During the initial days of photography, calculating the Hyperfocal distance was not considered that important since the camera sensor size was small and the lens used most was the wide angle ones.
So, as a photographer in the early days, you get more DoF. At that time, people were trying to get a Shallow Depth of field in their images, where the subject stands out from the rest of the elements in the scene.
Even if you want to use the HF distance, then the old lens comes with this marking on it. SO, you don’t have to do any calculations.
Before going into “Hyperfocal Distance,” I recommend reading, Understanding Depth of Field since we will be dealing with DoF here.
What is Hyperfocal Distance?
Hyperfocal Distance is the minimum focusing distance where you must focus to get acceptable sharpness in the image from that point to infinity, along with half the Hyperfocal distance before the focus point.
Do you find it confusing? I think it is better to explain the Hyperfocal Distance with an Illustration.
In the above Illustration, the Hyperfocal Distance for this particular scene is up to the tall tree near the crouching tiger from the photographer’s position. So, he should place the focus point on the tree and choose a smaller aperture value between f13 and f16 to get more Depth of Field in the field in the picture.
So, the photographer would get an acceptable focus region between the red dotted lines to infinity. Thus, he would get a good focus area from the running Deer to the tall coconut trees behind the Elephant. Therefore, he can manage to get more Depth of Field in his landscape shot.
How to find Hyperfocal Distance?
There are multiple ways by which you can find the Hyperfocal distance. We will go through all these methods. You can choose one among them.
1. By Calculation
Hyperfocal Distance can be derived from the mathematical equation since it is related to the Camera optics. It is as given below:
You can make use of this formula to find the point of focus to get more Depth of field.
2. Smartphone Application
There are many free smartphone apps which shows up the Hyperfocal Distance when you enter the Camera model, focal length and the Aperture value. The app will give you the HF distance.
Once you get this distance, then you can compose your frame in such a way that a closer object in the foreground can be used for the focus point.
HyperFocal is one such Android app which is available for free. You can enter the Camera model, focal length to be used, Aperture value and distance of the subject in interest and the app will throw you the Hyperfocal distance value.
It will show the distances graphically for a better understanding. You can see Depth of Field, Field of View and Angle of View in a graphical representation. I found this app to be pretty useful.
3. Online Hyperfocal Distance Tables
You can make use of any online Hyperfocal Distance tables. Download these tables and keep it in your phone so that you can check it on the field.
You will get the HF distance for all types of cameras. So, don’t download everything on your phone. Download the table which corresponds to your camera model. If you are using a Full-frame camera then save the table for a full-frame camera.
Factors Affecting Hyperfocal Distance
1. Focal Length
Focal length plays a vital role in Depth of field. Smaller focal length results in closer Hyperfocal distance. Higher focal lengths are good for getting shallow depth of field.
2. Angle of View
As the Angle of View increases the Hyperfocal distance becomes closer. So, wide angle lenses will have closer hyperfocal distance than the telephoto ones.
So, try to get the lowest possible focal length to get more area in focus in your photo.
3. Sensor Size
The size of the sensor is also critical when it comes to the Depth of field. Smaller the camera sensor size closer will be the Hyperfocal distance and hence more Depth of field.
The above statement is applicable if the lenses are of same equivalent focal length. Let us explain it with an example. The HF distance of Canon 7D Mark II camera (1.6x Crop factor) using a 10mm wide angle lens will be more when compared to that of a Canon 1DX Mark ii full frame camera using a 16mm lens. The crop factor of the camera body needs to be considered for the equivalent focal length calculation.
But, if we use the same camera lens at same focal length on Canon 7D Mark ii and Canon 1Dx Mark ii, then Canon 1Dx Mark ii will have closer HF distance. So, crop factor matters.
4. Circle of Confusion
Circle of Confusion is how big an out of focus point of light is considered as a sharp point of light. So, larger the Circle of Confusion, the closer will be the HF distance.
Why use Hyperfocal Distance in Photography?
When you are doing Landscape photography you want to get all the areas to be sharp, which demands a larger depth of field.
Now, you would be thinking that you can go for the smallest possible Aperture in your camera lens. But, this comes with two big problems.
Firstly, the diffraction phenomenon starts to kick in when you go to narrow Aperture values. So, you will end up losing the sharpness of your image.
Secondly, narrow Aperture demands a slower shutter speed, particularly if the ambient light is low. So, if there are any wind factor or any moving objects in the scene, then you may not be able to freeze that motion in the image.
So, better to go with the Hyperfocal Distance to get an acceptably sharp image.
Knowing the Hyperfocal distance will help you to achieve more depth of field in your photo. It applies to all types of photography where you are looking for more Depth of field in your image.
If your interest is in Landscape photography, then start using this technique from now onwards and be a better photographer.