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Started Aug 22, 2010 | Discussions Forum

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Peeping Thomas • Regular Member • Posts: 102

How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is it used for?

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Aug 22, 2010

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I just bought my first DSLR last week, and have been reading some articles and a few times now I've seen some people mention how with some lens adapters you lose the ability to do "infinity focus" or "focus on infinity" or "focus to infinity".

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I have also seen some lenses on the internet that show the sideways-8 infinity symbol on their focusing wheel of the lens.

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The kit lens that came with my Pentax K-X doesn't have the sideways-8 printed on the ring next to the focusing ring, so, I don't know exactly where the infinity focus point is.

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To focus to infinity, do you just turn your focus wheel clockwise as far as it can go, and then that's infinity focus? Or is it almost but not quite all the qay counterclockwise to the max, but just half a centimeter earlier? Cuz when I look through the viewfinder at the bookshelf on the other side of my living room, if I turn the focus wheel all the way clockwise as far as it can go, it isn't quite in focus, but, if I pull it back a tiny bit counter-clockwise then its perfectly in focus.

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Also, what photographic situation is infinity focus normally used for? Is it normally for landscape photography if you want everything in the entire frame to all be in focus, like, all the stuff both close to you as well as far away from you to all be in focus you just focus to infinity and then everything in the whole frame will be in focus? Or, does it not work like that?

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Also, I know that the wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field gets, but, what if you focus to infinity? Does this make you be able to put everything in the frame, both far or close to the camera, all be in focus, i.e. an infinite depth of field, due to focusing to infinity? Or, does the wide aperture shallow depth of field effect somehow neutralize the infinity focus and make it where you can't get both the house 50 feet in front of you as well as the mountains a few miles behind it to both be in focus, even if you focus to "infinity", since you used a wide aperture, and thus it just won't allow a huge depth of field like this, no matter what you do?

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Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i

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OP Peeping Thomas • Regular Member • Posts: 102

Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i In reply to AlphaDSLR • Aug 23, 2010

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Ok, so I read the article you linked I think I somewhat understand now, but, I am still a little confused on how infinity focus works in relation to the aperture size. In the article, it says you should generally try to use the highest f-stop number (smallest aperture) possible when doing infinity focus shots. But, it doesn't explain WHY. Why is this?

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I mean, I understand that when you use a wide aperture, like, let's say f1.4 for example, this enables you to get a very shallow depth of field. However, does this still apply to when you focus to infinity? Let's say you have your lens on f1.4 and then you focus to infinity. Won't the depth of field now be infinite, with everything in the entire frame, both close stuff and far stuff ALL being in focus, now that you are focused to infinity? Isn't that what focusing to infinity means? So, if that were the case, then, why would it matter whether you did the infinity focus on a wide aperture or on a small aperture setting? Wouldn't it come out the same either way, when doing infinity focus? Isn't it only when doing NON-infinity focusing that there is a depth of field difference between wide apertures and narrow apertures, whereas, when focusing to infinity, it would look identical either way (I mean, other than how bright the image would be i guess, since a wider aperture would let in more light) ? Reply

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John • Regular Member • Posts: 487

online depth of field guide In reply to Peeping Thomas • Aug 23, 2010 Do a google search. Don't have the link right now. it will show you depth of field for different lenses at different f-stops, show you where front focus and back focus are, and hyper focal distances.

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"Focus to infinity" and Depth of field and f/no

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Peeping Thomas wrote:

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I think I somewhat understand now, but, I am still a little confused on how infinity focus works in relation to the aperture size.

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There is no relation. Focus to infinity means you turn the focus ring of the lens until very, very far subjects are sharp.

