Archive for manual focus

Comments on our Canon 7D Post

Posted in Controversy, Image Processing and Software, Photography Gear, Rants with tags , , , , on November 12, 2009 by Darwin

The Results Are In!

We’d like to thank everyone who generously took time out of their day to respond to our review of the Canon 7D camera.  Here is what we’ve learned from the feedback we have received:

  • to avoid the problem of diffraction with the Canon 7D, you should only shoot at an aperture of f8…no, wait–make that f7.  Oops, our mistake, that should be f6.8.  Or is that f5.6…??  
  • according to numerous photographers the files from the 7D are not to be processed in Canon’s DPP…some of you said Adobe Camera Raw was the best…and then again, perhaps it is Capture One 5.0…?
  • well, we’re pretty sure now that you should only shoot in jpeg and compare only finished, processed images!  Hmm… but then some people suggested you should shoot raw and then sharpen ‘optimally’ for each camera which sounds pretty smart… (if only we knew what sharpen ‘optimally’ meant–for output to what?)
  • we’ve seen the errors in our way in using manual focus; only auto focus after microadjustments are made is the way to go.  Oh wait–that’s right, some of you championed our use of Live View and manual focus–damn which way is best? Can we get some consensus here?

But seriously. 

We’re poking fun here because, obviously, we are not all going to agree on whether the 7D is a good camera for the nature/landscape shooter.  And we are not attempting to resolve this debate!  What we are doing is revealing our  tested opinion based on how we shoot.  And the 7D does not cut it for us.  We shoot primarily landscapes, use apertures from f8 to f16 and mostly use Adobe products to process our images.  This system works fabulously for all of our cameras (The Rebel Xsi, 1ds MarkIII, Nikon D300s) and we are satisfied with it.  If the 7D is like a little sports car that requires constant tweaking, coaxing, fine-tuning and a leg-up from software, we won’t buy it.  We like cameras to work ‘out of the box’ as they are advertised to do.

But don’t believe us!  We urge you not to believe any reviewer.  The only way you can be fully satisfied is to go out with an open mind and test the 7D against other cameras in the ways in which you shoot.  And then you can safely make up your own mind.

For a little levity on the subject go here


©Darwin Wiggett - shot with the Canon 7d


Canon 7d, aperture f5.0, fill flash, auto-focus

Can You Trust Auto-focus?–Revisited

Posted in Photography Gear with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2009 by Darwin

About 9 months ago I published a piece called “Can You Trust  Auto-focus with Your Digital Camera“. In the article I concluded that using Live View to focus a digital camera gives much sharper results than using the camera’s auto-focus. Indeed, one of the huge benefits of Live View has been an increase in the technical sharpness of my images because lens focus can be set so precisely. I stopped trusting auto-focus.

Several photographers wrote to me and suggested that I just needed to use the AF microadjustment feature built into my camera, the Canon EOS-1ds Mark III, to calibrate my lenses for more precise auto-focus. I balked at the suggestion: I expected an $8000 camera to function properly from the factory! Why should I need to give it a tune-up? To me, this is like buying a car but needing to calibrate it for the roads I drive on! Besides, none of the photographers who wrote to me about this actually knew how or had even tried to do the AF microcalibration themselves.

Time passes and I am happy using Live View because for me, a landscape photographer, there is no need to rely on auto-focus.  I admit though that I was dismayed by the slightly soft images I got when using auto-focus to shoot dogs and kids, something I dabble in on occasion.

On Dec. 12, 2008, a new product, Lens Align was introduced over at RawWorkflow. To see how to use this product please watch the videos at RawWorkflow or this one at Luminous Landscape. I ordered a Lens Align kit and ran my lenses through the easy calibration process. The photo below was done using auto-focus at the default factory settings in the camera. Here I used a Canon 135mm F2.0L lens, and the results show that on my camera body this lens is focusing behind the zero mark at around the “2” mark.

Sharpness Results before Lens Align Calibration
Sharpness Results before Lens Align Calibration
I then manually focused the lens at 10x magnification using Live View (see below). The results were perfect and I could obtain precise focus on the zero point. Live View really lets you get the best focus possible!
Manually Focused Esing Live View at 10x Magnification

Manually Focused Using Live View at 10x Magnification

After calibrating and testing the lens with Lens Align and then using  the AF microadjustment in my camera, I got the lens to give me consistent auto-focus performance that nearly matched what I could get from using manual focus in Live View (see the image below).

Sharpness Results After Lens Align Calibration

Sharpness Results After Lens Align Calibration

Interestingly, some of my lenses were focusing behind the zero point, some were focusing in front. I calibrated each lens and retested rigorously, and now all of my AF lenses hit the zero mark everytime! Some lenses, like my 135mm f2.0L, needed a moderate adjustment (+7 units of microadjustments) while some needed very little adjustment (e.g. the 24-70mm f2.8L only needed -3 units of change). Others lenses needed a giant adjustment like my 180mm macro lens (+15 units!).

In the end if you own any of the following cameras –  Canon 1D MKIII, 1Ds MKIII, 5DII, 50D, or Nikon D3, D3x, D300, D700, or Sony A900, or Pentax K20 you owe it to yourself to calibrate your camera with Lens Align–why spend big bucks on camera and lenses and not have the most precise performance possible?? Darwin