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Depth of Field
Depth of Field Concept
We have all seen pictures in which everything from foreground to
background is in sharp focus. In other pictures only the main subject
appears sharp, while its surroundings are a soft, out-of-focus wash
of color and shape. This effect is to due a concept known as “depth
The image on the left was
shot at f/5.6 @ 1/125 sec., while the one on the right was shot at f/11 @ 1/30 sec.
Circle of Confusion
Although exact focus occurs only at the precise focusing
distance, the apparent range of focus can vary considerably.
Without going into the physics involved, this is due to an optical
phenomena called “circle of least confusion.” When an object is
at the exact distance the lens is focused, every point on the object
will focus to a point on the film plane. When an object moves
out of focus, these points begin to grow and become circles
on the film plane. The farther out-of-focus an object is, the larger
these circles become (see the top row, below).
CIRCLE OF CONFUSION. The human eye
cannot totally resolve focus detail,
so images still appear to still be in focus over a range of distances.
However, up to a certain point, these "circles of confusion"
cannot be resolved by the human eye. Our eyes are not capable of
discerning them, so the image appears to still be in focus over
a larger range of distances and thus has “depth of field” (see the
bottom row, above). This apparent area of focus is something the
photographer can manipulate by several factors.
You can vary the depth of field from any shooting position simply
by your choice of lenses. Long lenses, such as 200mm or more, tend to produce
pictures with a shallow depth of field, while short lenses can produce
an extensive depth of field.
The closer you get to the subject, the less depth of field in your
pictures. Distant city skylines can have an extensive depth of field.
Extreme close-ups, on the other hand, can have an acceptably sharp
focus measurable only in the tiniest fractions of inches.
The Effect of Focus
When focusing on a distant subject, focus on a point about a third
of the way into the picture to maximize depth of field. This will
approximate what is known as the hyperfocal distance,
and it works to maximize depth of field for all apertures and focal lengths,
although the smaller the aperture and the shorter the focal length - and the greater
the distance you shoot at - the greater the depth of field.
The Effect of Aperture
Large apertures (small f-stop numbers) produce a limited depth of
field, while small apertures (large f-stop numbers) increase the
zone of acceptably sharp focus. The ability to control depth of
field is one of the factors that will separate the snapshot shooter
from the more advanced photographer. In the two similar photos at
the top of the page, the only difference in the shots was the choice
of aperture and shutter speed.
It is by no means complete, but the items I am working on so
far are listed below (note: the line items in blue are live page links;
those items in black are still under construction):
If you would like a specific repair or instructional item to be considered
on this site, simply go to my Mamiya 35mm
Forum! and make your suggestion known. However, please don't hold
your breath waiting, because it is likely to be a while before I can get around
to documenting all the things that might need fixing, and I would hate to be
responsible for even small portions of the population turning purple! No liability
for damage is either expressed or implied in the use of these notations.
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