The Lens Align Mk II & the Lens Align Tutorial: Micro-adjusting Magic!

lensalignmkii_tripod_1000-01-best

This is the assembled Lens Align Mark II. Thanks to Michael Tapes for the image.

The Lens Align Mk II; Micro-adjusting Magic!

Ever since the introduction of digital camera bodies that feature micro-adjustments for individual lenses, folks–including me–have been searching for a quick, easy way to make those micro-adjustments. In the recent updates of the 7D and the Mark IV User’s Guides, I worked hard on developing a make-it-yourself cardboard rig that was a big improvement on the original version. But in reality, it does not offer the needed precision. And in addition to the extremely low cost, the rig took up lots of space–heck, it was huge, and using it was tedious work.

I had heard about Lens Align for some time, but a quick web check revealed that it was expensive. And performing the calibrations seemed to require somewhat of an extraordinary effort…. Well, Michael Tapes, the designer/creator/inventor of Lens Align has–with the recent introduction of the Lens Align MkII–drastically changed the playing field And by tethering your camera to a laptop computer the process itself is now not only simple and easy to do, but it is actually fun. Before I headed to New York I had a blast micro-adjusting all of my lenses. For the first few sessions Peter Kes was tutoring me via Skype!

I began writing this draft about two weeks ago after having used the original Lens Align Pro to do my initial micro-adjustments. On the afternoon of Monday, January 10, 2011, I broke open a Lens Align Mark II. As I took the pieces out of their plastic bags my original thoughts were “$79 for this flimsy set-up.” But I faithfully followed the directions and within minutes I had assembled a sturdy, jeez, practically rugged little kit that amazed me with its precise design. Michael Tapes should win some sort of Nobel prize for engineering and design ingenuity. Within minutes I had my 800mm rig tethered to the laptop to check on my previous micro-adjustments and to make sure that the tutorial was clearly written, error free, and as clear as the proverbial bell.

The new Lens Align MkII offers an inexpensive, accurate and repeatable methodology that allows photographers to test for potential front/back focus issues. The MkII maintains the high quality standards of the original LensAlign Pro and uses the same patent pending True Parallel Alignment™ (TPA™) Sighting System that is an exclusive feature of all genuine LensAlign products. TPA allows the user to establish exact parallel alignment between the camera’s sensor-plane and the focus target of LensAlign quickly and easily. A failure of almost all other AF adjustment products and procedures (including my incredibly crude efforts in the two most recent User’s Guide Updates) is their inability to ensure exact parallel alignment. It is however, an absolute requirement for accurate and repeatable AF testing and and for making accurate and repeatable micro-adjustments. The standard DOF focus display ruler that ships with LensAlign MkII is 10.5 inches and offers a choice of 2 different display patterns, one on each side.

And here’s the very best news: the Lens Align MkII costs only a fraction of the original Lens Align Pro and–with the slightly longer ruler, and the new ruler patterns, it performs even better. You can order yours right now for only $79.95 plus shipping: ~$6/US or ~$13/INT via Priority Mail. Please be aware that the shipping fees may vary a bit depending on your location or when you order through the BAA On-Line Store. International shipping charges will also vary by country depending on additional fees for customs, VAT, duties, or fees depending on their laws, rules or policies.

Folks ordering before January 15, 2011 will receive a free WhiBal G7 KeyChain Card. The WhiBal KeyChain Card sells for $18.95. (It won’t do much good for telephoto photography but heck, it’s free.) You can send us a Paypal, call Jim at 863-692-0906, or purchase through the BAA On-Line store here.

Lens Align Tethered Testing Tutorial

Tethered testing, with the camera attached to a laptop via a four or five foot USB cable, is easy to do and convenient. Below I will teach you how to do it and how to make a few images to confirm your results.

You will need to find a spot where you can sit at your laptop with the lens pointed through an open door or window at the target (that is obviously outdoors). Even when working with shorter focal length lenses it is best to place the target outside so that the system has enough light to focus. Canon folks will need to install EOS Utility from the CD that came in the box with their camera. Nikon folks need to purchase Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 Software Full Version for Nikon DSLR Cameras or Breeze Systems’ NKRemote. Nikon folks can find info on several free programs for tethered shooting here.

Here is exactly how I do it with my Canon gear. I work in my new office with the laptop on my worktable desk. I set up the tripod with the 800mm lens and the Mark IV about 3 feet away with the lens pointing out the French doors. I make sure that I have only the central sensor active and that no surrounding points are enabled (C.Fn III: 8-0.) I set One-Shot AF. I work in Av mode at the wide open aperture, in this case, f/5.6. The rig is tethered to the laptop with a five foot USB cable (separate purchase required). I make sure that Live View/Movie func. set (on the second YELLOW menu) is set to Stills. While on the menu, make sure to set the AF Mode to Quick ModeI make sure that the (focusing) Beep (on the second RED menu) is On. I set the ISO high enough to give me a decent shutter speed to ensure that my final confirmation images are sharp. I set rear button focus (C.Fn IV: 1: 2). And I set the Drive Mode to Single Frame Advance.

