Hyperfocal distance and depth of field

Hyperfocal distance Is the distance the lens is focused when the back edge of the field of focus lies at 'infinity' for a given geometric aperture.

Hyperfocal distance. Article from Radozhiva

Hyperfocal distance. Article from Radozhiva

When the lens focuses on infinity, not only objects located at infinite distance from the lens, but also many objects that are closer to the conditional infinity of the lens are sharp. In this case the concept of infinity is conditional, you do not need to think that the lens should focus on real infinity, which is located far beyond the moon and stars, near the far boundary of our universe. For many lenses, a focusing span of several meters is already called infinity. Each lens has your own hyperfocal distance, which means its own distance with which all objects will be sharp in the image.

Lens indicators

Lens indicators

Now many users of digital and digital-mirror, mirrorless and interchangeable lens cameras are hard to understand the meaning of the width of the field of focus, which is commonly called DOF - гbast рkeenly иimaged пrostranstva. On modern cameras and lenses, important indicators of focus distance and depth of field are often removed. Old lenses, and some modern ones, have special scales by which you can determine at what focus distance the lens is mounted. The focusing distance, for example, at a value of 2 meters, means that only those objects that are 2 meters away from the camera will be sharp. However, due to the fact that the sharpness zone has a certain length, the depth of field scale shows the distance to the object and behind the object, which will also be sharp.

DOF depends heavily on:

  • Aperture F, because DOF is indicated only for certain aperture values. In the example above, the aperture is set to F / 11 using the aperture control ring. The lens is focused on about 1.5 meters, the depth of field scale shows that all objects that are at a distance of 1 to 2 meters will be sharp. If we set the value of F / 22 we will get the depth of field from 0.7m to infinity.
  • Focusing distances... The shorter the focusing distance, the thinner the DOF. Conversely, the larger the focusing distance, the wider the DOF.
  • Influenza indirectly affects matrix size camera (photosensitive element). More than matrix size, the wider the viewing angle and the closer you need to get to the subject, which, in fact, rests on the second point. Therefore, they claim that full-format cameras blur the background more strongly than cropped ones. Speaking rudely, the more crop factor, the more DOF.

Important: focal length has very little effect on the depth of field, but due to the strong visual effect, it seems that the focal length, too, greatly affects the depth of field. I would say that focal length affects on the strength of the blur foreground / background (its visual perception), but it affects the width of the depth of field very little (with the same layout of the same frame with lenses with different focal lengths). At a constant shooting scale, the depth of field does not change when using lenses with different focal lengths.

Very important: DOF is a relative concept. It is connected with what is considered sharp and what is considered not sharp, and therefore the boundaries of depth of field are conditional, just like the marks for depth of field on the lens scale.

The main concept of IPIG

The main concept of IPIG

Due to the fact that when focusing at distances less than the conditional infinity, only some of the objects in the frame will be sharp, the rest will not be sharp, in which case they say that the foreground (near) and far (background) planes are blurred. If you focus on the hyperfocal distance, then only the foreground may not be sharp, and the background 'rests' against the infinity of the lens and becomes sharp.

Hyperfocal distance

Hyperfocal distance when the lens is focused at infinity - all objects beyond a certain border become sharp. This is the essence of hyperfocal distance

The hyperfocal distance has one feature - if you set the focus of the lens not to infinity, but to the hyperfocal distance, then you can get maximum depth of field from a certain value in the foreground to infinity. This is a very important property when photographing landscapes and more.

Field of sharpness

Field of sharpness

It is easy to imagine the depth of field in the form of two planes that form a volume in which everything becomes sharp. We live in a three-dimensional world, and therefore it is easier to imagine a real 3-dimensional situation. The depth of field forms such a sharp area, enclosed between vertical planes, not only the snow, but also the clock (not only grass, but also the raven in previous photographs) become sharp.

Important feature: when we focus on extremely close distances (on MDF), then the depth of field decreases. It is easy to imagine a narrowing of the distance between the planes shown in the picture above. When we begin to focus the lens at distances close to infinity, the depth of field increases. This is easy to imagine by expanding the distance between the planes. When we get to the hyperfocal distance, the plane farthest from us will disappear, go to infinity, and the image will be sharp from the hyperfocal distance to infinity.

Important feature: in order to get a picture of objects at infinity, it is not always necessary to set the focus value on the lens to the limit value of infinity. You can do with a hyperfocal distance. With closed apertures, the hyperfocal distance can be greatly reduced.

