Running Around the Witch’s Hats… Zone Focus

I fondly remember wet, cold, and muddy Tuesday and Thursday nights at footy training as a teenager. I was never much good at the game, but loved getting out and having a kick around the park. After the Sherrins, the next thing that would come out each night were the red-orange witch’s hats. So, what do these have to do with street photography?

My “go to” cameras and lenses lean towards manual focus beauties. Using manual focus lenses sounds kinda silly though, particularly in this golden age of technology. Vish at Camerafilmphoto sums it up for me – “enjoy the process”…

Zone focusing and hyperfocal distance are two concepts that anyone using a manual focus lens needs to understand for street photography.

You can read all about it here – the guys at Street Hunters do a much better job explaining it than I could!

Zone focus uses the markings on your lens barrel to “pre-focus” for a given distance, with a minimum and maximum range for what will be in focus. The hard part for me, is getting a strong feel for the distance just by looking.

For example :

One of my medium format cameras has an 80mm manual focus lens. Let’s play it out… I often shoot iso400 film at 1600 to make sure the shutter speeds are quick. The lens is a bit slow, with f4 being the maximum aperture, so pushing the film really helps. Shooting at iso1600 also makes smaller f stops usable in good light. f16 potentially gives a very wide focus range of 2 – 5 metres using zone focusing.

Up until recently, I had not been super confident estimating distances to subjects. Until I ordered a bunch of little mini-witch’s hats from Ebay… Setting them up in our hallway at one metre increments has been a great reminder every day of how far different distances are. Suddenly, the whole 2 – 5 metre zone looks a lot bigger!



  1. Structuring a Weekend Session | Inconspicuosity - July 27, 2015

    […] I was also interested in really cracking on to hyperfocal distance and zone focusing which I cover off here. […]


  2. Sony RX1R 11 First Impressions | Inconspicuosity - July 19, 2016

    […] of my besties are actually shot at F11 or F8 using hyperfocal distance or zone focus. And yes, on a manual focus rangefinder. It completely eliminates a need to focus the lens for a […]


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