I keep a spare Wimberely P-20 plate on the base plate of the Lens Align MKII. Either that or a Wimberley P-5 plate from the bottom of a camera body will work just fine. Next I grab any old tripod–a light one is fine and screw on my Giotto’s tiny ballhead (the Giottos MH 1302-655) which is ideal for the chore. (Any ballhead will do.) Note: the unit comes with a 1/4 20 threaded hole that requires a mounting plate with a 1/4 20 bolt. Having the LA MII on a small ballhead makes the alignment process (described below) as snap.

Now I take the tripod with the Lens Align MKII atop it and head through the French doors (making sure to open them first) out into the backyard. It is recommended that all lenses including telephoto lenses be tested at distances ranging from at least 25 times the focal length up to 50 times the focal length. The minimum of 25 times the focal length in mm works out to 8.2 feet per 100mm, or roughly 65 1/2 feet. You can either estimate the distance by walking it off or use a carpenter’s measuring tape. The reason for placing the Lens Align device at 25 or 50 times the focal length is that alignment errors made at the minimum focus distance will multiply at larger focus distances. The disadvantage of calibrating your lens at 50 times the focal length is that vibrations (especially if it is breezy or windy) when viewing the magnified image on the laptop might make it difficult to evaluate your results. Some folks feel that setting the rig up at twice the minimum focus distance works fine.

Camera Settings Review

For your calibration efforts it is–as above–imperative to check and make sure that you camera is set up properly for testing:

  • Central Sensor AF point (selected manually) with no surrounding points enabled (C.Fn III: 8-0.)
  • One-Shot AF
  • Av mode at the wide open aperture
  • Camera tethered to laptop :)
  • Live View/Movie func. set (on the second YELLOW menu) is set to Stills
  • On the same menu, the AF Mode needs to be set to Quick Mode
  • (Focusing) Beep (on the second RED menu) is On.
  • The ISO is set high enough to give me a decent shutter speed to ensure that my final confirmation images are sharp
  • Rear button focus is set via C.Fn IV: 1: 2
  • Drive Mode should be set to Single Frame Advance

True Parallel Alignment

The next step is to align the camera and lens so that the camera is perfectly parallel to the test target. As it turns out, this is–thanks to the brilliance of Michael Tapes and his ingenious design, quite simple to do. Before I open the doors and walk out to the prescribed distance, I point the lens roughly at the spot where the tripod will be set up. Then I walk off the 65 feet, place the tripod down, loosen the ballhead, and point the Lens Align at the lens. Then I set a bit of tension on the ball and out of habit, level the unit with the bubble level in my pocket. The I look through the TPA Rear Sighting Port’s Main Target on the back of the unit, center the lens barrel in the center of the viewing port, and tighten the ball. It is actually as easy as pie.

rear-view-la-untitled-1

This is the view from the back of the Lens Align Mark II. Thanks to Michael Tapes for the image.

Then I return to the camera set up and aim the lens and adjust and tighten the the tripod head so that the central AF sensor is on the center of the focusing target on the left side of the Lens Align Mark II device. Then I hit the rear button to focus while looking through the viewfinder. Getting the central sensor to rest precisely on the center of the target once you let go of your rig is actually more difficult than it seems and will usually require several attempts.

focus-on-the-target-untitled-1

This image shows the central AF sensor illuminated in red right on the target as it should be.

Once that is done and the tripod head is locked down, press the Set button on the back of the camera to activate Live View. Then press the magnifying button on the top right back of the camera once (5X) or twice (10X) to enlarge the image. Press the shutter button to engage Image Stabilization. As long as you have taken care and centered the lens in the Main Target from behind the device you should see the red target circle right in the middle of the hole in in the center of the focusing target. I have gotten it perfect every time. If you see parts of the white bullseye target and only a section of the red ring I would attempt to re-center the lens from behind the device rather than attempting to move the tripod…. When you are finished, hit the Set button again to get out of Live View.

lensalignmkii-rend-sight-01

This Michael Tapes screen capture shows the red ring centered in the hole in the center of the focusing target.

PC

Now it is time to get back to our laptops and get to work. First click on the desk-top icon for the Canon EOS Utility that you have downloaded and installed from the CD that came with your camera body. When the window on our left below opens click on Camera Settings/Remote Shooting. When the window on the right below opens click on Remote Live View Shooting. (Thanks to Peter Kes for the use of the two screen captures below.)

canon-eos-utility live-view-shoot

Now press the Set Button to Activate Live view. Next defocus the image just a bit so that you can still see that the central sensor is on or near the center of the target. Then press the shutter button to engage IS and stabilize the image and hit the rear button to focus while you are holding the camera with the image relatively still on the back of the camera and the central sensor on or near the center of the test target. When the mirror comes back up you should see the central sensor light up red and should have heard the focus confirmation beep.

Once you have focused the image with IS engaged press the magnify button on the top right side of the camera once or twice and examine the image on the laptop. You will need to hit the right side of the joystick several times so that the white viewing window is centered over the ruler not the focusing target. You are looking for a view approximately as shown below.

0-screen-capture-pretty-much-right-on

This is my 800 with the Mark IV alone with the AF Micro-adjustment set to zero as it is out of the box.

As you can see, the lens at 0 micro-adjustment is pretty much right on. The 4s, the 8s, and the 12s in the center of the frame are pretty much of equal sharpness. Here is what I have not told you up till now and you had best read carefully: after you defocus slightly and then refocus after engaging IS and then examine the magnified results, make a mental note of the results and then repeat the test five or more times until you are satisfied that you are getting a consistent result. For whatever reason, it is likely that you will have one result that is out of kilter. But with practice and by following the methodology described above you will be able to get pretty darned consistent results.

