Lens Align Mark II and Homer Follow-ups « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Lens Align Mark II and Homer Follow-ups

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This image was created at 9:30 am in Kachemak Bay, AK on Saturday morning with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II with the 1.4X II TC (handheld at 280mm) and the EOS-1D MIV. ISO 400: 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 confirmed by histogram check and set manually. Amazingly, it is a full frame vertical original. I was going for broke and got lucky; in the next frame, the wingtips at the top were clipped. For an interesting discussion of phase angle and to see how the folks on BPN helped me to improve this image, click here.

Lens Align Mark II and Homer Follow-ups

Folks are always asking how I get my images so sharp. In part, it is because I carefully micro-adjust my lenses every month. The day before I left for Homer I micro-adjusted both my 70-200mm and my 800 mm with the Lens Align Mark II. Once you get the hang of tethered-testing it usually takes only five or minutes at most to be confident of the accuracy of your results. To learn more about Lens Align Mark II and view the tutorial, click here.

Here are my current micro-adjustment settings:

800mm alone with MIV #1: +1

800mm with 1.4X III TC #1: +3

800mm with the 2X III TC: 0 (See below for Lens Align Instructions when AF is not possible)

70-200mm alone with MIV #2: +7

70-200mm with 1.4X III TC #2: +5

70-200mm with the 2X II TC: -4 (For some reason getting a consistent result for this combo took quite some time…)

As I own two 2X TCs I have labeled them as #1 and #2. I use #1 with the 800, #2 with the 70-200. The camera bodies can tell the difference between a 1.4X and a 2X TC but they cannot identify individual 1.4X TCs as different so it is important to always use the same TC with a given lens after that combo has been micro-adjusted.

In the comments here, Fred Solis asked:

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

With camera bodies (or with lens/TC combinations like the 800mm f/5.6L IS/2X) that do not autofocus in Live View the procedure is simple. Set everything up as usual, magnify to 5X, and then focus manually. With telephoto lenses sharp focus will snap into place. The simple proceed as before noting and adjusting for any back- or front-focus issues.

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Same place and gear as above, this one at 9:02 am at 255mm. Though this one was created only 28 minutes before the vertical image above, note how much sweeter the light is. This has to do not only with the difference in the time of day but also with where I was pointing the lens in relation to the sun. In this image the light was much more behind me….

And Joe Herrick wrote:

“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.”

Joe, sorry to have taken so long to get back to you on this. After several e-mail conversations with top Canon technical representative Chuck Westfall, he stated, “In some instances IS might affect focus and thus make the micro-adjustment results less consistent.”

You will be glad to know Joe that my last round of micro-adjustments was done with IS turned off. Thanks for the heads up.

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This image was created from a drifting, rocking boat at 11:04 am yesterday with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X II TC, and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/1250 sec. at f/8. The almost magical 4-stop IS of the 800 surely helped in this situation as did the recent micro-adjustment.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of the gear mentioned above. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2X III teleconverter. I also use it a lot–depending on the situation–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon EF 1.4X III TC. This new TC is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EF 2XIII teleconverter. The new 2X III TC is a bit sharper than the previous version, the EF 2X II TC.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. The very best professional digital camera body that I have ever used.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

Gitzo 3530 LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
Double Bubble Leve.l You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am on a tripod and not using flash.
Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable.

45 comments to Lens Align Mark II and Homer Follow-ups

  • Art: What AF Sensor design do you use for most of your photos

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Jay, Your last comment shed some light on the situation for me; well done.

    Michael, thanks for stopping by. Have fun at the show.

  • Thanks Mike: I have talked and read reviews of the both systems and have ordered the Mark 11 – it looks like you researched the development process extremely well and the product is well supported for the user. An example everyone should take note of.



  • Ken….I think Artie’s examples in this post say it all.

  • Ken,

    All of our system yield the same accuracy and repeatability. We are no longer making the Pro and Pro Plus systems although they might still be available at B&H. The MkII system was designed to replace the Pro system. It is lighter smaller, knocks down for travel, and much less expensive.



  • To Michael Tapes:

    I use long lens for shooting wildlife and birds and demand extreme sharpness. Which is your systems would work best for maintaining the greatest of details.



  • Ken,

    You asked..

    “…are those distances consistant with other similar devices..”

