FoCal 2.9 Beta 1 – with Nikon Z6/Z7 Support

After a huge development effort and an extensive alpha testing program, we’re absolutely delighted to announce FoCal 2.9 Beta 1 for public release to FoCal Pro/Commercial users!

Wait… What about 2.7 and 2.8?

There’s such a lot of changes under the skin that we’ve skipped 2.7 and 2.8 and gone straight to 2.9… This is our biggest development effort yet!

Who can try it out?

Another thing to get out the way early is who this is available for. First, you’ll need a license for FoCal Pro or FoCal Commercial. This is not available for Plus users – this is partly a perk for Pro users, and partly to reduce testing effort for pre-release software.

Second, you will need to have been in your Included Updates Period on 1st October 2018. So if you’ve never bought an Included Updated Period extension, you’ll be eligible to try this version out if you bought FoCal after 1st October 2017.

We’ve “backdated” the license requirement because it’s taken a long time to get this version out and we feel it’s fair to let people who haven’t recently extended their support with an Included Updated Period extension to still use this version.

So what’s changed from FoCal 2.6?

Pretty much everything. Literally. This started with a transfer to a new runtime environment so we could build 64-bit apps to comply with Apple’s requirements for macOS. But it grew into a complete restructuring of the inner workings of FoCal, including:

  • Totally new internal framework, making development much easier so we can release updates faster and more frequently.
  • 64-bit macOS application – no more “FoCal is not optimized for your Mac” messages.
  • Internal support for more platforms… exciting things coming in the future!
  • Much more commonality between Windows and Mac so we can be confident of rapid development and good operation on both platforms.
  • Huge improvements to control of every single supported camera.
  • Totally new lens recognition – not only is lens recognition more accurate, but there’s a link for you to easily report any errors so we can update the next version (and all historical data you have too!)
  • Brand new database format for your results, with more accuracy, more detail and more possibilities.
  • New analysis flow, speeding up tests and getting you results quicker.

The majority of the time has been spent on internals, which means that operationally things are pretty similar to FoCal 2.6.x (the last release), but should be more reliable, faster and generally better. But the foundation is laid for a whole host of exciting things that we’ll be releasing over the coming months.

For more details, the release notes post is available here.

Take a look at FoCal 2.9

Most of the changes in FoCal 2.9 are under the hood – improving speed, reliability, accuracy. But there are some significant external changes detailed below.

New User Interface

The user interface is changing. When you fire up FoCal, you’ll be presented with the following screen (on Windows – very similar on Mac):

You can connect to the camera either with the Connect to camera link, or click the No camera... text at the bottom of the window.

The Preferences, License, and About buttons on the front page can now be found under the About tab, which also gives information about the versions, supported cameras and other information (click the “+” to expand these sections).

FoCal 2.9 About Tab

Camera/Lens Information Panel

When you open a camera or file from the main window you’ll be able to see all the details that used to be present in the Camera Info utility. You can see details about the camera (e.g. serial number, battery level, firmware version including a warning if it’s not the latest, shutter count if available etc). Again, just click the “+” symbol to expand the sections.

You’ll notice that with a camera opened, the status bar at the bottom of the window shows some information and icons – more on this below…

Chart Help

Each test now has a Chart Help link available next to chart selection list:

Click this to jump to a page on the website which has detailed information about the chart and how to interpret the information.

Note that at the time of release, this information is basic and will be expanded shortly.

Overlapped Capture & Analysis

We’ve improved the speed of the AF Consistency and Aperture Sharpness tests by analysing data at the same time that new data is being captured by the camera. This significantly speeds up the operation of the tests, even more so on older computers.

There can sometimes be issues with handling failure cases (e.g. not being able to find the target, or if you accidentally enter the wrong AF Microadjustment when requested). If you experience problems with this, you can disable Overlapped Capture & Analysis in the Preferences window.

History Crops

Any tests you run with FoCal 2.9 onwards will save their crop images locally to your computer. Note that these are not uploaded with your results – they stay on your machine and are shown when you bring up a test from the history:

The images are stored on your computer. By default, they will take up a maximum of 1000MB but you can change this in the Limit Image Cache Size To setting in the Preferences window:

Update Channels

You can choose which Update Channel you want to get notified about updates for. If you choose Stable, you’ll only be told about full tested releases of FoCal. If you want to get access to some early releases, you can choose Beta or Alpha to be notified about updates on these other channels.

We’ve been releasing some Alpha builds over the last couple of months. These are bleeding edge, brand new functionality releases which haven’t gone through significant testing, so we haven’t made them very public.

Beta builds – like this one released today – are much closer to the final Stable release, and available to all FoCal Pro/Commercial users for testing and feedback.

