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FORUMS Canon Cameras, Lenses & Accessories Canon EF and EF-S Lenses
Thread started 28 Jun 2010 (Monday) 11:58
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LensAlign Pro Plus Calibration System...my experience

 
Methodical
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Jun 28, 2010 11:58 |  #1

OK so I purchased the LensAlign Pro Plus (LensAlign). First off let me say, for me, it’s worth the money I paid because I saw the focus issues with my own eyes. I spent a better part of this weekend performing the Micro AF Adjustment (MAA) on the 1D3 and 5D2 (just received Friday) and the lenses in my gear list, except the 2 zooms. From readings here and other forums, I know that a camera body and lens sometimes don’t see eye to eye and may exhibit some focusing issue. Rather than complaining and wasting time shipping my gear to Canon for them to make adjustments and hope they were ok, I decided to conquer the task myself – besides I am very meticulous. Some say the LensAlign is overpriced, well isn’t most of the photography gear, especially accessories over priced – I read the complaints daily. Think about it – the time and energy and not to mention the down time it takes to send all your gear to Canon and hope it comes back ok costs way more than $79-$249, well at least for me that is. Now when you factor in the cost to have Canon perform this task on top of the down time and inconvenience the cost don't look so bad after all. How many times have you read something like this "I sent my camera and lens to Canon but I did not want them to make any adjustment but they did and now my lens is not focusing correctly - back to Canon "again" - more time and more headaches. I’ve read about it too many times where the gear comes back worse. I can’t speak for anyone but me, but my time is worth way more than that. Nor do I have the patience. I highly recommend this kit to those with a great number of lenses and who is as meticulous about their gear performance – saves time and headaches, which = money. You’d be surprise at the amount of front or back focusing lenses out there.

The Results:

LensAlign cut my testing time significantly, but most of all, it provided a more accurate measuring tool and consistency in testing various lenses with my camera bodies. No more long drawn out MAA procedures. No more tons of back and forth trial and errors. What I have now is fast, accurate and repeatable testing procedures.

After performing MAA, here’s what I discovered about my camera bodies and lenses:

All my lenses front focused on the 1D3
Most of my lenses back focused with the 5D2, except the 200 2.8 and 300 2.8...they were spot on
My Canon 50mm 1.8 focuses inconsistently (see comments below)

If you care to read, below, I provided my testing methods prior to and after purchasing Lensalign

MAA process prior to LensAlign:

Method for all test shots:

- Av mode
- Widest aperture
- ISO 100
- Cable release
- In camera 2 second timer
- My eye sight

Prior to obtaining this kit, my MAA procedure was as follows. I head out to the sidewalk at the front of my house and mark off my shooting distances for each lens. I used one of my daughter’s doll head as my test subject. I used Mr. Paul Westphal’s suggestion of 50x the lens focal length and ISO 100, which put the test range from 8’ (50mm 1.8 ) to 164’ (500 and 2x). I’d take a base shot at “0” adjustment, then shots at +/- 5, 10, 15, 20. I’d focus on the doll’s nose as my reference point. After taking the test shots, I’d pack up the camera gear and put it in the garage for safe keeping. I then open those images in PSE7 and analyze each shot next to the base shot at 100% for front or back focus issues. If the various test shots did not put the focus where my eyes thought they should be, then it was back to square one again; more test shots. Oh to keep things in order, I placed numbers on the doll for each shot (i.e. -5, +5 etc.). Later, like about a few days before I purchased LensAlign, I found out that DPP displays all data for each shot, including the MAA. This would have saved considerable time as I would not have to continuously walk to the doll head to place an identifying tag on it (just an FYI for those doing it similarly) – remember that 8’ to 164’ distant. For test purpose, there were 2 uncontrollable variables - daylight or consistent light and wind. There were times I’d have to wait until the sun came from behind the clouds or for the wind to calm down – not an issue for those smaller focal length lenses where the work could be done inside, but I preferred daylight whenever possible. I’d repeat this same process for everyone lens.


MAA process using LensAlign:

Method for all test shots:

- Av mode
- Widest aperture
- ISO 400-1600
- Cable release
- In camera 2 second timer
- LensAlign Ruler

First off I’d suggest, as suggested by Michael Tapes, that you use a tripod to mount the LensAlign as it takes the task much simpler to align the target. The kit comes with the standard ruler for the shorter focal length lens and the longer ruler (4’) for the longer lens.

