We want to say a huge thank you to all FoCal users who have tried out the test releases and provided feedback. Your comments, suggestions and help have enabled us to massively improve FoCal. Thank you very much for your support!
FoCal 2020 is ready for prime time, we’re excited to release FoCal 2020 to users and believe it’s the most stable, easiest to use and provides the most accurate results of any version of FoCal to date. Development and testing have put in a huge amount of time to re-write and re-design much of the underlying software and updates to the user interface make FoCal 2020 more user friendly.
A host a new features and enhancements to existing features mean that FoCal 2020 is the most comprehensive way to calibrate autofocus as well as test and compare overall imaging performance of Canon and Nikon dSLRs (and more!) available.
FoCal 2020 Headline Features
- Brand New Look – We’ve redesigned FoCal’s user interface from the ground up. It has a cleaner, friendlier look, far more help and guidance, and consistency across all platforms.
- Calibration Check – Quickly check your camera and lens’s autofocus performance… totally hands free with no user interaction.
- MultiTest – Measure Everything! The Swiss army knife of focus testing and lens calibration. Slice through focus and aperture data to see calibration state, autofocus performance, detailed scenario-specific aperture information, focus shift effects and more.
- Improved AF Consistency – Multiple options let you see how changing defocus direction affects consistency, and how difference autofocus systems behave side-by-side.
- Remote Mode – No need to sit at the computer, you can control FoCal from a remote device like an iPad over WiFi!
- Support for more Canon cameras – Tethered support for more Canon cameras added – while you can’t calibrate autofocus on every camera, that doesn’t stop you investigating calibration state with CalCheck, autofocus consistency, aperture sharpness or analysing sensor dust.
- File Mode – Our internal camera database super-charges file mode for recognised cameras… and there are lots! Run file mode tests on Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Olympus and Fuji cameras with more to follow.
- Other Changes – Over a year of development time and more than 1,000 code revisions mean there’s way too many updates to share in one post! We’ve picked a few more bits to show here.
A brief history of FoCal
FoCal began life in a back room sometime in 2008, with the first official public release toward the end of 2011:
The first 2012 public release supported just the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Canon EOS 7D on Windows, FoCal quickly grew to support lots more Canon cameras. Nikon support was added along with FoCal on Mac and additional tests like Aperture Sharpness and Autofocus Consistency.
In 2015 FoCal 2.0 added an improved user interface and FoCal Comparison functionality to compare your equipment with other FoCal users around the world, Dust Analysis and more, and we jumped to FoCal 2.9 in mid 2019 after a massive rework of the internals.
Almost 9 years on from the first public FoCal release – brings us to today and the third major iteration: FoCal 2020.
It’s been an amazing journey, we thank all our users (some way back from those early releases!) and the many who have used FoCal over the many years. Thank you for your continuing support!
Brand New Look
FoCal 2020 has a brand new look, consistent across Windows and Mac. We think this new user interface is more intuitive, easier to use, more consistent, cleaner and gets you to the information you need faster.
The Camera and File mode tests have been separated out, reviewing historical information is easier and more useful, navigation around the user interface should be pretty simple and you can even review old tests at the same time a new test is running.
Oh, and you can resize the window too… something that’s been missing from FoCal for almost 10 years (sorry about that!).
The screenshot above shows the Camera Status page. There’s several key differences in behaviour from FoCal 2.x:
- Camera serial number and license state is recognised before opening (the green tick in the Available Cameras panel above shows this camera is licensed)
- New cameras are automatically licensed as required
- There’s an indication if any settings need to be restored to the camera
When you connect to a camera, you can review loads of information, with highlights if there’s things to note (e.g. below the camera clock is out by 56 minutes), if there’s new camera firmware available etc.
Underneath the camera/lens information are the available tests (can you spot a couple of new ones?):
If the tests aren’t available for any reason (e.g. the camera doesn’t support the right features), you’ll get a clear explanation of why. The Learn More option gives you an overview of the purpose of the test, basic help information and links to the online help for the tool in question.
