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What is Hyperfocal Distance in Photography

What is Hyperfocal Distance

Hyperfocal distance in Photography is the distance between your camera and the closest object that appears in-focus whilst your lens is set to infinity.

Understanding Hyperfocal Distance is particularly useful for landscape photography as it will help you keep both foreground and background sharp and detailed.

Understanding Hyperfocal distance

Say you are taking a photo and everything needs to be in focus – foreground to background. You know your background is miles away and your foreground begins only 2 meters away.

You set your focus to infinity by auto-focusing on a distant object and take the photo. Reviewing the photo, you realise the background is sharp yet nothing up close is in focus.

In fact, your entire foreground is blurred beyond recognition. You try again, this time focusing on the foreground but now the background appears blurred. Humiliated and ashamed, you pack up your gear and head home.

But there is another way. Next time, ensure your Hyperfocal Distance is less than 2 meters then everything from 2 meters in will be nice and sharp.

Hyperfocal Distance
These rocks were less than a meter from the lens

How to control your Hyperfocal Distance

Your Hyperfocal Distance is determined by your lens’ focal length and aperture.

How Aperture affects Hyperfocal Distance

The larger your lens’ aperture, the more distant your Hyperfocal distance becomes. For example, if you are using a 50mm lens at an F8 aperture, your Hyperfocal Distance is around 11 meters.

By selecting a smaller aperture such as F16, depth-of-field is increased and your hyperfocal distance decreases to 5.5 meters. Learn more about Aperture.

Focal LengthApertureHyperfocal Distance
50mmF1.848 meters
50mmF431 meters
50mmF5.615.5 meters
50mmF810.85 meters
50mmF118 meters
50mmF165.5 meters
The smaller the Aperture, the closer Hyperfocal distance becomes

How Focal Length affects Hyperfocal Distance

Hyperfocal distance decreases at shorter Focal Lengths. For example, a 50mm lens set to F8 has a hyperfocal distance of 11 meters.

However, a 24mm lens set to the same F8 aperture has a hyperfocal distance of only 2.5 meters. Learn more about Focal Length

Focal LengthApertureHyperfocal Distance
18mmF81.41 meters
24mmF82.5 meters
28mmF83.4 meters
35mmF85.32 meters
50mmF810.85 meters
The shorter the Focal Length, the closer your Hyperfocal Distance
Sharp from foot to infinity. 21mm focal length, F16 aperture

3 ways to find your Hyperfocal Distance

So you are shooting with a 28mm lens and have determined your photo’s foreground begins 4 meters from your camera. Now you need to determine which Aperture will bring your Hyperfocal distance inside that 4 meter mark (spoiler – F8).

#1. Trial and Error

The easiest way is to set a small aperture such as F11, take the photo, and review it on the back screen. If it looks sharp from front-to-back, you’ve done it!

If the image is not sharp enough, try another photo at a smaller aperture, review, and repeat until you get a good result.

Sharp, front-to-back

#2. Use a chart or app

Hyperfocal Pro is a nice app. It costs nothing, is easy to use and features zero adverts. Specify your camera, focal length, and aperture and it will calculate your exact Hyperfocal distance.

For hyperfocal distance charts, click here

#3. Use the formula

The formula for calculating hyperfocal distance is, Hyper focal length (meters) = (Focal Length²) / (Aperture * Desired CoC) / 1000. For example, 2.5 meters = ( (24mm²) / (F8 * 0.0288) ) / 1000

The Circle of Confusion (CoC) determines how sharp is sharp enough. For instance, 0.0288 is based on the medium sharpness, ‘modern standard’ for cameras with full-frame sensors.

For the correct CoC for other sensor sizes – see Sensor Comparison

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