To give you an idea of what you will see with a back-focused or front-focused camera lens combination I have intentionally created the two images below with the same gear.

10-front-focused-on-purpose

Here the Micro-adjustment is set to -10. As a result, the image is severely front focused. The numbers in front of the zero are much sharper then the numbers behind the zero. When I magnified this one to 10X the sharpest focus seemed to be on the small 14.

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10-screen-capt-front-focused

Here the Micro-adjustment is set to +10. As a result, the image is severely back focused. The numbers behind the zero are much sharper then the numbers in front of it. As in the previous image the sharpest focus again seemed to be on the small 14 when I magnified this one to 10X.

In addition to illustrating both front and back focus, we can glean valuable information from the two images and the settings immediately above. We saw that with the gear that I was testing the focus moved about 14 units with a ten unit change in the micro-adjustment. It follows that if you changed the micro-adjustment setting by a single unit that the focus would move about 1.4 units, or roughly 1 1/2 units. If you had a rig that was front focused with the 6 in front of the zero the sharpest digit, you would try setting the micro-adjustment to -4 because 4 X 1 1/2 = 6. After changing the micro-adjustment from 0 to -4 you would refocus about five times as detailed several times above. Then you would create an image by pressing the shutter button after you achieved a consistent result. The image will not be recorded on the compact flash card in your camera. It will be saved somewhere on your laptop; be sure to note where it is being saved. On my Windows 7 HP laptop the default folder for saving images is Arthur/My Pictures.

Here, adapted from my killer Mark IV User’s Guide are instructions for changing the Micro-adjustment values:

Go to C.Fn III-7. Press the Set button and then turn the thumb wheel to scroll down to “2-Adjust by lens” and hit the Set button again. Then press “Info;” the micro-adjustment window will appear. If you have never calibrated before, the arrow should be on zero. Turn the thumb wheel clockwise to adjust for front focus. Turn is counter-clockwise to adjust for back focus. Then be sure to press the “Set” button to apply the change.

You will need to Micro-adjust each lens with each camera that you own. You will also need to adjust each lens camera combo with the 1.4X teleconverter and with the 2x teleconverter if you own and use one. If you own more than one teleconverter, you will need to mark one for you big lens and one for your short lens and use it consistently with the lens that each was tested on. If you test with one TC and photograph with another, your sharpness will vary as each TC will require a different micro-adjustment.

Do not be fooled by the fact that my 800mm lens is right on at zero; it requires +7 with my #1 teleconverter. And my 400 DO requires +8 with my second Mark IV.

This thread will be a continuing resource and will be updated as questions come in. Please post your questions as Comments.

Thanks a stack to Peter Kes for helping me to get started with Lens Align. Thanks to former BPN member Arash Hazeghi for inspiring me to do this right and to teach others to do it properly. And finally thanks to Michael Tapes for Lens Align MKII.

I fully expect our stock of Lens Align Mark IIs to disappear almost instantly. If we are out of stock when you call please give us a day or two to get our next order.

Non-tethered Testing

To see a newer tutorial on non-tethered testing click here.

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96 comments to The Lens Align Mk II & the Lens Align Tutorial: Micro-adjusting Magic!

  • avatar You

    I want to say, The Lens Align Mk II & the Lens Align Tutorial: Micro-adjusting Magic! Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART is a seriously good thoughts. I would like to offer you my personal thanks a bunch. Cheers, You

  • avatar Steve Uffman

    finally got around to doing this with my 7d and 5dII on my various lens. Tethered laptop and putting a mounting plate on the Lens Align made it a bit easier that what some folks told me they went through. Was surprised at the differences in camera bodies and lens combinations. Hopefully the MA will payoff tomorrow when I put it to a test.

    Also what started out as an onerous, clumsy process really is not so bad once you have been through it a few times. Each subsequent lens took 25% less time to do.

  • avatar Peter Calamai

    Art, I’ve had the Pro model in its box throughout the L-O-N-G winter in Ottawa. With summer finally here and heart in mouth I decided to try to implement the cmplicated instructions in the Lens Align users guide. Then last night I stumbled across your tutorial. I think that I now almost understand what I should be doing, so much thanks. However, I do find it difficult with my 68-year-old eyes to back-sight accurately enough that the $#%^^&* red is in the hole.
    One quetion: LensAlign suggests a monochrome setting and bumping up the contrast setting. I didn’t see that aspect mentioned in your tutorial. Any views?

    Hi Peter, Good to see you here :). With the red hole, are you checking it at 10X on a tethered laptop? You should be. If you have someone to help one person can look at the laptop and the other move the LA; it is much easier to get it perfect quickly. The other stuff you describe is if you are capturing images and examining them in Photoshop. I rarely if ever do that; I move the focus in one direction three times and then three times the other way before using AF. If I get four or five consistent results I go with that. No picture taking needed.

  • avatar Jay Gould

    Getting that bloody dot exactly in the center is probably the most frustrating aspect of this process. I get to the point where I can just barely see the dot somewhere but not exactly in the center: IS THAT SUFFICIENT?