Important feature: many lenses, both new and old, have a flight beyond infinity, which means that the lens can focus on infinity, and if you twist the focus ring further, infinity will not be sharp. This is a special idea in the design of the lens, which is designed to compensate for the stretching of the helicoid at different temperatures and will focus on infinity in both winter and summer. Also, many lenses have infinity so that they can be used without problems on different cameras with different working lengths, and also because of the design features of some zoom lenses.

90mm lens

The GR at the 90mm lens starts at about 40m, in this case, even on a closed aperture, the background with trees remains slightly blurry.

Some features of lenses

  • The larger the telephoto lens, the greater the hyperfocal distance. For example, telephoto Nikon ED AF Nikkor 300mm 1: 2.8 It has GR for F / 2.8, equal to several hundred meters.
  • The smaller the focal length of the lens, the less GR. For example, a super wide angle lens Zenithar 16mm F2.8 MC Fisheye It has GR for F / 2.8 equal to approximately 1,5m.
  • The closer the aperture is, the smaller GR. Roughly speaking, on covered apertures using super wide-angle lenses, you can generally forget about focusing.
  • Get a small telephoto lens GR pretty hard.
The practical application of hyperfocal distance

Practical application of hyperfocal distance - in this landscape shot, both the foreground with a flowering tree and the background with mountains are sharp. The lens is adjusted so that everything behind the tree is sharp.

Personal experience

The hyperfocal distance can be easily felt when working with wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle optics. The wider the field of view of the lens, the shorter its hyperfocal distance. This effect can be seen even when using the kit 18mm lens. At the 18mm position, the autofocus only rotates the focusing ring slightly, since in most cases the lens works 'at hyperfocal' and everything beyond a few meters is already sharp, and the camera does not need to refocus. I don't use grip calculators, it's easier for me to figure out by eye or from personal experience how the lens will behave. Due to the short hyperfocal distance of ultra-wide angles, it is very convenient to work with the latter in manual focus mode.


Understanding how focusing, depth of field and hyperfocal distance work can help create the desired effect in photographs, improve volume transfer, and help in choosing a lens. In general, with infinity you need to conduct your own experiments in order to 'probe' and understand everything.

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Material prepared Arkady Shapoval. Please, if this material was useful to you, help my project. And don't forget that everyone can write your review for one or another photographic equipment.

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Comments: 144, on the topic: Hyperfocal distance and depth of field

  • Kuwyat

    Hello Arkady. To begin with, thank you for your work, for this whole block. I have a question. Suppose there is a fixed lens with a focal length of 50mm. There is a scale for the focusing distance from infinity to 0,7m. Rotating it to 0,7, the lens moves forward a little and it turns out that its focal length grows, that is, no longer 50mm, but more?

    • anonym

      Well, or vice versa, at infinity less than 50mm, approaching 0,7 it approaches 50

    • Lynx

      Depends on the optical design of the lens; on some lenses, the angle of view changes

    • Alex

      If this is observed visually, this focus “breathes”, this does not happen on high-quality lenses.

  • Anton

    50mm D fell to the floor with the front plane and now there is no infinity. Now the scale on the lens does not correspond to reality, if on a scale of 6 meters, then in reality about 3. Neither the quality of the pictures nor anything else has been affected. Is it possible to correct the consequences of the fall yourself, is it real without contacting the service? I can not find where to read about it.

  • Alexander Smolko

    “The hyperfocal distance has one feature - if you set the focus of the lens not to infinity, but to the hyperfocal distance, then you can get the maximum depth of field from a certain value in the foreground to infinity. This is a very important property when photographing landscapes and more. ”

    But how to do it? How to set focus to hyperfocal distance?

    • anonym

      For example, focus on any object located from hyperfocal distance to infinity. It is not necessary to focus on the hyperfocal, because all objects from the hyperfocal to infinity will be in focus.

      • Valery A.

        In the program “DOF calculator” ask in advance at what focal point and with what apertures the HFR begins.

  • anonym

    The explanations are very confusing and often incorrect.

  • Alexander

    Good afternoon friends. The lens Mir24N 35 mm was purchased from hands. It fits perfectly on my Nikon D80, but alas, during the purchase, I did not notice one feature. There is no infinity at all on the open hole. The maximum focusing distance is 15 meters. If the hole is covered up to 8 and above, then infinity appears. Tell me is it ok? Or marriage? And is it possible to adjust the lens on your own, or in Kiev by some master.

