The best f-stop to shoot for any lens...

By "best" I mean the the lowest aperture that will give you the sharpest focus on the area you have selected on your subject, the "sweet spot".

The other day I was listening to an interview with Nicole Young (aka "Nicolesy") and... wait, before I get into that let me say a few things about Nicole.

First, I LOVE HER, whenever I find a new interview with her I listen to it, I follow her blog, and I check out her iStock portfolio. She is one of those photographers that is on my "lunch list".

You don't have a lunch list? It's a list of those photographers that would be fun to break bread with, to pick their brain about photography and talk about experiences and ideas.

The reason I am such a big fan is simple, I think she is an outstanding photographer AND she shares like no one else I know. She shares her lighting setups, what gear she uses, and how she does her post processing. A great example is her post about "adding steam" to a shot.

Okay, back the the interview. Nicole was being interviewed at the Typical Shutterbug Podcast when the subject turned to image sharpness and it was suggested that to get the best sharpness you should use an f-stop 2 stops higher than the lowest f-stop for that lens (so a 2.8 lens would give you a better sharpness at 5.6).

Just to be clear (so there is no misunderstanding), yes the area of sharpness (or in focus) becomes larger as the f-stop increases, but what we are talking about here is that the same area that was in focus at 2.8 will be significantly sharper at 5.6.

Then Nicole shared a post in which she did a test shoot using a 2.8 lens, she shot it at 2.8, 4, and 5.6 and the results were an eye opener for me (you can see the post here, and the hi-res test shot here).

She also did a post about lens compression and depth of field that nicely demonstrated those very same results.

Some pretty cool stuff.

So today I am going to break out the camera and play around with this, if you do as well please share your results with us on our Flickr page.


JW Stovall said...

Wow. I have never heard of this way to find the sweet spot for a lens. The difference is very dramatic!
Thanks for putting this post together, and helping me add to my 'lunch list'.

Adriana said...

I love opening my lens up to the smallest so I can get that "sweet spot". Its amazing what just changing the apeture can do to a photo!

Anonymous said...

2 over is an average start, some say go to the middle. Is a guess good enough for you? A teacher in the 70's told us to find the best on each and every lens by taking the time to find it ourselves.

Scott said...

I don’t disagree with your statement, but please understand this was not meant as the “definitive” answer, it was meant to be a starting point.