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Lens FAQ #1: What does “closest focusing distance” refer to?

This series is all about answering questions regarding cameras you thought you knew but didn’t. In this article, I will explain more about closest focusing distance, which varies for each individual EF lens (Reported by: Shirou Hagihara).


Think of it in conjunction with working distance

A: Closest focusing distance
B: Working distance

As I am using a 100mm macro lens, there is some distance between the subject (the dandelion) and the front end of the lens, which we refer to as the “working distance”. You can expect that this distance will not change significantly even if you fit a lens hood onto the camera.

In digital cameras with interchangeable lenses, the focal plane mark indicates the approximate closest focusing distance, and is inscribed on the roof of the camera or on top of the camera body. The image sensor is located underneath this mark.


Closest focusing distance is also listed in catalogues as one of the key specifications of a lens. It is an indicator of how close you can get to a subject while taking a picture. However, overall close-up shooting performance is not determined by the closest focusing distance alone. Rather, it should be understood in conjunction with working distance.
There are many people who have misconceptions about the closest focusing distance and the working distance, so I will explain the differences here. Closest focusing distance is the shortest distance at which the image can be focused. It is also the distance from the surface of the image sensor to the subject. On EOS cameras, you will be able to tell the position of the image sensor surface just by looking at the focal plane mark inscribed on the camera body. In addition, if the lens has a distance scale, the shortest distance indicated on the scale is equivalent to the closest focusing distance.
In contrast, the working distance refers to the distance between the front end of the lens and the subject. Compact cameras and such may carry specifications such as “Macro: 1cm”. This refers to the working distance of the lens. If the working distance is short, the lens hood and lens shadow may also be seen when shooting, making it difficult to use in many photography scenes. Note that a shorter working distance does not necessarily mean that it is suitable for all scenes.

Closest focusing distances of commonly-used EF lenses

EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
Closest focusing distance: 0.25m

EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM
Closest focusing distance: 0.85m


EF-S10-18mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
Closest focusing distance: 0.22m

EF-S60mm Macro f/2.8 USM
Closest focusing distance: 0.2m


EF24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
Closest focusing distance: 0.4m

EF17-40mm f/4L USM
Closest focusing distance: 0.28m


EF50mm f/1.8 STM
Closest focusing distance: 0.35m

EF100mm f/2.8L IS USM
Closest focusing distance: 0.3m

Shirou Hagihara


Born in 1959 in Yamanashi. After graduating from Nihon University, Hagihara was involved in the launch of the photography magazine, “fukei shashin”, where he worked as an editor and a publisher. He later resigned and became a freelance photographer. Currently, Hagihara is engaged in photography and written works centring on natural landscapes. He is a member of the Society of Scientific Photography (SSP).

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