If you find that the process of manually testing and adjusting your camera body for autofocus microadjustment on all your lenses is tedious and time-killing, definitely consider spending a few dollars on Reikan’s very awesome FoCal 2.6 software and let your computer do all the work.
Reikan FoCal 2.6 – Overview
Sounds too good to be true, I know. But after testing FoCal 2.6 with my Canon 6D and set of AF lenses, I can verify that it is indeed a relatively painless process. I was able to test and adjust microfocus on all 5 of my AF lenses in about 35 minutes, and that includes about 15 minutes of setup time. Also, this was my first time ever using the application, and I absolutely did not read the manual before trying it out.
Here’s one very tangible test result from my first run with the software. I had it test and calibrate my Canon 24-105mm f/4L at both 24mm and 105mm. The 24mm setting was so close it didn’t need adjustment, but the 105mm setting was very far out of calibration. FoCal generates a detailed report of each test (Pro version only, see below), including sample images so that you visually verify the improvement in focus sharpness. Here’s my lens at 105mm before (left) and after calibration and also the Lens Profile chart showing the microadjustment test data:
Note that if your camera supports it, you can run the calibration for the wide-angle and telephoto ends of a zoom lens and have different microadjustment settings for each. FoCal will tell you if the camera is capable of this when you connect it.
Types of Lens Tests Available
Reikan offers two versions of FoCal: Plus and Pro. Apparently they used to also have Standard, but that is no longer an option.
Plus is essentially only the automated microadustment testing and configuration. It also includes a very useful “test environment check” function that lets you know if you have set up everything up correctly (distance to focus test target, lighting, etc). It really takes the guesswork out of getting a good setup. You can opt for semi-automated calibration testing, in which it does the testing and tells you the optimal microadjustment settings), or the fully automated process that determines the best setting and then applies it to the camera for you.
Pro is the same as Plus but adds several very cool alternative tests to assess your lenses and how they perform on various camera bodies. My favorite is the “Aperture Sharpness” test (more info below), but there are also tests for: Focus Consistency, Dust Analysis, and Focus Point Comparison. You can also capture and review data on astigmatism problems, image motion due to movement in the lens, vignetting profiles, and historical results comparison.
With Pro, you also have the option of selecting which focus point to use for the microadjustment calibration test. With Plus, you can only uses the center focus point.
Aperture Sharpness Test (Pro Version Only)
This test is what made me decide to pay the extra money for the Pro version. The Aperture Sharpness test takes sample images at all f-stops and then calculates which is the sharpest. Even better is that it displays all the test data on a chart so you can see exactly how the lens performs over the entire range of apertures. Note that this test must be run at each focal length you want to test for if the lens is a zoom.
Here’s a example test report from my Canon 35mm f/2 IS. You can see that it is at peak sharpness at f/6.3 but that it also performs almost as good all the way down to wide-open at f/2 (the green triangle denotes the sharpest aperture setting):
Note that this analysis shows the performance of the lens together with the body, so the curve may look a bit different with this same lens on a different body.
Compare Data with Other FoCal Users
In the chart just above, the blue curve area is the average performance of all other FoCal users who have tested the same lens. This is useful in determining if a given copy of a lens is performing in line with the average, or if it is an exceptionally good copy (or maybe a real stinker). Having comparison data across a large userbase can be helpful in determining if a new lens is performing as it should or if it needs to be returned or exchanged for another copy.
Software and Hardware Compatibility
FoCal runs on Windows (7, 8, and 10) as well as MacOS (although it doesn’t fully work with High Sierra at the time of this writing…but the folks at Reikan are committed to finding a resolution). No word on Linux compatibility.
You can use your license of FoCal on a mix of up to 5 Windows and MacOS computers. This is very reasonable licensing, in my opinion. It can register and remember up to 5 camera bodies at a time. There is no limit on how many lenses you can test/calibrate.
It works with just about all Nikon and Canon dSLRs that offer microadjustment (or focus fine tune for Nikon) capabilities. It does not work with other brands.
Lenses must be, of course, autofocus. 🙂
Reikan FoCal Software Review – Final Thoughts
I’ve just scratched the surface of what can be done with this software, and there are many settings and tweaks that can be made to fine-tune the test process. But I already feel that I’ve gotten a lot of value out of it. For phrugal photographers like me, this is one of the most important criteria for evaluating a purchase.