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How-to's

DOF and Hyperfocal Distance, Tables and Calculator

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on September 11, 2012


Keywords: fundamentals, camera, basics, guides, tips, tricks

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Depth of Field (DOF) and Hyperfocal Distance

 

You may have wondered "How do pros make those wonderful landscapes where everything seems to be in focus?"  Well, it is not merely by closing down the aperture of superb wide angle lenses. They maximize DOF (depth of field), the region of acceptable sharpness, by focusing at the hyperfocal distance. A simple function of lens focal length, aperture and the diameter of the Circle of Confusion.

The wider the angle of a lens, the shorter its focal length and deeper depth of field. So, as an example, an 18mm lens will have deeper (longer) depth of field than a 105mm. Also, the smaller the aperture you use the bigger the depth of field; i.e. in any given focal length lens, one gets more depth of field with it at f/16 than at f/4, for example. You may want to check a most practical and well illustrated guide on the subject of DOF and aperture here.
 

DOF diagram
Focusing at the hyperfocal distance will make an image with DOF from half of that distance to infinity. .

 

The Circle of Confusion (CoC) has nothing to do with other camera brand users. It is the largest on-film or on-sensor circle that you can see as a well defined point on an 8×10 print at arms length; that is, when viewed at from a "normal" viewing distance of 2 to 3 feet. Anything larger is seen as a small circle, not a point and is therefore perceived as out of focus. For 35mm film and FX format the diameter of such circle is 0.025mm. Often rounded to 0.03, the exact number used here is 0.02501. For the Nikon DX (APS-C) digital sensor format, the number used here is 0.0200.

The calculator in the next page allows for you to use any CoC of your choice, via a drop down menu.
-

These two sample images were shot at f/16. The one on top was made focusing at infinity, the image below was produced with the lens focused at its Hyperfocal Distance.

 

 

Take notice of the sharpness of the bush on the right hand side of the frame and the expanded DOF all the way to the horizon when using Hyperfocal Distance.

Click for an enlarged view
Click for enlargement

 

Please forgive me the decimal fractions in the table below for 35mm film and Nikon FX format. It is hard enough to approximately set any distance on a lens. As long as it is close, it will look good.
 

HYPERFOCAL
DISTANCES
FOCAL LENGTH
17mm
20mm
24mm
28mm
35mm
Aperture (f)
m
ft
m
ft
m
ft
m
ft
m
ft
1.4
-
-
-
-
-
-
22.2
72.7
34.6
113.6
2
-
-
-
-
11.5
37.8
15.7
51.4
24.5
80.3
2.8
4.1
13.4
5.7
18.6
8.1
26.7
11.1
36.4
17.3
56.8
4
2.9
9.5
4.0
13.1
5.8
18.9
7.8
25.7
12.2
40.2
5.6
2.0
6.7
2.8
9.3
4.1
13.4
5.5
18.2
8.7
28.4
8
1.4
4.7
2.0
6.6
2.9
9.4
3.9
12.9
6.1
20.1
11
1.0
3.4
1.4
4.6
2.0
6.7
2.8
9.1
4.3
14.2
16
0.7
2.4
1.0
3.3
1.4
4.7
2.0
6.4
3.1
10.0
22
0.5
1.7
0.7
2.3
1.0
3.3
1.4
4.5
2.2
7.1

.

 

HYPERFOCAL
DISTANCES
FOCAL LENGTH
45mm
50mm
60mm
70mm
80mm
Aperture (f)
m
ft
m
ft
m
ft
m
ft
m
ft
1.4
-
-
71
232
-
-
-
-
181
594
1.8
-
-
56
182
-
-
-
-
142
466
2
-
-
50
164
-
-
-
-
128
420
2.8
29
94
35
116
51
167
69
227
90
297
4
20
66
25
82
36
118
49
161
64
210
5.6
14
47
18
58
25
83
35
114
45
148
8
10
33
12
41
18
59
24
80
32
105
11
7
23
9
29
13
42
17
57
23
74
16
5
17
6
20
 9

30

12
40
16
52
22
4
12
4
14
6
21
9
28
11
37

To download a printable pdf file of Hyperfocal tables for 35mm Film or FX format from 17mm to 1000mm, click here

However, bear in mind the formulas were derived for the ultimate theoretical simple lens, not the sophisticated zoom and telephoto lenses we now use. Nevertheless, the Hyperfocal Distances calculated from the formulas are pretty accurate for wide angle lenses.