Take a look at the online help pages for the new user interface to get a better idea of the features.
Watch this quick video overview of new FoCal 2020 features, including the new Calibration Check and MultiTest tools:
One of the new tools we’ve introduced in FoCal 2020 is Calibration Check.
You’ve probably already guessed: it checks how well your camera and lens are focusing together, giving you an idea of whether you need to run a complete focus calibration.
Two key things to note:
- There’s NO user interaction required in this test, all cameras run “Hands Free”. Just hit the button and a short time later you’ll know whether you need to calibrate.
- This test will work with cameras that don’t even support any form of focus adjustment – e.g. a Canon EOS 700D – so even though you can’t adjust the focus, you can confirm it’s working well or in need of repair.
Here’s the new Calibration Check tool:
As for most tests, you just need to put your camera on a sturdy tripod in a well lit room, run Target Setup to confirm everything is set up correctly and hit Start.
Tests in FoCal 2020
This screenshot has introduced a few more features of the FoCal 2020 interface. A few things to highlight:
- The mode (Camera, File or History) is shown at the top, along with details of the connected camera if there is one. Hitting the camera icon on the top right will jump to you the Camera Status page.
- The bottom bar is shown in test pages and lets you know what state the test is in (Idle, Running with progress indications etc).
- There’s a set of buttons on the bottom right – these are for adjusting test settings, saving reports, jumping to Target Setup and starting/stopping the test.
- The view of crops has changed – they’re now shown with a slider to transition between the crops.
- The cards can be hidden (with the up arrow on the title bar), or made to take up the full window (with the square icon) – particularly useful to have a detailed, zoomed look at the crops.
The Summary tab (shown above) is designed to show you useful information without being overwhelming.
The above screen shows that the lens is in need of focus calibration:
- the marker in the Calibration State card is right against the left end of the gauge,
- the text indicates that the lens needs calibrating,
- the chart shows the results are right down in the red area,
- and the crops show that the contrast detect one is much clearer than the phase detect one.
We calibrated the lens using the Calibration tool, and here’s the lens after focus calibration:
The Summary tab is designed to show you everything you need to know for the test to be useful – in this case, whether you need to calibrate your lens or not.
It’s very easy to visually compare before and after crops with the new larger draggable slider:
But as each test captures so much information, the Details tab lets you dig around in the data:
It looks similar to the Summary tab, but you:
- get a whole load of extra results,
- can view more than the single chart,
- can change the crops shown,
- and can look at details for each individual point, like this:
You can look more into the details over at the Calibration Check Online Help.
How much would you like to know about your camera and lens? If the answer is “not much” then you probably want to skip this section, but if you’re interested in getting the very best from your equipment then this is the tool for you!
With MultiTest, in one tool you can:
- Determine the best focus calibration setting for you. Not just the best wide open, but the best across the whole aperture range, or even for a specific aperture. While developing this test, we’ve found out that often calibrating wide open will NOT give you the very best results…
- See the Aperture Sharpness profile. Not just one, but the profile when the lens is uncalibrated, when it’s calibrated and even the quality you’d get if you were to manually focus at each aperture.
- See focus shift – see how the focus point moves as you adjust the aperture of the lens.
- Look at Autofocus Error. Not just the quality difference, but the error in focus adjustment units (e.g. AF Microadjustment or AF Fine Tune).
And loads more!
It also has our prettiest chart yet… 🙂
This chart shows the quality (red is poor, green is good) across the aperture range horizontally, and the focus range vertically.
Here’s a quick summary of what the chart above shows:
- A focus adjustment of -2 would be the “classic” focus calibration value wide open (the dark blue line)
- This lens exhibits quite a lot of focus shift – at f/8, the focus position has shifted towards the camera by the equivalent of around 13 AF Microadjustment points!
