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jfitzg14

US
143 posts

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jfitzg14 Silver Member Nikonian since 28th Oct 2012
Thu 22-Nov-12 11:34 AM

I have heard a lot of people talk about fine tuning their different lenses. Is this something that should be done on every lens with every camera. I have the 300mm f2.8 and am wondering if I should fine tune this lens with my D800. I have seen mixed reviews. Nikon does not recommend it. Any opinions?

ericbowles

Atlanta, US
10633 posts

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#1. "RE: Fine Tuning" | In response to Reply # 0

ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005
Thu 22-Nov-12 11:38 AM

I'm sure you will get lots of opinions. This is not a quiet group or a topic without interest.

Most recent Nikon DSLR's at the pro and prosumer level have the capability of AF Fine Tuning. The landscape is quite mixed on the importance of fine tuning. And we see much more bad testing than good testing so keep the comments in perspective.

You don't need to fine tune every lens. Most lenses are quite good without fine tuning. And some lenses - like wide range zoom lenses - don't lend themselves to fine tuning.

Fine tuning is a single setting per lens. With a zoom lens you have to pick the focal length for your fine tuning - and it may make images less sharp at other focal lengths. For example, one member here reported their 24-70 had one setting at 30mm, another at 70mm, and an adjustment in the opposite direction at 50mm. So not making an adjustment was the best solution. Testing tends to work best with prime lenses.

Test results can vary with distance to subject, temperature, white balance and ISO. You need to test for the optimum test distance as well as the distance you most likely use with a lens. Macro lenses and telephoto lenses are both good examples of lenses that benefit from testing at the distances where they are used - and this may require special procedures or targets.

AF Fine Tuning is for the center sensor. You might gain perspective from looking at AF Fine Tuning settings for other sensors, but those sensors are going to be less accurate and might make your center sensor worse instead of better.

AF Fine Tuning is not going to do anything about missed focus - and may give you an incorrect adjustment. All lenses have a distribution of AF accuracy - focus is slightly different every time. The size of the standard deviation or error matters since sometimes your lens will simply misfocus (and no amount of adjustment will make the image anything other than a discard). Some of the automated programs calculate errors outside of a normal range and account for those missed focus errors in recommendations for AF Fine Tuning.

If you want to test, be sure you understand what you are testing for. AF Fine Tuning is testing for an adjustment to focus for your camera - not the sharpest image. You might get a sharper image by stopping down a stop or two. You might have different focus sensors with different AF errors. And as mentioned above, AF has variation and you are not going to remove that variation. You might even have lenses that need repair - and Fine Tuning will not substitute for a proper repair and could mask the issue.

If you want to test, test procedures are very precise. Keep in mind you might be making an adjustment to your camera because of a 1/4 or 1/2 inch difference in focus. The target must be a good target to reduce missed focus. Your camera must be lined up exactly perpendicular to the target - often using a mirror. You must use a cable release and a tripod.

There are several testing systems that can be used for fine tuning. Lens Align is the most commonly used. There is also a system from DataColor called Spyder LensCal. There is a couple of automated systems - Focus Tune which works with Lens Align. Reiken has a system called FoCal which is probably the best automated system but it is new and requires some persistence. We're talking several hours for a proper test as you get to know the system.

Focus Fine Tuning is not a one time thing. While it may be close, temperature and conditions can affect the AF adjustment. With some systems, white balance and light levels can contribute to different results. And each camera is different and has a different adjustment.

I fully expect some lens and camera calibration services to be provided by some enterprising vendor, but given the time involved it may cost $100-150 or more per lens.

My suggestion is to consider something like LensAlign first if you are interested. Be willing to spend some time with it and work on generating consistent results. If you find a small consistent focus err you might want to dial in some fine tuning and then spend some serious test time confirming the adjustment works across a range of scenarios. A fast telephoto like the 300 f/2.8 is the kind of lens that could benefit from fine tuning if it is needed.

And finally the don'ts.

Don't get into testing unnecessarily. Emphasis on technique and correcting the "user error" generally make more difference than AF tuning. Be sure you are seeing errors and have verified that it is not likely to be your own technique or shooting conditions.

Don't use an angled test for fine tuning - an angle creates missed focus and false errors. An angle is only useful as a scale if you get good focus to indicate the direction of the error.


