

avatar wastedyouth says:

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 !! :)

avatar Kent's Photography Blog says:

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…

avatar wastedyouth says:

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) ??

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