- The red line at an adjustment value of -9 would give the best quality results across the whole aperture range.
- To get the absolute best quality from this lens, you would need to manually focus at f/4.5 (the aperture of the small white diamond).
- The lens doesn’t perform at its best wide open (the far left by the blue line is not completely green, but heading towards orange). Likewise beyond about f/13 the quality is dropping significantly.
The Aperture Sharpness Profile from the MultiTest has quite a bit more detail than the standard Aperture Sharpness results too:
The red line shows the uncalibrated (focus adjustment at zero) results.
Calibrate the lens, and you’ll get the green results. A little better across the board. In fact, take away the other results above and you’d be pretty happy with a lens that stays at a similar sharpness from wide open through to about f/9…
… until you realise that the lens exhibits a significant amount of focus shift – where the focus point moves as you change the aperture – and you’ll get a big boost in quality at f/4-f/9 by manually focusing (shown by the black line).
The orange line is a new metric we’ve introduced – Aperture Range Quality Score or ARQS – this is the focus calibration value to use to get the best quality – on average – across the whole lens. In the example above, choosing the ARQS value and programming that into the camera would sacrifice a little quality from wide open to f/3.2, but significantly boost quality from f/3.5 all the way to the narrowest aperture!
MultiTest does take about 100-150 shots and can take 10-20 minutes to run typically depending on the aperture range of the lens and the settings you’ve chosen for the test, but we think it’s worth doing to learn about all your lenses!
There’s lots more information about this test available in the MultiTest Online Help.
Improved AF Consistency
The AF Consistency test has a few extra options available, letting you test more conditions for consistency.
You can select Phase Detect, Live View AF or Both as the focus modes (depending on camera support).
And you can also select Near, Far or Both for the defocus directions or set to use no defocusing at all.
As an example, here’s a comparison between the quality levels for phase detect and live view autofocus but with defocusing in both the near and far directions in the same test:
There’s more information in the online help for Autofocus Consistency.
We’re pretty excited about this one…
You can now run the FoCal user interface on another device, e.g. a tablet!
The functionality is in Beta, but we think it could be really useful so have included it in the release. We’ve been using it in the lab for our testing and it’s great being able to use the touch screen of an iPad to control and review results.
The camera is still connected to your main PC or Mac, but you’ll be able to control everything from the remote device.
Switch Remote Mode on in the program settings, restart FoCal and follow the instructions in the screen to connect your remote device – you should then see the FoCal user interface, ready to go:
Take a look at the Remote Mode online help for more details.
You can connect with any device that has a browser, but the user interface is currently optimised for bigger screens like desktops and tablets – we will work on support for smaller devices in future releases. You can connect with a phone as shown below, but you might get in a bit of a muddle during testing!
Beta Support for more Canon Cameras
In FoCal 2.9, we fundamentally changed the way we talked to Canon cameras. Since then, we’ve added support for many more cameras which support AF Microadjustment but have also had internal development support for other cameras.
The Canon EOS R was the first camera we officially supported which does not have AF Microadjustment, and we’ve just added beta support for a whole batch of other Canon cameras.
You will be able to run Target Setup, Calibration Check, AF Consistency, Aperture Sharpness and Dust Analysis on most of these cameras, and we’re hoping to bring MultiTest to them in a future release, as well as more new tools.
Here’s an example of the Calibration Check results on a Canon EOS 1300D (luckily this one if performing well, as the camera itself does not support AF Microadjustment and would need returning to Canon to fix!):
The support is in beta – we’ve tested against a number of these cameras and had good results, and others we’ve enabled based on similarity of internal hardware and software to other cameras with proven support.
In future releases we’ll be bring tethered support for other Nikon cameras, as well as cameras from more manufacturers.
Please do let us know how you get on with these – any feedback about support on these cameras would be useful.
File Mode is where FoCal can analyse a set of appropriate files that you capture manually.
