Hyperfocal Distance Explained + Free Calculator

By September 21, 2019 September 24th, 2019 Tools
Hyperfocal Distance Calculator
Camera Types / Sensor Size Inputs

Please select either camera type or sensor size to calculate hyperfocal distance.


Focal Length and Aperture Inputs

Please enter the inputs for aperture and focal length.


Outputs m ft
Hyperfocal Distance 0.00 m 0.00 ft
DoF Near Limit 0.00 m 0.00 ft
DoF Far Limit 0.00 m 0.00 ft
0.00 m
0.00 m
0.00 m

What is Depth of Field (DOF)?

Before we dive into the hyperfocal distance, let’s quickly review one critical concept to understanding hyperfocal distance: depth-of-field.

The depth of field is the area between the farthest and closest objects that are in focus in an image. 

In this article, we will refer to the closest area in focus as the near limit and the farthest area in focus as the far limit.

When you take a picture, all elements that are between your near and far limits (depth of field) will be in focus and acceptably sharp. Contrarily, any object outside this area will be out of focus and blurry. 

Two key settings influence the depth of field of an image: aperture and focal length. 

Aperture

The aperture determines how wide the range between your near and far limits will be.

Small apertures produce a wider area between your near and far limits. In photography, we refer to it as a deep-depth-of field.

Large apertures, on the other hand, produce a smaller gap between near and far limits. This is called a shallow depth of field.

Focal Length

Changing your focal length will shift your near and far limits. Using longer focal lengths will give you near and far limits that are farther from the frame. Utilizing shorter focal lengths, on the other hand, will make your near and far limits closer to the frame.

What is Hyperfocal Distance? 

The hyperfocal distance is the focusing distance that places your far limit at infinity. That is, placing your focus at the hyperfocal distance will bring everything beyond your point of focus into an “acceptable” sharpness. 

Note that there will be a small area of your image that will not be sharp or in focus. This area is typically in the foreground, right in front of the camera. More accurately, this distance starts at the front of the camera and ends at the hyperfocal distance divided by 2. 

We will get more into the details of the calculations in a later section.  

What Influences Hyperfocal Distance?

The three key factors that influence the hyperfocal distance are aperture, focal length, and sensor size. 

Aperture 

Your selection of aperture will determine whether you have a deep or shallow depth of field. 

Since the hyperfocal distance is located inside the depth of field, any changes to the depth of field will affect it. 

Using a narrow aperture (large f/stop) will shorten the hyperfocal distance. That is when using deep depths-of-field your hyperfocal distance will be closer to your camera.

The opposite is true for wide apertures (small f/stops). Meaning, the hyperfocal distance at shallow depths-of-field will be farther into the frame.

Small Aperture = Large Hyperfocal Distance 

Large Aperture = Small Hyperfocal Distance 

Focal Length

Your focal length will determine how far or close your frame is from your camera.

At shorter focal lengths, like with wide-angle lenses, your frame will be much closer to the camera. As a result, your hyperfocal distance will be small. 

With longer focal lengths, your frame will be much farther from the camera. As a result, your hyperfocal distance will be larger. 

Long Focal Length = Large Hyperfocal distance 

Short Focal Length = Small Hyperfocal Distance 

Sensor Size (Circle of Least Confusion)

Sensor size is the final factor that determines the hyperfocal distance. Full frame sensors produce the smallest hyperfocal distance. The more you crop a sensor, the larger the hyperfocal distance becomes. 

A full-frame sensor gives you the widest field of view and places the frame closer to the camera. As a result, your hyperfocal distance will be smaller because you will be focusing on closer objects. 

On the other hand, crop sensors have a smaller field of view, which pushes the frame farther into the scene. As a result, your hyperfocal distance will be larger and farther away from the scene. 

This is easy to imagine using the image below. As you reduce the size of your aperture, your frame is pushed deeper and deeper into the scene. With a half-inch sensor, you can only capture the car and the girl, which means your hyperfocal distance will be much farther into the scene as well. 

The main thing to remember is that a full-frame sensor will have a smaller hyperfocal distance than a crop sensor. 

