I lifted this discussion from another thread.
I have two issues with hyperfocal shooting and neither of those is absolute.
1) If you calculate hyperfocal distance the calculation will assume some CoC. What I have seen, critically sharp images would require a small CoC. In my experience I would say that setting the CoC equal to pixel pitch is needed for optimal sharpness.
2) If we use a to large CoC we get into a situation where almost nothing is really sharp. Infinity will not be in correct focus and neither will foreground be perfectly sharp.
If I assume a 6 micron sensor and use 0.006 mm CoC and f/11 the hyperfocal distance is 18.1m.
The loss of sharpness caused 0.006 mm CoC is significant, the figures below were made on a 4.7 micron pitch camera (corresponding to Nikon D800, approximately) with a 100/2.8 Minolta AF macro at 3 meter.
|f/5.6, optimal focus||f/11, 3 cm defocus at 3m (100 mm lens)|
I would suggest that this difference by defocusing to achieve 0.006 mm CoC is probably more than between a top of the line prime and a decent zoom lens.
Similarly, stopping down to f/f11 also reduces sharpness significantly.
|F/5.6, optimal focus||f/11, optimal focus||f/16, optimal focus|
Now, I actually think that many of the differences in the above images would not be visible in say an A2 print, but it clearly shows that we loose detail even with small focusing error.
In my view, it may make little sense to invest in the very best lenses (say Zeiss 100/2 Macro Planar) or a HR Digaron-S 35/4 and than stop down f/16.
I would say that hyperfocal focusing is good if we want background and foreground be reasonably sharp, on the other hand if we have a subject that needs to be critically sharp hyperfocal focusing will not help with that, unless the subject happens to be at the hyperfocal distance. To achieve a short hyperfocal distance we need to stop down a lot, thereby limiting the resolution and contrast of the lens. If we stop down to f/11 - f/22 regularly we probably don't need a very good lens, as decent lenses usually are near diffraction limit at f/8.
Now, diffraction is benign to sharpening, so a lot of the fine detail contrast lost to diffraction can be regained with sharpening. Sharpening will increase noise, but that can be compensated by edge masking which will introduce artifacts of it's own.
Photography is always a compromise, and having a free lunch has always been an illusion.
As a side note, that HR Digaron-S 35/4 has a really mouth watering MTF curve by the way, specially considering that the lowest curve is 80 lp/mm instead of the usual 40 lp/mm.
No I did not miss that. I have shot large format for years and know perfectly well about the use of hyperfocal focus setting.
Reportage involves a lot more than shooting acceptably sharp at infinity with the camera set to hyperfocal point.