Wednesday 3 February 2010

Lens Calibration/Micro adjustments

I have been following this thread on Naturescapes 
It seems quite normal now for people with the latest high end camera bodies to have to use the micro adjust feature to 'tune' their lenses in to get a sharp image, This is something you never thought about in the days of film, Buy the camera,stick in a roll of velvia and off you go, I don't know what's changed but i don't really see that its a forward move, More like taking the load off of the camera manufactures and putting the onus on the photographer and when you read your manuals the manufacturers don't even recommend using the feature-So you have spent $5000 on a top of the range all singing all dancing dream body only to be unhappy with the sharpness of your images-you have 3 main options
1.Send it back and hope the next one is better
2,Spend hours playing around with the micro adjustment feature
3.Send all your equipment in to have it calibrated by the manufacturer which is going to cost big time
One problem i see with the MA feature is when calibrating a zoom lens, I had mine done when i had the MK3 problems and my zooms were showing to be front focusing at one end and back focusing at the other, This can only be rectified in a workshop with the right equipment
Reading the thread it seems that Nikon are a bit more stringent when it comes to AF calibration out of the box and i must admit i haven't needed to check my AF as my images are very sharp,Saying that no company/Product is perfect and i am sure there are people out there who have their fair share of problems with Nikon etc, Some of the guys on the thread i know shoot both Canon and Nikon so there isn't any fanboy stories
I thought that the latest bodies with high MP may be showing up lens issues but high MP bodies have been around for a while so there shouldnt be any issues there
There are now some products appearing on the market that allow you to check your AF so that if its slightly out you can correct it using the MA function-see lensalign product
All this puts more weight onto the togs shoulders as well as his pocket, I am sure Canon and Nikon don't like having their reputations tarnished by people on forums saying that they cant get a sharp image out of their new cameras, I don't think they want loads of equipment shipped to them for recalibration even if they do charge for it, But it seems that it may be something that we have to live with and to me in this sense digital has taken a step backwards



  1. Dave

    Sadly this is a big issue for a number of people judging by the >100 posts so far in a week!

    I am not in a position to shed any fresh light on this but here's my two-penneth for what it's worth:

    > Cameras and lenses should work to spec right out the box when new. If poor QA is to blame then there should be no excuse to not get this right in today's demanding marketplace!
    > Strangely, the claims that Live View focus is more reliable/accurate than mirror AF deserves more investigation.
    > I'm not qualified to fully understand/explain how AF works, but it seems plausible that the advances in MP could be putting pressure on the "conventional" way AF works and is breaching the tolerances in this current technology.
    > Until somebody with the engineering credentials explains clearly the capability and accuracy tolerances of AF technology in today's cameras, I guess this debate will run and run.
    > It makes sense that as sensor technology improves, user expectations increase and this will inevitably put pressure on other parts of the system (lenses, AF, storage etc)if these don't keep pace.
    > Canon & Nikon know the true answer. If its QA then shame on them and let's hope they reverse this policy NOW. If its AF technology issues, then don't remain silent, support (read communicate to) the users and work like b*gg**y to develop a superior solution. The other alternative which may be less palatable is to tell these mostly 1DIV guys to expect (and to continue to expect to shell out for!) imperfection ......NOT!
    What worries me most is that these togs are going to extraordinary lengths in the hope that they can fix their issue. I really think that Canon/Nikon need to manage our expectations better (by explaining operating limits, offering practical guidance and support, and give us confidence and knowledge that they are addressing these limtations by working on continuous improvements). IMHO the "skimming" pricing strategies favoured by the Japanese should only truly pay off if the new better technology actually delivers. Maybe Canon/Nikon need to tell their marketing depts to slow down on new model releases until the engineers catch up with the R&D deliverables! They'll sell less (replacement) cameras each year but they'll end up with happier, less poor customers when the properly tested model finally reaches the shelves. Perhaps this is too much to ask - in that case the Engineers had better pull their fingers out and keep up with their dreamy colleagues in Marketing!

  2. I think alot has to do with QA,Canon have been slack in this department for some time, Looking at this post from Naturescapes backs this up-
    I got a really nice call from the CPS explaining what they found.
    My cross type sensors had 1-3 cm front focus, my linear sensors had about 15cm of front focus!!!This expalin the very unstable AF, depending on which sensor jumped in.
    Now everything has been set to 0 and should be perfect. :) Afterwards they tested everything again and said it looked perfect. They also checked the camera independently, as well as the lens...
    Can't wait to get it back.

    My friend's non working Mark IV was calibrated as well and should work now, too. However, he has to get a new 1,4x TC. His old one is not calibrateable :-\

    You could spend a lifetime trying to calibrate that problem yourself and fail,I was also talking to another photographer here yesterday about the 7D, The worlds most complex and changable camera is being purchased by new users and beginners as its in that price range-it doesnt take a brain surgeon to work out that there are going to be problems all be it user error, Its not a camera that works well out of the box, i think Canon have made a rod for their own backs here and their reputation will suffer because of it, You only have to look at the posts on DPreview when the 7D came out to see that it was being used by people not understanding setting a camera like this up,although there were QA problems as well by all accounts-Maybe time for back to basics for bodies except 'Pro' bodies


  3. Dave
    Thanks for illustrating further why you are convinced the issues are to do with poor QA on leaving the assembly line.

    If this is the case, then this is deeply worrying because (at least) Canon are content to let sub-optimized eqpt from leaving their factory. This is a shoddy attitude and MUST change NOW!

    I am looking to upgrade to a 7D this year and if these issues remain unresolved by that time, I shall personally see to it that Canon will supply me a "fit for purpose" 7D. Take heed Canon (et Al) this is an unnacceptable attitude and is cutting (cost) corners at the customer's expense. My optimally set up 7D will either be the nth one out the box (sorry dealer) or will be calibrated by Canon at totally no cost to me (Canon's loss). I strongly recommend other concerned users to do exactly the same. When they see their after-sales market division costs spiral upwards perhaps they will then take note and sort this appalling situation out. Let's hope they have the wisdom to sort this prior to shipping from Japan, and treat us customers with the respect we deserve. These are not £99 "throw-away" compacts we're dealing with here! We're talking situations where keen customers are spending UPWARDS OF ONE MONTH'S UK AVERAGE TAKE HOME PAY on a single camera for Ch**st sake. This game is not cheap even for those of us who can digest these prices (and remember +40% on cost from 2008 no less - see earlier threads by Martin & Dave)

    Canon get real on this for ONCE - you are insulting your intelligent, discerning and INCREASINGLY mobile customer base - the ones that buy the higher end tech that gives you the most profit per unit shipped and allows you the funds to invest in R&D - think about it for a minute!

    End of rant - Dave/Martin can we have some nice fluffy bird pics over the next couple of days, while my blood pressure normalizes (!)?

    Kind Rgds

  4. Julian,

    Just a quick note re 7D.

    I agree with Dave, that based on the hands on I have had with the 7D, that most 'problems' are user error.

    Coming from the 1D experience, the 7D is easy to set up to get sharp pictures with low grain. I think if you come at it from a P & S background, as I think many users of say 400/450/30/40/50 D are that they are.

    I still have to write some findings up, but need to get a bit of time, and time has been short lately