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Art Deco Cameras

Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance Calculator for Film Cameras


Depth-of-field is how much of a photograph is in acceptable sharp focus from in front of the focus point to behind it. The depth of field increases with f-number which means that photographs taken with a low f-number (large aperture) will tend to have subjects at one distance in focus, with the rest of the image (nearer and farther elements) out of focus. This is frequently used for nature photography and portraiture because background blur can be aesthetically pleasing and puts the viewer's focus on the main subject in the foreground. Higher f-numbers (small aperture) are used more in landscape photography.

Hyperfocal distance is the distance at which you should focus to produce the greatest depth of field. If you focus at infinity, the in-focus field will stretch from the hyperfocal distance to infinity. When you focus at the hyperfocal distance the in-focus field will stretch from half the hyperfocal distance to infinity. This is useful for landscape photography to get as much foreground in focus as possible and still keep elements at infinity in focus.

The Calculator

This calculator is designed specifically for roll films that were used in Art Deco and vintage cameras. The most common formats are included.

Assumptions for the calculations of DOF are subjective. The calculator above assumes that the resulting photograph will be viewed as an image with a diagonal measurement of about 30cm (12 inches) viewed from a distance of 25cm (10 inches). Viewing a 10" x 8" (25cm x 20cm) photograph at this distance would fulfil these requirements. This is the standard method of calculation.

Camera Set-Up
Film No.(exposures)
Lens focal length
Selected aperture
Hyperfocal distance28.81 ft
Focussing distance
Near limit
Far limit
Depth of field

Hyperfocal Example

When your camera is focussed at the Hyperfocal distance, the nearest point in focus is at half that distance and the furthest point in focus is at infinity. This is the maximum depth of field you can get.

For example: Using a Rolleicord and 120 (8 exposure) film, with a 75mm focal length lens with aperture set to f/8, the hyperfocal distance is 32.28ft. This means if you focus on a point at 32.28ft then everything will be in focus between 16.14ft and infinity.

If you change the aperture to f/11 then the hyperfocal distance is 22.93ft. This means if you focus on a point at 22.93ft then everything will be in focus between 11.47ft and infinity. The depth of focus has increased.

Zone focussing

Zone Focussing is a method of focussing a camera such that all subjects in a particular zone (from the near limit to the far limit) will be in focus. The focus of the camera is not then changed and only subjects within this zone are considered suitable for making an image. This is particularly useful in street photography where the time taken to focus the camera could mean that the action would be missed.

For example: A photographer is using a Kodak Retina 35mm camera. The focal length is 50mm and she sets the aperture to f/11. If she focusses the camera at a distance of 3m then according to the calculator above, the near limit is 2.16m and the far limit is 4.89m. Anything in this zone will be acceptably sharp. The photographer must simply make sure that the subject is between these limits.

Circle of Confusion

A lens can precisely focus objects at only one distance. Objects at other distances are defocused. Defocused object points are imaged as blur spots rather than points. The size of these blur spots is called the circle of confusion (CoC). The common criterion for 'acceptable sharpness' in the final image is that the blur spot be indistinguishable from a point. For most people, the closest comfortable viewing distance for a photograph is approximately 25 cm. At this distance, a person with good vision can usually distinguish an image resolution of 5 line pairs per millimeter (0.2mm). If the blur spot in the final photograph is greater than 0.2mm then the image points are perceived as 'out of focus'. This is the criterion used to determine depth of field.

The maximum size of the blur spot on the film surface needs to be much smaller than 0.2mm for good focus because it is going to be enlarged to the final photograph size. The smaller the image on the film, the smaller the circle of confusion has to be. For instance, the circle of confusion on a 35mm film must be less than 0.029mm to be considered as 'in focus'.

Changes in photograph size or viewing distance will change the perceived depth of field. If the viewing distance is increased then the perceived depth of field is increased. If the photograph is smaller than 10" x 8" then the perceived depth of field is increased. For whole-image viewing, if a final image larger than 8" x 10" is viewed at a correspondingly greater distance, the perceived depth of field is the same.

Cropping the image before enlarging will reduce the perceived depth of field.