01 May 2022

Understanding Lens Minimum Focusing Distance (MFD)

Lens Minimum Focusing Distance (MFD) is an important consideration when longer focal length lenses (i.e. 300mm to 400mm) are used for close-up (butterflies and / or flower) photography.

What is Lens Minimum Focusing Distance (MFD)?
MFD is the minimum distance between a camera sensor and image / subject in front of the lens that will allow focus with a specific lens. Lens MFD is measured in meters (and displayed as such i.e. 0.98m or 3.5m).

MFD is an important factor for close-up photography when using zoom or non-zoom lenses (with / without lens extension tubes or lens close-up filters). 

Most modern Canon EF and RF 300mm - 500mm (and other) telephoto / zoom lenses will have reasonable MFD's for capturing close-up subjects such as butterflies and flowers.

Canon Lens MFD Examples:

Higher quality lenses will allow substantial cropping for creating expectable to reasonably high-quality close-up images of butterflies and flowers. Being a few meters away in creating a close-up image of a butterfly or a flower should still yield an acceptable result. 

The specific Canon EOS / EOS R Full Frame or APS-C camera body used (ito image sensor, megapixels, etc.) could also have an impact on cropping (and additional post-processing) quality of the image.


For the attached butterfly images (at Woodbridge Island) I used the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens while photographing birds in flight. 

For most of my Kirstenbosch butterfly and flower images I use the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM (Mark I) lens.

Butterfly with Canon 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens
Perched Butterfly Woodbridge Island with Canon 7D Mark II / EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens

Small Flower Kirstenbosch with Canon 70D / EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens
Small Flower Kirstenbosch with Canon 70D / EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens

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