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).
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…
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.