    I do not know what “similar” devices you are referring to. The one device that I am aware of is similar in looks only, and lacks the technical sophistication of LensAlign. It is inappropriate for me to comment on a methodology that I do not believe in.


  • Hi Art: Aren’t you glad that you didn’t clip the wings on any of the above shots, those are just great shots Art.

  • For the DOF scale for aligning your lens, are those distances consistant with other similar devices or is it just for the manufactured one that you sell.



  • Forgot to mention…

    Our LensAlign DOF/Distance Tool is here:



  • Mike V,

    You calculator shows 20 inches in front of the focus point and 21 inches behind it. This is a total DOF of 41 inches, which puts 49% in front and 51% behind. or 49/51.

    My 64/36 is a typo and should be 36/64. 36% in front and 64% in the rear. Sorry.

  • Mike Vanecek


    On a Canon 1D4, f/4.0, 400mm, at 100ft — my calculator says 98ft 4in to 101ft 9.1in for DOF. What is the relationship between that and your numbers, i.e. – 100 = 48.9/51.1? Or at 1250ft it is 1025ft 6.7in to 1600ft 2.3in versus – 1250 = 64/36?



  • Bill Richardson

    Thanks Michael. Since I won’t be setting my LensAlign tool at infinity from the camera, I will keep trying to put the focus point in the middle. ;-0 Seriously, thanks for all the info.

  • Mike Vanecek


    DOF calculators are available at iTunes for the iPad. Also free for Windows at http://www.gophotog.org/tools/dofcalc/win/whatitdoes.html and http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/technical/depth_of_field_calc.html. One can find more sophisticated versions for a price — search Google.


  • Bill R,

    The 1/3 front/back DOF ratio is true, but only at distances approaching infinity. Most people think that the 1/3, 2/3 rule is for all dustances.

    For example:
    400mm f4
    – 30 feet = 49.7%F/50.3%B
    – 50 = 49.4/50.6
    – 100 = 48.9/51.1
    – 200 = 47.7/52.3
    – 400 = 45/55
    – 800 = 41/59
    – 1250 = 64/36

  • Jay Gould

    OK, Artie, the questions were for anybody.

    Frankly, I very much enjoy this type of discussion, as you can’t help but learn something even if you said everything wrong – and I did!

    I now understand from Michael’s discussion that nothing physical is happening within the camera when MA is applied; it is an electronic adjustment.

    I have used and do support the use of the LA!

    I have never used the LA to MA with MF in LV; I will definitely give it a go as a result of this discussion.

    What I also think I understand NOW is that when you use LA in LV, and your lens is “off”, after you focus on the target with either AF or MF, the “off” will be displayed on the ruler and it will be approximately the same regardless of whether you used AF or MF.

    And, regardless of whether you used AF or MF, once you have applied MA to zero the lens/body combination, when you use AF in the field that numerical adjustment will be applied and result in a properly focused image.

    Thanks everyone, even if Artie didn’t understand what I wrote, I did :-), and even if it was wrong it resulted in further education for everyone – I hope – and I now “perceive” that I understand LA and MA a bit better. πŸ™‚

  • Jay Gould

    MF in VF

    Manual focus in view finder.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Michael, Thanks again. I am trying to read through your 10:51 am comment carefully and understand it:) When you write “MF in VF” what is VF? (Sorry if I missed that….) And thanks of course for trying to help us out πŸ™‚

    Jay, I cannot understand much of what you wrote or who some of your questions were for….

  • I’ve created quite a storm! πŸ™‚
    My only point was that using MF in live view to MA was pointless if you’ll be using AF in the field. I believe all I’ve read confirms that point.

    This has no bearing on the LensAlign MkII, as it is a wonderful product. I have one and suggest others do the same.


  • Bill Richardson

    One last question Michael. Most of us have heard that the DOF is 1/3 in front of and 2/3rds behind the focus point. By using MA, do we not throw tht out the window and have a 50/50 balance in front of and behind the focus point?

  • This is my point…..

    The AF system on DSLRs is not as accurate as it needs to be for our demands.

    The process of Micro-Adjust is not difficult and one does not have to understand all of the technical stuff I threw out there. I just did that to put out some truth, and dismiss some myths and false information. And to stop some people from over-thinking this and making it too complicated.

    It IS very simple. The MA is for AF as we are used to using it. We are making a setting so that the camera focuses best it can with each of our lenses. End of story.