Eric Bowles
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briantilley

Paignton, UK
30235 posts

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#2. "RE: Fine Tuning" | In response to Reply # 0

briantilley Gold Member Deep knowledge of bodies and lens; high level photography skills Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Nikonian since 26th Jan 2003
Thu 22-Nov-12 11:43 AM | edited Thu 22-Nov-12 12:42 PM by briantilley

That's a great reply from Eric - it will repay careful study

Other than agreeing with all he says, my only suggestion is to avoid undertaking AF Fine Tune unless you can see obvious focus errors in your everyday photography.

Brian
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jfitzg14

US
143 posts

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#3. "RE: Fine Tuning" | In response to Reply # 2

jfitzg14 Silver Member Nikonian since 28th Oct 2012
Thu 22-Nov-12 12:16 PM

Thanks. That was more of an answer than I expected. I appreciate you taking the time to explain the process properly. I think I will leave it alone as I know my skills definitely play a large part in out of focus shots.

richardd300

Dyserth, UK
4571 posts

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#4. "RE: Fine Tuning" | In response to Reply # 3

richardd300 Silver Member Nikonian since 19th Apr 2009
Thu 22-Nov-12 01:10 PM

<<I have heard a lot of people talk about fine tuning their different lenses.>>

Yes, it's become flavour of the month or even the year and many believe it should have its own forum, me included or at least I did. However after reading Eric's post here, everything is laid out in an extremely helpful way. I feel that it's something that if it's not done properly, or maybe not needed at all, then it's a fairly worthless exercise and can lead to frustration.

I've got all the gear to do it, have tried it, got conflicting results on all but my prime lenses. My advice, follow Eric's post, as it is extremely helpful, but don't waste valuable time looking for problems which might not even exist, you could be out taking photographs instead

Richard.

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klrbee25

Naples, US
1386 posts

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#5. "RE: Fine Tuning" | In response to Reply # 0

klrbee25 Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jun 2006
Thu 22-Nov-12 01:43 PM

Eric has given you a great reply. Personally I'd be more inclined to test a prime lens like your 300 f/2.8 and just see how the results turn out. The test target distance is VERY important as the ideal AF fine tune also changes with focal distance. So if you're shooting a target near the close focus limit and then shoot most photographs near infinity, there's a good chance your photos at infinity won't be focused well. But the 300 prime will give you a single value that should work well...just make sure you test close to the subject distance at which you usually shoot.

With FoCal I have been testing lenses at the furthest I could get the software to validate the target. Then once I have an AF number from the software, I shoot real life subjects at various distances and chimp the images with AF fine tune ON and OFF in the menu. My 70-200 was best with no AF tuning despite FoCal saying it should be +16. My 24-70 needs some negative AF tune on the wide end and positive on the long end so I've split the difference (a value of about +6). Both lenses need no tuning at all per FoCal on my D300...the variation in these tests are huge or the D800 makes small focus errors more evident than the D300. Hence the need for some real world shooting. When I first used the program, I dialed in the AF tune value the software spat out, went to a shoot, and came back with a lot of blurry photos.

I agree that it's mainly a tool of necessity if you see a problem without any tuning dialed in. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The software can introduce more problems than it solves.

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Luke_Miller

Rural Virginia, US
1768 posts

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#6. "RE: Fine Tuning" | In response to Reply # 2

Luke_Miller Silver Member Nikonian since 19th Apr 2006
Thu 22-Nov-12 01:44 PM

>Other than agreeing with all he says, my only suggestion is to
>avoid undertaking AF Fine Tune unless you can see obvious
>focus errors in your everyday photography.

+1

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richardd300

Dyserth, UK
4571 posts

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#7. "RE: Fine Tuning" | In response to Reply # 5

richardd300 Silver Member Nikonian since 19th Apr 2009
Thu 22-Nov-12 02:29 PM

<<My 70-200 was best with no AF tuning despite FoCal saying it should be +16>>

In FocusTune in the last tests I undertook it said +15 at a focal length of 200mm. I then took numerous flat target images at the appropriate length the sharpest was F8. My images were blurred too. I reset to zero AF-Fine tune and repeated, the images were sharper.

The results with my 24-70 were even more confusing and varied from +15 at 24mm, +5 at 45mm and +10 at 70mm. After that I gave up with zooms and reset the setting to zero.

Apart from commenting here and I really must try to control the urge, I have abandoned fine tuning on the basis that I don't need to fix what isn't broken and my images look just fine

Richard

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