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In the old days, when things were simpler, the lens would have a focus scale and a focus ring and the infinity mark was easily also optically infinity sharp. Nowadays for cheaper Auto Focus lenses, to save money and for other reasons, they don't have a focus scale - so you could turn the focus ring a bit past the infinity infinity mark. In a related topic, some of us buy old alien lenses and fit them onto our camera bodies. In this case, since the lens was not made the for camera and there are different adapter thickness and body thickness, even if the lens has a focus scale, the scale is wrongly calibrated for our new camera. Some really old Minolta MC/MD manual focus lenses when we fit them onto Minolta/Sony Alpha DSLR bodies, no amount of turning the focus ring will make the distant image sharp. In this case, we say "the old lens can focus for macros and up to 6 ft but can't focus to infinity". BEGINNER'S GUIDES

In the article, it says you should generally try to use the highest f-stop number (smallest aperture) possible when doing infinity focus shots. But, it doesn't explain WHY. That is an unrelated topic. This is about landscape photography. Landscape scenes vary. Some of them have a lot of ground - grass texture, earth texture. Some of this grass texture, earth texture, shrubs and trees may be at 6 ft. If you look up your DOF calculator or graph for a 50mm lens f/1.4, focussed at infinity, you may be concerned that some of the near grass, earth and shrubs don't look sharp. I mean, I understand that when you use a wide aperture, like, let's say f1.4 for example, this enables you to get a very shallow depth of field. However, does this still apply to when you focus to infinity?

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Deleted1929 • Forum Pro • Posts: 13,050

Re: "Focus to infinity" and Depth of field and f/no In reply to AnandaSim • Aug 23, 2010 In the old days, when things were simpler, the lens would have a focus scale and a focus ring and the infinity mark was easily also optically infinity sharp. That last bit ( optically infinity sharp ) doesn't make any sense. There is no way to get infinitely sharp ( and I'd presume you'd know this ) so what were you trying to say ?

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bellwoods • New Member • Posts: 3

Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i In reply to Peeping Thomas • Mar 21, 2011 OK, so I have a related infinity focus question that arose when I was trying my own shot at a supermoon pic.

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I was using a canon 7D with a canon 200mm prime and a canon 2x converter on a tripod using a 10 second timer. I also found that my pics weren't as sharp as I'd like. But my immediate question is: how come my focus point was less than infinity? I figure the moon is as far away as any object I'd expect to shoot! To be clear, using the gear above, I set the lens to manual focus, and was mostly trying out fstops ranging from f9 tp f11 while varying the shutter speed to vary the light. But pictures set to focus on infinity were totally out of focus. Instead, I had to fiddle and adjust focus at less than infinity. How is this possible? Is the 2x converter messing things up? Doesn't make sense to me. Any wise thoughts? Here is my sharpest but still a bit fuzzy supermoon at 100% crop (using effectively 640x).

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In reply to Peeping Thomas • Mar 21, 2011

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“Infinity focus” is a theoretical focus point because nothing is infinitely far away. However, an object doesn’t have to be very far before it starts behaving, optically, as if it’s infinitely far away, so the infinity focus point is important for any photography of objects at a distance. Infinity focus is the condition when the light from the same point is following a parallel course, and that light can be focused to a point.

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View: gallery page The first drawing is how things work normally. In the second drawing the light is also coming from a single point…but because the point is infinitely far away the light rays are parallel. When you can focus those rays, you’re at Infinity focus. Infinity focus dictates a certain distance from the lens to the focal plane (the sensor.) If you add an attachment to the camera that doesn’t allow you to achieve that distance then you can no longer focus at infinity. . Reply

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dsjtecserv • Veteran Member • Posts: 3,394