Why Should You Care About Hyperfocal Distance?

Using the hyperfocal distance is a great way to expedite your shooting process. You won’t have to worry about the elements in your background being sharp or in focus because as long as you focus at the correct distance, they will be. 

This can make a big difference when you only have a matter of seconds to decide on your settings. The last thing you want to do is capture an out of focus image or miss some key details. 

How Do You Calculate the Hyperfocal Distance?

To find the hyperfocal distance, you’ll need to do a bit of math. The formula to calculate the hyperfocal distance is:

The value for the focal length and f/stop inputs will depend on your camera settings and what you are shooting. Your input for the circle of confusion will vary based on the size camera sensor.

The Circle of Confusion

The circle of confusion is the diameter of the point that results when light rays entering a lens converge perfectly on a focal plane. 

It varies depending on the camera’s sensor size. Here are the circles of confusion for some of the most common sensor sizes. 

  1. Full Frame Sensor – 0.03 mm
  2. APS-H – 0.024 
  3. APS-C – 0.019 / APS-C (Cannon) – 0.018

Now that you know each value that you need to calculate your hyperfocal distance, you can do it yourself or you can use our awesome calculator.

Depth-of-Field and the Hyperfocal Distance

Near Limit of Depth of Field

To find your near limits at the hyperfocal distance, divide your hyperfocal distance by 2. 

Near Limit = H/2

Far Limit of Depth of Field

At your hyperfocal distance, your far limit will always be at infinity. If you take a photo at your hyperfocal distance and your far limit is not at infinity, you’re likely doing something wrong. Re-focus your camera and try again. 

Depth of Field

At the hyperfocal distance, your depth of field is:

    [H/2 , Infinity)

This tells us that your image will have acceptable sharpness from half the distance to the hyperfocal distance to infinity. 

How Do You Find the Hyperfocal Distance? 

There are multiple ways you can find the hyperfocal distance. I’ve listed six here, but there are several other ways you can find the hyperfocal distance. 

In my opinion, using a calculator or chart are the easiest and fastest ways to find the hyperfocal distance. Especially since most photographers return to the same settings, which means once you’ve calculated it once you don’t need to do it again. 

  1. Use the calculator above.
  2. Use a hyperfocal distance chart. 
  3. Calculate it manually
  4. Go by a rule of thumb. 
  5. Use the focus distance display on your lens 
  6. The Double the Distance Method

1. Use a calculator

The easiest way to find your hyperfocal distance is to use the calculator listed below. You can do it in 3 easy steps. 

The first step is to determine your camera’s sensor size and choose it from the drop-down menu. If you don’t know your sensor size, select your camera from the drop-down menu. 

2. Use a Table /Chart

You can also use a table to find your hyperfocal distance. A print out of all the hyperfocal distances for a camera at every focal length and aperture size is typically available online. 

3. Calculate it Manually

The other way you can determine your hyperfocal distance is to pull out your calculator and solve the formula yourself. 

When solving the formula, you will need to know your sensor size and the circle of confusion associated with it. If your circle of confusion is not listed above, you should be able to get it with a simple google search.

Remember to make sure all your units are the same. Also, consider converting your units into units you are familiar with. This is typically meters or feet for most people. 

4. Use the Focus Display on Your lens 

If you have a lens with a focus scale and focus display, then you can find the hyperfocal distance manually. The focus display is typically located on the side of a lens and will tell you the depth of field for difference aperture values. 

Today, focus displays are not very common, especially  with zoom lenses. If your lens does have a focus display, your one of the lucky few who can find the hyperfocal distance with only your lens. 

To find the hyperfocal distance using your lens you’ll need to first set your aperture. 

Next, rotate the focus ring on the lens so that your f/stop value on the right is lined up with infinity. On the lens ring, there will be two values for each f/stop setting, one on the left and another on the right. These numbers represent the near and far limits of the depth of field. 

The second value of your aperture setting (right side) will now be at the distance of your near limit. In most cases, this number will be in meters. 

