The aperture of a lens refers to the size of the opening in a lens that lets light through. The larger the opening, the more light that comes through to hit the sensor or film.
Back in manual cameras days, most lenses only let you set the f-stop at defined increments, usually of a full stop at a time. So you could choose ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6, but there was no way to choose ƒ/5.
With today’s digital cameras controlling the aperture, we have much more fine-grained control. Even with lenses that still have an aperture ring, such as the Sony FE 24mm ƒ/1.4 GM, the available increments are often much smaller than a full stop.
So we’re not limited just to these larger steps but can instead now set the shutter in 1/3 stop increments.
But because of the way aperture is denoted, with figures such as ƒ/1.6 or ƒ/1.8, it’s not particularly self-apparent what the jump between one value is to another–unfortunately, it’s not as simple as a basic decimal system.
So if you’re trying to calculate the effect on other parts of the exposure triangle. Or if you’re using a neutral density filter, for example, it can involve some head-scratching to work out what aperture you need to factor in an 8-stop ND filter–at least, it does for me. (If you find yourself in this situation working with very dark ND filters, there are some good phone apps that can help–search for something like “nd filter calculator.”)
I’m posting this F-stop chart here partly for my own reference and partly in case others find it useful. It covers the working aperture range of the majority of digital photography lenses on the market, which typically falls somewhere within the ƒ/1.2 through ƒ/32 range. 1
The column on the left represents full stops. So the jump from ƒ/5.6 to ƒ/8, for instance, is a full stop.
The second column shows 1/2-stop increments. So a 1/2 stop down from ƒ/5.6 is ƒ/6.7.
The third column shows 1/3-stop increments. So going from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/1.6 is a third of a stop.
|Full Stops||1/2 Stops||1/3 Stops|
Things Worth Knowing
Aperture is not the same thing as lens diameter. While both refer to the size of a lens opening, the lens diameter is the fixed measurement of the outer end of the lens.
If you’re looking to find the filter size you need for a specific lens, I’ve put together some filter size and lens hood guides for some of the major lens manufacturers:
- Canon Lens Filter Size & Lens Hood Charts
- Nikon Lens Filter Size & Lens Hood Charts
- Sony Lens Filter Size & Lens Hood Charts
- Fujifilm Lens Filter Size & Lens Hoods
- Pentax Lens Filter Size Charts
- Sigma Lens Filter Size Charts
- Tamron Lens Filter Size Charts
- Olympus / OM-System Lens Filter Size Charts
F-Stop Chart FAQs
What are the f-stops in order?
F-stops are the ratio of the focal length to the diameter of the aperture. They follow a specific sequence that roughly doubles with each stop: f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32, etc. This sequence can be seen in the f stop chart table above, which also includes half stops and 1/3 stops.
Is a higher f-stop better?
Whether a higher or lower f-stop is ‘better’ depends on the situation and desired effect. Higher f-stop numbers (like f/22) result in a smaller aperture opening, meaning less light enters the camera sensor, but it gives a deeper depth of field (i.e., broader focus). This is often used in landscape photography for a sharp focus across the whole scene. Lower f-stop numbers (like f/2.8) represent a larger aperture and shallower depth of field, preferred for portrait photography to blur the background and foreground.
What is the ideal f-stop?
The ‘ideal’ f-stop depends on what you’re shooting. For portrait photographers, a wide’ aperture (lower f-stop like f/1.4 or f/2.8) helps achieve a shallower depth of field, blurring the background and foreground to focus on the subject. For landscape photographers, a smaller aperture (higher f-stop like f/8 or f/11) is typically used to get a deep depth of field for a sharp focus across the entire scene.
What is a good f-stop range?
A good f-stop range to have available on your lens is typically from f/1.4 to f/22. This wide range gives photographers the flexibility to shoot in various lighting conditions and achieve different depths of field, from shallow (low f-stop numbers) to deep (high f-stop numbers). However, the ‘sweet spot’ for many lenses in terms of sharpness is often around f/8 to f/11.
What does f 2.8 mean in photography?
In photography, f/2.8 refers to the aperture value or f-stop number. An aperture of f/2.8 means the aperture diameter is large, letting in more light, but creating a shallower depth of field. This can be ideal for low-light situations or when a photographer wants to isolate a subject from its background.
Why are f-stops numbered the way they are?
F-stops are numbered based on a mathematical sequence related to the square root of 2. Each stop represents a doubling or halving of the amount of light let in through the aperture, hence the seemingly odd sequence. It’s a way for photographers to quickly know how much light they’re allowing onto the camera sensor when changing the aperture value.
Is there a big difference between F2 and f1.4?
Yes, there is a noticeable difference between f/2 and f/1.4. When you move from f/2 to f/1.4, you’re increasing the size of the aperture and thus allowing in about twice as much light. This also decreases the depth of field, making the background and foreground blurrier. This is often preferred in portrait photography and low-light situations.
- There are also faster lenses than that, too, but they tend to be specialized niche lenses.