FoCal 3.2 available now, bringing Nikon Z9 support and more!

We’re delighted to announce the full, finished and public release of Reikan FoCal 3.2!

Reikan FoCal 3.2 - Pendeen Watch lighthouse and a faded Nikon Z9

This release brings support for the Nikon Z9, improvements to the Stabilisation Test, faster camera connection, lens definition updates, more status indication and better usability as well as some bug fixes.

What’s New?

[If you’re not interested in the details and just want to grab the release download info is here]

Headline Features

For a recap of the operation, you can check out the FoCal 2020 overview video.

The Release Notes contain a comprehensive list of changes.

Support for the Nikon Z9

We’ve published a post with a mini-review of the Z9 as well as some performance analysis analysis using the Stabilisation Test and MultiTest – take a look here.

The big feature addition for this release is support for the hugely impressive Nikon Z9 camera.

The Nikon Z9
The Nikon Z9

The Z9 is a professional level mirrorless camera sporting the Nikon Z-mount.

It is capable of 30fps shooting of full-size JPEGs, or 20fps Raw images, capturing 45.7 million pixels per shot.

Rear view of the Nikon Z9 showing 20fps icon
20fps raw capture is astounding!

Adding support for the Nikon Z9 to FoCal has been a little more complex than for previous Nikon cameras. Nikon have made several internal upgrades, opening up the opportunity for better control of data and custom functionality within the camera. It’s also given us the opportunity to improve the communications and control for all other Nikon cameras, and make the low-level control of all cameras more stable.

Top view of Nikon Z9 showing PC connection display
The Nikon Z9, being controlled by FoCal

Despite being a mirrorless camera – with the autofocus sensors and image capture occupying the same physical space – it does still provide the ability to Fine-Tune the autofocus system.

With mirrorless cameras, there’s no longer a need to calibrate for any differences in optimal focus between the discrete autofocus sensor and separate image sensor (which is required for DSLR), but you can still use AF Fine-Tune to calibrate for lens mount, optical, and physical drive issues that may be present in the overall camera-and-lens autofocus system.

Top view of Nikon Z9 showing the screen flipped and the AF Fine-Tune menu entry shown.
AF Fine-Tune is an option on the Nikon Z9, allowing full calibration with FoCal

Despite improvements in the communications protocol with the Z9, it’s not possible to set AF Fine-Tune values directly from the computer, as with previous Nikon cameras FoCal users will need to make occasional adjustments during some tests as guided by Focal. We are in active communication with Nikon about the possibility of being able to control this setting, watch this space!

Like all new Nikon cameras following the D780, the Z9 includes support for calibration of both the Wide and Telephoto ends of zoom lenses.

The Nikon Z9 AF Fine-Tune screen
The Nikon Z9 supports AF Fine-Tune at both Wide and Tele ends of zoom lenses

There’s a subtle difference in this camera compared to previous Nikon offerings, related to accepting AF Fine-Tune settings changes. After the first time you set an AF Fine-Tune value for a lens, you will be asked to confirm the change:

The "Overwrite value for existing lens" warning new on the Nikon Z9
The Z9 asks for confirmation when overwriting AF Fine-Tune values

When using FoCal, it’s important to make sure you click OK on the camera at this point, otherwise the value will not be changed (don’t worry, FoCal will notice the error and you’ll be asked to make the change again, there’s no risk of getting incorrect results).

Supported FoCal Tools

The Nikon Z9 can be used with all FoCal tools except Calibration Check (which is not available for any mirrorless cameras yet).

With FoCal, you can:

  • Tune out any optical or mechanical issues between you camera and lens that could be reducing the quality of your images using Focus Calibration.
  • Measure the sharpness profile of your lens across the aperture range with Aperture Sharpness.
  • Check the consistency and reliability of your lenses with Focus Consistency.
  • Quantify the dust on your sensor with Dust Analysis.
  • Use MultiTest to build a 2-dimensional profile of your lens behaviour across focus and aperture:
Reikan FoCal MultiTest running on the Nikon Z9
MultiTest running on the Nikon Z9
  • And use Stabilisation Test to measure the performance of the stabilisation systems built into camera and lenses
Reikan FoCal Stabilisation Test running on the Nikon Z9
Stabilisation test on the Nikon Z9

Note: Nikon introduced a new High Efficiency codec for Z9 raw files, FoCal cannot currently process these raw files. We will add support for raw in the Z9 in an upcoming release.