Update check FoCal Beta

When there’s an update available, you’ll see it indicated on the main screen – just click the link to jump to the window above. Or you can check manually by choosing About then Update Check to open the same window.

Behaviour Changes

There are a few changes in behaviour to be aware of over previous releases:

Gather Info on Open

When you connect to the camera, a shot will be taken to gather as much information as possible from the camera. It takes a few seconds to open a camera now, but the information you’re presented with in the Camera/Lens Info panel has replaced the separate Camera Info tool of previous versions.

Locking of Camera Controls

In order to ensure correct operation, the camera controls are now locked unless explicitly enabled by FoCal. On Nikon you’ll usually just see “PC” on the top/back screen, and on Canon you’ll see “Busy” shown on the top screen if you try to change controls. If the controls are locked, it will be indicated in FoCal with the camera control icon on the status bar of the main window:

When a test isn’t running, you can click the icon to enable camera controls – the controls will be adjustable while the message is shown on the screen:

Click the OK button when you’ve finished adjusting the camera controls.

The controls will also be active when the Target Setup utility is open as it’s likely you will need to adjust some camera settings during this test, and they will automatically be activated in User Assisted Mode when you need to change the AF Microadjustment / Fine Tune value.

Nikon Hotkey

For those not familiar, the camera hotkey is used to “OK” a change to AF Microadjustment / Fine Tune at the camera, so you don’t need to keep returning the computer when you’ve adjusted the setting. Combined with voice prompts, this means you can quickly calibrate your lenses.

The original Nikon hotkey was to press and hold the AE-L button, but this was a bit problematic as not all cameras has this button, and the alternative (press and hold the joystick) was prone to adjusting the focus point and causing issues running the calibration.

So we’ve changed it to match the Canon hotkey, which is:

  • Adjust the aperture to signal that you have adjusted the AF Microadjustment / Fine Tune.

The flow is like this:

  • FoCal will alert you on-screen and with a voice prompt that you need to set the AF Microadjustment / Fine Tune to a certain value. (At this point, the camera controls will be enabled)
  • Using the controls on the camera, adjust the AF Microadjustment / Fine Tune to the specified value.
  • Half press the shutter button so the camera is ready to take a shot.
  • Click the aperture control dial round by one click – make sure it’s in the direction to change the aperture.
  • Within a second or so you should hear “Continuing…” spoken by the computer. There will be a delay of 2 seconds to allow any vibrations to settle down and then the test will continue.

Getting this Release

Pre-release versions will be available to FoCal Pro and Commercial users
who were within their Included Updates Period as of 1st October 2018. You can get the software in one of two ways:

  • Go to the About > Update Check option in the software, and making sure the Update Channel is set to Alpha or Beta (FoCal 2.9 onwards). From here you can hit the Download button to get the software.
  • 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.

It’s worth just checking the pre-release software FAQ to make sure you know type of software you’re getting.

Feedback

Beta releases are close to Stable releases of FoCal but require a wider testing audience. We would love for users to try out this Beta release and let us know what you think!

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

FoCal User Feedback Button

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, but please note that for pre-release software these are NOT handled as support requests and we won’t necessarily be able to 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.

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.

42 comments on “FoCal 2.9 Beta 1 – with Nikon Z6/Z7 Support

    • Hi Jon.

      Shutter count is present for all the cameras that we can obtain it for in the Cam/Info panel of this version (click the Camera Details “+” icon to expand). This includes all Nikon cameras and a bunch of mid-aged Canon cameras (5Dmk2 to about 5Dmk4 age). The very early Canon cameras (1Dmk3) do not report this information at all, and the later ones (e.g. 5Dmk4) hide the information, although we do hope to bring support for shutter count on these in a later release.

      Rich

      Reply
    • Hi William

      The latest release is a beta so will not show up in the update checker for FoCal 2.6. You will need to log in to the LMS, open the “Pre-Release” option and download from there. The new version will install alongside your current FoCal 2 installation.

      Rich

      Reply
  • James Millard says:

    “Click the aperture control dial round by one click – make sure it’s in the direction to change the aperture.”
    Does this actually change the aperture or just tell the computer it is ok to proceed with the test?
    Does this Beta version address the Nikon / Apple connectivity problem where we have to open Image Capture and wait for the images to show before starting the test?

    Regards

    Jim

    Reply
    • Hi James

      The change in aperture is just to signal to the computer that it’s OK to proceed with the test – FoCal will restore the aperture back to right setting before taking any more shots.

      The camera comms interface on Mac has been significantly improved for this release and should fix the issue that affected FoCal 2.6 for some Nikon user on macOS.

      Rich

      Reply
  • Steven Nickerson says:

    Unfortunately, the Dark Blue text used on most of the interface screens is virtually unreadable on Mac OSx 10.14 with Dark Mode enabled. Of course one solution is very obvious, but perhaps a different color could be used that is friendly to both Light and Dark appearance modes.