    Once again, what MA does is to make the normal AF be tuned to each of your lenses. Just what we need it to do. If you want your pictures to be as sharp as Artie’s you have to MA your lenses, just like you have to get the exposure right. Just part of being a photographer in the digital world. When I grew up we had to know how to mix chemicals and do all of that much more complicated stuff. We have it easy in the digital world, but we do have to master our tools, just like in the wet darkroom. No free lunch.

    I will be doing some videos after Photoshop World that will show it really simple and with a number of techniques. Hope to see some of you at Photoshop World. Stop by my booth and say hello and I can show you how simple it is.


  • Whew! It sounds and looks complicated to me with all so many variables! I think I will just shoot and let the manufacuturers worry about the tech stuff. I only have an MEd, I think you need a PhD to understand all of this about MA, MF, AF, LV, VF, non-LV, slow LV, contract Detect.

    Now I’m Dizzy ! !

    I think I will just take my camera and point and shoot. Sounds simplistic ! That’s what I like ! Me and the bush and whatever moves !

  • Bill Richardson

    Thanks Michael. Seems like there is a lot of misunderstanding about MA. I like to keep it simple. I shoot AF using the viewfinder so I MA shooting AF using the viewfinder.

  • Whew! Words on paper are so difficult. Let me see if I can help (this time :>).

    I will state a few facts:

    1 – Using MF in the MA process is just to have a reference. The MF part of the procedure has no affect on the AF system or adjustment process. It is sort of like an A/B comparison. “Let’s compare the AF actual performance vs. a human induced LV MF to see the difference and help to correlate the AF to be more precise than it is.

    2 – You can focus in at least 4 manners:

    a) MF in VF
    b) MF in LV
    c) AF (non-LV)
    d) AF (LV Slow or Contrast Detect)

    It is possible (and probable) that these 4 will not always agree. THAT is why we are having this discussion. If the 4 methods agreed, then we would not be having this discussion about MA. We would be shooting pictures.

    3 – Let me discuss each of those focusing methods and their potential accuracy.

    a) MF in VF – This method is potentially not very accurate because there are so many variables.
    – The image used to focus is not the captured image. It is a proxy.
    – Ground Glass in VF is now made of plastic and FOCUS is NOT it’s top priority. It’s top priority is to gather as much light as possible to produce as bright an image in the VF as possible. Even the DOF display in the VF is not accurate.
    – Placement of the “ground glass” (plastic) may not be correct due to MT (manufacturing tolerances). I am told that the VF is not tested for focus accuracy in final QC of the cameras (this may not be true for all manufacturer, or all models, but I am told from a reliable source that it is true. I do not know for sure).
    – MT in mirror placement in general and shot to shot (landing placement)
    – Diopter adjustment. This has a huge affect on a human being to focus accurately in the VF. Not all photographers set it with precision or at all.
    – Eye hand coordination of the photographer.
    – resolution of the lens motor to place the lens accurately (what if the proper point of focus is between steps)
    – resolution of the lens ring to translate the (maybe bad) hand movement of the photographer to the computer that tells the lens to move.
    – The above 2 do not apply to wonderful older lenses that use smooth and continuous (ie, analog) focus mechanism.

    b) MF in LV – This is potentially the most accurate focus method because the focus image IS the image that will be captured. it is limited by the 2 lens resolution limitations mentioned above and the ability of the photographer to determine the exact point of focus from the LCD or computer monitor (tethered). Also there is a time delay between the movement of the lens ring and the displayed image which adds to the eye-hand coordination issue. But with diligence this is the most reliable method of focus.

    c) AF (non-LV)
    – Well this is the one under discussion in term of the MA.
    – reasons for inaccuracy are mostly related to the MT of the camera body and lens in combination
    – but also AF system is an “open loop” system (in terms of hardware and software) which means that the camera never confirms (to itself) that the lens has actually gotten to the exact point of focus.
    – and then there is wear and tear, dust and dirt, condition of lubricants, temperature, and on and on.
    – We use the MA to tune-out the inaccuracies of the AF system, so that the basic operation of the system compensates for the “constant” errors that cause imprecise AF in daily use. That is to say we are cancelling out the MT of each lens/body combination.
    – The MA is stored in the cameras memory, the same as your menu settings, and everything else that is stored.
    – That is to say there is no mechanical change to the lens or camera body, and no change of ANY KIND to the lens. The lens has no idea that it has been “micro-adjusted”.
    – The camera body has now been “instructed” that any time lens A is mounted on the camera and the AF MA system is turned on, tell the AF system that this lens (lens A) tends to back focus on this body, so when you auto-focus, pull the focus point forward by x amount (the value stored in the MA system for this lens) so that the focus plane is set to the proper point.
    – The MA system CANNOT compensate for “focus glitches” which happen from time to time and produce AF errors.