Thanks to Nikon Europe, we managed to get hold of the Z9 for development and testing and have run a comprehensive suite of validation tests as well as a lot of final testing running tools in FoCal.

Other Changes in FoCal 3.2

Stabilisation Test Improvements

During addition of support for the Nikon Z9, we spent quite some time working with the Stabilisation Test and have made various improvements to the test which are available for all supported cameras.

Effective Stabilisation Region

First, there is a new indication of the Effective Stabilisation region. The chart below shows this on the right-hand side of the chart – the left-side (slightly greyed out) is the region where the stabilisation of the camera or lens is either not really adding any benefit, or for some systems is actually actively degrading the image quality.

The region is shown on all the relevant charts which have shutter speed across the bottom – again, shown below, you can see the lighter right-hand side is showing a good quality improvement with stabilisation active (the green line) over stabilisation disabled (the red line).

Stops Improvement Chart

The Stops Improvement chart has also been improved significantly.

The improvement is calculated by matching the image quality at different shutter speeds. For example, if a certain quality is achieved at 1/30s with stabilisation disabled, and 1/4s with stabilisation enabled, the improvement is shown as 2.9 stops.

Previously, we were using the shorter shutter speed as the reference point shown on the chart (in the example above, 1/30s), and this is not the right way to show the information. Changing to the longer shutter speed shows the actual improvement you get at that shutter speed by enabling stabilisation.

In the example below, we can see an small improvement equivalent to around 1/2 stop at 1/10s, but the effectiveness of the stabilisation system increases to around 3 stops at 1 second exposure time, dropping down again at 2 seconds:

This change to the Stops Improvement chart will apply to historical data in your database as well, so use the History feature of FoCal to go back and review your previous tests to get a clearer view of the effectiveness of your camera and lens stabilisation system.

Hotkey disabled warning

The Stabilisation Test relies heavily on the use of the camera hotkey to make operation as easy as possible.

If you don’t have the hotkey enabled, you can still run the test, but you will see a warning and explanation of why it’s better to use the hotkey.

Focus mode recorded

In previous versions of FoCal, the focus mode used for shots was not recorded in the Stabilisation Test. This bug has now been fixed and the mode is shown correctly.

The Focus Mode entry for each shot is now populated in Reikan FoCal Stabilisation Test
The Focus Mode is now correctly populated in Stabilisation Test

Manual Focus improvements

With the new Nikon mirrorless cameras, it’s interesting to measure the performance of the camera sensor-shift stabilisation with older F-mount lenses using the Nikon FTZ adapter. For “screwdriver” focus lenses, for example the Nikkor 35 f/2 D lens, there is no focus control when using the FTZ adapter.

We’ve made some improvements to the Stabilisation Test to work with Manual Focus lenses and let you capture the necessary data to look at that stabilisation performance.

A Manual Focus warning shown at the start of the Reikan FoCal Stabilisation Test
Stabilisation Test can run in Manual Focus mode

Speed Improvements and Bug Fixes

We’ve also made a few changes which speed up the operation of the Stabilisation Test so you can get your results a bit quicker, and fixed a few minor bugs.

Camera Connection Improvements

When FoCal connects to a camera it creates a copy of important settings, this way the settings are always restored back to the camera and kept safe.

In previous FoCal releases, settings were captured and restored more than once during the camera connection process. We’ve now streamlined this procedure to only take a single copy and restore only when necessary.

For some cameras, this won’t make a huge difference, but for newer Nikon cameras like the Z-series and the D780, this will speed up camera connection to a noticeable amount.

Settings Save/Restore Status Indication

A new status indicator has been added to the top bar of FoCal which indicates when the camera settings are being saved and restored:

The camera settings save/restore icon shown on the top bar of Reikan FoCal
The new Camera Settings Save/Restore Icon on the top bar

The circular gauge will run from 0% to 100% as settings are saved, and from 100% to 0% as they are restored back to the camera.

In previous releases of FoCal it was sometimes tricky to tell if anything was happening before and after tests. There would be no on screen notification as settings were saved and restored as there was no indication of the activity in progress. With the new indicator users can clearly see when things are happening!

Improvements to Focus Controls in Target Setup

Again, working with manual focus lenses highlighted some shortcomings in the Target Setup Focus Controls section, used to achieve a good focus position when setting up for the Aperture Sharpness test.

