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Guide to Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)

Keywords: fundamentals, camera, basics, guides, tips, dof, depth_of_field, hyperfocal, focus

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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 (CoC).

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 our articles on the subject of DOF.

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


The "Circle of Confusion" 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.

Hyperfocus set at infinity



Focus set at the Hyperfocal Distance (H).
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.



(13 Votes )
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Originally written on September 11, 2012

Last updated on January 21, 2021

J. Ramon Palacios J. Ramon Palacios (jrp)

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

San Pedro Garza García, Mexico
Admin, 45771 posts


Michael Hurder (MKHurder) on August 7, 2017

Again, thanks for the clarity

Carl Crosby (wile e coyote) on May 26, 2017

jrp; Confused about Hyperfocal distance for most of my photo career...the definition they made us memorize in Photo classes didn't seem to have a practical application in the real world. The fog has lifted! Thank you!

Bob Bell (bb_sailor) on March 30, 2017

Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017

excellent info - just getting into the field for some landscape and wildlife practice... this will be useful.

Roy Kaye (Roy Kaye) on November 28, 2015

Concerning the DoF table for FX, I am really not sure the figures are useable I have an FX DoF table (not sure where from) I also have an FX DoF table from Carl Zeiss as I also own a Zeiss 25mm prime lens. For 25mm at f/8, the first table shows Hyperfocal distance as 2.63 metres, and the Zeiss table shows it as 2.9 metres, which seems to agree with the above table However, I feel that I should throw a couple of things into the mix: 1) Using a HyD of 2.9m for 25mm / f/8 produced focus that certainly unacceptable 2) So I phoned Carl Zeiss and asked why their FX DoF Table for their 25mm lens just wasn't right. They said (and I've also read this elsewhere) that I should use their DoF table at two F-stops more critical (ie: use the HfD or f/4 etc). I should have asked why they didn't produce a correct FX DoF table in the first place, but it's possible I suppose that this could be their table for DX. I now use their table but use f/4 for f/8, f/2.8 for f/5.6 etc. But I also often focus on infinity and back off a little, which is also fine, and sometimes just focus on something that might be important, and also sometimes, if say there is nothing important in the first few metres but I want more of a lovely sky I'll lift and/or tilt the camera up so those first few metres are not in the frame so focus there does not matter It would be interesting to get feedback on this, as many photographers just accept these tables and wonder why their DoF isn't as good as expected

david stanley (idjsphoto) on February 20, 2015

like many I miss the hypofocal distance markings on modern auto focus lenses. i use an iphone app which gives me all the info i need based on make/model of camera, F-stop,distance, and focal lenght . It suplies area in focus,minimum to maximum and overall focus area along with hyperfocal focus point and even a custom sensor size option. my way of using the information is to use the nearest point of focus within the total hyperfocus envelope as the reference ie D300-28mm-F16-1.24m to infinity, simply anthing more than 4ft away is in focus. With distance infomation already used by the camera as part of exposure (indicting which focus points are in focus) and flash exposure distance. it would only require a simple software program to have the lens focus point zoomed to the distance relating to f-stop and the focal lenghts hyperfocal focus point. One extra menu item and the ability to programme a button gives a modern and more acurate solution ,the hyperfocal area could even be indicated using the focus points on the view finder display. unfortunatley i have my doughts that the manufactureres will see hyperfocal as anything other than a bygone from the film days,

Tom Egel (tegel) on February 15, 2015

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Winner of the Best of Nikonians 2018 Annual Photo Contest Awarded for winning in The Best of Nikonians 2019 Photo Contest

This is terrific info! I thought it would also be handy to have a way to print a pocket-size table for the different Nikon formats (FX, DX and CX), so I create a spreadsheet in Google docs: I made the default for FX. To change it you will need a writable version. If you have a Google account you can save to a local copy for editing. If not, you can download to Excel format. You will see a pull-down menu for CofC (cell A1) and camera format (cell B1) on the first sheet (I couldn't figure out how to combine these selections into one). I created sheets for English and Metric units combined and for each individually and formatted the text to print to a nice wallet size. The Notes sheet has some explanation about how the numbers were computed. I hope others find this useful. Feel free to post this on Nikonians as you see fit. I'll also post this in one of the Forums. --Tom

J. Ramon Palacios (jrp) on October 24, 2014

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

Modern lenses now don't have markings for various distances, so an approximation, or estimate is enough. It doesn't need to be precise. Another useful practice is to focus with the lower AF brackets in the viewfinder because sometimes you are shooting in the dark, like at dawn (pre/sunrise). I believe it is mentioned in the article. In the Landscape forum you may find many examples of this practice.

User on October 17, 2014

Sr. Garza, Ya encontre la respuesta a mi pregunta!

User on October 17, 2014

Dear Mr. Garza, My question is in regards to the hyperfocal distance. How do you do it in the practical on the ground practice? I just used the formula for my FX 14-24, it tells me 2 meters. Sometimes, one does not have a measuring tape to go to measure 2m. Moreover, often one is at the edge of a hill...So, a friend of mine suggested to make the measurement at f/8 for 2 meters and mark the lens body with a white pen...But then comes another problem, if we are doing, say, a long exposure, we often change the f/ do you it? Thanks in advance for your response.

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

JRP is one of the co-founders, has in-depth knowledge in various areas. Awarded for his contributions for the Resources

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 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

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Winner of the Best of Nikonians 2018 Annual Photo Contest Awarded for winning in The Best of Nikonians 2019 Photo Contest

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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