FStop Question! (I can teach some things, but I'm still learning most things)

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Dubious Drewski, Mar 6, 2008.

  1. Dubious Drewski

    Dubious Drewski TPF Noob!

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    Let's say you're looking at a lens, say my kit 18-55. It's a f/3.5-5.6 lens. What is the clearest, most succinct way to describe to someone what that f/n number means?

    I would describe it like so:

    "f3.5 to f5.6 is a measurement of how much light is reduced before it reaches your camera. When the lens is at 18mm, the fStops are 3.5, and the physical amount of light is halved 3.5 times. At full focal length, f5.6, light is halved 5.6 times. (The reduction of light is nonlinear)"

    Is this accurate?

    Does the f/n number ever directly relate to the physical diameter of the aperture then? It doesn't sound like it necessarily does. Is it a combination of the focal length and the aperture then? If that's the case, then how is it possible to have a zoom lens with a fixed f/n value, like those fancy 2.8 lenses?
     
  2. Battou

    Battou No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yes it does directly relate to the physical diameter of the aperture, The smaller the number the larger the opening.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-number

    The most succinct discription is "The smaller the number the larger the opening.
    The larger the opening the more light gets to the film plane."
     
  3. Mystwalker

    Mystwalker TPF Noob!

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    Are fractions in some way used to calculate f-stops? I know - 'go read that Peterson's book' :lol: I'm going to remember to order it one of these days.

    I remember it as "1/1.8", "1/2.0" ... "1/1.8" is a bigger hole then "1/2.0" ... so it lets in more light. But what you said about the light reduction makes more sense.
     
  4. Yahoozy

    Yahoozy TPF Noob!

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    and just in case this was a matter of confusion
    the f numbers listed on lenses arent fixed apertures theyre the lowest aperture the lens has
    for an 18-55mm 3.5 is the lowest aperture on the 18 length and 5.6 is the lowest aperture on the 55
    those fancy 2.8 lenses have their lowest aperture setting at 2.8 but thats not the only aperture
    if you already knew this never mind hahah =P
     
  5. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    The f-number is the focal length divided by the diameter of the entrance pupil. The entrance pupil is the image if the iris (aperture) as seen from the front of the lens, it is not the iris itself*.

    The image of the iris (ie the entrance pupil) is formed by the lens elements in front of the iris. As you change the focal length of a zoom you are altering the positio of the elements in front of the iris, so the size and position of the entrance pupil changes. You can see this happening if you look in the front of your lens and change the focal length.

    By clever design the lens makers can arrange it so that the diameter of the entrance pupil gets altered in the same proportion as the focal length, thus holding the f-number constant.

    Even with zoom lenses that don't have constant aperture the diameter of the entrance pupil changes. If it didn't the change in f-number would be in the same proportion as the change in focal length.

    *Unless there are no elements in front of the iris, when the entrance pupil and the iris are the same.

    Best,
    Helen

    PS The entrance pupil is also the 'centre of perspective' of the lens - ie the place it sees the outside world from, or the place your eye's iris would have to be to see exactly the same perspective. When you make a stitched panorama, you can rotate the camera about the entrance pupil to eliminate parallax error. This 'no-parallax' point is often referred to as the lens' "nodal point", but that is incorrect. The position of the entrance pupil is easily found by simply looking into the front of the lens.

    PPS There's a similar thread, in which I go into a little more detail about constant aperture zooms, here: http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=112784

    PPPS If you want to consider the reduction in light you need to bear in mind that the f-number needs to be squared to represent the change in area of the hole in the lens. You halve the area, and the light, when you go from f/2 to f/2.8, for example. Square those numbers: you go from 4 to 8 (approximately, the f-numbers like 2.8 and 5.6 are rounded off).
     
  6. Mav

    Mav TPF Noob!

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    Lenses with larger apertures (smaller f/number) let in more light which lets you shoot at faster speeds (to stop action), lower ISO (to reduce noise), and allows you to isolate your subject better with selective focus.
     
  7. RockDawg

    RockDawg TPF Noob!

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    What's the proper way to say it? For example, if I adjust my lens from f/2.4 to f/5.6, do you say I went to a larger aperture in refernece to the number becoming larger or do you say I went to a smaller aperture because the opening became smaller?
     
  8. Mav

    Mav TPF Noob!

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    larger number = smaller aperture. Wouldn't want to make things simple. :mrgreen:
     
  9. Stranger

    Stranger TPF Noob!

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    I believe you say "i stopped down" although i could possibly have been mistaken this whole time getting them confused. :)

    I (although i have no photography friends) would say, "im stopping down to f/11 (coming from f/2.8)

    and if the opposite, i would say "im opening it up to 2.8" (coming from f/11)
     
  10. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    Yes, it's perfectly correct to say 'smaller aperture' in that case. The aperture is smaller. The ways that aperture is written usually hint at the fact that it is a ratio:

    f/2.8

    also

    1:2.8


    1/5.6 is smaller than 1/2.8, of course.

    It's also correct to say that going from an f-number of 2.8 to an f-number of 5.6 is going to a higher f-number.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  11. Dubious Drewski

    Dubious Drewski TPF Noob!

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    Thanks everyone, and thanks Helen! Wow, you know your stuff.

    So just for clarification, with those fancy 2.8 zooms, the aperture physically expands in proportion to the varying focal length, but when I zoom my kit 18-55 it also does this...but not as well? Is that it?

    So what I don't understand then is why the aperture closes at the greater focal length. The designers do this on purpose? Why can't the aperture remain at full diameter even when I zoom all the way to 55mm?

    (Also, Helen, that info about the center-perspective at the iris is invaluable! Thanks for bringing that to attention. I never thought about that.)
     
  12. Mav

    Mav TPF Noob!

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    Because you need a whole lot more heavy and expensive precision optical/photographic grade glass to maintain a large aperture at all focal lengths.

    Nikkor 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 ($100):
    [​IMG]

    Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 ($1200) not to the same scale as the 18-55:
    [​IMG]


    The 17-55 has a lot more glass in it, especially considering that the 17-55 is actually probably 3 times the size/length of the little 18-55.
     

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