We’re delighted to announce the release of FoCal 2021 Release Candidate, four new cameras added, Nikon Z6ii and Z7ii and Canon EOS-R5 and R6. Brand new Stabilisation Test and MultiTest support for a much wider range of cameras, as well as major improvements to camera communications on macOS.
[If you’re not interested in the details and just want to grab the release download info is here]
This release is designated a Release Candidate, very close to the full release. If we get no reports of issues from users this will be the first FoCal 2021 Stable release.
- Support for Nikon Z6ii and Z7ii – full support for the Nikon Z6ii and Z7ii cameras is now available – now you can fully calibrate, measure and test your new camera!
- Canon EOS R5/R6 support – we’ve added support for the brand new and pretty exciting EOS R5/R6 cameras, so you can use all the usual mirrorless tools including the new Stabilisation Test and the improved MultiTest.
- New: Stabilisation Test – have you ever wondered how well your lens/camera stabilisation system actually works? Or when you should use it, and when you should have it switched off? Well the new Stabilisation Test will help you answer these questions…
- Big improvements to MultiTest – we’ve taken our do-it-all Swiss Army Knife test and made it better! You can now test with cameras that don’t support any form of AF Microadjustment / Fine Tune and can even run any camera in completely hands-free mode too!
- Brand new Mac Camera Interface – we’ve developed a new way of communicating with cameras on macOS, which improves overall reliability and speed.
- Totally new “Take Picture” architecture – a requirement of the Stabilisation Test is to shoot quickly, so we updated the way we take pictures within FoCal to be much better.
- Other notable changes – we’ve fixed a lot of little issues and improved many aspects of FoCal for this release too.
For a recap of the operation, you can check out the FoCal 2020 overview video.
The Release Notes contain the comprehensive list of changes.
Nikon Z6ii and Z7ii Support
Nikon’s evolutionary updates to the excellent Z6/Z7 cameras come with dual card slots, improved processing power and better AF performance.
We’ve been working hard with FoCal users who’ve been giving fantastic feedback from using various beta versions of this sofware, and we’ve now enabled full support for the Nikon Z6ii and Z7ii support in all versions of FoCal.
Canon EOS R5/R6 Support
We’ve also added support for the exciting new Canon EOS R5 and R6 to this release, bringing you a bunch of test capability including the ability to analyse the all-new hybrid in-body and lens stabilisation system these cameras offer.
As with all cameras that don’t support AF adjustment, the following tools are available:
- MultiTest (with the newly added support for mirrorless cameras)
- Stabilisation Test
- Autofocus Consistency
- Aperture Sharpness
- Dust Analysis
New: Stabilisation Test
Image Stabilisation, Vibration Reduction, Optical Stabilisation, Vibration Compensation, SteadyShot… systems to compensate for camera/lens movement go by many names and have been around for a while.
Back in 1994, Nikon introduced a point-and-shoot camera (the Zoom 70VR) which was the first to feature a stabilised lens, with Canon releasing the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens a year later and Nikon producing their first F-mount stabilised lens in 2000. In-body sensor-shift stabilisation came with the Minolta DiMAGE A1 in 2003.
Now every major manufacturer offers stabilised lenses and cameras with in-body stabilisation, claiming the ability to shoot up to 8 stops (over 100 times slower!) past where you would normally be able hand hold and get a sharp image.
But like other tools in FoCal, we wanted to help you find out how your equipment performs, rather than how it should perform.
Introducing: the Stabilisation Test – now you can poke around in your IS, VR, OS, VC etc system to your heart’s content!
So how does it work?
Here’s an overview video showing how your use the Stabilisation Test and the sort of results you can get.
There are more details are over at the Stabilisation Test help pages but briefly:
- You need a card in the camera that can hold at least 25 images
- Switch the camera to Manual mode
- Use the Measure tool to take a lighting measurement – this will then show you the range of shutter speeds you can test, and you can tweak the settings and lighting to get the range you want.
- Choose whether you want to test on a tripod as well
- Start the test… you’ll be instructed to enable/disable the stabilisation system and hold the camera by hand, then FoCal takes control and captures a range of images.
