This started as a quick post to explain how things are coming on with the latest FoCal release (which is very, very nearly ready!), but it turns out there are loads of improvements and additions and the post has got a bit long!
We had planned to get the new release out yesterday (Friday), but we had a last minute issue during final testing which has delayed us a tiny bit – we’re hoping to have the release available very early next week.
In no particular order, here’s a list of some of the updates an improvements in the next version (there are lots of other underlying fixes and enhancements too, but these are the headline features):
Camera Detection Improvements
The detection of both Nikon and Canon cameras has been improved which should make detection of cameras much more reliable on all supported versions of OS X. Nikon detection is faster and should work with all cameras without issues now. Note that USB3 is not yet reliably supported so if you’re using a Nikon D800 then you should use either a microUSB2 cable plugged into the larger half of the camera connector, or use a USB3 cable plugged into a USB2 port.
Improved operation on Snow Leopard
Since the last release of FoCal we now have in-house Snow Leopard release testing capability (before we were getting a third party to run our release testing on Snow Leopard). We found a few problems when using Canon cameras and these have been fixed now.
AF Microadjustment Chart Markers
The “Linear Chart” display on the Fully Automatic and Manual Mode tests has been improved to show markers at the points where shots have been taken. The marker colour indicates whether the points are optimised and/or ignored as well:
Fully Validated test data and Ignorable points
The Manual Mode test has had a feature where data points could be “ignored” – i.e. removed from the final calculation – so if there are obvious bad points you can remove them to get a better result. Well, this feature has now been added to both the Fully Auto test and the Focus Consistency test (when run in AFMA Range mode):
Right clicking a point will make it lose it’s colour and it will then be ignored – the result will be immediately recalculated and you can see what effect each point has on the calculation:
Improved Report Saving
FoCal Pro has always offered the ability to save PDF reports, but we’ve improved this a little. Now, when you save, you get the option to not include the point details (this will create a much shorter summary report), you can remove your serial number (so you can share the results without revealing any personal data), and you can even add your own notes if there is some important information you’d like included in the report:
Some cameras have to be used in MSC (Manual Setting Change) mode, meaning for any changes in AF Microadjustment or AF Fine Tune, you are told to change the value on the camera. This is only an issue for the Fully Automatic AF Microadjustment test, and FoCal has always been quite efficient to use even in MSC mode.
We’ve just improved this by enabling a camera HotKey – this means there’s a specific button on the camera you can press which tells FoCal you’ve entered the correct value, so there’s no need to keep jumping back and forth between the camera and the computer.
This feature is enabled by default (in Preferences there an “Enable camera HotKey” option):
When you see the AF Microadjustment Change request message appear, you can now dial in the requested value on the camera, then hit “AE-L/AF-L” on Nikon cameras, or half-press the shutter button on Canon cameras, and the test will continue:
MultiPoint Focus Test Improvements
The MultiPoint Focus Test is a very informative test and has been fully featured from the start. We’ve made a few small changes. First, the defaults have been adjusted as recommended by Falk Lumo in his post on testing the D800 outer focus points. Falk is an incredibly knowledgable person who helped us with some of the internal maths in FoCal, so we’ve adopted his suggestion for best practice defaults.
There’s also an indication in the Review list (at the top right) if the quality of the target is suspect at this point – this is shown by a “*” in front of the QoF value as you can see in the results above. If you see this, it’s worth checking that you have the target correctly positioned and it’s lit evenly.
Incidentally, here’s a MPFT result from our new D800 which we now have in the lab – there’s a very suspicious change in AF Fine Tune value required in the left-most focus points:
Manual Mode Test Improvements
Manual Mode has improved as well. There’s better decoding of the image data so it works with a wider range of cameras. You can adjust the AF Fine Tune value for any files (as there are some cameras which mis-report their value in the image files), and now the AF consistency validation routine used in the Fully Automatic test is also applied to Manual Mode. This means you can run the test with multiple shots at each AF Microadjustment/Fine Tune point, and FoCal will pick the best for analysis. You can also ignore points with a simple right-click if you want to fine-tune the data after the results are in, for example the test below has a few rogue points (and you can see the data quality is poor and the linear chart is shown in red):
So, by ignoring a few points with a couple of right-clicks, the prediction is automatically updated and is now good, with a slight change in the final value to apply:
Also, for all charts, when you click a point to display it’s information (e.g. the image at the analysed point), the point on the chart will be highlighted with a red circle (see the image above for an example), so you can easily see which point you’re looking at.
Target Setup Improvements
Target setup has been improved – the display of Focus points has been made clearer, and the zoomed image now shows the direction you need to move in order to align the target. We’ve also added a histogram to this utility – this will be extended in future to perform initial light analysis before running tests, but for now just shows you the red, green and blue content of the image:
File Camera (Experimental Feature)
The new File Camera feature offers two different modes of operation: Tethered and Precaptured File mode. You can enable the File Camera and select the mode from the preferences window:
When enabled, if no camera is connected the File Camera will be opened when you click “Connect”:
In Tethered mode, you can run tests in the same was as if you had a camera connected, except the camera you use isn’t controlled by FoCal – you set up and take the shots yourself as instructed by FoCal. When the shots are taken, they are transferred to the computer either by some tethering software, or more interestingly by something like an Eye-Fi card which allows transfer of files over a WiFi connection to the computer – so you don’t need any wires at all.
When the test starts, FoCal will ask you to take a shot with your camera so it can determine what needs to be adjusted to run the test:
Once the camera setup is determined, a set of simple icons show you how to configure the camera for the test:
Each time the sheet with the icons is shown, you just adjust as shown – after the first shot you will usually only see one or two icons so it’s a very simple adjustment to the camera, the just take the shot. FoCal checks all the settings for each shot and lets you know if something isn’t correct. It also analyses the image for target position and consistency of focus in order to give you the same quality of results as when running completely controlled by FoCal.
Precaptured File Mode
In Precaptured File mode, you take a set of shots manually and then feed them into FoCal. The Manual Mode in FoCal has offered this functionality for some time, but only for the AF Microadjustment test. The File Camera currently offers AF microadjustment, Aperture Sharpness and AF Consistency testing, even with cameras that aren’t supported by FoCal automatically (for example the Fuji XPro1).
When you run the test, a sheet is shown listing the groups of files appropriate for the test you’ve chosen:
In this example, you can see 3 groups of files which can be used for Aperture Sharpness testing from a Fuji X-Pro1 camera:
When’s it available?
The release should be available for OS X (Mac users) very early next week. The Windows version is complete but we’ve been focusing our testing efforts on the OS X version first, so the Windows version should be available within a few days of the OS X release.
Keep an eye out on the blog, Facebook or Twitter for updates on FoCal.