What Is Lens Diffraction In Photography & How Can You Prevent It?

At modest aperture values, such as f/16, f/22, and so on, a shot becomes increasingly less sharp, which is what photographers mean when they talk about lens diffraction. The smallest detail in your images will start to blur when you stop down your lens to such small apertures.

No matter how many megapixels your camera has or how skilled of a photographer you are, you cannot control diffraction’s effects on photography. This occurs as a result of light starting to scatter (diffract) via a tiny aperture.

Your images’ fine details will get blurry as a result of the light waves spreading out and overlapping as your aperture is closed. Every aperture in your lens will experience some diffraction, but it doesn’t always indicate it’s a negative thing.

This impact might frighten new photographers, and for good cause. However, if you are aware of how diffraction affects your photos, you can snap the finest photos possible when out in the field.

In this post, we’ll go more into Lens diffraction in photography and examine some examples of its limitations.

What is Diffraction?

What Is Lens Diffraction In Photography

It can be challenging to walk the fine line between ignoring and appreciating references to optical science while discussing diffraction. The majority of photographers are more concerned with practical information than in-depth background knowledge, however, it is difficult to discuss diffraction without understanding how it operates at a fundamental level.

Although, even if you are not a physicist, you should still be able to grasp this part. Reading it will give you a better knowledge of diffraction.

Diffraction is the idea that waves, particularly light waves, may interfere with one another at their most fundamental level. In reality, waves will obstruct each time they pass through a slit. Take waves of water into consideration to help you envision this.

A sequence of tiny waves will appear if you drop a rock into an absolutely motionless lake. As you may already be aware, every camera lens has a little hole inside of it. Before light can hit the sensor and take a picture, it must travel through this hole.

The camera’s diaphragm lets you adjust the aperture size. You may achieve this by closing the diaphragm blades, also referred to as the aperture blades. Less light enters the lens when you choose a lower aperture.

The aperture increases and more light enters when the blades are opened. It functions similarly to how the pupils in your eyes The result of a tiny aperture is lens diffraction. This is due to the fact that lightwaves must bend as they move through. Your photographs get less sharp as a result.

The airy disk with respect to the pixel pitch is one reason why the diffraction effects vary in intensity in different cameras and lenses.

What is an airy disk, and how does it create diffraction?

A lens constrained by diffraction will produce an airy disk as its best-focused location. A brilliant, distinct area in the middle of the flimsy disks, with halo rings encircling it. Together, they create an airy pattern.

The three elements that affect the diffraction pattern were described by Airy. The various wavelengths, the size of the aperture opening, and the eye’s sensitivity are the determining elements.

The blurriness that airy disks can produce in your images is a result of this diffraction. When two airy disks cross one other, this occurs. When this occurs, it is challenging to determine where the beginning of each point of light is.

A greater airy disk is produced with a narrower aperture than by a larger one. As you decrease the f/number, the effect becomes more obvious since it is now simpler for the halos to contact.

What is Pixel Pitch, and what does it have to do with lens diffraction?

On a digital image, you can start to notice little coloured squares if you zoom in. These are pixels, the tiniest building blocks of a picture. Each pixel is made up of data that a photo spot on the camera’s sensor has acquired. Many individuals also refer to picture websites as “pixels” to make things easier.

The separation between the centres of two neighbouring picture sites is now known as the pixel pitch (or pixels). The standard unit of measurement is the micrometre (m).

This has to do with both the pixel size and the actual size of the sensor area. An airy disk can fit inside a pixel with a larger pixel pitch. It’s at least not as fragmented as it would be with sensors with closer pixel spacing.

This is so that one airy disk can land in several pixels. Each person consequently interprets the data differently as a result. The image becomes hazy as a result of the increased difficulty in determining where the edges start and stop.

How to limit lens diffraction?

Be aware of the DLA

Diffraction Limited Aperture is referred to as DLA. This f/stop is the point at which lens diffractions begin to degrade the quality of your images. Manufacturers often include the DLA with the lens datasheet.

Remember that DLA is the point at which noticeable diffraction appears when your photos are shown at full size. Your photographs taken with this aperture won’t necessarily be useless. It’s crucial to understand this diffraction limit in every scenario.

Use Manual Mode

Using the manual option on your camera is the best way to manage the aperture. You may then adjust the ISO and shutter speed for the proper exposure while setting the aperture.

Try using the aperture priority option if you aren’t yet at ease using your camera in manual mode (AV or A). In this semi-automatic setting, you may control the aperture while the camera handles the rest.

Use larger apertures

This research has shown that lens diffraction occurs at tiny apertures. You must thus use wider apertures.

You can choose a quicker shutter speed or a lower ISO setting if widening the aperture allows for too much light. However, if all exposure settings are pushing you too far, you may always apply a neutral density (ND) filter.

The depth of field is also influenced by the aperture. Large apertures might result in less of your image is in focus. There are solutions if you find this to be an issue. You can alter the focal length or the separation between the camera sensor and the focal plane.

Locate Sweet Spot

While lens diffraction is caused by narrow apertures, issues can also arise from wide apertures. Finding the lens aperture where the image quality is greatest is necessary for this reason.

The sharpest aperture for the majority of lenses is somewhere between f/8 and f/11. However, depending on your lens’s widest aperture, this could be different.

With a quick test, you can discover which aperture suits your lens the best. Start by picking a topic with lots of specifics. Then, shoot it repeatedly while adjusting the aperture. But don’t forget to make up for the exposure.

Choose a Camera with a bigger sensor

Most buyers of digital cameras typically take the image resolution into account. Not the pixel sizes, but the number of megapixels, is being discussed here.

There is no doubt that the sensor’s size matters. A better resolution is possible with larger sensors because they can accommodate more picture spots. Although a crop sensor camera has fewer pixels, its pixel pitch is closer.

The diffraction pattern does not need to be broken down when the sensor contains big pixels. You’ll have sharper edges and colours as a consequence.


If you see any blurriness in your photographs, lens diffraction may be to blame. It might be scary to talk about light rays, diffraction, and other terms, but it’s crucial that you have a fundamental grasp of some ideas.

Additionally, it’s important to understand how they impact your regular photographic practice. I don’t pretend to be an authority on the issue and I’m not a physicist. I do, however, hope that I was able to clarify some of your concerns regarding lens diffraction.

If you’ve observed a change in the sharpness of your images, let us know in the comments. If so, which advice did you find to be the most helpful? 

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