    d) AF (LV Slow or Contrast Detect) – Theoretically, this should provide perfect focus because the computer focus system (in the camera) is using the image itself to determine the exact point of focus. But in practice that is not always the case. (Subject for another rant).

    I hope that this information gets me closer to the question that you are asking :>).

    Seriously, while this may not address your specific question it should provide a lot of useful information (or additional confusion). Let me know.

    Now please go buy a LensAlign from Artie’s store so he and I can keep the lights on :>)


  • Jay, it is my understanding that MA makes no physical adjustment to the lens and/or camera. It is all an electronic adjustment.

  • Jay Gould

    Artie, there is no edit of comments.

    I am on my iPad and could not editbeasily what I typed at the beginning.

    It should read that your statement regarding MF in LV “may be incorrect depending upon the purpose of and how MA works in the lens.

    Now that I think about it further, MA I would guess fixes the lens elements and that is why each lens must be done separately andvthe camera remembers the settings for each lens.

    If it fixed AF then it would be the same fix for all lens and you would only have to test one lens to correct AF.

    That would suggedt that you can use MF in LV to MA each lens, and ergo your statement is correct.

    Sorry I did my analysis in the comments.

    Perhaps I will find out in the morning the results.

    Good night! πŸ˜‰


  • Jay Gould

    Artie, I did not initially follow MF issue since my 7D & 5DII AF in LV. I read what David wrote, agreed and restated. Now I have read it more carefully and I believe your opening comment suggesting MF in LV when doing MA is incorrect, IF I understand the purpose of MA.

    I think Michael’s post agrees.

    When you aim the lens at the center of the target, isn’t the goal to be able to push the shutter button 1/2 down, activate AF, and have the target in focus?

    When you use AF and the target is not in perfect focus, doesn’t the ruler show us if the lens mechanically focused too close or too far?

    And, if the LV shows focus forward or in back of the intended point, then we use MA to force the lens to AF correctly.

    When we use MF, the AF mechanism is not activated, and – this is the big and regarding what MA is adjusting – we are not shown if the auto focus mechanism is front or back focusing.

    Is the purpose of MA to manually fix AF, or is the purpose to micro adjust the various lens elements in relation to each other.

    If the former, MF would not work.

    If the latter so that when you MF the target the actual location of focus is not spot on, then MF will work as you suggested.

    That then raises the question for David and others that have to use MF in LV, how do they chevk that after they apply MA using MF, the lens is correct when they use AF through the view finder in the field?

    To summarize, does MA fix AF or – crudely stated – fix the allignment of the lens elements?

    Hope this made sense. For me it is 11PM and I am off to bed; for you Artie it is 5AM and you are sleeping. Good shooting!

  • Jay, thanks for saying it better! πŸ™‚
    All this said, this is why I feel using MF in live view to MA my MkIII is incorrect.

  • Jay Gould

    David, I think what you have said makes a lot of sense. I think you are saying that by definition there is to forward or back focusing error to deal with when you manually focus because you have chosen your POF and you make that tack sharp. With auto focus you choose the point of focus and the camera is supposed to focus tack sharp at that point BUT instead focuses either in front of or behind the chosen point.

    If you 100% of the time you manually focus you would not need to do any MA.

    Is that what you are saying? I agree.

    Artie? Michael Tapes?

    Are we in left field?

  • Artie, yes, you and I are on the same page. It seems to reason that if you use MF when performing a MA you would need to use MF in normal shooting conditions to ensure the expected results since I don’t see a correlation between the MF adjustment and what AF will subsequently perform. If you think about it a MA performed using MF is pointless as MA works hand-in-hand with the AF system. A lens/body combo could be front/back focusing with AF a ridiculous amount, but if you MF it would not matter.

    I hope I’m explaining my point well enough.


