Shooting with the XF Hyperfocal Calibration tool

Focusing in a digital era

The film days were easy.  When it came to landscape there was certainly a nuance and significant process’, but stopping down to f/22, focusing at infinity and waiting for the light were the basics that could get you started.  Or at least a start with something in focus.

With digital, things get more complicated as focus is that much more precious and, as the resolution race continues, it becomes harder to achieve perfection.  The heartbreaking thing about high-resolution photography is when focus is missed, even ever so slightly, it’s significant.  Sharp is sharp, not something open to interpretation, and once you start nailing focus sharpness becomes the drug that your horribly addicted to.

To further complicate things, again attributing its notoriety to high-resolution photography is that every lens has a “sweet spot”.  That magical place between an in-focus image and “Holy Sh*t, that’s sharp”.  When you find it, you want to hold onto it and there’s nothing worse than being given that perfect moment of light only to fall short of nailing the focus.

XF Feature Update – Hyper Focal Calibration tool

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Enter the Hyperfocal tool!  With the XF system and the introduction of this tool, it’s now possible to be confident that you’ve gotten the image in the absolute best state of sharpness the lens, aperture, and digital back will allow.

Before going out on location, as you never know what the elements will throw at you, I have my lenses “sweet spot” saved for perfect Hyperfocal distance. I do this in a controlled setup for all my lenses, ensuring infinity focus is tack sharp without throwing out any unused depth of field. Once you get to your location, it’s as easy as composing the image, switching to Hyperfocal Focus mode, and pressing the shutter.

Although the tool is designed for you to measure and save the perfect hyperlocal distance, as the name implies, it’s much more versatile.  Say you shoot reproduction and need to have consistent focus at a set distance.  The Hyperlocal tool can be measured to reach that distance each and every time.  Or, as Tim Kemple uses it, it can help to accommodate for shots where infinity focus is exactly what you DON’T want.  With Tim’s workflow, a focus point just short of infinity can be saved.

So, when shooting a subject that may technically fall within the lenses infinity focus, and be indistinguishable to Auto Focus, a Hyperlocal point can be saved that will separate the subject slightly from the background. Choosing the Hyperfocal Focus mode for the shot throws infinity just slightly out of focus and helps to emphasis the subject, each and every time.

Tim Kemple on the Hyper Focal Calibration tool

“My favorite trick to really draw the viewers eye into the action is to shoot them at a distance that is just closer than the hyper focal distance of the lens that I’m using. It’s nearly impossible for any camera to nail the autofocus on these types of compositions right away. The subject is just too small and the focus distance too specific… Especially with today’s high resolution sensors. With the new hyper focal calibration on the XF I can nail this focus faster than ever. I just focus on ‘infinity’ then bump it back a whisker. It’s perfect every time.” – Tim Kemple 

 

CF003569-1-2(web)_SMWorld record slack line shot by Tim Kemple

 

So when is Hyperlocal Focus mode important?

Just before sunrise and its too dark to rely on Auto Focus?  Not a problem, Hyperfocal Focus.  If it get’s cloudy and overcast, a low contrast situation that Auto Focus can’t handle? Not a problem, Hyperfocal Focus. Too late in the evening to see contrast on the mountain range so you can verify it’s sharp on the IQ screen?  Not a problem, Hyperfocal Focus.

EmptyNameMorning in the Dolomites by Drew Altdoerffer

 

This particular image is a perfect example. Too early in the morning for my subpar eyesight to use manual focus and with the clouds rolling through the valley, Auto Focus didn’t have the contrast to nail it consistently.  And even if Auto Focus were perfect, it would still only give me infinity focus and not that “sweet spot”.  If I went with Manual focus it would take some trial and error, all the while I would miss the light.

So the Hyperfocal Tool is essential to be confident that I have the scene in perfect sharpness from infinity, to my foreground.  Not only that but the tool allows me to keep consistent focus regardless of the changing elements, composition or position.  It’s just one small tool of many that helps make the difference between productive mornings of photography and a sunrise that would have been better spent in bed.  Nothing is worse than getting back to your room to review images, only to find out you woke up at 4am for unsharp images.  I try to avoid disappointment wherever I can and the Hyperfocal Calibration Tool brings me one step closer to ensuring a gratifying image.

