Some time ago, I written about how I manually focus my photos, and today I will show you a different way to get the best DOF using the Hyperfocal distance.
What is Hyperfocal distance
In simplest terms, Hyperfocal distance is a distance on which you have to focus your lens, to get the maximum amount of DOF. To say it differently, it’s the closes distance on which you can focus, while still archive a good sharpness for objects at infinity.
The Hyperfocal distance is of course not the same for all situations, as it is dependent in the sensor size, aperture used and focal length. Each time one of these changes, the Hyperfocal distance becomes different.
Additionaly, there is one more parameter, the Circle of confusion. This one is only dependent on the sensor and can be found specifically for every camera. The circle of confusion, is the size a point in the scene can make on your sensor, for it still to appear sharp. The more out of focus it its, the bigger it appears on the sensor. You may know that as bokeh. In some calculators of Hyperfocal distance you can change this value, in some it uses one base on the sensor size. It’s always best to check the one that is exact for you camera.
How to calculate the Hyperfocal distance
You can get yourself the equations an calculate it yourself, but the simplest way is to just print yourself a table with the values (which you can find easily on the internet) or even better use a Hyperfocal calculator app. Here is an example of a table, I made for my camera 5D mark II, simply using the Hyperfocal Pro app for Android.
You can see here the different distances for combinations of aperture and focal length.
How to use the Hyperfocal distance
So what now when you know the distance? You turn of auto-focus on your lens, and focus on that distance. You sometimes need to do this just approximately, as the distance scale on a lens is not so detailed. Now you will get everything from half that distance to infinity into focus. I would suggest doing the composition first and having the camera on a tripod, as without that it’s hard to maintain that distance. Also each time you change the aperture or the focal length, you have to recalculate and refocus.
When to use it
It’s great when you need to have an exact idea about the DOF to get the maximum sharpness. Especially if you are trying to take a photo that includes a foreground element and should be sharp into infinity. In all the other cases, it should be sufficient to focus one third into the scene to get a good result.