FoCal 2.9 Alpha 1

We’re excited to announce the first of a series of preview releases for the next big step in FoCal development!

A Brief History of FoCal Development

FoCal development started way back in 2009 and it wasn’t until late 2011 the first public release was made. Early versions ran on Windows only and supported the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D cameras.  This is what FoCal 1.0 looked like back in 2012:

FoCal 1.0 Main Screen

Since then, we’ve added support for 17 Canon cameras and 23 Nikon cameras across both Windows and Mac operating systems as well as adding new tests, comparison functions and many other features.

Many changes have been built on top of a software framework that is in parts nearly 10 years old! With the 2.0 release of FoCal we were able to improve many aspects of the software but even so, over time we have become constrained by an older framework.  One of the key drivers for this new step is providing native 64-bit architecture releases of FoCal on macOS, the older framework just wouldn’t have allowed it.

Even without the move to native 64-bit releases the old framework was becoming fragile, development was held up with internal differences between Windows and Mac code, meaning even with very through testing potential bugs could get through into releases.

So What’s Changed?

We’ve moved now to a shiny new software development framework that offers much better long term support. The new framework is designed with portability and flexibility in mind and we’ve taken this opportunity to update a huge amount of the internal workings of FoCal. This change will allow future development to be quicker, easier, more flexible and more exciting, new features and improvements can be added far more easily.

We’re calling this first release an Alpha Release (see below) to gain feedback as the changes under the hood are extensive.

What’s an Alpha release?

Going forward, we’re going to categorise releases as Alpha, Beta and Stable.  In summary:

  • Alpha releases will be very early “bleeding edge” releases.  They have limited functionality, contain experimental functionality which may be removed in later releases and may be unreliable.  They may also be released specifically to test certain areas of functionality.
  • Beta releases should be much closer to the final, public “Stable” release.  The user interface and functionality will be pretty much locked down, and they will have had some significant testing but are made available to a wider audience to get feedback.
  • Stable releases are publicly available, fully tested and final releases.

There’s an FAQ post here which explains in a bit more detail.

This release today is categorised as an Alpha release.  Under the skin, it is very different to any previous release of FoCal. So far as this first release the user interface does not include huge changes to keep things familiar and easier to determine if things are working as they should.

Overview of Changes

Here’s a very brief and not comprehensive list of the key changes in this version:

  • Lots and lots of internal improvements!
  • A lot of improvements to the underlying control of Canon and Nikon cameras.
  • Completely new and improved processing for resolving lens names.
  • A way for users to report a misidentified lens name so we can continue to improve identification.
  • Mac version is now a native 64-bit application, no more warnings about updating to work on macOS.
  • Overlapped Capture and Analysis to speed up tests and calibrations.
  • Changes to historic database format for results storage and uploading, making data more accurate, complete and easier to work with going forward.
  • Theme changes – this new version supports Dark Theme on macOS and introduces a brighter look on Windows.
  • Removal of some functionality.  Most functionality removal (e.g. MultiPoint Focus Test) is temporary and will be replaced as development proceeds.
  • Changes to the way reports are generated to a common format across platforms.

The above is absolutely not a definitive list of functionality and update changes, there are a lot of things that are almost finished and will be included in upcoming releases.

Known Issues / Missing Functionality

The following are the main known issues with this release:

  • Comparison data is not loaded, you cannot compare your camera/lens with other users in this version.  (This will be added back soon)
  • Semi Auto mode calibration is removed.
  • MultiPoint Focus Test is removed
  • Dust Analysis Test does not run
  • Windows Installer is basic and will be improved
  • No documentation

Feedback

Alpha versions of FoCal are early releases. Aimed mainly at technically minded users to see the latest features and to help in the development of FoCal. We would love for users to try out this Alpha release and let us know what you think!

We’ve added a Send Feedback button in the About window of the application.  Any bug reports, feature improvement, suggestions and general thoughts are very welcome.

Please do use the Send Feedback button in the software to send information back to us.  This ensures the feedback is sent to the right place and that we have the right information about the version being tested.

We will read all the comments you send us, please note that for pre-release software these are NOT handled as support requests and we won’t usually reply or follow up.

We are going to be pretty active with pre-release updates during this period, so please send feedback and there should be a new version with fixes/improvements along soon.

Enough talk – where do I get the software?

Pre-release versions will be available to FoCal Pro and Commercial users (that are within their Included Updates Period) by logging in to the LMS at lms.fo-cal.co.uk.  You should see a “Pre-Release Downloads” section – click this to view the available downloads. If you’ve skimmed the information above, it really is worth just checking the pre-release software FAQ to make sure you know type of software you’re getting.

Thank you!

For those that download, use and provide feedback – thank you very much for your support with FoCal.  This sort of user testing and feedback really is invaluable – it helps us to focus on the things that are important to you, and make sure we deliver high quality software to everyone.

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