"Focus free photography" with Olympus E-PL2 and Zeiss 18mm

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Using the hyperfocal distance or zone focusing with the Zeiss 18mm lens produces an incredible amount of depth of field. At f/8 everything from 2.5 feet to infinity will look in focus.

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Here's how it works.


Using this technique its possible to just set the lens and shoot away without refocusing. 

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

All of the above were shot using this technique with the lens set to either f/8, f/11 or f/16. 

There's a couple of things to remember. Firstly you probably won't get your primary subject in sharp focus. This "zone focusing" produces "acceptable" focus. The sharper the lens the more the difference between the actual point of focus and this acceptable zone. Secondly not all lenses have the infinity marker set at infinity. Its assumed that m-mount lenses like Leica and Zeiss do have this accurately set, however thats not the case. Also when using an adapter this can move it. In the case of the Zeiss when moving the focusing ring all the way round until the infinity mark is at infinity and won't move any more it is slightly "beyond" infinity when using the adapter. However there is a lot of latitude with this lens.

This technique is used extensively in both street photography and landscape photography. I used to use it all the time when shooting film with manual focus prime lenses. Its also a something that photographers who use rangefinder cameras like Leicas employ a lot, as it saves having to re-focus for every shot. For hand holding and walking about it works best with wide-angle lenses (its useless for telephotos) and obviously good light helps as you generally want as small an aperture as possible. 

Just as a final note, focusing with the Zeiss using the magnification feature on the Olympus isn't easy. Wide angles in general make it very difficult to see when you are in sharp focus unless you use the widest f-stop. This can result in a very time consuming and fiddly process. This zone focusing is much easier and results in virtually focus free photography. However its not 100% infallible and not every image works.

On a different note the Zeiss on the E-PL2 plus leather case is a very aesthetic combination. It looks great and also feels great. So to finish a bit more camera porn.

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon
Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon

Olympus E-PL2 Zeiss 18mm f/4 Distagon