For typical wide angle lenses on a DX format Nikon or Fujifilm Digital SLR, you may download a table here for your bag.

For other focal lengths or apertures, both DX digital and FX film, you may use the H & DOF calculator


Try not to use the smallest aperture in your lens (f/22, f/32) to avoid diffraction - a sharpness killer.
-

 

Badlands sunrise © jrp
Hyperfocal Distance focusing at work. Nikon D2X with 12-24mm f/4G AF-S Nikkor
The Near Focus Limit is at my feet in this sunrise at the Badlands, South Dakota. 5th ANPAT

 

 

Depth of Field (DOF) and Hyperfocal Distance Calculator  

 

   

 Select Film Format, Digital Camera, or 
 your own chosen Circle of Confusion 

 Select your lens focal length (mm)

 Select the chosen aperture f-stop* 

 Enter the focusing distance

   
Click for the program to
   

For that distance, Near focus limit of DOF:

For that distance, Far focus limit of DOF:

Hyperfocal Distance:

Circle of Confusion (mm):

   
Note: You need to enter a focusing distance (any) for the calculator program to compute the Hyperfocal Distance, which is independent of the focusing distance you enter. To obtain MAX DOF remember to focus at that Hyperfocal Distance (H). Your Near Focus limit of DOF will then be half of H and your Far Focus limit will be infinity. If you don't select a Circle of Confusion value for an specific camera model, the calculator will use the most recommended one for the format you select; either DX or FX.

Note: The true f-stop values of aperture were used in the calculations as per this table below:

 

f/1 f/1.4 f/2 f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22 f/32
1.0000 1.4142 2.0000 2.8284 4.0000 5.6568 8.0000 11.3137 16.0000 22.6274 32.0000

PDF Printable Hyperfocal Distance Tables & How To Set it in Your Lens

 

You may print our 35mm film or Nikon FX DSLR format Hyperfocal distances tables from here.

For typical wide angle lenses on a Nikon DX DSLR format SLR, you may download a table here for your bag.

You can obtain here the Adobe Acrobat Reader.
 

Clck for enlargement
Hyperfocal distance at work. Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED IF AF-S on Nikon F5
2nd ANPAT. Near the Sand Dunes, Monument Valley, Arizona.

.

 

 

For a hyperfocal distances table of typical wide angle focal lengths on a Nikon or Fujifilm digital SLR with DX format, click here

 

Clck for enlargement
Hyperfocal distance at work. Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED IF AF-S DX on Nikon D2x
8th ANPAT. Yosemite National Park, California

.

 


"Ok. Now that I know the number, how do I set that Hyperfocal Distance on my lens?"

 

The short answer is: you don't. Modern lenses don't have room in their barrels for the set of markings required, specially super-wide angle zooms. So it is best to estimate the distance, focus there and lock it. As long as your are approximately there, you'll get great results. That is how all of the samples in these pages were accomplished.

 

Our big thanks again to Don Fleming of dofmaster.com and to The Javascript Source for their courtesy to provide you with the DOF Calculator


The Formulas

 

You may want to understand the relationship of the variables or make your own computations, so below you can find the equations.
 

Sand Dunes © jrp
Focusing at the hyperfocal distance. Nikon F5, Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED IF AF-S.
2nd Nikonians Photo Adventure Trip. Sand Dunes, Monument Valley, AZ

 

 

 

Hyperfocal Distance

 

As mentioned before, setting focus at H, the Hyperfocal Distance, gives maximum depth of field from H/2 to infinity.

