Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hyper focal it!

You know, sometimes I feel like a noob. A complete beginner. That makes me feel sad but happy at the same time. It tells me that I can still grow as a photographer. Everybody knows the saying 'You're never too old to learn'.

When you purchase a new camera or a new lens you need to do 2 things:
1. You need to get acquainted with your new purchase. In case of a new camera, learning all the new functions will be overwhelming. But it is necessary. Nothing sucks more then being in the middle of nowhere with a camera that does not do what you want it to do. I'll give you one example I've encountered since working with the 5DmkII.

When shooting in aperture priority mode I often find myself compensating the exposure time. Especially in wintertime. All that snow and ice often demand an overexposure of sometimes 2 stops. Now the 5DmkII has a 'short cut button' on top of the camera that quickly let you set this up (or so I though). Big was my surprise the other day that this thing didn't really do much. BUT when I went into the menu and compensated exposure there, the results where what I expected. Strange. So I came home and had to look it up why this was happening. Turns out that that button is the Flash exposure compensation button! And 'duh' NOW I do see that little lightning icon next to it. How stupid am I? Was I blind? Why did Canon choose to change the EV button (like my Rebel has one) into a flash EV button? I don't see the logic in that. Yes I know when you look through the viewfinder whilst turning the big dial on the back this will change your EV compensation. But if you are like me and shoot from a tripod 90% of the time it is anoying Cabon deleted this small button. I thought it was useful. I guess pro's shoot so much with flash that that button serves it's purpose. But I want to bet money on it that it does not.
My little story shows you that you need to know where everything is inside the menu structure of you r camera and you need to know exactly what everything does. Don't be too proud if you have to look something up in the manual.

2. The other thing you need to check is focus and if you're a landscape photographer, where your hyper focal point lies on your new lens distance scale. Before you do that, there are numerous websites out there that let you calculate these distances. One of them is If you wish you can even download there app but I think that is kind of beside the point. Once you know your hyper focal distances, just write them down and you're golden.
On my 24-105 L my hyper focal distance for the 24mm setting at ƒ11 is 1.73m. Everything from .86m to infinity will be in focus or will have acceptable focus. Finding that 1.73m mark on your distance scale is the tricky part though because the focus distance ring jumps from 1.5m to 3m. So somewhere 'in between' the two should suffice. I did a lot of tests during my lunch break and I found out that that 1.73m mark is right in the middle of those two. Now isn't that helpful!
With the old camera and lens combo I knew EXACTLY where that hyper focal point was. Not that I ever calculated it but I knew out of experience.

I've been planning on doing this test since I got the new camera but I thought 'I will not be that far off.' Turns out I was miles off! And that is why I was very disappointed with the sharpness of my pictures lately. Turns out full frames cameras are more sensitive to focusing errors. Lesson learned!