    I started with my 70-200 and am still on my 70-200.

    There is a significant back focus issue; the numbers above the zero all the way to the 20 are from very crisp to crisp, and the numbers below the zero are progressively more out of focus.

    In Artie’s tutorial in the Blog (http://www.birdsasart-blog.com/2011/…justing-magic/), the first image of the 800 set at zero where there is no front or back focus, the numbers are clearly the same amount of focus above and below the zero; is it sufficient after you apply MA that the numbers are uniformly soft?

    I slowly dialed one click at a time until at -7 all of the numbers from about 0-12 are reasonably in focus and reasonably equally soft above and below the zero: IS THAT SUFFICIENT, or should I be able to cause the numbers from about 0 -12 as in Artie’s first image to be equally sharp as compared to equally soft?

    I have also posted this in the Blog so that Michael Tapes might also respond.

    Thanks,

    PS: this is also posted on BPN (http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php/82104-Micro-Adjustment-fine-tuning?p=654337#post654337). I am in a hotel room in Thailand with two tripods setup and I do not want to move them until I complete the MA process. :)

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Jay, As long as I can see the edges all around the circle I fly. This may help: I put the LA MII in the backyard. I point it at the lens while looking through the rear sight. Then I go back to the lens and point is right at the LA MII. Then I go back an re-sight. I get it perfect or close to perfect all the time.

      As for the relatively soft in front and in back question, the #s will be much softer at long focal lengths. Everything is relative.

  • avatar Jay Gould

    Hi All,

    While waiting for the answer to my last comment I have assembled the MKII.

    Michael, in Australia we would say that you design and ease of assembly is “Bloody Elegant”!!

    A big thumbs up!!

  • avatar Jay Gould

    Hi Michael – and Artie too!

    First, Michael, thanks for participating in this discussion. Those of us that basically know where to put the key in the car, and not much more (!) really appreciate all of the assistance you and others have been providing.

    There is a similar discussion on BPN:http://www.birdphotographers.net/forums/showthread.php/81875-Micro-adjustment-with-teleconverters?p=653589&posted=1#post653589

    This was started to discuss MA with teleconverters and now includes a discussion of MFDs.

    Peter Kes has suggested that you could use the MFD of the lens rather than the distance suggested in the Distance Tool (DT).

    I have just put the following in the BPN thread:

    “I am very happy to hear about doing it at MFD.

    May I then assume that if MFD works then any comfortable distance between MFD (the closest you would apply MA, and the distance recommended by the Distance Tool (DT) (the longest distance you would set up for MA application) would also work?

    Peter, currently I am in Thailand (very rainy Thailand) for three weeks. I brought with my various lenses, two tripods, and the MKII.

    The longest distance I can create from the camera to the MKII is 30′.

    For the moment my longest focal length would be my 70-200 + 2.0X = 400 = 40′ using the 10′ rule.

    Peter, based upon your suggestion, with With 70-200, for example, without either extender I can setup at 20′ (the Distance Tool recommendation), and with either extender leave the setup at 20′ since that distance will be between the MFD and the DT recommendation; correct?”

    Michael, are you comfortable with using a distance that is equal to or greater than the MFD, and equal to or less than the distance recommended by the DR?

    I would do my 16-35 at 16 (I use this focal length the most), 24-105 at 105, the 100 Macro at of course 100, and the 70-200 as suggested above.

    I would also do my 300 when I return to Australia at 300 using the distance tool (30′), and I would not change the distance when I added the 1.4 and 2.0 extenders.

    OK?

    Cheers,

  • avatar Mike Vanecek

    Michael, thank you for your comments.

    Hopefully, my worn out brain has got it ….

    Correct for front focus problem – move front-to-back: Positive adjustment, move thumb wheel clockwise.
    Correct for back focus problem – move back-to-front: Negative adjustment, move thumb wheel counter clockwise.

    That says that ~8 feet is the minimum. Actual shooting distance could be anything, it varies with the situation. I think I will just use 10 feet per 100mm. Nice and easy to remember and calculate. Also, I don’t think I will make adjustments for the low side of a zoom since it is long range that seems to have the most issues. I want 200mm+ to be as sharp as possible. I have not thought about doing the 24-105mm, but maybe I should.

    My head must be too big :). It keeps hitting the ruler on the left side. My neighbor is left eye dominant, he has it easy. I’ll go try again! Back sighting is so helpful. Also, I have found that using a small level to adjust it (left/right & front/back) helps with the alignment process.

    Reared, Mike.

  • Mike V,

    I will Artie comment on his methodology..

    2 points from my side….

    “If the rig was front focused, why wouldn’t one need to make a positive adjustment to change the focus point from front-to-back? “

    Yes…Positive adjustment moves the focus point back and corrects for front focus.

    “One of Michael’s documents says that 1.5 MRD is optimal. That works out to be about 12 feet per 100mm. Should one use that rather than the ~8 feet per 100mm?”

    ~8 feet is easier to view. But the best distance is the one closest to the actual shooting distance you normally shoot at.

    “4. I wish I was left eye dominant so that I could use the TPA Rear Sighting Port’s Main Target without having to remove/install the ruler. Or do you have a trick for that too?”

