How often do I need a focus distance scale and a depth of field scale?

It so happened historically that lenses that have on their body a scale with a focusing distance and a depth of field scale are considered more advanced than lenses that do not have such scales. How much are digital scales with fast auto focus in demand such scales?

Nikon ED AF Nikkor 80-200mm 1: 2.8D (MKII) Focus Distance Scale

Lens focus distance scale Nikon ED AF Nikkor 80-200mm 1: 2.8D (MKII)... Please note that there is no depth of field scale, as well as the fact that the number of marks in meters and feet is very meager and it is almost impossible to manually focus on them. The '80' mark is for infrared focusing.

From my personal experience with digital cameras, I can tell you that I have never used the distance scale and the depth-of-field scale for manual focusing for its intended purpose. This means that despite my fascination with manual optics, I have never measured the distance to the object being shot and did not focus using the distance scale indicated on the lens. Moreover, I did not calculate and did not particularly take into account the depth of field. It so happened that I do not like depth of field calculators and do not use them. Fortunately, the genres in which I have to shoot are not very demanding on accurate calculations and calculations. In my practice, I prefer to use a simple and concise rule - not to complicate your life. For focusing, I am completely satisfied with the optical or electronic viewfinder and the Live View mode. To control the depth of field, I am completely satisfied with viewing the footage on the camera display or on a computer monitor. You can almost always take a test shot and check the depth of field (see if the model's ears fall out of the field of focus). Over time, the feeling of the focusing distance and the obtained depth of field at a certain focal length and F number reaches automatism and do not require any special calculations.

But still, in some cases, having a lens with a focus distance scale and a depth of field scale helps me out:

  1. On the scale of the focusing distance, you can determine which way you want to rotate the focus ring in order to quickly focus on infinity, or MDF. With a quick focus on infinity, there are some peculiarities that I’ll try to write about somehow. When shooting with different cameras and lenses, I am faced with the fact that every manufacturer likes to create lenses with different directions of rotation of the focus ring. If the auto focus does not know what to do, but you can’t figure it out in the viewfinder, just look at the distance scale once and manually start focusing in the right direction.
  2. Sometimes, taking a tripod with the remote control, you can determine whether refocusing has occurred by moving the focus distance scale.
  3. The presence of the focus distance scale and the depth of field scale gives at least some indirect confirmation that the lens is made in good faith. This is a basic attribute for good optics. If you recall, the whale and other cheap lenses lack the depth of field and focus distance.
  4. Using the focus distance scale, you can quickly find out the minimum focus distance and, without delving into the instructions for the lens, make certain conclusions.
  5. Using the focus distance scale, you can visually compare the speed of the focus motors for different lenses.
  6. A scale of depth of field and focus distance for beginners can help to understand some of the relationships between depth of field, F number and distance to the subject.
  7. Using the focus distance scale, you can quickly find out the approximate distance to the subject.

I would like to add that even on expensive lenses, the depth-of-field scale may be completely absent, or be greatly reduced. Don't believe me? Then check out the Nikon N AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm 1: 2.8GII ED VR or Canon Zoom Lens EF 24-70mm 1: 2.8 L USM. Even with macro lenses, the depth-of-field scale is severely truncated, and usually only has marks for the extreme aperture values ​​such as F / 22 or F / 32. The focusing distance scale on modern lenses is also greatly reduced - there are very few marks with distances on it. Such a truncated scale has no practical application. In addition, the focusing ring travel of many modern lenses is very small. The long travel of the focus ring is often sacrificed for fast autofocus.

My little conclusion: in our time, digital photography, the scale of the distance of focus and depth of field have almost completely lost their original role.

Write your thoughts about the practical applications of the distance scale and the depth of field scale in the comments.

Thank you for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

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Comments: 61, on the topic: How often do I need a focus distance scale and a depth of field scale?

  • Lynx

    But the depth of field calculators and field of view angles made for smartphones are useful in teaching and understanding the filming process.

  • Caric

    Tell us about the so-called. "Infrared shift". What is it eaten with?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      They usually eat with film for shooting in the infrared spectrum - i.e. infrared photography. There are also special digital cameras like Canon 20Da, 60Da, which shoot in this spectrum. Due to the different wavelengths of light, the focus distance scale for the visible spectrum and the invisible one works differently. For this, there is an adjustment mark. I have never shot with infrared film, so I have no experience in this matter.