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Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i In reply to bellwoods • Mar 21, 2011 bellwoods wrote: OK, so I have a related infinity focus question that arose when I was trying my own shot at a supermoon pic. I was using a canon 7D with a canon 200mm prime and a canon 2x converter on a tripod using a 10 second timer. I also found that my pics weren't as sharp as I'd like. But my immediate question is: how come my focus point was less than infinity? I figure the moon is as far away as any object I'd expect to shoot! To be clear, using the gear above, I set the lens to manual focus, and was mostly trying out fstops ranging from f9 tp f11 while varying the shutter speed to vary the light. But pictures set to focus on infinity were totally out of focus. Instead, I had to fiddle and adjust focus at less than infinity. How is this possible? Is the 2x converter messing things up? Doesn't make sense to me. Any wise thoughts? How did you "set the focus on infinity"? If you were just turning the focusing ring until it lined up with an infinity mark, or cranking the ring until it stopped, you weren't accurately focusing on infinity. Even a tiny difference in setting will affect the actual plane of focus, so you can't rely on marks on the lens. Worse yet, many lenses are designed to focus beyond infinity (there's a concept!) in order to be able to compensate for temperature differences in the optics, so the "until it stops" setting will almost never work. The best way to focus on the moon is to use live view, with the LCD image magnified 5x or 10x (if you camera provides that, which the 7D does), and focus manually until you find the optimum point. You then don't need to worry about whether it is "infinity" or not; it is in focus! Dave -- http://www.pbase.com/dsjtecserv dsjtecserv's gear list:

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stucs201 • Regular Member • Posts: 368

Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i In reply to dsjtecserv • Mar 21, 2011 dsjtecserv wrote: The best way to focus on the moon is to use live view, with the LCD image magnified 5x or 10x (if you camera provides that, which the 7D does), and focus manually until you find the optimum point. You then don't need to worry about whether it is "infinity" or not; it is in focus! I've seen a few mentions of manual focus for moon shots? Is auto not supposed to work? Seemed fine when I used it. Reply

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dsjtecserv • Veteran Member • Posts: 3,394

Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i In reply to stucs201 • Mar 21, 2011 stucs201 wrote: dsjtecserv wrote: The best way to focus on the moon is to use live view, with the LCD image magnified 5x or 10x (if you camera provides that, which the 7D does), and focus manually until you find the optimum point. You then don't need to worry about whether it is "infinity" or not; it is in focus! I've seen a few mentions of manual focus for moon shots? Is auto not supposed to work? Seemed fine when I used it. Autofocus can certainly work, especially if you can use spot-type focus points. But since the moon is the single object you want to focus on, and it doesn't move (very fast) it is usually more reliable to use magnified live view, where you are working with the sensor image itself, and your own eyes to tell you what is in focus. Dave -- hide signature -http://www.pbase.com/dsjtecserv dsjtecserv's gear list:

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AnandaSim • Forum Pro • Posts: 13,422

