I have noticed that more and more photographers purchase prime or as otherwise called standard or non zoom lenses lately. The obvious reason for this is the superior image quality these lenses offer in comparison to the zoom ones. Some photographers actually buy older (manual focus) prime lenses as they can be purchased for really low prices and their quality is still of high standards. I own one of those lenses, the Canon 24mm f/2.8 and I paid less than £150 for it on ebay – the results are superb, image quality is of high standard.
The majority of those lenses have markings to assist you with focusing and hyperfocal distance. However, as most new photographers are used to the autofocus technique and lenses with no markings on them, they can find these old lenses a bit confusing, due to the lack of knowledge on how to use those markings to their benefit.
There are special cards in the market that explain how to use these old lenses – some of them are free to download. However, some of these cards can be confusing, some come with very small printed text and are really hard to see, especially on a dark early morning shoot.
Here are 3 cards I made up for wide angle lenses. These cards are for full frame, APS-C and 645 size sensor / film. Download the one that suits your camera (they are all high resolution cards), print it, laminate it and keep it in your backpack.
Now, how to use the card in plain words.
Let's say that we want to shoot a landscape with a 24mm lens @ f/16 aperture on a full frame sensor camera. Looking at the card, the lens marking should be set to 1.2 meters. This simply means that the lens will focus 1.2 meters in front of the front element. This will give you a well focused picture with acceptable sharpness from 60cm (always half the focusing distance) all the way to infinity. As long as all elements in the composition are within this distance, then they should be within acceptable focus.