      • Sergei

        Make a review of IR filters, they come in for different wavelengths.
        Here is a new topic for review, and open our eyes to us on the IR photo

    • Lynx

      The sharpness in the visible spectrum and in the IR is different. Therefore, after focusing on the viewfinder, it is recommended to move the focusing ring until it coincides with the IR mark.
      approximately the same effect can be seen when working with monocles - there, for example, a green point is induced and then slightly “tighten” the focus to optimal sharpness

  • Oleg

    Although they often use the GRIP scale, although learning, yes, for 11 years of use, Canon 24-70 / 2.8 from this article drew attention to the fact that there is no scale :-). Learning to shoot in Kiev 4m and Helios 103. Very often used. And now, somehow, it’s considered in the head itself at what aperture what depth at which focal length can be expected, therefore I almost always shoot with aperture priority. But the love for beautiful manual optics remained

  • zengarden

    Once upon a time, when I was filming, I looked at this scale (although I still did everything “by eye”); Now I don’t pay attention at all. But the points listed may be useful :)

  • Grandfather Fedor

    Very annoying small stroke focusing ring on modern lenses. It is impossible to make a mechanical gearbox when switching from AF to MF. But I do not use the scale at all. There was only an idea to draw pictures with a white corrector to understand if refocusing was done. I like to work with focus manually, so the space falling into the lens is better felt.
    Well, taking this opportunity I express my gratitude for your articles, in my opinion the most intelligible and understandable.

  • Yarkiy

    And here I use the scale. When macro shooting at 105mm 2.8 g vr, I set the zoom factor I need, for example 1: 1 and then I move only the macro rails.

    • Igor

      And what is your use of the distance scale? If it’s possible in more detail. And I don’t know how to use it in macro photography.

  • Yarkiy

    On a macro lens, on a distance scale, the magnification ratio is also indicated. On the stack just from 1: 1 to 1:10.
    Have a smoke?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Well, this is a zoom scale, not a clear focus distance scale :)

      • Yarkiy

        Not the people, why are you really, it's the same scale, just a little more informative.

    • anonym

      So I think ... how do you use the distance scale? And you said not about that at all.

  • Madness scif

    I only used the scale on my nikkor 24-70mm 2.8g only when I wanted to shoot on the FED-3 rangefinder. measured the exact distance to the victim on nikkor and then put it on the FED-e ;-))) the pictures were excellent)

    • Felix

      FED is not a scaler, so what are you ..

      • Madness scif

        why are we so - FED rangefinder, on the lens the scale in meters is indicated)

        • Felix

          True, a rangefinder means that a rangefinder is used for focusing in the camera, two windows are such, when you turn the lens in the viewfinder, the two images converge. By your logic, if there is a scale on the 8m shift camera, is this a rangefinder?

          • Madness scif

            dear, well, what are you ... well, it's not fun for me to look and focus in this very small hole with a white circle in the center ... and you are scalers, rangefinders ... I can also say to your HAPPINESS - I use an exposure meter on a digital camera for more accurate exposure on film))) for less waste

    • Bogdan

      This is hyperfocal distance.

      • Michael

        It’s just a focusing distance and has nothing to do with hyperfocal

  • Nicholas

    I like to shoot on a mirror zm-5sa, so I always use the scale on it, the focuser’s move is large, the depth of field is small, it’s easier to set the distance in advance and then precisely direct it.

    • Ilya

      I support, shoot with Pentacon and it’s very convenient, after setting the approximate distance to the object on the lens, then sharpen it, because twist Jupiter-36 through the mine on an open one is far from obvious when you catch an object in focus)

      • Arkady Shapoval

        In the article, I touched on the relevance of use for digital cameras and has repeatedly emphasized this.

  • Rodion

    Because after Arkady's reviews, I began to use inexpensive Soviet optics, the depth of field scale and the distance scale are very important for me, although I use them on a large number of objectivists - on Helios-44 (I have white 13 stamps and 44M-7), on Industar-29 (there even from live view it is not clear - in focus or not, soft on the open), on Mir-1 (I use it as a night one with a puff, I aim only on the scale and only on F5.6 - I almost never miss with its four-meter DOF).

  • Andrei

    DOF for lenses from 50mm focal length is better to remember by heart for standard apertures, it is very useful, even better when shooting slowly, print out depth of field tables for different focal lengths and use it, after six months ... a year will be remembered at the instinct level and you will remember. This is useful when shooting portraits; it doesn't matter when reporting.

  • anonym

    ... we shoot in the open ... the main thing is that the eyes (or at least one) were sharp ... that's it!

  • Nicholas

    Arkady, and I congratulate you on the New Year. I wish you health, more health and GOOD LUCK in the New Year !!! May God give you all the best.

  • Vic

    Yesterday, I shot lions from Helios 44M from a car window in a safari park)). Because there is not much time for focusing and in general the window, if you follow the rules, should be closed)), then set the infinity, covered the aperture and that's it. It seems nothing happened, and he himself is alive))
    Happy New Year everyone!

  • I will be brief.