  • Bill Richardson

    Oh yeah, that 2d photo is unbelievable!!!! Just stunning.

  • Bill Richardson

    Good tip about turning IS of before MAing. I never do that but will from now on. I also found adjusting the new 70-200 with the 2x TC frustrating. Maybe it will be easier with the IS off. For those who have not purchased the LensAlign, do it. Rigging up home made targets is at best a waste of time and could give very bad results. I think a lot of folks mess up well focusing lenses using MA incorrectly. And Art, I remember a few years ago you never MAed your lenses and now you do it monthly!! Old dogs can learn new tricks, can’t we?

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Michael, Thanks for stopping by. As I read it you have not understood David’s concerns or question.

    I will try: How can we be sure that our manual focus will match the focus point of our AF system? If the two do not match, then any M-As will be useless….

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Mike V, My plan is to always do the M-As with IS off. Chuck offered nothing specific but what I stated. I had already planned to update the tutorial; I have been a bit busy here in Homer…

  • Hi David P,

    You asked:

    “…are we not assuming that AF in the field will behave in the exact same fashion as MF, by eye, did while performing MA? ”

    I may not fully understand your question, but I think you are asking the relationship between MF LV and normal AF shooting. if this is what you are asking this is my response. If not please explain a little further.

    There are many methodologies to use LensAlign when adjusting MA for AF. LensAlign is the common element and as such any of the correct methods should yield the same results. When using MF LV in the process, we are using this as a perfect focus reference. But this is one way to do MA. I think it is always good to see how the perfect focus looks on the screen, so we know the results we are looking for when we do a confidence check that the proper AF MA value is set. So in the end, as you suggest, there is NO technical correlation between MF LV and AF shooting. But there is the commonality that the proper focus achieved by MF LV and AF normal shooting will be the same proper focus.

    Did I help ya here or confuse the issue? :>)

    BTW…I have seen LV AF (slow contrast detect) achieve improper focus too many times to trust it. I would always confirm that the AF in LV is actually locking to best focus rather than close focus. Seems to depend on the camera in my experience.

    Michael Tapes
    Creator: LensAlign

    Michael Tapes

  • Artie: where do you find a location for the eagles shots – I’m hoping to find some this year. as for the IS – for fast moving objects, sport photos or birds in motions photos, I was having soft images with the IS on. Once I turned it off , my shutter speeds were always above 400 or 500 anyway, the softness went away and the sharpness appeared again. I found you have to press the shutter half way for the IS to kick in, and in something moving fast th IS doesn’t always want to kick in properly.

    I use a tripod for most of my images now and never use the IS.

    I’m envious of your eagle photos – you are very lucky to have access to so many type of birds.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      We photograph the eagles on boat trips near Homer, AK. It is not something that you could do on your own. Robert O’Toole will be doing several trips next year. Keep your eyes on the Bulletin. As for never using IS, you are making a very large mistake.

      All throughout my career I have found that the harder I work and the nicer I am to people the luckier I get.

  • Mike Vanecek

    The issue of No-IS is a bit unclear. Are you now “always” doing the process with IS off? What modifications to your tutorial should be made, i.e. the pressing of the shutter half way down to activate IS will not be applicable? Did the Canon rep offer an explanation or rationale for this change? Thank you for the tutorial. Between it and the several comments made throughout the blogs offers a lot of information to assimilate.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Thanks Becky.

    Mike, I treat my gear roughly and with all the travel that I do it takes a beating vibration-wise so it is a combination of being safe and making sure that there have been no big changes due to damage or vibration.

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    Jay, I always M-A zoom lenses at the long end. Thanks for your additional comments πŸ™‚

  • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

    David, I will try to have Michael Tapes address your concern.

  • “Kill me, why don’t ya!”

  • Artie, you state that you micro-adjust your lenses monthly. Do they lose their calibration that quickly or are you just being very careful?

  • Jay Gould

    You da man!!

    At what focal length are you MAing your 70-200?

    Thanks, your Blog Is Da Bomb!!


    PS: and so is the full frame eagle; I too like you last RP best.

  • Artie, wonderful images as always.
    As a MkIII user my only concern for using MF in live view for microadjusting is this. In this scenario are we not assuming that AF in the field will behave in the exact same fashion as MF, by eye, did while performing MA? This may very well not be he case IMO. If I’m off my rocker I’ll take my medicine. πŸ™‚