We released a new Mac version of FoCal on Monday after some intensive testing, and this week have seen the same testing on the Windows version. As we use the same underlying test control and analysis code, all the internal improvements in the Mac version are now available for Windows and we updated all the appropriate user interface parts to give you all these features.
(Instructions on where to find the new version are near the bottom of this post)
Here’s a summary of the improvements (these are just the big things – there are loads of smaller fixes and improvements internally, way too many to mention here).
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 Fully Automatic AF Microadjustment test has always had a special validation algorithm which determines the most likely real-world focus achieved by the AF system in as few shots as possible. This same algorithm has now been extended into both the Manual Mode test and the AF Consistency test (when used in AFMA Range mode), which will give better predictions in both of those tests.
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 Settings 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 the QoF value being highlighted in red (rather than green as above). If you see this, it’s worth checking that you have the target correctly positioned and it’s lit evenly.
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 some points which on inspection show significant camera shake (and you can see the data quality is poor and the linear chart is shown in red):
So, by reviewing the images by left-clicking on the points and ignoring those with camera shake (by right-clicking on the point and it losing it’s colour) the prediction is automatically updated and is now good, with a big 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 Settings window:
When enabled, if no camera is connected the File Camera will be opened when you click “Select Camera”:
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 window 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.
The following table shows what should be working for this version of FoCal (126.96.36.199)
|Operating System||Camera Manufacturer||Status|
|Windows XP||Canon only||Fully functional|
|Windows Vista||Canon & Nikon||Fully functional|
|Windows 7||Canon & Nikon||Fully functional|
|Windows 8||Nikon appears to work but not validated at Reikan (this is happening soon)||Untested at Reikan but reported to work|
It’s still a beta?
Yes, although we hope to take the beta label off very soon. Each new beta for FoCal 1.7 has added or fixed significant functionality, so each one is a big change from the last version and as such we don’t want to remove the beta label until things have settled.
Please remember though that as a beta version there may be functionality that doesn’t work on some systems, and indeed in some cases the software may not run at all. Please let us know if this happens and we will investigate the problems. As is hopefully apparent, we do provide regular and comprehensive updates to FoCal to fix issues and add new functionality.
How do I get it?
This version is available to all license holders (FoCal Standard, FoCal Plus and FoCal Pro).
You can download it from the License Management System – you’ll see the link to the download near the bottom of the page once you log in.
The software is available as ZIP file, containing the software itself, the target images and documentation in separate directories.
There’s a new brief QuickStart guide available here which helps you get started.
What can I do to help?
Please download the software and give it a go. Let us know how you get on:
- If you spot any errors, please let us know
- If you can make the software misbehave, let us know what steps you take to make it happen
- If it works perfectly we’d love to hear too (good news it always nice!!)
You can contact us through the contact form (please use the Mac Beta option). There’s likely to be quite a high volume of emails, so we can’t reply to everyone but every bit of information we receive will be read and used to make FoCal better, so please let us know how you get on.