The focus quality chart now has a new button to clear chart data. The chart Y axis auto scales, if you capture two data points with very different quality levels it’s difficult to see visually further smaller differences. These smaller differences become compressed because of the previous auto-scaling. Clearing the previous data resets the scale and allows again fine differences to be easily spotted.

Below is an example of two data points captured with a manual focus lens. First, the Update Measurement button was hit with poor focus, and then after manually focusing to a much better focus position, the button was hit again. You can see the first value sits right at the bottom of the chart, and the second right at the top

The Reikan FoCal Target Setup tool with Focus Controls panel shown
Focus Controls in Target Setup, showing the new Clear icon on the chart

Hitting the Clear button (the small eraser icon on the chart) removes all data, and then a subsequent hit of the Update Measurement button puts the new reading dead-centre on the y axis so further adjustments are clearly visible.

The focus controls chart cleared in Reikan FoCal Target Setup
Hit the Clear icon to reset the chart

The next steps would be to make tiny adjustments to the focus dial on the lens, hitting the Update Measurement button each time. To make this process even easier, we’ve implemented a set of keyboard shortcuts for the focus controls, listed below. The Update Measurement button is actioned with the “u” key on the keyboard, so you can have one hand on the keyboard, one on the lens and make quick tiny adjustments, hitting “u” each time to update the chart until you are happy with the focus quality:

An example of using Reikan FoCal Target Setup with Focus Controls to manually focus a lens before testing.
The new keyboard shortcuts make manual focus lens setup easier

The keyboard shortcuts for the focus controls are as follows:

  • P – Phase Detect Autofocus
  • L – Live View Autofocus
  • U – Update Measurement
  • Right Arrow – focus a small amount towards infinity
  • Left Arrow – focus a small amount towards the camera

File Reveal

Some tests within FoCal either use or create files, for example the Dust Analysis test saves each captured image allowing you to view crops of the various detected dust spots.

We’ve added a new Reveal icon where appropriate to the filenames as shown below:

The new File Reveal icon shown on a screenshot.
The File Reveal icon

Click the icon, and the file will be shown in Explorer (Windows) or Finder (Mac):

A view of Finder on a mac, with the file highlighted
The file, shown in Finder on a Mac

Lens Definition Updates

The latest lens updates are now included within FoCal, allowing correct detection of more lenses and the addition of a host of newly released lenses across manufacturers.

Improvements to Wireless Camera Control

The Wireless Camera Control Module is now in the hands of our beta testers and we’re getting great feedback – thanks to everyone who’s got in touch and let us know how you’re getting on. On the whole, things are very positive with users finding the unit very useful and working well.

We’ve made some minor updates within FoCal, now showing a more appropriate display of the Wireless Camera Module processor usage, and there are also some minor bug fixes.

Operating System Support

The following are supported Operating Systems:

Windows (64-bit)

Mac

  • macOS Monterey (12.x)
  • macOS Big Sur (11.x)
  • macOS Catalina (10.15)
  • macOS Mojave (10.14)
  • macOS High Sierra (10.13)
  • macOS Sierra (10.12)

More details…

There are more details in the changelog on the release notes for this release.

Thank you!

We want to say a huge thank you to all FoCal users who tried out the beta release and provided feedback. As always a lot changes are driven directly from what you tell us and it all helps make FoCal better!

Get Reikan FoCal 3.2

Download FoCal 3.2 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 3.2 is available to all users that are within their Included Updates Period as of 4th March 2022. You can get the software as below:

  • By logging in to the FoCal Account system via lms.fo-cal.co.uk.
  • Go to the About > Update Check option in the software. From here you can hit the Download button to get the software.

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.

Reikan FoCal on Social Media

We regularly post news and updates on social media. You can keep updated, connect and follow us via:

2 comments on “FoCal 3.2 available now, bringing Nikon Z9 support and more!

  • Focal pro crashes each time it’s started on Macbook M1 pro and before I’m able to connect my Z9. Just go to general settings and sit and wait for 1-3 minutes to see focal crashing. I sent the crash report for support!

    Reply
    • Hi Rudi,

      Thanks for contacting support, blog posts aren’t a good support channel and the support team will be able to help 🙂

      Sorry you’re seeing a problem, the dev team have found a breaking change in macOS 12.3 and have a fix they’ve emailed over to you.

      New release will likely go out today, the cause is an undocumented change between macOS 12.2 and 12.3 and not one we could have foreseen (it’s annoying for all concerned!).

      Best Regards,
      Dave

      Reply

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