The first (and hopefully last!) Release Candidate of FoCal 1.8 is now available, but this version is only available for FoCal Pro users at present. It brings lots of exciting new features which should be available to everyone by the end of February.
Updates and Fixes
With the last major issues with the Mac version of FoCal ironed out, we’ve been steaming ahead working on fixed for various bugs and improving the features of FoCal. This new version brings the following updates:
- RAW analysis – RAW sensor data is now analysed by default for more accurate and repeatable results
- A new TurboCal tool for Canon cameras which performs a shutterless AF microadjustment calibration in 20-30 seconds!
- A new Camera Information tool showing lots of useful information about your camera (including shutter count where available)
- Addition of Focus Controls to the Target Setup tool to allow live adjustment of focus (useful for Aperture Sharpness/TurboCal tests)
- A completely rewritten Dust Analysis test which is faster, gives better results with more detail and even detects hot pixels!
- Much of the analysis has been made multi-threaded for improved performance on common multicore processors
- Improvements to the integrated licensing to not require program restarts in most cases
- Option to use Canon Legacy interface files for older cameras (e.g. Canon EOS-1D(s) Mark III)
- More information in the reports for all tests (e.g. camera firmware, operating system version etc)
- Fixes to handling of Canon EOS-1 series camera mode control
- Fix for Nikon shutter speed inaccuracies
Up to and including FoCal 1.7, the analysis has always been performed on JPEG images from the camera. In order to create JPEG images, the camera performs a whole host of processing, including demosaicing, sharpening, vignette correction, distortion correction, light level optimisation, dynamic range control and other processing. While FoCal tries hard to switch as much of this off as possible in the way it configures the camera, there are many unknowns in how the camera processes the sensor data to create the JPEG image.
So FoCal 1.8 now uses RAW image data – that is data straight from the sensor of the camera without any processing at all. We use a special demosaicing algorithm to create data which is optimised for the analysis that FoCal performs and allows the analysis to give more repeatable and accurate results.
It does take a little time to process the RAW image data (especially for cameras like the D800 with its 36 million pixels!), but with the multithreading improvements we’ve made to this version of FoCal, RAW analysis only adds a few seconds per image (and we will be optimising the processing to make it even faster soon).
You don’t need to do anything to use RAW analysis in FoCal – it’s now the default analysis method as the results we obtained during extensive testing show that the improvement is really quite significant. Should you need to, you can revert back to JPEG processing from the Settings/Preferences window.
Focus Controls in Target Setup
In order to assist with setup for the Aperture Sharpness test and the new TurboCal test (see below), the Target Setup utility now includes a Focus Control panel:
This allows you to use the camera’s in-built Phase Detect (quick) or Contrast Detect (live) focus algorithms, or an optimised algorithm built in to FoCal. You can also manually adjust the lens and see the results live so you can get the perfect focus.
For Canon cameras, by default we’ve replaced the QuickCal test with a new TurboCal test which performs AF Microadjustment without even firing the shutter! Unfortunately, Nikon cameras don’t report the necessary information back to the computer so we can’t implement this for Nikon cameras.
The new Focus Controls in the Target Setup utility allow you to quickly and easily achieve the perfect focus required to run this test, then you just click the Start button and 20-30 seconds later you have a result for AF Microadjustment!
New Dust Analysis
The Dust Analysis tool – while useful – was never quite as reliable as it should have been, especially on Mac computers! We’ve completely rewritten the analysis to be reliable, faster and more accurate on both Windows and Mac computers.
Not only does the test run in less than half the time of the previous test with massively less memory requirements, but colour coding of the markers show how opaque the dust spots are – red means you’re very likely to notice the dust spot, and green means you probably won’t notice it at all in images. The new Dust Analysis test even detects hot pixels on the camera sensor!
Camera Information tool
The new Camera Information tool displays lots of information about your camera, including shutter count, temperature and pixel information:
The following table shows what is working for this version of FoCal:
|Operating System||Camera Manufacturer||Status|
|OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)||Canon & Nikon||Fully functional|
|OS X 10.7 (Lion)||Canon & Nikon||Fully functional|
|OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion)||Canon & Nikon||Fully functional|
The following table shows what should be working for this version of FoCal:
|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 is not yet validated by Reikan.||Untested at Reikan but reported to work|
What’s meant by Release Candidate?
We hope that this version is very close to the final release. There will be no new features added when the General Availability release of FoCal 1.8 is made available, but there may be a few small bug fixes depending on the reports we get back from people running this Release Candidate.
How do I get it?
This version is available to FoCal Pro license holders only. We originally only released beta software to FoCal Pro users as a benefit of having the Pro license, and we’re reverting back to this. Generally, FoCal Pro users are more advanced users and provide us with excellent information which we can use to improve FoCal for all users.
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.
MAC: The software is available as a disk image (DMG) file for OS X, containing the software itself, the target images and documentation in separate directories.
WINDOWS: The software is available as a ZIP file, which contains the software, the target images and the documentation in separate directories.
Installing on OS X (IMPORTANT!)
Please read the installation section of the manual if you don’t already have FoCal installed! FoCal uses the Mono framework, and this must be installed before you use FoCal. You only have to do this the very first time you install FoCal, so if you’re already using FoCal on your Mac then installation is just a case of copying FoCal to the Applications folder and running it.
You should download the Mono framework from www.fo-cal.co.uk/mono as this will obtain the correct version (2.10.9). Any other version may cause problems with FoCal.
Some versions of OS X give you a message and take you to the Mono download page, but most don’t give you much help – either a bouncing FoCal icon that quickly disappears, or an obscure “OS Error”. If you get either of these issues, you can resolve them with the steps in Section 2 (Installation) of the FoCal Manual which is in the Documents folder when you mount the DMG image.
There are short guides available which help you through the installation, connection and first use of the software available for Windows and for Mac on the Document Downloads page.
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 or Windows Beta option as appropriate). 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.