How to Use Distance Scale on Lens

Bret Leon Avatar
Bret Leon
18 January, 2023 • Updated 14 days ago
distance scale on camera lens
Photographers have always found the distance scale to be an invaluable tool, as it allows them to focus quickly and simply and gauge the depth of field. Even though autofocus has supposedly eliminated the need for a distance scale, you’ll still find them on most mid- and high-end lenses and many professionals prefer the customization it provides.

The distance scale not only assists in manually focusing the camera but also determines the appropriate focusing distance. You can use this to your advantage when trying to take clear landscape photographs by calculating the hyperfocal distance.

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What is Hyperfocal Distance?

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To put it simply, the hyperfocal distance is the distance at which you must focus to achieve the maximum depth of field. (Source: Photography Life)

When a camera is focused on a single part of a scene, the surrounding parts appear blurrier than those closer to the point of focus. Even though there are moments when a deliberately blurred image is desirable, sharp images of entire scenes are what we often aim for. This is why hyperfocal distance is crucial in landscape photography and related fields.

Distance Scale on Manual Lens

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Focusing manually requires an accurate measurement of distance. Focusing properly with a manual lens is extremely challenging without the distance scale, which measures the distance between the subject and the lens. The distance scale indicates the focusing distance, thus it’s crucial.

On the rear of the manual lens, there are usually markings indicating the distance within which the subject will seem sharp. The focusing distance is represented by two dashes, one for each of the available apertures, and specified in both feet and meters.

For focusing, the distance scale is the determining factor. You can manually set the focusing distance using this scale. Autofocus lenses allow you to select the focus distance automatically, while manual lenses need you to do it manually.

To zero in on relatively close objects, try setting the scale value to 1 foot or less. In the same way, you can set the distance to “infinity” if you need to focus on something that is very far away. This scale allows you to manually focus your lens and achieve pin-sharp results.

How to Use a Distance Scale

Distance Scale

The distance scale determines the focusing distance, which varies for various lenses. Here’s a guide to using the distance scale with a prime lens:

1. Adjust Your Aperture

Camera lens Aperture

First things first, decide what aperture size you want to work with. You should use the largest possible aperture setting while taking landscape photographs.

2. Determine the Value of the Distance Scale

camera lens

Let’s say you’ve chosen an aperture setting of f/ 16. Sixteen times on the distance scale is twice the distance. Both are extremes; one is on the left side of the scale, and the other is on the right. Therefore, the focusing distance falls somewhere between the two sets of values.

3. Calculating the Hyperfocal Distance

The distance scale on the lens makes it easy to figure out the hyperfocal distance. The center point you obtained determines the hyperfocal distance. Simply focus on an object at that distance, and both the foreground and the backdrop will be blurry to an acceptable degree. Manual telephoto lenses may allow you to bypass the lens body aperture setting.

Using Distance Scale on a Telephoto Lens

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1. Adjust Your Aperture

The aperture setting for a prime lens is located on the lens itself. However, to adjust the aperture of a telephoto lens, you will need to go into the settings of the camera. For landscape photography, you should rotate the ring that changes the aperture and then set the aperture value to a higher number.

2. Determine the Value of the Distance Scale

This method is now analogous to that of the prime lens. To adjust the focus, turn the middle ring of the distance scale. When the aperture is set, the number that shows up above the dashes of the aperture shows the focusing distance.


With a distance scale, you can figure out the hyperfocal distance, which is preferred for taking clear, high-quality landscape photos. It’s important to get both the foreground and background of your shot in focus when shooting in such a scenario. Once you’ve done it a few times, it will be easy to figure out your hyperfocal distance on the spot.

Frequently Asked Questions

The distance at which your lens is currently focused is represented by lens numbers. A lens’s lowest focusing distance is indicated by an infinity symbol, and the infinity symbol is located at the far end of the focus scale.

When the aperture is set to the value you want on the scale, you can figure out how far away the subject is. The hyperfocal distance is the central point of that focusing distance.

Bret Leon Avatar
Written by
Bret Leon
Bret Leon is a photography enthusiast who indulges in all matters cameras, lenses, gears, themes, editing, trends, and the latest product releases. If he's not trying to freeze time by capturing moments during his grand ventures, you can bet he's looking for the next big content idea.
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