 

H = (L x L) / (f x d)

Where:

 

H = Hyperfocal Distance (in millimeters)
L = Lens focal length (i.e. 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 45mm)
f = Lens aperture f-stop
d = diameter of circle of confusion (in millimeters)
   
i.e.
for DX digital format
d = 0.020
  for FX digital format d = 0.025
 
for 35mm film format
d = 0.025
 
for 6x6cm film format
d = 0.045
 
for 4x5in film format
d = 0.1

 

NEAR FOCUS LIMIT
This is the distance from where acceptable focus starts, when you focus at a given distance, whether that distance is the Hyperfocal or not.

NF = (H x D) / (H + (D - L))

 

Where:

NF = Near Focus Limit (millimeters)
H = Hyperfocal Distance (in millimeters, from above equation)
D = Distance at which the lens is focused
L = lens focal length (i.e. 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 45)

 

FAR FOCUS LIMIT
This is the distance where acceptable focus ends, when you focus at a given distance, whether that distance is the Hyperfocal or not.

FF = (H x D) / (H - (D - L))

 

Where:

FF = Far Focus Limit (millimeters)
H = Hyperfocal Distance (in millimeters, from above equation)
D = Distance at which the lens is focused
L = lens focal length (i.e. 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 45)

 

DEPTH OF FIELD
The distance between the farthest and nearest points which are in focus

 

DOF = FF - NF

Where:

 

FF = Far Focus Limit (millimeters)
NF = Near Focus Limit (millimeters)

 

Notes: 
- Circle of Confusion diameters used here are based on acceptable sharpness 
  while viewing an 8x10 inch print at arms length.
- Multiply inches by 25.4 to convert to millimeters. 
- Divide millimeters by 25.4 to convert to inches.
- True f-stop value of apertures was used in the calculator as per this table:

f/1 f/1.4 f/2 f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22 f/32
1.0000 1.4142 2.0000 2.8284 4.0000 5.6568 8.0000 11.3137 16.0000 22.6274 32.0000

 

For your camera bag or your wallet, a set of tables for wide angle focal lengths on DX format Nikon digital SLR's, here


The Apps

Or you can install a DOF Calculator in your Blackberry

Also available as DOF Calculator for iPhone, iPad, or iPod

Have a great time!

(3 Votes)
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J. Ramon Palacios J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)

San Pedro Garza García, Mexico
Admin, 34287 posts

10 comments

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on March 15, 2014

Michael, You made me smile with your question. The tables are made for a single element perfect lens, not for modern lenses; so any approximation should suffice for good results.

Michael Shake (Mike_Shake) on February 21, 2014

Opps...my bad. I see now that the MM is for the focal length only. Still wondering where to measure the distance from.

Michael Shake (Mike_Shake) on February 21, 2014

The link works but I found a mistake on the DX format for the feet. Although it says feet at the top on the chart it has "Lens Focal Length (mm)" on it. I know it's approximate but where would you measure on the camera for the distance, from the front of the lens or the mark on the camera body for where the sensor is?

Roman Slusny (nikors) on February 19, 2014

Links to printable pdf tables and images have been just fixed

Harry Chen (charry3892) on January 28, 2014

Yes, just tried and didn't work at all. The result came back to this page.

Carlo Dormeletti (onekk) on January 4, 2014

Link to printable table dont' work.

Tom Disyak (tolya63) on December 30, 2013

Great info...but I'm having trouble downloading charts. Am I overlooking something that needs to be done? Tolya

Dave Kelleher (davekelleher) on September 28, 2013

the Links to the Printable table is not functioning just bring you back to this page

Tom Egel (tegel) on September 10, 2013

Thanks for the article. The links to the pictures and PDF seem to be broken. Can you update the links? Thanks Tom

EH Human (Ridlin) on August 17, 2013

Thank you for the DoF calculater as it is very usefull for especially Nikon prime lenses

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