    I am right eye dominant and have no problem back sighting with my right eye. But realize that back sighting is an optional step to get the alignment very close to correct. The only thing that matters is the centering of the back hole within the front hole when viewing from the camera live-view or in a picture (not the view finder). So back sighting optional. But it DOES make the alignment much easier than starting from scratch at the camera.

    Michael

  • avatar Mike Vanecek

    After reading and experimenting, I have a couple of points that are unclear to me (using a 1D4).

    1. Why does the “AF Mode needs to be set to Quick Mode?”. By using Live View mode one can watch as the camera achieves focus and the focus box turns green and a beep occurs. However, when using Live View in Quick Mode, a press of the back focus button results in the LCD going dark while the camera achieves focus, then the LCD returns and the focus point blinks red. The blink is rather quick. I hear no beep, just the clack of a mirror. At least with Live View Mode the green focus box stays visible as long as I continue to press the focus button (and I get the beep). In terms of establishing a Live View image of the ruler, both approaches appear to give the same results.

    2. In your example above, a MA setting of -10 caused the image to be front focused and a MA of +10 caused the image to be back focused. I.e., a negative adjustment moves the focus from back-to-front and a positive adjustment moves the focus point from front-to-back. Then the instruction says, “Turn the thumb wheel clockwise to adjust for front focus. Turn is counter-clockwise to adjust for back focus.” Your example states, “If you had a rig that was front focused with the 6 in front of the zero the sharpest digit, you would try setting the micro-adjustment to -4 because 4 X 1 1/2 = 6.” If the rig was front focused, why wouldn’t one need to make a positive adjustment to change the focus point from front-to-back? The more I look at this the more confused I become; help.

    3. One of Michael’s documents says that 1.5 MRD is optimal. That works out to be about 12 feet per 100mm. Should one use that rather than the ~8 feet per 100mm?

    4. I wish I was left eye dominant so that I could use the TPA Rear Sighting Port’s Main Target without having to remove/install the ruler. Or do you have a trick for that too?

    I am going to redo all my lenses again. I am not confident I did it correctly the first time. I am going to try it without IS enabled as well. I am also trying to create a 1 page instruction check list so I do not forget something.

    Thank you and Michael for all your assistance!!

    Regards, Mike.

    3.

  • That’s a million dollar photo of the eagle – now that is bird photography – having a bird just photographed sitting on a twig, just doesn’t do it compared to this type of photos. These are the type of photos I am most interested in – Birds in Flight – and the challenges that goes with this type of photography.

    Well done as if you need the complement. You must be told that everyday. If anyone can come within 50% of your abilities they are doing exceptionaly well. Happy shooting

  • Artie, I am glad you mentioned that you turned off IS in your latest post. I found that I was getting a different look every time until I turned off IS. It was much more consistent and I actually found that I had it adjusted too far back focus initially and had softer results. I made the adjustments and it is razor sharp now. One question I have for you is: why do you feel the need to adjust on a monthly basis? Does the lens work itself back out of focus in that amount of time?

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Joe, Please see the 3/20 blog post.

  • Hi Brian,

    Yes, shooting in the direct sunlight is not possible. Just like you would not like to do a photo shoot in direct sunlight. The sky is very large and will be reflected by the ruler. So the shade is the rule. Also, outdoors wind is a factor.

    My methodology is to set the LensAlign in my garage and shoot from across the street. I light with a simple diffused flash with a remote trigger. This gives you full control of the test shots. using flash also allows you to set up any ambient light for the AF to “see”. This way (using flash) the AF sees the ambient light, but the test shot is best lit for you to read the ruler.

    Michael Tapes

  • I just spent the last hour outside calibrating my 600mm with my Mk3 and 50D bodies. Wow, was my 1D Mk3 off! I had to set it at -12 with the 1.4x TC in place. I was shocked it was that far off. By the way, outside is okay as long as it’s not very sunny. I had to move it around the yard until I finally just put it under a tree for shade. The glare was terrible off the ruler no matter where I put it. I couldn’t see the numbers at all until in the shade. Regardless, I am really happy with the calibration and this tutorial.

  • Hi Art! What angle should the ruler be at? I don’t have the LA II but I’m a confused about the ruler angle. I’ve read before that it should be at 45 degrees but when I watched Michael Tapes video, it seems like the ruler wasn’t at 45 degrees.

    Thanks in advance.
    Voltaire

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      With the Lens Align Mark II you do not “set” the ruler. It is locked in place at about a 20 degree angle.

  • avatar Fred Solis

    After a couple of days of working on this I’ve finally been able to successfullly calibrate a couple of lenses. Persistence and re-reading Art’s tutorial several times helped.

    Thanks, Art for getting back to me.

  • avatar Joe Herrick

    You are quite specific about utilizing the Image Stabilization (IS) during the process. Could you elaborate why this should be done versus no IS?

    Without opening the whole argument about IS and it’s behavior on a tripod, I have noticed a particular behavior with IS on my 7D. After the image is focused and I get the confirmatory beep, I then release the shutter button. It appears to me the IS disengages with a visible change in my image. I can notice the change through the viewfinder, on the camera view screen in live view mode, and when connected to the EOS Utilities. It appears the focus changes slightly?

    I tried alignment with the IS on and off. With IS on, during the alignment process the repeated calibration results were somewhat erratic. I had much more consistent results with IS off.

    Any suggestions would be welcomed.