    • Michael

      Not normal, you can align, as I will not tell.

    • Dmitry

      Yes, an infinity, a famous sore of shovels.
      You can fix it yourself, usually you need to loosen the bolts holding the focuser's outer ring by the helicoid, move it a couple of mm in the desired direction, and fix it again. Look on YouTube for a video of disassembling such a lens.

    • Andrei

      Three days ago I became the owner of MIR24N 35 2. On d300s the same story. I think that this is his normal work with an open aperture. Look at the lens at the FLOW scale at aperture 2, as described in this article above. Normal (more or less) sharpness appears at an aperture of 4. Compared with my 17-70 sigma at 5,6 holes and at a focal length of 35 - the pictures are difficult to distinguish. I have focus confirmation on the d300s, and at open aperture, especially at close range, it is very difficult to catch focus. And if you shoot a portrait with your head turned a little, you can get: - that one eye is in focus, and the other is in soap. Check out the photos on the Internet with these lenses. At open apertures, only a small part of the frame is sharp. The impression from the lens is not unambiguous. Glass for art photos (snowflakes, flowers, leaves will have a blurred background and bokeh (beautiful :)), but not suitable for portraits. In any case, at KROP.

      • Roman

        What do you mean by “portrait”? A full-length portrait is also a portrait. And a 50 mm focal length for a full-length belt is quite suitable, and on a crop it will be exactly 50.

        Here you have 35 / 1.4, drawn up to two in full frame: https://www.flickr.com/photos/152693076@N06/48862115166/in/pool-2064616@N24/

        Typical wedding plot, typical focal. Each lens has its own tasks.

        • Andrei

          So I specifically wrote about Mir24, and not about focal ones for portraits. And I meant that MIR24 35mm 2, at full frame, may be behaving differently.

          • Roman

            Well, take 35 / 1.8 for the test, hold it to 2.0 and see how it will behave. The physics is the same, the depth of field is the same, I don’t think that in this respect, Mir24 is somehow different from any other lenses with the same focal and aperture.

            What you call “soap” is the lens's out-of-focus area. ANY high-aperture lens. And how do people in full frame shoot portraits at 50 / 1.2? Tighten the diaphragm for the task - that's all. Or position your subject so that all important parts of the frame are sharp. Focus on the eyes.

            On a full frame, the DOF will be less with equivalent framing, so it will be harder to shoot, but people can do it. 2.0 - 2.2, well 2.8 as a last resort.

  • Still

    And where to find out how the diaphragm affects the depth of field? It is to understand the physics of the process. With addiction it’s understandable.

  • Peter Sh.

    For fans to read about spherical horses in a vacuum. Those. about shooting black and white stripes and squares on the wall, with subsequent exposition of the results, they say which lens is the best.

    Here, inquire. Depression of the depth of field zone. In the most visual way. That is why all these horses in a vacuum for a simple layman mean nothing.

  • Peter Sh.

    Attempt two

  • Peter Sh.


    • Arkady Shapoval

      Thank you

  • Peter Sh.

    Immediately, that would not get up twice. The spread in sharpness among the top professional lenses.
    Again, the topic of horses in a vacuum and which lens is the most zachotny.

  • Michael

    There is a very significant inaccuracy in the definition of the concept itself. Not a mistake, because the very meaning of the relationship between depth of field and hyperfocal distance (GR) is quite definite. GR is a point, focusing on which, we get the maximum depth of field. And it is not at all necessary, for this, the lens must be set to infinity. And here, just, the FR of the lens directly affects. For what reasons the author indicates that the FR can be ignored or neglected is not clear. For GR is the ratio of the square of the FR of the lens to the product of the relative aperture, multiplied by the value of the allowable scattering circle. For 35 mm film, this value is the same - 0,03 mm, and it can be considered constant and used to determine the GR with FX cameras, albeit with the caveat for the number of pixels. For other cameras there are special tables that allow you to use the numbers indicated in them in calculations. (Nr, http://www.dofmaster.com/digital_coc.html).

  • Vladimir Lvov

    Hello Arkady!
    I quote you: "The longer the lens is, the greater its hyperfocal distance." It's a lie! The longer the lens is, the further the hyperfocal distance begins, the shorter it will be in relation to the lens with a shorter focal length. The hyperfocal distance is not the value in meters from which it starts, it is the real distance that starts after the mark. And if, conditionally, for a 135 mm long-focus fixture at F / 8 it starts from a distance of about 125-130 meters, then for some, for example. Helios-44-2 58mm / 2.0 at f / 8, this distance starts from 23 meters. So for Helios with 58 mm, this distance, Hyperfocal Distance, will be greater than that of a 135 mm fixture.