    Thank you for the article. And then I still think that only one I do not need this scale -))

  • serega

    the depth of field scale is useful when focusing on hyperfocal. once and done! :)

  • anonym

    On a scale it is convenient to check the accuracy of focusing on digital SLRs. Put the camera on a tripod, focus in the liveview and see if the refocusing in the normal mode will be based on the sensors.

    • serega

      my experience says that it is better to do the opposite: first we focus in normal mode, and then turn on lv and check, slightly shifting focusing back and forth manually. If you do it your way, it may happen that the autofocus does not want to correct what you are focused on lv. and in the first case, you can immediately see how accurately the autofocus “beats”.

  • Paul

    From the foregoing, we can conclude that the only useful use of the scale is to measure the distance to the object, and even that is not accurate, and its presence in good lenses adds a few more dollars to the cost of expensive optics.

  • Sergei

    And Zeiss on the new lenses made an integrated OLED display to indicate the focus distance and depth of field.
    http://www.zeiss.com/camera-lenses/en_de/website/landing_pages/batis.html

  • Vyacheslav

    Generally speaking, according to the distance scale on a modern lens, you can determine which glass, after what distances, will start to mow strongly - I have two 85s, one in front of the infinity sign is 5m, the other -8m ... this means that the 2nd budded up to 8 meters will focus further on with confidence and accuracy already spread - and the first current is up to 5 meters ..

    • Dmitry K

      but this idea is interesting. I have friends weddings complaining about 85 1.8 g from Nikon - smears at a distance of 5 meters or more. And they say about the same thing - like the scale is only up to 4 meters, and further from infinity to 4 meters, literally half a centimeter of rotation. And on the contrary, old glasses are praised - 1.4 d. Here he has a scale of up to 10 meters. Who else has encountered this? I don't own 85 myself. But there is a new 50 1.4. There is generally a scale of up to 3 meters. And really, it is unrealistic to hit 1.4 meters further than 5 meters, but very clearly near it (at d700). Although the smaller the FR, the earlier infinity occurs, but how can that be related? any thoughts?

      • Lynx

        the smaller the focal length, the earlier infinity comes.
        Anything else - from the lens. For example, with makriks, infinity begins very early.

        • Dmitry K

          this is understandable. The question is not about that at all. And about the fact that some lenses have a long scale (many divisions), and some have a very small one. And this is with one focal point. So does this affect focusing accuracy? According to some, it affects - the old 85 mm from Nikon are more accurate than the new ones at a distance of more than 5 meters. Is it so? who faced?

          • Lynx

            Not certainly in that way.
            Macro lenses have a short focusing stroke, they are calculated more when working on MDF.
            There is still another point - the larger the “range to infinity” - the further there is “clearly distinguishable” grip and sharpness. When going “to infinity”, the sharpness of most lenses drops. Therefore, good portrait photographers have sufficient "range".

  • valery442005

    I have always used distance scales and depth of field since the time of possession of “agfa-kodak” 6x9 cm., And then “change” and others. These parameters are also necessary in our digital time. Now I have the main camera “nikon d5100 ″ with my favorite lens“ tokina 11 -16mm "of the last issue. On the distance scale, I precisely determined where 2 m. Then, using calculators, I determined the depth of field for aperture, for example, 8, which is 0,6m-infinity. It is great for video shooting. Do it on AF-F or turn it into manual focus It's just not serious. Autofocus does not work stably. All its sounds are recorded. It's funny to talk about manual focus on ultra-wide. When photographing without attracting undue attention to yourself, the above is quite useful. You do not need to bring the camera to your eyes, set the necessary parameters and click yourself not noticeably. It's still better when you can't open it.

  • Dmitriy

    When you need to photograph something at night on a fast lens, it is very pleasant to rotate the focus ring without seeing anything, it is especially nice to aim at infinity, where no flashlight will help. In this regard, the Soviet and old manual optics, by the way, are much easier to focus manually, autofocus even with a flashlight on the D7100 is incredibly blurry.

    • Lynx

      on any auto lens, you can switch to manual mode and twist your own settings ring even until you turn blue

      • BB

        Without focus distance marks, this is useless (in the dark)

        • Lynx

          dragging then, if you put the old lens on the crop, and even with a cut to infinity, then all this markup does not mean anything, it is twenty times shot down.

          • BB

            I don’t know how others do, but after my G-44-2, I cut everything in place: the scale corresponds to the real distance. The main thing was to catch infinity for sure.
            On the G-81n, too, all the rules.

            • Lynx

              at 81 it’s normal by default, it’s under the Nikon mount and working distance.
              But on other lenses, the truth is that everything happens differently.