In FoCal 2.x, you accessed File Mode by opening a test with no camera connected – this was a bit “hidden” and not very intuitive. In FoCal 2020, the File Mode tests are available in their own section, making them clearer and more obvious.
File Mode works with cameras that are able to be controlled automatically by FoCal, allowing you to run the FoCal analysis tests on a much wider range of cameras. Details on how to capture the shots are included in the Learn More or Help sections of each test.
In File Mode, a test shows the Files tab in place of Settings, and guides you through file selection for the test by showing information about your selected files and whether you’ve selected an appropriate set for the test:
Once the files are selected, you just hit Start in the same was as with the camera tests.
More information is available in the File Mode onlne help pages.
Other FoCal 2020 Features
Final Calibration Results
The display of the final focus calibration results are much clearer – you can compare the crops and the numbers easily before choosing to accept or reject the value:
During longer tests, it’s nice to know when you can move around the camera without disturbing the results, so we’ve added a couple of features to help with this.
First, there’s an indication on the top bar which shows when the camera is taking a measurement – you’ll see this red triangle for a few seconds when you really shouldn’t get in front of the lens:
And if you want an audible alert just before a measurement shot is going to be taken, switch on the Pre-Shot Alert setting:
History has been improved in FoCal 2020. You can get a clearer view of the tests results available for each camera and lens, with a quick summary of the test available.
Double click or hit the Open Test button in the Selected Entry card to open any test.
And you can open more than one history test, switch between them and even review them while another test is running, using the top menu:
We’ve reorganised the settings in FoCal 2020, and included some description of what each one does:
You can read more about at the Settings online help pages.
The license information for your cameras now includes the type of camera (as long as it’s been connected to FoCal at least once).
Supported Cameras (including File Mode)
We’ve extended the amount of cameras supported and the information available about them. Although this functionality was present in FoCal 2.x, we’ve made it clearer in FoCal 2020.
From the About page you can see the cameras supported, both Tethered (where you can connect to the camera to control it automatically), and File Mode Only (where FoCal understands more technical information about the camera to give better File Mode results):
We’re adding more File Mode supported cameras all the time, so if there’s one you’d like supported please let us know via the support system.
The History tab is available for all tests now, and shows the historical results for the camera/lens used in the open test:
And each test has a help page with an overview of the test and a link to the more detailed online help:
Camera Support Improvements
We’ve fixed and improved control of all cameras, but there are some noticeable fixes in this release:
- Support for the Nikon D6 and Nikon Z5.
- Better handling of Nikon Teleconverters, especially with the Nikon D780 and Nikon D6 which support wide/tele AF Fine Tune.
- Fixes for older Canon cameras
- Improvements to startup times for Live View
- Improved capture speed
- Better capturing of error conditions for improved reliabilty and easier understanding of what went wrong
- Fixes to settings save/restore to make sure the camera is always returned to it’s original state after testing – and far better indications if anything is changed.
New Raw Processor
The new raw processor brings support for Canon CR3 files (allowing raw operation on the EOS-R, EOS-RP, 90D, 250D, 1D X Mark III and any future Canon cameras).
It is also faster than our previous implementation, has better colour processing and will be far better supported going forwards.
Camera/Lens Information Report
You can now save a PDF report with details about the connected camera and lens from the Camera & Lens Details panel. To do so, just click the Save Report icon, choose a filename and the report will be created.
Live View Focus Detection
Up until this release, FoCal has always used the term Contrast Detect Autofocus (CDAF) to refer to live view focusing. While this is correct for the majority of current DSLRs, with support for mirrorless cameras added it’s no longer quite the right term to use.
We’ve updated the naming and where possible show the real mode the camera was using. The general catch-all term of Live View Autofocus (LVAF) is used when we don’t know for definite which mode the camera will run in, but when we do the information will show Contrast Detect, Phase Detect, Hybrid, Dual Pixel AF etc. where appropriate.