    • Victor

      Dear Vladimir, please read again the elementary definition of hyperfocal distance, just carefully, and you will understand that there is no mistake in Arkady's text.

      • Vladimir Lvov

        And what to read, I quoted literally (COPY-INSERTED) what is written there. Or are you also claiming that the longer the focal length, the greater the Hyperfocal distance will be? Or how?

        • Victor

          >> Or are you also saying that the longer the focal length, the greater the Hyperfocal distance will be?

          Exactly so, with the same relative aperture of the lenses.

      • Vladimir Lvov

        Here ... I until today believed that the Hyperfocal distance is the distance at which everything is sharp when focusing to infinity, ie: the depth of sharp space when focusing to infinity. It turns out that the Hyperfocal distance is the border between the zone of sharpness and blur when focusing at infinity?

        • Victor

          Having read more carefully the definition on the Radozhiv website, a couple of inaccuracies were also found in it.

          Arkady gives the following definition of hyperfocal:

          "Hyperfocal distance is the minimum distance from which objects in the picture become sharp when the lens is focused at infinity."

          The correct definition would be:

          “The hyperfocal distance is the focusing distance at which the DOF will be maximized, from HALF of this distance to infinity”

    • Seladir

      You approached this issue in a peculiar way, but this does not mean that your interpretation is the only correct one. Most people are used to defining it differently, that is, to consider the hyperfocal distance the closest focusing distance at which there will already be acceptable sharpness at infinity.
      For some reason, you decided to define it as a segment between the closest focusing distance with sharpness at infinity and… it looks like infinity.
      First, even purely mathematically, it will not be possible to say which lens has a greater hyperfocal distance according to your interpretation. Since in both cases there will be infinity.
      Secondly, such a definition is a horse in a vacuum and does not solve practical problems. A practical task is usually to know the closest focusing distance to the hyperfocal, so that the near depth of field limit is as close as possible.

  • Seladir

    What interests me about hyperfocal distance and depth of field is the interpretation of the scatter spot for different cameras. All calculators I met, for example, famously take one number for all 1.6x cropped cameras, another number for a full frame. But the physics of the phenomenon suggests that the size of the matrix does not affect anything, but the size of the pixel - yes. And if for 10 years such a rough approach still worked, plus or minus, now it has not: Canon 10D will have a much larger pixel than Canon 5Ds. This means that the hyperfocal distance will come earlier, although the calculator will say the opposite.
    I really want to take and create, for example, a more correct calculator in the form of an Android application. But maybe I'm wrong about something? And the subjectivity of the concept of acceptable sharpness leads to the fact that it is not clear at all what to take as the size of the scattering spot.

    • BB

      A couple of years ago I came across online calculators based on pixel sizes. But you correctly noticed about the subjectivity of the concept of blur.

  • Arkady Shapoval

    Thank you, I will study

  • Arkady Shapoval

    Thanks, I corrected the definition. It's strange that you still use my site

    • Victor

      “Hyperfocal distance is the distance from which all objects in the picture are sharp enough for a lens at infinity.” This definition is incorrect.

      Why - I wrote a few posts above.

      • Arkady Shapoval

        I hope you don't mind if I leave your description? Any other comments found are also welcome. Perhaps you are not happy with my presentation, but I hope you understand that this site is just a simple blog, and not a serious photo publication. But there is only one way - to do everything efficiently and correctly, correct mistakes and learn from those who are wiser and smarter.

        • Victor

          I don't want to be misunderstood, I read, read and will read articles on your site, often getting valuable information from them, sometimes even unique, but I would like the site content to reflect reality as much as possible, in case a beginner reads it :) Of course, you have the right to leave the definition as you see fit.

          • Arkady Shapoval

            I changed. Thank. Radozhiva has many problems. One of them: now I know a little more than before, in 2008, when I started running this site. And there is nothing more difficult - to redo, rewrite the material. And to write from scratch - now there is no desire, then time. This applies very much to old reviews of various “boring” lenses. In those days, I took a lot of liberties. Now I just physically can't get to those reviews.

  • Ltd

    Thank you, very helpful for a beginner

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