 

Learn more about all the new features in the XF Feature Update

 

Best regards,

Drew

November 19 2015

By Drew Altdoerffer

Category: Tech Talk Tags:
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  • Drew Altdoerffer
    Drew Altdoerffer

    Drew is a Product Manager and Marketing Specialist for Phase One as well as a previous member of the Technical Supporter team. He works directly with customers in addition to assisting partners and sales associates alike to better understand the features of all of Phase One’s products. His role in the company extends to the PODAS photographic workshops, training seminars and sales events.

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    Comments (14)

    David knight

    Drew,

    Is this feature in the IQ380 back…or just in the new XF camera? I have the IQ380 on a Hassy camera 35-90 lens and 24mm lens. Is there a way I can find the hyper focal distance for my two lens? I’m sure the 35-90 will vary according to where I am zoomed on the lens. Currently I just try to focus about a third into the scene.

    Thank you,

    Dave

    Drew Altdoerffer

    Hey Dave,
    This feature is for the XF and is new for the XF Feature update #1. Hyperlocal distance is of course something you can find and investigate for your Hasselblad lenses. It would be best to ask Hasselblad if they have a table. However, for zoom lenses its much more complex and difficult to control.
    ~Drew

    HI Drew,
    Do you have a table for Phase One LS lenses 35, 80 (both blue ring) and 240 mm lenses? Cheers

    A suggestion for an enhancement. How about having the camera “remember” the aperture you used to set the hyperfocal point, so that when you employ it, it not only sets the focus but the aperture as well?

    It’s great feature!

    Bill

    Drew Altdoerffer

    Great Idea Bill and certainly we’ve wished for since first conceding the tool. It’s unfortunately not as easy as it sounds but with all the features of the XF, they’re built with future improvements in mind on the same platform. So, if we can find an elegant way to introduce this you can count on it being available in the future.
    ~Drew

    steven scates

    Hi and thanks.
    I can’t find any instructions on how to set this up.
    Where are written instructions on the new features with details on setup and use? I have an XF/380, but the manual is pretty sparse!
    steve

    Drew Altdoerffer

    Hi Steve,
    Please reference the release notes for Feature Update #1 and the XF Manual. Both outline the steps to use the tool.
    http://tinyurl.com/npws8en
    ~Drew

    Hi Drew,

    I checked the note above and have a similar question:

    What are the steps for me to simply read the distance scale on the lens and dial into the XF?

    can you pls list the steps for me, to make it easier – ideally with an example of any particular Schneiderl LS prime?

    After a 30 year hiatus, back in the 35mm film days. I find digital a whole new animal. Your article is intriguing and I find myself wanting to know more. Thanks Tee

    Drew Altdoerffer

    Welcome back Tee… best of luck with the Digital Animal. Its a fun one.

    It will be great to actually make a video for this like you did with focus stacking

    Sebastien Degardin

    Great article!
    A video or webinar would be awesome!

    Milton Reeder

    Drew,
    I believe there is one possible conflict? If you assign the auto focus to the 1/2 pressed shutter button, then every time you click, the auto focus will over ride the hyper focus? Isn’t that correct?

    In the web cast you did on this subject you talked about assigning hyper focal to another button, which I did, but again if the shutter button activates auto focus, then it won’t stay at hyper focal?

    Drew Altdoerffer

    Hi Milton,
    This is where the “Hyperfocal Focus” Drive comes into play.
    You have options to set Auto Focus Drive to Single, Continuous and HyperFocal.
    This means that you can mix and match a specific button to invoke HyperFocal (via control settings) or you can tell the normal half press AF to invoke HyperFocal.

    If you want to mix both, then you need to turn off Half Press and use the rear button. So, Front Button for Hyperfocal, Rear Button for normal AF, Half Press off, Shutter takes the shot.

    Kind Regards,
    Drew

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