There’s an inconvenient truth that no one has ever wanted to tell you before: your equipment is not properly calibrated. It may be more or less expensive, it may have some features over others, but what is certain is that most lenses and cameras are not properly calibrated. Hence the headaches you must have experienced trying to improve the sharpness of your photos. The good news is that this is a factor you can adjust yourself. Yes yes, you can calibrate lenses and cameras to get the sharpness you want. You should know that calibrating lenses is an absolute must in the noble art of photography.
Using autofocus and still getting sharpness in the area you want to focus on seems an almost impossible task. You end up cursing the camera because you are unable to identify the root of the problem. If you’ve tried to fix it and still don’t get sharp pictures when you use autofocus, the solution is simple: calibrate lenses and/or your camera.
Why calibrating lenses is the duty of every photographer
You probably have a thousand questions running through your head right now. But the fact is that creating scrupulously perfect lenses is not profitable for market-leading brands like Canon and Nikon. If they made lenses that were 100% calibrated with all their camera models, no one could afford it, due to the high costs, so they calibrate the lenses so that the result is the best possible on all models. If you are looking to get the most out of your lenses in combination with your camera, you will need to calibrate both.
These multinationals offer us lenses of considerable quality but the fact is that most people who buy their lenses or cameras are not aware of this small flaw. The lenses they design have excellent quality but they are not 100% calibrated, depending on the model. But I repeat: this “bad” calibration is almost imperceptible in most cases.
It is possible that your lens and/or camera performs well at first, but then loses quality over time. Or it may be that the sharpness on your images never convinced you, not even at first, so that you return it to the manufacturer but the problem is still not solved. You should then be aware that the problem may be due to a calibration malfunction. Depending on your camera model, a lens may not have a 100% compatible calibration with it.
Nowadays, focusing and calibration of equipment is an issue that is becoming more and more important, not because it was less important before, but because the sensors in our cameras are of higher quality, not to mention their pixels.
As the quality of your equipment increases, you are more likely to find flaws in your results, especially those who do portraits or bird photography, and ultimately all disciplines that involve not using the maximum aperture of the lens because not all the light-noise of the scene is captured.
But don’t panic, this problem that has been bothering you for a while will not be associated with your equipment forever, you can fix it yourself.
Back focus and front focus
Before you start calibrating lenses and cameras, you need to know these basic concepts: black focus and front focus.
You may have been focusing on a particular element of the scene and realised that the focus had shifted to the background or the front from the area you were focusing on. This is a sure sign of poorly calibrated equipment. If your equipment takes into account the focus in front of the area you focused on, your equipment has a front focus problem, whereas if your equipment determines a focus distance behind the object you focused on, then it has a back focus problem. Remember that it may be you who is not focusing properly.
How to calibrate your camera
You probably have a friend or colleague who has had to calibrate his or her camera, or even read in a forum the term “AF adjustment” or equivalent. This is an option included by many (but unfortunately not all) cameras on the market, with which you have the possibility to adjust the above mentioned shift, back focus or front focus.
It will be called one way or another depending on your camera model. On Canon and Sony, it will be “Micro AF adjustment”. On Nikon cameras it is called “Precision AF Setting”. On Olympus cameras it is “AF Focus Setting” and on Pentax cameras it is “AF Fine Setting”. You will find these settings on your camera’s menu, they allow you to change and adjust the focus of your equipment.
The amazing thing about this focus adjustment is that not only does it allow you to change the focus of your camera, but it also allows you to change the focus of the lenses you are using, so it will be a great option to work with the same accuracy as the first time.
Another advantage of this focus adjustment included by some cameras is that the change you make to your equipment, whether it is the camera or the lens, is not a physical adjustment. You don’t have to open their mounts to get the best results, it’s just a click away.