      • Dmitriy

        Once again I took my manual Jupiter-21 and Helios 44m-6. When focusing at 0,5 m or infinity, the “twist” rests and a dull metallic knock is heard. In Nikkor 50mm f / 1.8D, isn't it? In my Nikkor 35mm f / 1.8G, the ring can be rotated in any direction until it turns blue, where infinity is not clear here. I watched a video about Nikkor 50mm f / 1.8D - when you reach infinity, you hear the same thud. When I was a kid, at my father's zenith with Industar, infinity was also focused.

        • Lynx

          Are you seriously? O_O

          • Dmitriy

            Why not serious. The extreme points on the same Nikkor 35mm f / 1.8G are barely felt. I went, say, chopped wood, or higher from behind the wheel of an UAZ in the taiga, if you want to capture something. I myself feel on a light hand that the focusing ring moves around 100 degrees (extreme points). These extreme points are extremely easy to pass by twisting the focusing ring with a tired, calloused hand. And that's all, the extreme point will be in another place. It's cool to twist these black rubberized rings without house marks, lying on a sofa or in a city under a lantern, in the taiga or on some river Marta, there are no sources of illumination from the word at all and you take photos in between times (the ride itself is 300-400 km. from cheap ones, at least you need to pick berries, fill cones, catch grayling to beat off the trip). And then you start to turn this ring, highlighting yourself with a cell or flashlight, I will say extremely inconveniently, because this is not a pentax and the buttons do not glow, but the lens is generally black. Therefore, it is possible to shoot at the old zenith 3 with Industar-55 without illumination - knowing which direction to turn the focusing ring with a ratchet (you can generally count the clicks). Something like this.

            • Lynx

              You know, I don’t even know what to answer.
              I can’t laugh anymore, not cry.
              I’ll probably go have some tea and regret the fate of photography in 300 km races.

              • Dmitriy

                Amen :)

  • Koba

    Personally, I almost always used the depth of field scales on a medium format Mamiya with a wide angle lens. It is very convenient to have everything in focus. On modern lenses, especially on standard zooms and even on fixes, it is almost impossible to find such a cala where there is a 10 meter mark, often there are 3-4 meters for the last, but what will it help? Of course, it cannot be used. I specifically looked for lenses of a standard range, even fixes, with wide markings, so that they had at least 15 meters, such were the old Soviet lenses, and Mir 1B is generally a champion - has markings of 20 meters, the fastest moving objects or shooting from a high-speed train not close scenes - it is very convenient. But not on all cameras, as the camera still needs to have exposure metering with such lenses. Strange, but there was one superzoom that has markings up to 30 meters - this is the Tamron 16-300! Itself has not yet checked whether it works exactly, but it may be so. Few standard or super zooms have a response of 10 meters (I don't discuss long zooms or fixes, they often need to work with the depth of field scale), including Nikon 28-45 / 4.5, Canon 28-135 IS, Nikon 28-300, Nikon 35-200 AIS, Pentax-A 35-135 / 4 (has as much as 15 meters on the scale), Vivitar 35-70 / 2.8-4 (has 20 meters !!). That's all! But why the hell do you need a marking up to 2 meters, for example, on a Sigma 17-50 / 2.8 lens or on a Nikon 28-105 D, I personally do not understand, of course they are shortened due to the introduction of a small stroke of the focusing ring there to achieve higher speed rotation, that also makes sense. In short, working simultaneously quickly and conveniently on the DOF scale is possible only with Canon 28-135 IS and Nikon 28-300 VR and Tamron 16-300 VC on crop, that is, I mean that other lenses initially focus slowly. At least the focus is fast on these. The bottom line for FF is Canon 28-135 IS (it is also the fastest in focusing and costs the cheapest now!), As well as Nikon 28-300 VR (it is expensive, big and heavy, weighs about 1,7kg with the camera together, but also high quality and versatile). There is another very interesting lens in terms of the depth of field scale - this is Nikon GN 45 / 2.8 AI, now it costs up to $ 300, and so there are markings for infinity, 30, 15, 8, 5, 3 meters. Gorgeous, I hope that the Japanese placed it exactly, and not like the Industar 50-2, which has a gorgeous scale (up to 20 meters), but they say that it is inaccurate ...

  • Marina

    Arkady, good afternoon!
    Please explain as for a blonde)): if I do not plan to adjust the indicators on the distance scale and the depth of field scale (Canon 135 mm 2L) ... can they remain at any values? I set AF, focusing distance range 1,6 m - infinity and - forward? I would be grateful for your answer!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Good day. The main thing is that autofocus works, the rest is not important.

  • First name

    how to read it, say at 85mm 1,8g? there is drawn 16 ,. |, 16 or 50mm 1,8d - there between 16 another 11 are inserted

    • Michael

      At aperture 16, the focus will be the range of distances between the corresponding marks

      • First name

        logical) but who uses it for 16 then?)
        and for other values ​​1,8-2,8, let's say ...

        • Michael

          Alas) now these scales are more for show

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