  • avatar Fred Solis

    The Mark III doesn’t autofocus in Live View. What procedure do you recommend in this case, please? Thanks.

  • Hi Frabrizio,

    Thanks. Regarding putting the LensAlign outdoors with flash….I do the opposite. I keep the LensAlign in my garage, and shoot from across the street. The lighting is by remote flash, positioned at the LensAlign, and triggered with a remote flash trigger (Pocket Wizard, etc). This totally eliminates camera shake and the need for high ISO and allows you to test even with a wind blowing, as the LensAlign is protected and the camera can shake all it wants because of the flash illumination.

    Best..

    Michael

  • Michael, great feedback. Thanks.

    Back to a previous topic, that is the need for putting outdoors the Lens Align MK II (which I wouldn’t be able to do for a long time)… I suppose it doesn’t make any sense to try it indoors with a flash unit and the Better Beamer working with focus assisting pre-flashes… right? I think it could affect somehow the autofocusing.

  • Hi Artie and BAA readers,

    First Artie, thanks for a great tutorial. The response speaks for itself.

    I thought that I would jump in here respond to some of the questions and comments made above (after all, Artie, you need to have “some” time for shooting :>).

    Regarding the tripod socket…we consider the LensAlign like a camera in terms of mounting. If you need a plate for a camera, you will need a plate for the LensAlign, etc. We use the 1/4-20 thread that is standard on every DSLR on earth as far as I know. Plus the benefit of mounting the LensAlign on a tripod is the ability to pan and tilt if for the alignment using back-sighting. Even though I own several Gitzo and Induro tripods and a slew of RRS ball-heads and plates, I use a $20 cheapo tripod that I got from Amazon. LensAlign is very light, so unless you are going to place the LensAlign in the wind, the cheapo tripod is all that is needed. And a pan/tilt mechanism works better than a ball-head because you can adjust the horizontal and vertical alignment separately during back-sighting.

    Regarding sensing of lenses and tele-converters….The camera will sense the Lens “Model” only and not the serial number. So if you align 2 500 f4s you cannot have separate MAs for it for the camera to automatically sense. The camera “can” sense a lens+TC as a separate model so that is fine. Regarding the TC II and III the issue is whether or not the camera senses these as different models or not. (I do not know). But it will not differentiate by the serial #.

    Regarding where the MA takes place…The MA is a value stored inside of the camera memory. It is an offset that is fed to the AF system when the AF takes place. In effect the AF system says “send the lens to value XX, but do not forget to add in the MA offset.” So when an MA is made the “lens” knows nothing about it. Only the body is aware of the MA and it is only applied when a previously adjusted body/lens combination is mounted. The lens is not affected in ANY way and knows nothing about whether it has be adjusted on any bodies or not.

    Lastly about “why” the MA is even needed….It is because the AF system is NOT a closed loop system. In the end the camera has no idea of whether or not the lens has been sent to its final resting place or not. The focus LED (lock) lights when the systems knows what it needs to and has issued the command to send the lens to where it needs to be for proper focus. But again, has no idea if it ever gets there. The “contrast/slow” focus in live-view IS a closed loop system and relies on the actual image being in focus before it shows that it has locked. That is one of the things that make it “slow”.

    Hope this adds to the discussion, and thanks to Artie and all of you for your support of LensAlign.

    Michael Tapes

  • avatar Joerg Rockenberger

    Please see the newer blog post for my responses to Arthur’s comments. JR

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    My responses to Joerg’s comment:

    JR: Absolutely excellent tutorial on the LensAlign MII. And perfect timing. I just received mine last week and was still pondering the best strategy about how to use it. Your tutorial is certainly most helpful. A few comments/suggestions if you allow.

    AM: Thanks for your kind words. You and lots of others who commented appreciated the clarity of the instructions. I worked on the tutorial for about 16 hours…. And I learned a ton while experimenting.

    JR: It came to me as a bit of a surprise that the LAMII came only with a 1/4-20 thread. I wish Michael Tapas had emphasized this more on his website and clarified that it should be used in conjunction with a camera/lens base plate. Your readers might benefit from such info.

    AM: Now they know :) I will let Michael know of your concern via e-mail and add that info to the original tutorial. Done!

    JR: I think that using a remote shutter release (wired or wireless) may possibly be a better alternative to touching the camera. It autofocuses with a “half-press” – at least with the 40D

    AM: Lately I have gone to rear button focus. That turns out to be quite convenient for making a Lens Alignment. As for using a cable release there are several issues: 1-I have never been able to make a sharp image at a slow shutter speed with a cable release. Ever. It is not just a matter of mirror slap. Big lenses just do not stay still unless you have your hands on them. 2: Once I press the shutter button to activate IS I steady the lens as I normally do and wait for everything to calm down and then gently depress the shutter button. I would encourage folks to try both methods and let me know how they do.

    JR: Furthermore, you should be able to defocus as well as trigger the shutter from your laptop via the EOS utility reducing the need to touch the carefully aligned camera/lens setup.

    AM: I believe that you are correct but as above I am a hands on type of guy….

    JR: Shooting from the inside of a house to the outside may be impacted by the temperature difference just like with photographing from a car. Maybe less of a problem in Florida this time of the year.

    AM: I am not exactly sure where you are going with that; please explain.