Live View Focus Calibration
Following on from this, FoCal also lets you choose the AF method to calibrate if your camera supports more than one method, e.g. the Nikon D780:
In the settings for Calibration, you can choose Phase Detect or Live View for calibration. The example above shows that with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens, the viewfinder (Phase Detect) AF Fine-Tune is -3, but for Live View the AF Fine-Tune should be +3.
During our final release testing of any version of FoCal we run a lot of tests, but during final release we turn this up to 11! During recent testing we found a memory issue on Windows which could cause tests to stop with a “Failed to get shot information” error during the test, which was particularly annoying if the test had been running for 30 minutes!
To be clear – to reproduce this issue we needed to run tests which took over 300 shots with high-megapixel cameras like the D850, generally on older machines with limited processing power and memory.
We’ve fixed the issue in two ways. First we added some code to better clear up memory when dealing with huge chunks of data, and we’ve also made the whole of FoCal – including the camera connection interface and the raw processor – into a 64-bit application.
As a 64-bit application, FoCal should be more stable for long running operations and potentially quicker in some areas, but other than that you shouldn’t really notice much difference. We’ve successfully run tests lasting for several hours and taking hundreds of shots on 5 year old mid-spec machines with the new build.
Note that if you’re running FoCal on a 32-bit Windows system and need a 32-bit version, please give us a shout through the Support page and we can supply this version, although we do not officially support the 32-bit version.
macOS 11 – Big Sur
On the Mac side of things, we’ve tested FoCal against the latest macOS 11 “Big Sur” Beta release (Beta 10, 20A5395g) and no issues have surfaced.
We will hold off running really thorough testing until Big Sur is actually released, but we’re confident that FoCal 2020 will run without issue on the latest macOS. Usually, if any issues occur after a big macOS update it’s around the area of camera control and this seems to be working perfectly on the latest available Big Sur build.
CSV Output Improvements
When you save a PDF report, there’s the option to save a CSV (comma separated variable) file. This file contains the numerical data captured by FoCal for you to further analyse, and in FoCal 2020 the contents of these files has been significantly improved over previous versions.
Operating System Support
The updates to our development tools and certain components we’re using mean we’ve bumped up the requirements for Operating System versions over FoCal 2.x releases.
The following are supported Operating Systems:
- Windows 10
- Windows 8.1
- Windows Server 2012
- Windows 7
- Windows Server 2008 R2_SP1
- macOS Big Sur will be supported (no issues found on the latest Big Sur Beta 10 release)
- macOS Catalina (10.15)
- macOS Mojave (10.14)
- macOS High Sierra (10.13)
- macOS Sierra (10.12)
There are more details in the changelog on the release notes for this release.
If you have any feedback or issues, please use the Contact Support button in the Help > Help page. This will direct you to a contact form which will have things like version numbers populated which is really useful for us to be able to give you the right support:
Thank you to all our customers past and present who’ve used FoCal for their calibrations, and an extra special thank you to everyone who’s got in touch with any feedback.
How do I get FoCal 2020
Download FoCal 2020 for Windows or macOS by logging in to the LMS at lms.fo-cal.co.uk. Once logged in, you will see a download link to the software.
This release is available to all FoCal users (FoCal Plus, Pro and Commercial/Non-Profit) who were within their Included Updates Period as of 17th August 2020 (the release date of FoCal 2020 Beta 1). This means you can use the software if you purchased FoCal or an Included Updates Period extension on or after this date.
If the above does not apply to you, you can purchase another 12 months by logging in to the account system via lms.fo-cal.co.uk and going to the Included Updates Period section.
You can get the software in one of two ways:
- Go to the About > Update Check option in the software. From here you can hit the Download button to get the software.
- By logging in to the FoCal Account system via lms.fo-cal.co.uk.
If you don’t own FoCal, you can purchase the software as a download or find sources for the boxed product from the FoCal Online Store.
The installation package contains the software, target images and a reference manual (also available via the Documents Download page).
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