In between these two lines, you will typically find a line or arrow on the lens ring, which indicates your hyperfocal distance.

Once you have set your aperture and focus to infinity, use the distance that the arrow is pointing at as your hyperfocal distance.

You can also double the value of the near limit to find your hyperfocal distance. I recommend doing both as a sanity check, to ensure that you are using the correct number. 

The design and appearance of the focus display can vary for each lens brand. If you are having trouble, you can use your lenses manual or perform a simple google search. Most camera manufacturers have a digital copy of their manuals online or an article on how to use their lens focus display.  

5. The Rule of One Third

The rule of one third is a common rule of thumb that people like to use to determine hyperfocal distance. According to this rule, your hyperfocal distance is located at one-third of your frame. 

Keep in mind, this rule very rarely works well, if at all. For scenes that continue into the horizon, it is hard to decide where you could split the scene into a third. 

This tool can produce reasonable results if your scene is finite. But this is a bit useless because in most cases you can use simple depth-of-field and aperture settings to capture a finite scene in full focus. 

Given that this rule only works for finite scenes, it does not work when the hyperfocal distance is most useful. That is, with infinite scenes. 

6. Double The Distance Method

Another common method is double the distance method. To apply this method, first find the closest object that you want to in focus.  Then, set your focus to double the distance from the closest object.

This is an easy trick to use if you are in a rush or if you don’t want to bother with calculators or charts. 

When to Use Hyperfocal Distance?

Understanding when not to use hyperfocal distance is just as important as when to use it. 

Use hyperfocal distance when you want to capture most of your scene in focus. In particular, when you want to maintain a consistent level of sharpness. 

Remember, hyperfocal distance only enables you to keep your foreground and background “acceptably” sharp. It does not allow you to make one sharper than the other. 

Avoid using hyperfocal distance if you want to emphasize a subject in the foreground or make your foreground sharper than the background. 

Hyperfocal distance sacrifices foreground sharpness for background sharpness which makes foreground emphasis impossible. 

It’s also best to avoid hyperfocal distance if there are elements in the background that you don’t want in focus. It’s better to use your depth of field deliberately to draw your viewer’s attention towards the focal points of your image. 

A common misconception is that hyperfocal distance will allow you to focus on multiple objects. This is not the case, the hyperfocal distance will simply capture your foreground and background acceptably sharp but there will not be multiple focus points.

To capture mulitple focus points, you will need to use focus stacking and blend your images in photoshop. With focus stacking, you can capture multiple subjects at a high level of sharpness and then combine them into one single photo with multiple focus points.

Does Hyperfocal Distance Work? 

While many swear by the method of hyperfocal distance, there are skeptics out there that don’t believe or feel that the hyperfocal distance works.

Often, the difference in opinions between these two groups comes down to the phrasing “acceptably sharp”. 

What is acceptably sharp is a subjective measure. That is, the level of sharpness that photographers feel is acceptable differs from one photographer to the next. 

Because there is not an exact measurement for what is “acceptably sharp”, the expectations when using the hyperfocal distance varies. 

Most of the time, those that expect an extremely high level of sharpness are usually disappointed by the results. However, for those who are open to sacrificing some level of sharpness to place a much larger area of their image in focus, using hyperfocal distance is likely to render great results.

Disadvantages of Hyperfocal Distance

It is important to note that there are some key disadvantages when using hyperfocal distance. I mentioned them as I went through this article, but I’ll reiterate them here.

One of the main disadvantages is that using the hyperfocal distance causes you to forgo sharpness in your foreground to increase the sharpness in your background.

As a result, your foreground and background will not be as sharp compared to if you just used a deep depth of field. By maximizing your depth of field, you forgo the quality of sharpness for quantity. 

Another disadvantage of using the hyperfocal distance is that it is much harder to emphasize your focal point. Without being able to adjust the level of sharpness of your focal point, it may get lost in the scene.

About The Author

My name is Vinci. For the past 5 years, I’ve voyaged across the world seeking the next great photograph. I invite you to join me as I explore our beautiful planet and share its stories through the lens of photography.

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