    JR- Aligning the camera/lens/LAMII may benefit from an assistant – especially with the long distances involved with big glass.

    AM: As I said in the tutorial the aiming process was actually very simple. As long as I took care when aiming the LAMII I nailed the red circle in the center every time.

    JR: At least with the 40D the USB cable between the camera and a computer was part of the package so it’s not necessarily an extra purchase. That cable worked for me also in downloading images from a 1DMkIV when I forgot to bring my card reader. So, I presume it works also for tethering a 1DMkIV to a computer.

    AM: Thanks for that. How long is the cable? I am pretty sure that it will work. Thanks for your comments and suggestions.

  • avatar nelson pont

    artie thanks for the update on the MK11 i as always great info your update on the 7D was a great help also i think i better check my 400do from what i am reading here i would appreciate

    some input at the workshop in florida on feb.4th for the 400do

  • BTW, some non-Canon and non-Nikon brand (and some non reflex camera) have a kind of motion for the sensor, but laterally to implement an alternate way of vibration reduction (in contrast to our usual brands that move some glass elements in the lens), but of course this is very different than the focusing thing.

  • While I’m not an optical engineer (but I’m an engineer anyway), I think that for sure the sensor doesn’t move, and the correction is entirely applied to the lens (e.g. to correct front focusing, the lens will be focused as the subject was at an extra distance). I’m however curious about the technical answer that Art will get, as there’s clearly something in the way our gear focuses that I don’t understand. In fact, it was my understanding that – grossly simplified – the camera just change focus until its sensor detects that the subject is in focus. Such a closed-loop control shouldn’t need any correction… clearly there’s something subtler. Some say that back/front focusing problems in some camera/lenses only appear when photographing with tungsten light, which would be related to the presence of infrared radiation – infrared focuses at a different distance than visible light. But this kind of defect seems different from what you can correct with the adjustments we’re talking about.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Joerg, Your comments/questions are so good that they will be part of a future blog post. Please be just a bit patient :)

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Joel, I have no clue as to what is being adjusted :) I am lucky that I have learned how to turn my camera on and off. Start a thread in the gear forum at BPN; Roger Clarke will know for sure.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Torbjørn, First off, I love your image of the blue and the purple berry with the rain drops on your web site. Agree that it does not matter at all if the lens or the camera is the one that is off as long as you wind up sharply focused. I have never run across a lens that required more than +/-20. But we did test a 400 DO in New Mexico that simply was not in the ballpark; it seemed as if there was some bad misalignment with the lens elements….. One of the beauties of Lens Aligning is that it will reveal the absolute fact that most lenses are sharper than most photographers :) Operator error will be exposed as rampant….

  • avatar John Willard

    I know this is a very basic question but should this be with all cameras and lenses. I have a
    Canon EOS 30 D and a 50 D.

    Once you make adjustments do you have to readjust every time you change a lens?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Once the micro-adjustment is made, the particular camera “remembers” the lens. That’s why we set C.FN III 7: 2-Adjust by lens. Does the 30D offer micro-adjustment?

  • avatar Joerg Rockenberger

    Hi Arthur,

    Absolutely excellent tutorial on the LensAlign MII. And perfect timing. I just received mine last week and was still pondering the best strategy about how to use it. Your tutorial is certainly most helpful. A few comments/suggestions if you allow:

    - it came to me as a bit of a surprise that the LAMII came only with a 1/4-20 thread. I wish Michael Tapas had emphasized this more on his website and clarified that it should be used in conjunction with a camera/lens base plate. Your readers might benefit from such info.

    - I think that using a remote shutter release (wired or wireless) may possibly be a better alternative to touching the camera. It autofocuses with a “half-press” – at least with the 40D. Further, you should be able to defocus as well as trigger the shutter from your laptop via the EOS utility reducing the need to touch the carefully aligned camera/lens setup.

    - shooting from the inside of a house to the outside may be impacted by the temperature difference just like with photographing from a car. Maybe less of a problem in Florida this time of the year… :)

    - aligning camera/lens/LAMII may benefit from an assistant – especially with the long distances involved with big glass.

    -at least with the 40D the USB cable between the camera and a computer was part of the package. So, it’s not necessarily an extra purchase. That cable worked for me also in downloading images from a 1DMkIV when I forgot to bring my card reader. So, I presume it works also for tethering a 1DMkIV to a computer.

    Hope this is helpful. Best, JR

  • avatar Joel Eade

    Very nicely written tutorial Artie.

    I am curious to know when a microadjustment is made what is actually being adjusted? Is the sensor moving or some element in the lens or both?

    Thanks for all your educational efforts, the concise clear writing style is a big bonus.

    Joel

  • I see that a lot of people ref to their lenses when talking about the calibration. But it is also the camera who could have a “mismatch”. If both the camera and the lens is frontfocusing, there is You could end up close to the end of what is possible to adjust with the “Micro adjustment” inside camera. Then you might have to send both the lens and your camera to Canon repair.
    But you could also have your camera focusing to far away and you lens frontfocusing and end up at a perfect zero adjust!
    I ended up with with a +5, +6 and a +7 on three different lenses, but was it the lenses or the camera who where off zero?
    Only way to know this is to send your gear to canon (or other qualified repair shop)and let them measure it. But if you manage to get your combination of gear to match zero, you relay don’t have to bother.