This time I did not use Paul Westphal’s suggestion of 50x the lens focal length. I used the 25x the lens focal length and various ISO settings, which cut my working distances in half (see above). This allowed me to work out of my garage (camera and lens in garage, LensAlign in driveway). The working distance (camera setup) from my garage to the end of the apron is about 84’ – perfect for my working distance.

I set up the tripod with the LensAlign and back sighted the bulls eye to the lens. This is an easy step – just look through the bulls eye hole back to the lens and center. At this point, you are about 95% on target. I then go back to the camera and lens in the garage (out of the sun) and put the camera in live view mode, zoom in to 10x to check the alignment with the bulls eye and make adjustment at the camera end if necessary. Once aligned, I shut off live view and adjust camera and lens, via the view finder, so that the focus point is centered on the bulls eye (you will need to enable focus point so that it is visible in the viewfinder). I then lock things down, check to make sure all the settings are correct, defocus the lens and take 3 base shots, defocusing each time and waiting for things to settle down, especially with the long focal length lens. I download and open those photos in PSE7 and take them to the Editor. In Editor, I emboss each photo (find edge filter is useful too), and do an auto sharpen if necessary, and use various zooms (i.e. 50, 100% etc.) to analyze where the focus falls on the ruler (front, back or spot on). If, for example the lens front focused, I go back and take 2 test shots each using various MAA dialed in, say, in this example +3, 5, 7, 9 etc.). I download and open in PSE7, take them to Editor and perform the same steps as above. Once I determine which adjustment centers the focus on the ruler, I dial it in the camera, save all files for future use, and created a spreadsheet with the before and after LensAlign MAA – this is personal so that I can compare the MAA between methods. After testing a few lenses, I kind of got a good feel for what MAA to use to make additional test shots to get things closer. Btw, I tested a couple lenses with the MAA from my old method using the LensAlign and some were way off.

Again, I faced 2 uncontrollable variables, light and wind, but this time consistent light was not really a major concern as it was when using my old method to perform the MAA because the ruler will show the results no matter what as long as you have some light on it. So my major enemy was wind. A couple times it knocked the large ruler out of place so the remedy was to set it in place and use some tape (painters) to keep it in place (place under the ruler of course). It would be good if you have a large indoor place to do the test for the longer lens. My method for the wind enemy was patience. I just waited till the wind stopped.

Something I think is noteworthy:

The 50mm 1.8 lens’ focus was inconsistent. When I performed the MAA (twice to see if it repeated itself), each base test shot (3) exhibited a different focus issue – one front focused, one back focused and one was spot on. The ones that were off were not off by much but you could see that it was off on the ruler though. LensAlign, in my case, proved the lens’ inability to focus accurately on a consistent basis. I made no adjustment due the inconsistent focus.


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Methodical
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Jun 28, 2010 12:00 |  #2

Canon 200 2.8 and 5D2

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s8/v10/p362728632-5.jpg

200 2.8 using photoshop embossed filter to visually highlight the focal point on the Lensalign ruler. You can see that the focus is ok and no adjustment is needed.

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v13/p609261668-5.jpg

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Methodical
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Jun 28, 2010 20:20 as a reply to Methodical's post |  #3

Canon 500mm f4 lens with 1.4tc and 5D2 (initial shot)

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v15/p244632409-5.jpg

Initial shot using photoshop emboss filter to enhance the photo so you can see where the focus falls on the LensAlign ruler. As you can see the lens is back focusing a bit.

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v13/p478915123-5.jpg


One of several test shots I took to correct focus. Again, I used photoshop emboss filter to enhance the photo so you can see where the focus falls on the LensAlign ruler. The lens needed a -4 adjustment to correct the back focusing issued. Note this procedure is repeatable.

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s8/v10/p361513029-5.jpg

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Methodical
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Jun 28, 2010 20:59 as a reply to Methodical's post |  #4

One more example with a smaller focal length. Took about 10 minutes to do the testing.

Note: Prior to testing with LensAlign, I had the micro AF adj set to a +5. Now it's set a -4...a significant difference.

Canon 85 1.8 and 50D

This is the initial shot before going into editor. You can see what it looks like before any analytical work is done.

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v15/p859572942-5.jpg

Same shot as above except I used photoshop emboss filter to highlight the focal point on the ruler. You can clearly see that the lens is back focusing.

