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Thread: F stop for Landscapes

  1. #1

    F stop for Landscapes

    I shoot landscapes with a 4x5 camera. Besides using swings and tilts, I've been using f/32 for my shooting aperture for all of my lenses from 75mm to 150mm and f/45 for my 300mm to make sure everything is sharp.

    I just read an article in the current issue of View Camera where the author states he can already see the results of diffraction at openings smaller than f/22.

    Have I been stopping down too much?. Should I be able to get adequate sharpness at f/16-22 with carefull use of swings and tilts?

    I realize the true answer to this question depends on what I'm shooting but I'm looking for a general rule of thumb that I can work from.

    Thanks in advance for your answers.

    - Dan.

  2. #2

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    F stop for Landscapes

    You shouldn't be shooting at one aperture, independent of all other factors. Generally the aperture you choose will depend on what you want to be in focus. f/32, even f/45 is a reasonable choice in many circumstances. Diffraction occurs at ANY aperture; it doesn't suddently arise at f/22. It is just that the further you stop down, the larger the effect of diffraction. The effect also depends on how much the image will be enlarged.

    Most large format photographers don't avoid stopping down when necessary to obtain needed depth of field, even if that means diffraction will be more of a factor. Certainly, in some cases, it may be advisable to use tilts or swings to make sure everything you want to be in focus is. But this is by no means a cure-all. The region in focus is wedge shaped and some important parts of the scene, particularly those close to the lens, will not be in focus if you tilt or swing.

    For me, the main reason not to stop down too far is to avoid long exposure times and possible subject movement.

    There is an extensive discussion of these issues on the main large format photography web page. You should study it.

  3. #3

    Join Date
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    F stop for Landscapes

    Dan,

    Depending on the proximity of the foreground I will generally use between F22 and 32, rarely anything wider unless everything in the scene is at infinity. I haven't noticed any diffraction effects with any of my current lenses at 32 however I used to have a Schneider 90 that was useless at f32. So, in my experience I guess I would have to say that it depends on the lens you are using. Soft foregrounds due to poor DOF is more distracting than the effects of diffraction, IMO, so I make sure I use the aperture that is required to get everything sharp. There are tables you can refer to that suggest the minimum aperture required for any given situation based on the difference between the focusing distance (measured on the bed or rail of your camera)between points in the foreground and background (did that make sense?)

  4. #4

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    F stop for Landscapes

    In addition to the facts that others have related the issue of lens focal length becomes a part of the equation. Depth of field is related to focal length. Shorter lenses will have more depth of field then long lenses. I have found that my enlarged images are sharper to my eye when I keep my f stop to 32 and below for 4X5. I rarely have to stop down to f 32 with my 4X5 when I have utilized my movements to the greatest effect. I have found my lenses are sharpest at f 11-22.

    On larger formats the acceptable f stop becomes different. I don't hesitate stopping down to f 64 with 8X10 and even f90 with my 12X20. These negatives are not enlarged and so any diffraction effects are not noticable.

  5. #5

    F stop for Landscapes

    In the game of acquiring satisfactory depth of field in a photograph, it is a delicate balancing act between the utilization of view camera movements and stopping down. A good rule of thumb I have subscribed to is to only stop down as much as necessary to attain satisfactory depth of field. That being said, it really is a function of the format, the lens used and the movements necessary to make the photograph. For a typical landscape shot with 4x5 and say a 135mm lens, I rarely need to go beyond f22. All you need to do is go to your ground glass and if all looks to be in focus after you execute your movements, you theoretically do not have to stop down at all. Excessive stopping down to give you the equivelant of an insurance policy for sharpness is unecessary at the very least. When you step up to larger formats (8x10, 11x14 and up), stopping down becomes more necessary because the hyperfocal relationships are not as favorable as 4x5. Just go to the Schneider website and look at these for yourself.

    Cheers!

  6. #6

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    F stop for Landscapes

    It seems like this subject comes up about once a week but never goes away. Leonard has, as usual, provided a very useful response. Hopefully this response will also be useful.

    I believe that anyone who avoids stopping down to the aperture necessary to gain the needed depth of field because of a fear of diffraction is making a mistake. Insufficient depth of field is a far more obvious problem in most photographs than the relatively minor loss of sharpness from diffraction. So base the aperture on the depth of field you need to make the photograph you want to make, not on a fear of diffraction.

    There are various published tables that will provide you with the optimum aperture to use in any given situation based on the spread in the distance between the nearest object that you want to appear to be in focus and the farthest object that you want to appear to be in focus. Just as an unnecessarily small aperture can cause a loss of sharpness ("unnecessary" in the sense that the aperture was smaller than it needed to be to gain the desired depth of field), so an unnecessarily large aperture selected because of a fear of diffraction can also create a problem from defocus effects (about which I know next to nothing). So the idea of the tables is to tell you what aperture to use in any given situation that will provide the needed depth of field while also minimizing the effects of both diffraction at the small aperture end and defocus at the wide aperture end.

    Tuan's article on this site about focusing the view camera goes into this whole area in some detail as I recall. It is well worth studying. At a minimum it will dispel the notion that it's a good idea to always use one or two particular apertures in all situations. Photo Techniques magazine also published an article on this subject by Paul Hansma in the March/April 1996 issue that I think is still available from the magazine. It describes a methodology for selecting the optimum aperture and includes a table that I think quite a few people use.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  7. #7

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    F stop for Landscapes

    Good question Dan... I concur with Michael in that you shouldn't stop down any further than necessary to achieve the look you want (ie: sharpness, DoF etc). In shooting landscapes I seldom have to stop down any further than f32 at the very outside.

    As a corollary to this question, Leonard, I shoot table tops using a 240 Sironar or 360 Symmar. I find myself stopping down to 45 quite frequently.

    My question is... has anyone ever done a "match" between shooting at the various appertures and the size of enlargement that can be obtained without degradation of the image due to CoC problems? For example, if I shot at f45...what size of enlargement is possible assuming that the image is printed full-frame without cropping?



    Thanks
    Life in the fast lane!

  8. #8

    F stop for Landscapes

    I have stopped down all the way to f.64 (as the scene dictates so do I stop down) and have had no problems (I shoot 8x10 only).

  9. #9

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    F stop for Landscapes

    When shooting distant subjects, where depth of field isn't an issue, it's probably best to get the best performance the lens can offer. As a rule of thumb, most lenses perform best when stopped-down a few stops. For many large format lenses, this is around f/16.



    However, depth of field (and lens coverage) increases at smaller apertures, so many times a good compromise is f/22 or 32, if the situation allows.



    In large format, as in all others, you can use wide apertures and shallow focus for emphasis..



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  10. #10

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    F stop for Landscapes

    .. In fact, when an image is grainless, the out-of-focus areas can be quite pleasing to the eye, since they are so smoothly rendered. They can be just as appealing as areas of crisp detail.

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