    Torbjørn Helgesen
    Norway

  • avatar peter hawrylyshyn

    Artie
    How different were the results using the LensAlign to the results using the setup described in your MK Users Guide?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Peter, Many were 4-6 units different. There is simply no way that the precision of the LA can be matched by the revised method in the guides (even though it was a big improvement on the original procedure).

  • Artie, I’m using the 1D MkIII. Thanks!

  • This is a great tool for prime lenses, but I have had mixed results with its ability to calibrate zoom lenses.

    I have found that with several of my zoom lenses (24-105mm & 70-200mm) they would front focus when shot wide and back focus as I shot longer. You then have to make a judgment call at what focal length you want to have critical focus.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for sharing that Justin. When I have some time–fat chance of that–I will try my 70-200 f/2.8 L IS both long and short and with both the 1.4X and 2X TCs and let folks know the results.

  • Thanks for the plenty of details. Focus calibration was on my mind now that I’ve bought the Nikon D7000 which allows fine tuning… But I wasn’t thinking of the “outdoor” detail. Unfortunately, I live in a flat at the 3rd floor (my parents the same, at 6th). I think I’ll have to wait when I go to the countryside, but before it must stop raining :-/

    BTW, in yours (and other readers’) experience, how many cameras do actually need this kind of calibration?

    PS For people using Adobe Lightroom, version 3 comes with tethering capabilities. I used it a few months ago (in the countryside…) to find out why some recent photos turned out to be apparently blurred, and discovered it was the protective filter (indeed, they weren’t blurred, but with a sort of “ghost image”).

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks for the clarification Sadja. What is the MA??? Let us know what Chuch has to say.

    What lens are you using with the 2X?

  • avatar Sadja

    When I perform MA (micro adjustment) on the 2xII and then switch to the 2xIII, the MA in the camera remains unchanged even though by visual analysis using the LA I the two teleconverters produce different results during calibration. Since the tele converters are different products with unique serial numbers, I would think the system would be smart enough to know the difference even though both are 2x converters. I have alerted Chuck Westfall.

  • Thanks a lot for this review and tutorial on the Lens Align Mk II. I have just tested it and adjusted 3 of my lenses, hope they perform better now with my Canon 7D.
    I will read more of your stuff tomorrow at work.

    Regards
    Torbjørn Helgesen
    Norway.

  • Artie, THANK YOU! Seriously, this is one of, if not the best tutorials you have given. This can be very frustrating if you try to do it on your own. I speak from experience. I just read about this product in one of the photography magazines and was wondering if it was worth buying. After this article, I am convinced it is essential. Like you said, why spend all this money on lenses if they are not accurate. It’s a no brainer!

  • avatar Justin McCarthy

    Thank you Art. I’m sure we’ll be purchasing one when the weather gets warmer in Michigan! Question: (I’m somewhat novice) when calibrating a 100-400 ef lens, do you set the distance at the 100mm distance or 400 mm distance. 400 mm, I presume?
    Thanks again.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Justin, YAW. In general with zoom lenses, you will want to test at the long end assuming that that is where you do most of your photography. Once you get the calibration techniques down pat, you can easily test at various focal lengths like 100mm and 200mm and compare the results.

  • avatar Jay Gould

    Thank you for waking me up to this tool and the tethered technique. I had nothing but trouble using the original on two tripods; I will use your recommended method with the LAII. Cheers and keep on teaching. Jay

  • Excellent! I was about to order a LA MkII last week when I saw you’d be doing a review, so I waited. With this new info in hand, and the fact I can get it from the BAA Store, seals the deal!

    I gather that folks, like me, using cameras that don’t AF while in live view will simply need to make a series of images, download them and examine the results.

    Cheers!
    David

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      David, Which camera are you referring to when you write, “I gather that folks, like me, using cameras that don’t AF while in live view will simply need to make a series of images, download them and examine the results.”?

  • Eyes are getting old… could you point me to the link to buy Lens Align II before Jan 15 to get free White Bal..

    Thanks Wally b

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Wally, Jim just got it into the store in the Accessories section here.

      Better hurry; we are almost sold out :) We will have more in a few days.

  • avatar Sadja

    On my Mk IV, the rig cannot distinguish between the 2x II and 2x III teleconverters (at least the MAs register the same regardless of which 2X is attached).

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Sadja, You wrote, “On my Mk IV, the rig cannot distinguish between the 2x II and 2x III teleconverters (at least the MAs register the same regardless of which 2X is attached).” I am not sure what you mean…. What are the MAs? Are you talking about when you are doing a calibration or during regular shooting?

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    ps: When you order remind Jim not to charge you shipping.

  • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Hey Alan, Thanks for the tip. I have a Lens Align MII with your name on it and will bring the Lens Clens also. Better yet we can set up your Lens Align and go over the whole thing live and in person. I will bring my tiny ball head :)

  • avatar Alan Lillich

    To keep the lens to target distance math easier I use 10 feet per 100 mm of focal length, same as 1 foot per 10 mm of focal length. This works out to 30.48 times the focal length.

  • avatar Alan Lillich

    Any chance you can bring some LensAlign kits and bottle of LensClens to San Diego? I would like to order by Jan 15, but will of course be in SoCal Jan 15-24 so can’t have things delivered then.

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