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Does focus breathing make a lens slower when close focusing?

focus breathing does change the effective F-stop. At the same time, the lens behaves, as if it was a shorter focal length.

Since both these factors affect DOF, how can one determine the overall effect on the DOF ?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I will ever understand the over-awareness about everything that could possibly somehow have an influence on depth of field. \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 18:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Some people are just interested in the technical side of photography. Nothing to wonder about too much :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 18:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Other times, a question just bugs you, so why not ask it here, where others can potentially profit from it ? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 18:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ There's nothing wrong with your question or asking it here at all. =) I was just feeling like we get a lot of questions related to this. \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 19:14

1 Answer 1


As you close focus you are racking the lens further and further from film/senor. This now elongated distance is no longer called focal length; it is the back focus distance. The focal length is a measurement taken when the lens is imaging an object at infinity (as far as the eye can see).

As you close focus and approach a magnification factor of 1 (life-size often called unity or 1:1), the back focus distance increases one complete focal length. As an example, at unity, a 50mm lens will have a back focus distance of 100mm. The subject to film/sensor distance will be 4× the focal length.

At close focusing distances the depth of field is computed based on the back focus distance. Additionally a revised f-number is plugged into the equation.

At unity the back focus is 2× the focal length, and the f-number is 2 f-stops more stopped down. These revisions must be taken into account when computing depth of field.

Given the following definitions,

P = distance to object
Pd = distant point sharply defined
Pn = near point sharply defined
D = diameter of circle of confusion
f = f-number (revised when close focusing)
F = focal length (back focus when close focusing)


Pn = P ÷ (1 + P∙D∙f/F²)

Pd = P ÷ (1 - P∙D∙f/F²)

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @iinkista – I did not intend to delete your edit. It improved my post tremendously. I was looking for a way to accept the edit and I hit the wrong keys. You efforts on my behalf much appreciated. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 1:20

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