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Context In reply to Peeping Thomas • Mar 21, 2011 Peeping Thomas wrote: I just bought my first DSLR last week, and have been reading some articles and a few times now I've seen some people mention how with some lens adapters you lose the ability to do "infinity focus" or "focus on infinity" or "focus to infinity". It's confusing for the newbie when the internet is full of articles that assume some level of background knowledge or context. And newbies then try to read between the lines and add their own context and the whole thing becomes a misunderstood mess. Lens adapters not being able to focus to infinity is a specific case and should not be used to generalise rules about photography. This specific case arises when a particular brand, let us call it Minolta MD manual focus mount was deprecated by Minolta in favour their auto focus new bodies and lenses (let us call this the Sony Alpha E mount). In so doing, they had to tell owners of previous equipment "sorry, your lenses won't focus on our new bodies anymore because we had to make our bodies thicker with a longer lens flange distance". Third party adapters were made and lo and behold, the lens could fit and be used for near distance but if the subject was far, no matter how much you rotated the focus ring, the image would not reach focus - hence the phrase - "you can't focus to infinity" I have also seen some lenses on the internet that show the sideways-8 infinity symbol on their focusing wheel of the lens. Yes, those are manual focus lenses or premium priced lenses of some size. The kit lens that came with my Pentax K-X doesn't have the sideways-8 printed on the ring next to the focusing ring, so, I don't know exactly where the infinity focus point is. Yes. Kit lenses for modern cameras are a severe cost saving. The focus ring on Canon, Nikon and I think Pentax is so thin and the lens is so small, there is no place to print any marks. The lenses may not even focus at infinity if you turn the focus ring full - that may be lens design. These kit lenses are really meant for the auto focus system of the camera, not manual focus specifically although everyone does try at some time. To focus to infinity, do you just turn your focus wheel clockwise as far as it can go, and then that's infinity focus? Some brands, clockwise, some brands anti. Yes, that was the old way and because we never heard of the word "bokeh" whether it was correct at that position or not did not become an issue - we used zone focussing - where we used something like f/8 or f/16 (hence the phrase "sunny f/16") and as such, the depth of field was quite large at that distance so we didn't care. Or is it almost but not quite all the qay counterclockwise to the max, but just half a centimeter earlier? Cuz when I look through the viewfinder at the bookshelf on the other side of my living room, if I turn the focus wheel all the way clockwise as far as it can go, it isn't quite in focus, but, if I pull it back a tiny bit counter-clockwise then its perfectly in focus. That can and does happen to modern AF lenses when you manual focus. Could be easier to manufacture (less expensive), could be allowance for thermal expansion.... Also, what photographic situation is infinity focus normally used for? Is it normally for landscape photography if you want everything in the entire frame to all be in focus, like, all the stuff both close to you as well as far away from you to all be in focus you just focus to infinity and then everything in the whole frame will be in focus? Or, does it not work like that? When you focus at infinity, the stuff far away should be in focus. Near stuff is not necessarily in focus, for example stuff at 3 ft with a kit lens. That depends on the f/no you use, the focal length you use, the circle of confusion that you assume and the resulting depth of field. Also, I know that the wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field gets, but, what if you focus to infinity? You check it out numerically with a depth of field calculator or chart or iphone/Android/Nokia app. Does this make you be able to put everything in the frame, both far or close to the camera, all be in focus, i.e. an infinite depth of field, due to focusing to infinity? Or, does the wide aperture shallow depth of field effect somehow neutralize the infinity focus and make it where you can't get both the house 50 feet in front of you as well as the mountains a few miles behind it to both be in focus, even if you focus to "infinity", since you used a wide aperture, and thus it just won't allow a huge depth of field like this, no matter what you do? ? Depth of field increases with increasing distance. Depth of field decreases with smaller f/no. Depth of field decreases with increasing focal length. All of them work together following the calculations from theory of DOF. Look at some calculated charts. google "dofmaster" -- hide signature --

View: original size Ananda http://anandasim.blogspot.com https://sites.google.com/site/asphotokb 'Enjoy Diversity - Live a Little' AnandaSim's gear list:

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AnandaSim • Forum Pro • Posts: 13,422

Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i In reply to stucs201 • Mar 21, 2011 stucs201 wrote: dsjtecserv wrote: The best way to focus on the moon is to use live view, with the LCD image magnified 5x or 10x (if you camera provides that, which the 7D does), and focus manually until you find the optimum point. You then don't need to worry about whether it is "infinity" or not; it is in focus! I've seen a few mentions of manual focus for moon shots? Is auto not supposed to work? Seemed fine when I used it. If it works for you, use it. Usually the moon is very small (unless it is a supermoon), the general magnification is very small and the moon's surface is so far that it is blurry, making AF confused. -- hide signature --

View: original size Ananda http://anandasim.blogspot.com https://sites.google.com/site/asphotokb 'Enjoy Diversity - Live a Little' AnandaSim's gear list:

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AnandaSim • Forum Pro • Posts: 13,422

Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i In reply to dsjtecserv • Mar 21, 2011 dsjtecserv wrote: bellwoods wrote: OK, so I have a related infinity focus question that arose when I was trying my own shot at a supermoon pic. How did you "set the focus on infinity"? If you were just turning the focusing ring until it lined up with an infinity mark, or cranking the ring until it stopped, you weren't accurately focusing on infinity. Even a tiny difference in setting will affect the actual plane of focus, so you can't rely on marks on the lens. Worse yet, many lenses are designed to focus beyond infinity (there's a concept!) in order to be able to compensate for temperature differences in the optics, so the "until it stops" setting will almost never work. The above is correct. The best way to focus on the moon is to use live view, with the LCD image magnified 5x or 10x (if you camera provides that, which the 7D does), and focus manually until you find the optimum point. You then don't need to worry about whether it is "infinity" or not; it is in focus! A funny anecdote is that I am too lazy to do moonshots. Since the moon at night is really like taking a photo of a distant tree in bright sun, you can use close to the "sunny f/16" rule and hand hold. This is what I did and using LV, magnified at 10x, hand held, the thing was waving all over the place that I got nausea. Sure, I could have brought my tripod out but it was just a casual moment and I had missed the best time of night. -- hide signature --

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dsjtecserv • Veteran Member • Posts: 3,394

Re: Context In reply to AnandaSim • Mar 21, 2011 Keep in mind that the original post was more than 6 months ago, and Thomas may not be peeping here any more. Bellwood raised a follow-up question today (but hasn't responded to the responses yet). Dave -- http://www.pbase.com/dsjtecserv dsjtecserv's gear list:

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palincss • Contributing Member • Posts: 752

Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i In reply to Peeping Thomas • Mar 21, 2011 Peeping Thomas wrote: To focus to infinity, do you just turn your focus wheel clockwise as far as it can go, and then that's infinity focus? Or is it almost but not quite all the qay counterclockwise to the max, but just half a centimeter earlier? Cuz when I look through the viewfinder at the bookshelf on the other side of my living room, if I turn the focus wheel all the way clockwise as far as it can go, it isn't quite in focus, but, if I pull it back a tiny bit counter-clockwise then its perfectly in focus. I'm pretty sure your living room isn't big enough that the distance from one wall to the other is anywhere near infinity... Reply

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palincss • Contributing Member • Posts: 752

Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i In reply to Peeping Thomas • Mar 21, 2011 Peeping Thomas wrote: Let's say you have your lens on f1.4 and then you focus to infinity. Won't the depth of field now be infinite, with everything in the entire frame, both close stuff and far stuff ALL being in focus, now that you are focused to infinity? Isn't that what focusing to infinity means? No, not at all. It means you've focused on the far away objects. What's really close won't be in focus because the depth of field isn't great enough, even if you stop down to f/16 or f/22 to make the depth of field as great as possible. So, if that were the case, then, why would it matter whether you did the infinity focus on a wide aperture or on a small aperture setting? Wouldn't it come out the same either way, when doing infinity focus? Isn't it only when doing NON-infinity focusing that there is a depth of field difference between wide apertures and narrow apertures, whereas, when focusing to infinity, it would look identical either way (I mean, other than how bright the image would be i guess, since a wider aperture would let in more light) Why don't you do some experiments and see for yourself? Reply

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AnandaSim • Forum Pro • Posts: 13,422

Thanks Dave... In reply to dsjtecserv • Mar 21, 2011 Thanks Dave, I didn't see the date. -- hide signature --

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dsjtecserv • Veteran Member • Posts: 3,394

Re: Thanks Dave... In reply to AnandaSim • Mar 22, 2011 AnandaSim wrote: Thanks Dave, I didn't see the date. yeah, I felt bad the you gave such a thoughtful and complete answer to someone who is probably no longer paying attention! Dave -- http://www.pbase.com/dsjtecserv dsjtecserv's gear list:

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bellwoods • New Member • Posts: 3

Re: How do you "focus to infinity" and what does it do/what situations is i In reply to dsjtecserv • Mar 23, 2011 Thanks so much for the replies. I admit that I've never used live view like that and will definitely try. Based on the responses, I'm pretty sure that I was focusing "beyond infinity" since all of the focusing was manual and in the dark. I looked at the lens after reading the reply and, yes, it can turn past the infinity mark. Reply

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