Saturday, May 07, 2011

Set your point-and-shoot camera at the hyperfocal distance and virtually eliminate shutter lag.

Photography Runs in the Family
Sometimes up at the Square, especially during and after the Farmers' Market, everyone seems to be photographing everyone, even -- sometimes -- in the same family.

I was able to quickly snap this today because I set the focus of my Nikon Coolpix P7000 to the hyperfocal distance -- that is, the distance at which everything in the frame from some near distance to infinity will be sharp. Leave it set at that and you don't have to focus -- most everything will be sharp, especially if you're shooting with a small-sensor point-and-shoot with its inherently great depth of field, and with a wide angle lens setting, as I was. It virtually eliminates point-and-shoot shutter lag, because -- since the camera doesn't have to focus -- there's none of that lengthy focus-seeking by the lens. It turns a P&S into a great camera for street photography, instantly responsive. See it and shoot it, just like that.

There's no setting on the Coolpix for hyperfocal distance, but there is an infinity (Landscape) setting that accomplishes much the same thing. But I also found what seems to be an undocumented feature when you set the camera to manual focus. The default starting point is either the hyperfocal distance, or something very close to it. You can lock that in, and you're good to go.

Most full-featured point and shoots will let you do something similar, either with manual focus or an infinity focus setting, sometimes called Landscape. Try it. It's like having a different camera in your hand. (Of course you'll still want to use autofocus for longer telephoto zoom shots, but for nearby action with the lens zoomed to wide angle, using the hyperfocal distance gives an ordinary point-and-shoot amazing responsiveness.

After that, it's up to you.

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