Using the 20mm f/1.7 for Street Photography


Even though using Face Detection with Auto Focus can render a good number of in focus photos, sometimes it misses the mark, and you wind up with an unusable photo.

It can get frustrating when going through the photos to find a perfect photo, and the camera focused on INF or some other point, and not the face of the people in the photo. Doesn’t that just make you mad? There is a way to use what is called the “Hyper-focal” Depth of Focus (DOF) scale. But, wait, none of lenses has  this DOF scale, so how can I do this on these lenses?  It is a short workflow to learn, and can be used with any native M4/3 or any lens, for any camera + native lens that does not have a DOF scale.

The 1st thing to do is go to the DOF Calculator that in on-line here  Online Depth of Focus Calculator

IMAGE FROM THE DOF CALCULATOR WEBSITE: Set up for M4/3 and the Panasonic G 20mm lens for about 4.5 feet to INF..

Now, once you have the “Lens, f/stop, DOF” you want. You want to set up your camera so you can have a “Point and Shoot” arrangement for the quickest reaction we can have.

Here is the workflow to follow.

(From my reply in a MU-43 Thread on How to use Zone Focusing with the 20mm f/1.7 lens on an m4/3 camera. “G1 User”)

  1. Pick any m4/3 camera
  2. Pick the lens you want to use, in this case, 20mm
  3. Set it for f/11 and find the DOF you want from choosing different “Focus Points” (5′, 10′, 15′ etc)
  4. Pick 10 feet
  5. At 10′ “Focused distance, about 4.5 feet to INF is in focus
  6. Set you Camera in “A” mode (See side-note below for using “M” mode, and still using “Auto ISO on the Olympus OMD E-M5)
  7. Set the f/stop to f/11
  8. Focus on a object 10 feet away (You can pace it off, as long as you are close enough)
  9. TURN OFF “AF”
  10. Set your ISO to “Auto ISO” 200-800 (to keep a higher shutter speed in shadow and lower light)
  11. You are ready to go…
  12. Works for zooms lenses also set at one focal length.
  13. DO NOT TURN OFF CAMERA, (or have the sleep mode on), the lens may reset when it wakes, or when it is turned back on, and you will have to start again.. (Takes a few seconds once you get this workflow down though)

Now you are set up to use your camera in any photographic opportunity that requires the fastest reaction time to “Get the Decisive Moment”.

As side note on the Olympus OMD E-M5.

You can use full manual exposure (M mode) and “Auto ISO”. The benefit is that you can “KEEP” your camera on both your chosen f/stop AND your chosen shutter speed, and the camera will adjust the ISO to match your combination. Cool Huh? So, if you like f/11 and 1/250 as your street combo, fine, instead of putting your camera in “A” (step 6 above), put in “M” mode, and after you pick an f/stop, pick a shutter speed also. and continue to step 8 above.

I hope you find this useful.

5 thoughts on “Using the 20mm f/1.7 for Street Photography”

  1. Hi there. Very nice post, very useful. Just a tip: on the E-M5 (and probably other m4/3 cameras from Olympus) you can turn off an option named “reset lens” (or something like that) and the lens focusing state is kept when the camera is turned off and on.

    Tested with the 20/1.7 and the 45/1.8.

  2. Never thought about using manual mode with auto ISO! Very handy! I do however wish there were a way to ate a RANGE of apertures and shutter speeds you are okay with… Like manual-P mode… I guess… Lol

    Any aperture from f8-11 and any shutter speed from 500-4000, any ISP up to 3200. For instance. Why can’t they do this for me?! Err. Us! Lol

    1. It would be nice to have limit on the f/stops in “Aperture” mode,, but with the manual focus set for f/8 and 10′, (or whatever), changing the f/stop requires a new hyper-focal distance to be set. So, in Manual/Auto-ISO you set the f/stop AND shutter speed like f/8 @ 1/250s and the camera sets the ISO to get a good exposure.

      1. i also wonder why they dont give us an electronic DOF scale in the viewfinder, ala fuji x100
        or a button we could hit for “set the hyperfocal distance for me” LOL 🙂

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