    Steve

    Reply
    • Hi Steven

      Thanks for the feedback about this. We have had a few reports of this and have already significantly improved dark mode visibility. As you rightly suggest, for now if you can use Light Mode it’ll be a lot more readable until the next release is available.

      Thanks

      Rich

      Reply
  • James Millard says:

    An issue I have with Focal Pro 2.6 is when I connect a camera (Nikon) it sometimes stalls and I then try to stop it but it does not stop. Even clicking Focal Quit does not work. I get the spinning beach ball which goes on forever and I then have to shut down my computer, start up and reboot to get it to stop. Can you put a Cancel button on the Cam / Lens connection page?

    Regards

    Jim

    Reply
    • Hi James,

      Sorry for the delay in response, blog comments are not checked as often as the support system(!)

      If you’re still seeing the issue and you didn’t already, could you raise a support request.

      Your issue is exactly the sort of thing the support team is ready and able to help with, give them a shout! 🙂

      Best Regards,
      Dave

      Reply
  • I’m a little confused by why a mirrorless camera would even require/support micro focus. Since I’m probably not the only one wondering this, maybe you could address it in future release notes.

    Reply
  • Gerhard Frensel says:

    I read that I should log-in to LMS to get the new beta release 2.9.

    I don’t know what LMS means and where to find this access. My current version is FoCal Pro 2.6.5.3996M, bought last autumn.

    Thanks for your support

    Gerhard Frensel

    Reply
      • Hello Rich,

        i have the seem problem on LMS impossible to download Focal 2.9, i don’t find the link.
        Thanks

        Reply
        • Hi Jacques,

          (Dave here) It’s a question we’ve also received from support feedback so we need to make it easier to find I think(!) 🙂

          Reikan FoCal Pre-Releases

          Best Regards,
          Dave

          Reply
  • I hate it but I’m now really out of Focal. I won’t pay again and again. It’s always the same. I have cameras that are not supported and nothing happens for a year or so and as soon as the new release shows up you have to pay again. By!

    Reply
    • Hi Rudi,

      I get what you’re saying, the Z6/Z7 support unfortunately got wrapped up with the mammoth effort to move FoCal to a new development platform and re-write a huge amount of the underlying software.

      Good news though, we appreciate there’s been a gap between releases and because of that we back-dated FoCal 2.9. All users who had an in-date “Included Updates Period” on 1st October 2018 have access to this release.

      I checked your account and you are able to access this release without needing to pay 🙂

      Best Regards,
      Dave

      Reply
  • Have the internals changed enough that it warrants a re-testing of lenses? Or are the results not going to be different as far as the current public non-beta version is concerned?

    Reply
    • Hi Dennis.

      It’s unlikely that the results will be wildly different to those from FoCal 2.6, although for some cameras (typically mid-range Nikons) there are bug fixes that will improve the accuracy and repeatability of the results. It’s generally a good idea to recalibrate at least every 3 months anyway, so if you haven’t done it in the last few months it’s worth running through your lenses.

      Rich

      Reply
  • Chuck Vincent says:

    I installed ver 2.9 on my Mac, and all works better and faster, except my Z6 which it still can’t read…..

    Chuck

    Reply
    • Hi Chuck,

      Thanks for your feedback and trying out this release.

      Blog comments are sometimes missed and sending further info etc can be tricky, if you get chance could you use the “Send Feedback” button (in the About tab) from within FoCal itself with any further details.

      We definitely expect things to work fine with the Z6 and Z7 so it’s something we need to investigate.

      Many Thanks,
      Dave

      Reply
  • As I am no way near an expert with the software I will leave that to others to test the BETA who no what they are doing but my Licence for 2.6 expired on the Saturday, February 9, 2019 so when the BETA testing is complete will I be entitled to a free upgrade please? Thanktyou, Russ

    Reply
    • Hi Russ,

      Good question, as you say the BETA is back-dated, the full release of 2.9 will be back dated in exactly the same way 🙂

      You will get access to the 2.9 full release if you are able to access to the 2.9 BETA! (whether you decide to try out the BETA or not)

      Best Regards,
      Dave

      Reply
  • albert van der Ploeg says:

    Hi Dave,
    I solved the problem, installation problems solved via youtube.
    Thanks for your support.
    best regards Albert

    Reply
  • Ian Mitchell says:

    FoCal 2.9 Beta – Unable to do ‘Aperture Sharpness Test’ on Canon 5d mk4 – Firmware 1.1.2 – Lens Canon 70-200mm f4.0 IS MK2 – Just keeps giving error message:-

    “An error occured while trying to configure the camera for the test. The following information may prove useful:

    Object reference not set to an instance of an object.”

