February 9, 2020

How to Calibrate Your Lens

lens, learn to calibrate your own lens to your camera


Do you know how to calibrate your lens? Did you actually calibrating is something you should be doing with your camera often?  Calibrating your lenses is absolutely essential to your photography and is easy to do.

Lenses have a number of delicate glass pieces to them.  During shipping and after a bit of use, it is possible for the glass elements to shift causing the focus to be off balance. Which brings me to why calibrating your lenses to your camera is so important! An uncalibrated lens can result in blurry images and a soft focus, instead of a sharp, or deliberate focal point. 

Not all cameras have the capability to support calibrating your lens on your own.  Your camera will have a feature in the menu called either AF – Fine Tune (Nikon), AF Microadjustment (Canon and Sony).  If you do not have this feature in the menu and your photos are soft or misses the focus point, you may need to contact a local camera shop or the manufacturer to have it sent in for repair. You can always Google the model of your camera and AF-Fine Tune or AF Micro-adjustment (depending on the make) to see where to find it in the menus.

Are you getting weird pink or green lines around your subjects in high contrast areas?  Those are called chromatic aberrations.  Chromatic Aberrations are apparent to high contrast color changes and appear in green or magenta. If you are seeing a green hue surrounding a high-contrast portion of your photo, your camera is back focusing.  If  you see magenta, it is front focusing.   Either way, it may be time to calibrate your lens to your camera body.

example, chromatic aberration

An example of chromatic aberration.

example chromatic abberation

An example of chromatic aberration with magenta


An easy way to see if your lens needs to be calibrated to your lens would be to get a friend (a furry one will work) Get as close to their eye as your lens will allow in order to focus and using a single point, focus right on the center of their eye.  View your photo and zoom in and look to see if your focus is exactly where you set it.  If you can see that your focus point is above or below the eye, then you need to calibrate!  You can try to do some microadjusting in the menu to see if you can correct it yourself.  If not, you may need to dig in a little further.

To calibrate your lens, you will need a tripod, a ruler or a target you can download online. Ensure you have a well lit target.  A fast shutter speed is best for accurate calibration. Personally, I use a software called Focal, which uses a target and measures the most accurate focus.  First, cover the eye-piece of your camera to keep out ambient light. Using Focal, or any  calibration software checks the accuracy of your focus by using a bell curve. It tests the focus at it’s natural state 0, then shifting the AF Fine tune to -20, -10, +10, and +20, and then provides the optimized Fine Tune number to set for that lens.                                                 

Each new lens you purchase will need to be calibrated to its new camera body.  If not, your pictures might not be in focus and you may not have a clue as to why! There is nothing worse than unintentionally blurry photos! (At least, not for a photographer!)

Whether you’re a professional photographer or simply love photography, It is important to know how to calibrate your lenses.   Recently I had the shutter curtain on my camera fail during a family photoshoot. Thankfully it happened at the very end the shoot and not the beginning. As a photographer, this is probably one of the worst things that can happen during a session! 

As luck would have it, it happened on the day before Thanksgiving. While I wasn’t happy I had to buy a new camera body, it was such a relief that Black Friday and Cyber Monday were just a few days away. I bought a replacement camera and had it here before my next round of sessions the following weekend.  I updated all of my cameras menu settings and all of my lenses just in time for my next session! *PHEW* 


Want to see what else I have in my camera bag?  I’ve laid out all of my favorite gear for you!  Click here to read more.

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