- The results come in and you can see how your system is performing.
When you’ve run the test, here’s the sort of information you can obtain:
First, there’s the Quality Value which shows the quality measured with stabilisation On (green line) and Off (red line). On this example from the Nikon Z 50 we can see that from about 1/50s through to 1.6s, the stabilised quality is better.
And the difference between the on and off qualities shown in the Effectiveness chart, you can clearly see the improvement:
This one’s from the hot camera of the moment – the Canon EOS R5 with the RF 24-105/4 IS lens. By matching quality levels at different shutter speeds, a rough idea of the stabilisation system performance in stops can be obtained:
Also from the EOS R5, this one is quite interesting. It’s the absolute quality value from tripod mounted data, and you can see as expected that the quality value is very similar with the stabilisation system on or off… except between abour 1/30s and 1/8s. The deviation of the Off line suggests maybe shutter vibration causing a drop in quality, but the IS system compensating for it when enabled:
Sample Stabilisation Test Reports
There’s loads of information available in the Stabilisation Test – way too much to go through in this blog post, so if you’d like to see the results in their entirety take a look at the following reports:
Big improvements to MultiTest
New for FoCal 2020, MultiTest brought a 2-Dimensional view of your lens performance across focus and aperture, revealing focus shift, true aperture sharpness for calibrated, uncalibrated and manual focus shots and lots more.
We’ve extended MultiTest to work across far more cameras (almost all the FoCal supported cameras), dispensing with the need for the camera to support a focus adjustment option (eg AF Microadjustment or AF Fine-Tune). And the new mode dispenses with the need for any user interaction on any camera – no more prompts to change a setting mid test!
What are the changes?
First of all, it’s important to explain that this is a new mode of MultiTest – you can still run it in exactly the same was as before.
The setting Use Camera Focus Adjustment is enabled by default for cameras that support AF Microadjusment, AF Fine-Tune etc, but disabling this option will make the test run in the new mode. This option will be disabled by default for cameras which don’t support any focus adjustment.
When this option is enabled, instead of adjusting the focus with the camera’s internal focus adjustment option (AF Microadjustment / Fine-Tune etc), the focus is controlled by FoCal and shifted to specific test positions to capture data.
Driving lenses to specific focus positions is not easy with the functionality exposed by cameras, so we’re pretty pleased to be able to offer this functionality and see the results looking realible and consistent in our testing, even when using clasically “poor” focusing lenses.
The test produces results which contains almost all the same information as when using the camera focus adjustment mechanism. The main difference is that the focus offset, rather than being calibrated in AF Microadjustment / Fine Tune etc units is shown as a focus offset with a value between -50 and +50.
Right now, you should not directly correlate this value to the camera focus adjustment value, but in reality this does not matter. Information like how the focus shifts across the aperture range and where the sharpest points is still accurate.
Here’s an example of the Quality Grid from the EOS R camera (which doesn’t support AF Microadjustment) and the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8STM lens:
And here’s an Aperture Sharpness Profile example, showing the significant improvement you could get if you manually focused the lens for most apertures:
One particularly interesting set of results were obtained for this Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM on the Canon EOS R:
The point to note is that at f/1.2, the best result is obtained away from the EOS-R’s Live View focus result (0 on the vertical axis)… and on a camera that doesn’t support AF Microadjustment this can be a bit of a problem! Further clarification of this is in the Focus Offset chart which clearly shows the peak quality at an offset around -20:
and the Focus Steps chart which shows the quality of focus as the focus point is moved, with 0 being the Live View (Dual Pixel in this instance) result:
Brand new Mac Camera Interface
Communicating with cameras on macOS has never been the particularly easy while developing FoCal! In the early days we used the Canon supplied libraries, but these kept breaking with every new release of OS X and it would take Canon some time to fix. The Nikon interface went through a few versions, and finally in FoCal 2.6.5 we developed a component we call PGCI2.
When PGCI2 works, it’s great! And don’t get me wrong – it works for 99% of people in 99% of cases – but there are some scenarios that can end up showing up as unreliable camera detection or communication, in the worst cases dropping the connection mid way through a test.