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v15/p1059996752-5.jpg

Here's one of the test shots with a - 4 micro af adjusment, which put focus to the center - on "0" (i.e. corrected the back focusing issue)

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s8/v10/p633046103-5.jpg

For illustrative purpose, I am including the test shot at a - 5 micro af adjustment to show how it was just a hair too much and caused the lens to front focus a bit.

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s8/v10/p610471546-5.jpg

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m00g
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Jun 28, 2010 22:30 |  #5

This is a very imformative post. Thank you for your efforts!


1Ds MkII | 350d (On Loan) | 85mm f/1.2L Mk II | 17-40mm f/4L | 100mm f/2.8 Macro | 50mm f/1.8 Mk II
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Jun 28, 2010 22:31 |  #6

Thanks for the positive feedback m00g


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Methodical
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Jun 29, 2010 08:39 |  #7

I'd like to test a lens that has been adjusted, via a DIY method, against the LensAlign to verify the accuracy of the DIY method to see how close or far off the results. I think it would be a good exercise...too bad I don't know anyone around here into photography as I am.


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Daedalus34r
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Jun 29, 2010 09:10 |  #8

the photoshop emboss method is very creative, helps alot in finding the focus spot.


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Invertalon
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Jun 29, 2010 09:50 |  #9

The emboss filter is an excellent idea. Really helps show the detail.

I really would like to buy the LensAlign myself... Sure, its pricey... But it is the right tool for the job.


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Methodical
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Jun 29, 2010 17:46 as a reply to Invertalon's post |  #10

Invertalon, I agree that it's the right tool for the job. For me seeing is believing. The proof is in the pudding.

Here's another example where LensAlign shows the inaccuracies of my DIY method.

My method suggested a +7 adjustment (more back focus). Look at the amount of back focus from the lens; it's off the scale.

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s8/v10/p647608057-5.jpg


LensAlign showed that the lens needed no adjustment. Ignore the settings on the LensAlign tool, I forgot to change them. This was the base shot (0 adj). This is a lens I bought used and sent to Canon because something was not right. Turned out they had to replace the IS system, cleaned and calibrate so maybe that's why it did not need any adjustment. It was pretty much spot on for all 3 bodies.

IMAGE: http://methodical.zenfolio.com/img/s9/v13/p548270131-5.jpg

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ccp900
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Jun 29, 2010 18:06 |  #11

that emboss filter is a good idea...ima go steal that hehehe.


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DStanic
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Jun 29, 2010 18:12 |  #12

Using the emboss filter is a great idea!


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int2str
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Jun 29, 2010 18:20 |  #13

I agree on the usefulness of the LensAlign. I really enjoy mine.
Completely takes the guesswork out of the issue and makes test & verification easy.

Methodical wrote in post #10440782external link
The 50mm 1.8 lens’ focus was inconsistent. When I performed the MAA (twice to see if it repeated itself), each base test shot (3) exhibited a different focus issue – one front focused, one back focused and one was spot on.

I have the same issue with my 50 f/1.8 II on both the 7D and 5D Mark II. It's the price you (don't?) pay for owning a cheap lens. I still like it a lot though :)




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John_T
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Jun 29, 2010 18:21 |  #14

Yeah, got tired of messing around with all the various MA methods with the 5D2 some months ago. Got the LensAlign Pro long ruler, and what had been a hassle became straight-forward, simple and done. Just now pulled it out again to do all my lenses with the 7D, but now, with more experience, much simpler than the first time, more precise and in less time.


Canon : 5DIV : 5DS R : 5DIII : 7DII : 40 2.8 : 50 1.4 : 35L : 85L : 100L IS Macro : 135L : 16-35L II : 24-105L IS II : 70-200L II : 100-400L IS II : 1.4x & 2x TC III : 600EX-RT : 580EX : 430EX : G1XII : Markins Q10 & Q3T : Jobu Gimbal : Manfrotto Underware : etc...

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Invertalon
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Jun 29, 2010 18:21 |  #15

I just bought one from someone on here today, the Pro model (used once)... Can't wait to see how accurate my own methods are. Very curious!

I hope the standard ruler can be used with my 300 + 1.4x TC... The website said I could, time will tell!


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LensAlign Pro Plus Calibration System...my experience
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