[This post has been updated with information about the Mac support]
On a dark Monday morning in January 2012, FoCal 1.0 was released and immediately started making waves in the world of photography, bringing an easy, fully automatic way to tune your camera autofocus for sharper, more consistent shots.
And now, almost 12 years later, we bring you the first release of FoCal 4.0!
Whereas back in 2012, FoCal supported autofocus tuning for just 2 cameras – the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the EOS 7D – FoCal 4.0 supports full, automatic autofocus tuning for:
- 19 Canon DSLRs and 25 Nikon DSLRs
- 10 Nikon mirrorless cameras
Add in Aperture Sharpness testing, Dust Analysis, 2D focus/aperture testing with MultiTest, Autofocus Consistency, FoCal Comparison Data to see how your kit performs, and more, and you’ve got yourself FoCal 4.0!
First things first…
The Mac release of FoCal 4.0 beta is now available!
The first Mac release (FoCal 4.0 beta 3) is dual architecture, running natively on both Apple Silicon and Intel platforms, which results in much better efficiency on the M-series Apple chips. Our Raw processor has also been updated to do the same, for faster and more efficient operation on Silicon.
The other changes are pretty much as per Windows, and are detailed in the post below.
The internal changes are massive (more below), so we’d love people to use the software and give feedback. We’ve made sharing your feedback simple with an obvious card on the home screen:
How to get FoCal 4.0
FoCal 4.0 is available to everyone with a FoCal Pro/Commercial license within their support period as of 29th September 2023 (so that’s everyone who’s purchased FoCal Pro or a new Included Updates Period since 29th September 2022).
You can download it by logging in to your FoCal Account, and choosing the download in the Pre-Release Downloads section. FoCal 4.0 beta 2 and onwards is a standard executable (.exe extension) – just double-click to run the installer.
Beta 2 Update
On October 5th, we release FoCal 4.0 Beta 2 for Windows, with the following updates:
Fixed some startup issues seen by some users
Some users were seeing problems with FoCal 4.0 not starting after installation. We’ve updated our intialisationc ode to fix some issues in this area.
Completely new Installer (again!)
The use of the new MSIX installer was a little risky, and although it’s worked nicely for a lot of users, there have been some issues and we can see it being an unnecessary ongoing maintenance drain. With that in mind, we’ve changed to our backup installer. This is an improvement over our FoCal 3 installer in that it allows us far more control and should fix the issues seen by some user when upgrading.
Note: as the new installer is completely different to the MSIX one used for Beta 1, you should use the Add/Remove Programs option in Windows to completely remove FoCal 4 beta 1 from your machine before installing FoCal 4 beta 1, otherwise you’re likely to have 2 side-by-side installations which will get confusing!
While testing with Nikon cameras, we noticed some unnecessary messages being shown, forcing you to change settings on the camera that we have full control over. The initial setup of the camera before testing has now been improved which should make things smoother, easier and more reliable.
Further User Interface Improvements
We’ve tweaked the user interface a bit more, improving the look and feel of the whole application.
Get FoCal 4.0 beta 2
You can get FoCal 4.0 beta 2 by logging in to your account and downloading from the Pre-release software section (see here for more info).
What’s new in FoCal 4.0?
- Brand new underlying frameworks
- Analysis Improvements
- Integrated USB control
- Camera control updates
- User interface improvements
- New installer
Brand New Frameworks
When a project as complex as FoCal starts life, a set of tools and frameworks are chosen on which to build, and the decisions made in the early days can impact the product for many years.
What we’ve done recently is update all of the underlying frameworks so that we’re using the latest available tools and features, and this brings a whole host of benefits.
Huge Performance Improvements
The new frameworks have been written from the ground up for the latest hardware and take advantage of new features to bring substantial performance improvements.
The end result is that all FoCal tests will run faster and use less resources and power.
There’s no more requirement to install any extra libraries or frameworks to make sure FoCal will work – everything needed is all contained in one package.
This completely removes the risk of supporting libraries not being installer or not of the correct version, which should get rid of any niggly installation problems of the past.
Latest Platform Support
FoCal will take full advantage of the latest processors, and soon, we should be able to work natively with Apple Silicon.
Whatever the processor, FoCal 4.0 will get the best from the new features and performance offered.
As well as a focus on performance, the latest frameworks are up to date with regards to any operating system or processor vulnerabilities. As they are tightly integrated with the operating system, updates to your operating system (e.g. through Windows Update) will keep everything fully secure.
Quicker release time for FoCal
The transition to new tools has allowed us to streamline our release processes, so we should be able to bring you updates faster once all platforms are transitioned to the latest frameworks.
It’s not just the underlying tools that have been updated for FoCal 4.0 – we’ve also made some improvements to how FoCal operates.
Our image analysis algorithm has remained unchanged since around 2014 as it was developed in house with a lot of testing and tuning, and generally works well. But there are some edge cases that can affect results under challenging conditions.
We’ve improved how our analysis handles very blurred images and moderate changes to lighting levels during testing, making the results more consistent over a wider range of environmental conditions. The result: FoCal 4.0 gives you more reliable results and is even easier to use!
Integrated USB control
Control of cameras in FoCal (for Windows) has always required an extra component with its own requirements for support libraries, development tools and more. This was a pain to modify and maintain, as well as adding additional prerequisites to the whole FoCal application, meaning some users had to carefully install extra files before FoCal would communicate with cameras.
We’ve moved all our original USB control code into the main FoCal application and worked on some improvements to both performance and functionality, including better detection of camera removal and faster data transfer.
Camera control updates
There are always ways we can improve how we talk to cameras, and following on from the updates to our USB control code, we’ve improved how we communicate with both Nikon and Canon cameras.
There were some situations where FoCal wouldn’t recognise the camera reporting various error states, and these have now been improved, along with the ability for FoCal to resolve most minor issues automatically, making for more reliable testing.
This release isn’t about the look and feel of FoCal, so we’ve kept things mostly the same, although we couldn’t leave it alone altogether!
Like with the underlying frameworks, the component which displays everything you interact with has been updated, improving the graphics and fluidity of the whole application.
We’ve also adjusted some colours to make certain states more obvious, user interface components have been tidied, unnecessary pages removed, and tab pages visually improved. There are a few subtle animations to make the whole experience feel more polished.
Brand New Installer
We’ve opted to use the new MSIX installer tools for Windows, which is the new standard for installers. This results in a more straightforward installation process with just one button press to install, no need to run through wizards or multiple pages of options.
Upgrading should be easier – in the future, we will make this automatic, but for now, just running a new installer should update and run the latest version with minimal fuss.
The new frameworks are fully compatible with Windows 10 (build 1607) from August 2016.
In theory, FoCal will work with Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, but these are no longer supported by Microsoft, so we won’t be testing with these versions.
We’re releasing this Windows Beta version early to get your feedback about the overall experience with FoCal 4.0. We’d love to hear back from you, even if it’s just to say everything is working perfectly!
Thank you to everyone who’s supported us over all these years and continues to take the time to try out and give feedback on our products. It really is a tremendous help in producing solid, reliable and practical tools for photographers.