# What is "Hyperfocal Distance"?

I'd like a clear & easy-to-understand (especially for non-physics-types) explanation of what Hyperfocal Distance is, how it affects photographs, and what determines its value.

The hyperfocal distance is the distance at which everything from 1/2 the distance to infinity is in focus.

For instance, if the hyperfocal distance of a particular lens at a particular aperture is 100ft, then by focusing at 100 ft you can capture anything from 50ft-infinity in clear focus.

A more in depth explanation can be found at www.dofmaster.com

• I would add that it's dependent on the aperture of the lens. Commented Jul 29, 2010 at 0:31
• It's also dependent on the amount of blur you are willing to accept as "in focus". Commented Dec 31, 2010 at 19:47
• It also depends on focal length... Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 5:15
• It also depends on display size and viewing distance. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 13:17

It's arguable whether this is "clear and easy to understand", but Thom Hogan has an interesting article on Hyperfocal distance - explaining that it's not quite what people think it is, and also why it's not necessarily a desirable effect.

Here's a few quotes (emphasis mine):

"Hyperfocal focus distance" is basically the focus distance for any given camera, lens, and settings that maximizes the apparent focus distance while including infinity at the far end.
Since a lens can only focus one distance at a time, hyperfocal focus depends upon the blur circle that is created by things in front or behind the focus distance to be small enough that we still detect it as a "point."

...

hyperfocal is really only usable for wide angle lenses. By the time you get to a 50mm lens, hyperfocal at f/11 is pretty much out beyond all the focus markings on the lens. I doubt that you'll be able to focus precisely enough to use even a rough hyperfocal number with that much lens

...

Hyperfocal focus done right looks wrong. It's an artificial construct promulagated by us photo writers who ran out of things to write about and started inventing things that seem useful but really aren't.

Our brains don't do "hyperfocal." Indeed, a critical depth cue our brain uses is that detail = near, lack of detail = far.

• +1: Good article, although I think the author kind of misses the point of hyperfocal distance. One doesn't generally use a hyper focal point when shooting anything with measurable depth. Thats why it is only really usable on wide angle lenses when doing far distance shots...i.e landscapes. While I agree there is too much rhetoric about it on the net, hyperfocal distance is really just a simple marker that indicates you've got good focus out to great distance, which is useful for landscape photography. Commented Jul 30, 2010 at 17:37

The hyperfocal distance is the nearest distance on which a lens can be focused on a given aperture, where the depth of field will extend to "infinity".

To determine the hyperfocal distance, you can use WolframAlpha's formula, it requires 3 variables:

1. Circle of Confusion (CoC) in mm
2. Focal length in mm
3. Aperture (f-number)

The aforementioned DOFMaster site has a table with the different CoC values for various digital cameras.

• DOFMaster also assumes an 8x10 print viewed at 10-12 inches by a viewer with 20/20 vision. Many DoF calculators also allow one to take those into effect and appropriately modify the CoC used. Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 14:44

Found this answer on dofmaster.com, which in turn references "How to Use Your Camera, New York Institute of Photography, 2000":

... the hyperfocal distance setting ... is simply a fancy term that means the distance setting at any aperture that produces the greatest depth of field.

• +1 That's correct. It would be more revealing if that quotation were to add, "and the greatest DoF occurs when objects at infinity are just barely in focus"--which is a concept already amply covered by previous responses. Commented Dec 31, 2010 at 20:33

The hyperfocal distance is used a lot in landscape photography, where the maximum depth of field is achieved , which carries on up to the "infinity" point too - it's generally two thirds of the way between the camera and its infinite distance.

• I like the idea of two-thirds of the way to infinity ;-). Commented Dec 31, 2010 at 20:35

Hyperfocal distance is the distance you focus to in order for the depth of field to extend backward precisely to infinity, representing the maximum depth of field in terms of focal distances covered.

Understanding this requires understanding what depth of field is.

Depth of field refers to the range of distances between which anything looks in focus. A wide depth of field means that subjects within a wide range of distances from the camera will look in focus, and a narrow depth of field means only subjects within a very narrow range of distances will appear in focus.

Technically, there is always only a single focal distance, but the nature of image sharpness means there is some tolerance either side of this before which you can tell a subject is out of focus. This tolerance varies according to various properties of the lens including its aperture size.

On lenses with mechanical focus rings (often older lenses), there are often depth of field markers showing you the near and far depth of field limits for each aperture. It extends each side of your actual focal setting. If you don't have these markers you can still work out depth of field mathematically or by an educated guess.

For any given aperture, you can turn the focus knob until the far limit of your depth of field sits exactly at infinity. The hyperfocal distance is whatever distance you need to focus to in order to achieve this. It'll be different according to your aperture.

Everything between half your hyperfocal distance and infinity will then be within your depth of field.