Introducing ICC – our new camera interface! While the underlying camera communications method is the same between the two interfaces, ICC is much more tightly integrated with the FoCal code, making it cleaner, faster and easier to develop and debug.
So what sort of improvements can you expect to see?
- More reliable detection of connected cameras
- No more drop-outs during tests
- Faster operation
- Correctly handled removal of a camera (although we still recommend disconnecting the camera within FoCal before removing from the computer!)
From the first incarnation of FoCal, the way pictures have been captured hasn’t changed… until now!
With the advent of the Stabilisation Test and the need to capture a set of shots quickly, we had to change things. In all honesty, the new code has been in FoCal for about 2 years, but it’s now been tested and proven across all tests.
The key benefits now are:
- Faster image capture – things like defocus are integrated into the focus shooting operations meaning less mirror ups and downs, and autofocus operations and mirror lockup are more intelligently applied
- More reliably capture – we’ve updated and run through our validation tests on the cameras and fixed a few issues that have been long-standing. We have yet to finish the full suite of tests across all cameras, but will do so before FoCal 2021 goes to Stable.
And in future, we’ll adjust the tests to make good use of the split between capture, transfer and analysis to improve speed and reliability.
Other Notable Changes
We’ve fixed a lot of minor bugs and improves various areas in the software since FoCal 2020 as well:
Ability to unlock camera controls to make adjustments to settings
The camera icon on the top-left of the FoCal screen has been replaced with a padlock icon as shown here:
The icon indicates whether the camera controls are locked (i.e. you can’t adjust them manually) or unlocked. If you need to adjust a setting on the camera and it’s locked, click the lock icon and you’ll be able to change the settings while the message is shown on screen.
Canon Lens History
You can now see the lens history for later Canon cameras in the Camera Details panel:
Most camreas from the EOS 5D Mark IV onwards support this functionality.
Maximum Crop Size
We’ve had a few requests to be able to limit the size of the image crops, so in Help > Settings you can now limit to either 100%, 200% or no limit:
- Shutter type detection for Nikon cameras (mechanical, electronic, electronic first-curtain shutter), displayed in the Shot Details panel in the Details tab for a test.
- More help links, and an Expert Mode option in settings to hide them if you’re familiar with FoCal.
- Backing up your history now offers the option of saving the crop images in the backup file as well, so you can fully review tests (with crops) on another computer or back them up for safe keeping.
- Fixes to camera detection and connection, especially on Mac
- Improvements to the camera page information
- Improvements to warnings about settings not being restored
- Improvements to report content – layout and charts
Operating System Support
The following are supported Operating Systems:
- Windows 10
- Windows 8.1
- Windows Server 2012
- Windows 7
- Windows Server 2008 R2_SP1
- macOS Big Sur (11.0)
- 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.
We would love you to try out this new release of FoCal and let us know what you think – good and bad. It’s feedback from users that help make each release better than the last. Lots of the functionality in FoCal is implemented on suggestions from users – don’t be afraid to propose improvements and new ideas!
If you have any feedback, please use the Send Feedback button in the Help > Help menu. This will open a dedicated contact form so we can make sure we capture all your feedback:
Thank you to all our users past and present who’ve used FoCal for their calibrations. An extra special thank you to everyone who’s got in touch with feedback, a lot changes are driven directly from what you tell us!
Get Reikan FoCal 2021 RC
Download FoCal 2021 RC for Windows or macOS by logging in to the account system via lms.fo-cal.co.uk. Once logged in, you will see a download link to the software.
FoCal 2021 RC is available to all users that are within their Included Updates Period as of 4th December 2020. You can get the software as below:
- By logging in to the FoCal Account system via lms.fo-cal.co.uk. Near the top you’ll see “Click here to Show or Hide Pre-Release Downloads” – click to view the available downloads.
If the above does not apply to you, you can purchase 12 months of updates by logging in to the account system via lms.fo-cal.co.uk and going to the Included Updates Period section.
If you’re not yet a FoCal user, you can purchase the software as a download or boxed product, as well as Focal Hard Targets from the FoCal Online Store.
It’s worth just checking the pre-release software FAQ to make sure you understand the type of software you’re getting.
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