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Tiny Tips 8: Best Apertures for Sharpness

If you want the sharpest pictures that your lens can give you, remember not to use its largest and smallest apertures. Most lenses are optimised to be used in the f/5.6 – f/11 aperture range and give their best performance when stopped down a couple of f-stops from the widest aperture or opened up from the smallest aperture.

What is Diffraction?

The problem with using small aperture sizes is that light waves are affected due to diffraction and though you have a great depth of field, you lose out on sharpness.

Large apertures are great for low-light, but unless you have an exceptional, lens it’s just too difficult to produce lenses that are razor-sharp at their widest aperture.

Exceptional Lenses

There are always exceptions to every rule, and some lenses made by Carl-Zeiss and Leica are just as sharp at f/2.8 (or f/1.8 as the case may be), as they are at f/5.6.

Marvels of science, that’s what they are, but they can’t escape physics, and diffraction is very real…

Remember to watch out for its effects when photographing at f/16 or smaller.

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Published: August 13, 2007 | Last Updated: July 23, 2021

4 thoughts on “Tiny Tips 8: Best Apertures for Sharpness”

  1. Thanks Jim,

    There are a lot of people getting into photography these days… many without a photographic background. These are the ones that will find tips like this useful.

  2. Tamika: Thanks for commenting.

    I do understand how frustrating it can be to have to work with a large aperture… it can also be a joy!

    In the tip, I was talking about producing lenses that take sharp pictures at f/1.8. However, f/1.8 is a really wide aperture, and at times, the depth of field is negligible, so try stopping down if you want more of the picture in sharp focus.

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