FoCal 1.8 Release Candidate available for FoCal Pro users

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

RAW Analysis

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:

Target Setup Focus Controls

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.

TurboCal

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.

FoCal TurboCal Test

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.

FoCal New Dust Analysis Test

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:

FoCal Camera Information Tool

Support Status

Mac

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

Windows

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.

QuickStart Guides

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) or by emailing beta@fo-cal.co.uk.  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.

 

15 comments on “FoCal 1.8 Release Candidate available for FoCal Pro users

  • It’s nice to have RAW analysis.
    But would you expect the RAW-based AFMA value is different from the JPG-based one?
    I tried and they are quite different. Which one should I use?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi

      You shouldn’t expect a massive difference, although it will depend on how much the in-camera processing affects the image itself. You should find that raw analysis gives a more consistent result across a wider range of environmental conditions (including different lenses and in-camera processing). With any of this sort of calibration, you should test in with real-world shooting before a critical assignment, but I would suggest you start with the raw result first.

      I hope this helps

      Rich

      Reply
  • Hi,

    I’m really excited but this new release. I am a new customer and I am very confident about the results. The image quality of my pictures using my 300mm 2.8 with a 2x TC have increased drastically.

    One thing I’d like to add is that, if you use 2 monitors to calibrate and spread the windows across the second monitor, the system seems to memorize that and even when you are using one monitor the window “stays” on the second, not showing up.

    I noticed a typo on the first screen shot here (Target Setup). It is written “Contast Detect” on the button.

    Best Regards and congratulations for the excellent work!

    Reply
  • Jean-Pierre Protin says:

    Hello

    The only Feature I am waiting for too long Time is total automatic compatibility with Canon 5D MKIII.

    Question : WHEN ??????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Regards

    JP

    Reply
    • The Canon 5D3 and also the Canon 1DX still don’t support the AFMA adjustments needed at this time. We’ve seen communication with Canon that this is unlikely to change unless a large number of customers request this in the SDK. So we suggest that you make your thoughts known to Canon at this time.

      Reply
  • I’m running windows 8 and wish to purchase the pro version. I note above where it says foCal is reported to work on windows 8. So do I purchase the pro version and then upgrade it to the 1.8 beta version or if I purchase will I automatically receive the 1.8 version. I nedd it now so please response. Thanks, John

    Reply
    • Hi John

      If you purchase a license now, you will get updates which come in to FoCal 1.x line. FoCal 2.0 is in the pipeline but there will still be a few more updates on the 1.x line over the coming few months which you will get at no extra cost.

      Reply
      • hi Rich,

        just to clarify… so are you saying that if we purchase FoCal Pro 1.8 now we will be able to upgrade to version 2.0 for free in future?

        Reply
        • Hi Mike

          There will be a (small) charge to upgrade from FoCal 1.x to FoCal 2.0, but there will definitely be a few more 1.x versions that will be included within the price of any purchase now.

          Rich

          Reply
  • Hi,
    I welcome the new raw analysis, I’ve never had a good feeling about the analyze of JPEG compression artifacts.
    But I fear we are running in new problems, if focal uses pure RAW data without the correction of lateral chromatic aberrations (CA).
    CAs should be minimal for the center AF-point (AF Calibration), but the outer AF-points (e.g. Multi-Point Focus Test) should be affected.

    Have you considered to use the TIF file format (available in Nikon Pro cameras)?
    TIF has the full RAW resolution without compression artifacts but should also have automatic CA removal by the camera.

    Regards
    Juergen

    Reply
    • Hi Juergen

      There are a couple of comments I would make regarding RAW analysis. Firstly, any correction for lateral CA will involve manipulation of the image data by the camera which adds an unknown processing step between the received light and the analysed image. While this works nicely for images that you want to print or view as a human, you have to remember that the AF sensor will be subject to the *same* chromatic aberrations (of any kind) that the image sensor will. Any distortion introduced at the image sensor will be constant across all images analysed by FoCal so will still lead to an appropriate peak quality value and therefore an accurate result. If the CA was to introduce any kind of shift in the ideal focus position at certain focus points, then it should also affect the sharpness measurements made by FoCal too*, meaning that FoCal’s result will be representative of the AF sensor result.

      The AF sensor is not sensitive to the complete colour spectrum and this reduces it susceptibility to lateral CA to a large extent. FoCal’s analysis (especially of RAW image data) mimics the source data that the AF sensor receives and so again has relatively high immunity.

      RAW processing in FoCal is a new feature and we haven’t seen any issues yet – only general improvements in reliability (often very marked repeatability improvements in suboptimal testing environments). We’re doing more development in this area all the time to make sure FoCal is as accurate as possible.

      I hope this helps

      Rich

      * I have made the assumption that a line-correlation type AF sensor typically used within DSLR cameras can accurately correlate when subjects to moderate to severe chromatic aberration.

      Reply
    • Hi Kevin

      There will be a charge for FoCal 1.x to FoCal 2.x, but we don’t yet have a release date for FoCal 2.0. The first Mac release (non beta) will be available today and if you already have a FoCal license this will be available to you free of charge.

      Rich

      Reply
  • Bennett Green says:

    Waiting for update to foCal Pro to include Nikon D7100.
    Please note this is my second request.

    Reply

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