    Reply
    • Hi Ian,

      Thanks for letting us know. See also response to your other comment as the new release may well resolve that problem 🙂

      Best Regards,
      Dave

      Reply
  • James Osborne says:

    Hi guys, I’m getting the following error on FoCal Pro 2.9.3.5604M BETA:

    “The following error occured while trying to connect to the camera:
    No response received from server!”

    I’m simply connecting my Z6 and launching FoCal, then selecting ‘Connect to Camera’ or the other link at the bottom of the screen. Is there a process I should be following? I’ve checked my licence info and that’s all fine.

    Cheers

    James

    Reply
    • Hi James,

      Thank you for trying out this release and letting us there is a problem.

      We’ve today now released an updated FoCal (FoCal 2.9 Beta 2) with a good number of fixes and it might well resolve the problem you saw.

      PS, do please use the “Send Feedback” button in the About section of 2.9 as it will make sure your feedback goes to the right place (blog posts aren’t a great way to keep track of any problems).

      Many Thanks,
      Dave

      Reply
  • Mike Haidenger says:

    Hi Dave

    Let me first say that I’m very happy with the 2.6 Ver of the FoCal program. That said I have downloaded your new Beta 2.9 version and I’m quite happy that I have access to it as my license expired on Dec 24 2018. Thank you for back dating this release.

    That being said, can Focal users who have Nikon cameras (I’m not sure how it works with other brands… I have a Nikon D500) expect to see a program that does not require you to physically go to the camera to enter the AF Microadjustment when requested while the program is running? Not sure if its possible or perhaps it will be in later versions of the program but it would be nice if one could enter those changes on the computer each time and have that information transmitted to the camera instead of manually doing it on the camera.
    Frankly I get a bit tired of going from my laptop to my camera multiple times during a test and it even gets more tiresome when calibrating multiple lenses..

    Thank you.

    Mike

    Reply
    • Hi Mike,

      Glad you’re enjoying using FoCal and thank you for your feedback.

      Sadly it’s a limitation of the camera itself. The interface that Nikon provides does not allow any external software connecting across the USB to change the AF Fine Tune setting. Unless Nikon decides to make a change it’s likely to stay that way.

      In terms of walking back and forth. That’s an area we have thought about and tried to improve things!

      FoCal can/will speak out the required adjustment value, that way you don’t need to sit watching the computer screen. In terms of sitting at the camera, once a new AF Fine Tune value has been entered by hand you don’t need to visit the computer. Instead click the “HotKey” on the camera and FoCal will go on to the next point. See the section above in this blog post titled “Nikon Hotkey” 🙂

      Best Regards,
      Dave

      Reply
  • David Jones says:

    So now I am confused on the date for an update.. My Expiration Date is Sat May 19 2018. I have version 2.6. Am I able to get the update when it comes out…… thanks

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      Sadly you’re a little outside the cut off for 2.9 (unless you decide to purchase an “included updates period”).

      All users who were within their updates period on October 1st 2018 (or after) automatically have access.

      Best Regards,
      Dave

      Reply
    • Hi Albert,

      Thank you for trying out this release and letting us there is a problem.

      We’ve today now released an updated FoCal (FoCal 2.9 Beta 2) with a good number of fixes and it might well resolve the problem you saw.

      PS, do please use the “Send Feedback” button in the About section of 2.9 as it will make sure your feedback goes to the right place (blog posts aren’t a great way to keep track of any problems).

      Best Regards,
      Dave

      Reply
  • Ian Mitchell says:

    After closing down Ver 2.9 Beta and then trying to use Ver 2.6 with Canon EOS 5D4 getting the following error message

    “The following error occured while trying to connect to the camera:

    The communications port is in use. Please ensure no other applications are connected to your camera.”

    Connected again with 2.9 OK – then trying 2.6 again got this

    “The following error occured while trying to connect to the camera:

    Opening camera returned error 8195”

    Disconnected USB and turned camera of and on again then plugged in USB and Ver 2.6 now
    connecting to camera OK

    Reply
    • Hi Ian,

      Thank you for trying out this release and providing detailed feedback.

      We’ve today now released an updated FoCal (FoCal 2.9 Beta 2) with a good number of fixes and it might well resolve the problem you saw.

      PS, do please use the “Send Feedback” button in the About section of 2.9 as it will make sure your feedback goes to the right place (blog posts aren’t a great way to keep track of any problems).

      Many Thanks,
      Dave

      Reply
    • Hi Marek,

      Thank you for your interest in FoCal 🙂

      The most recent release as of right now is 2.9 Beta 2.

      It’s possible there could be zero or more following Beta releases depending on any issues found. In terms of time it’s more tricky to be exact, we are certainly working on getting to a full stable release of 2.9 as the main priority!

      Best Regards,
      Dave

      Reply

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