Author Archive for fstop95

Focus on Better Focus. Lens Align Pro Review & Tips:

The Crew. Missing in photo, Larry, Steve and Jon

Focus on Focus. A look at micro focus adjustments and the Lens Align Pro calibration system.

by Barry Howell:  Have you ever found a menu option on your camera that made you wonder, “What’s this”? I found such an option on my Nikon D300 called “AF Fine Tune.” My old-school curiosity sent me on a quest to discover its purpose, and how it could improve image quality. With a few quick Google searches, I found multiple forums and discussions about the importance of calibrating lenses to your DSLR camera bodies.

A recurring theme on the ProPhotoShow.com podcasts, and in other various articles, is how to make your images have more impact. There is no bigger buzz kill for photographers than capturing an image we think will be great, only to find that it’s a little soft. There are many variables we can control to ensure optimal sharpness: shutter speed, depth of field, steadying the camera, etc., and I always assumed that if I focused on the right spot, my images would be tack sharp. Guess what? That isn’t always the case, and I was determined to overcome the problem.

Before contacting Michael Tapes at RawWorkflow, I performed a very un-scientific, but effective test of my AF Fine tune option. I was photographing the MN State Boys Hockey Tournament at the Excel Energy Center, a venue that is well lit for television broadcasts. I very carefully focused my Tamron 300 2.8 lens on some helmets lined up on the boards. The scene had great contrast, I was using a monopod, and I figured could get this image dead on. I zoomed in at 100x on the LCD and it looked pretty good. I then went into the menu and made a +5 adjustment, took another shot, and upon inspection realized I had made it worse. Then, I made a -5 adjustment and the image improved noticeably. I knew then and there that I had to calibrate my optics.

Within a week I’d found such a tool; I obtained a Lens Align Pro Focus Calibration System. I invited several photographer friends for a focus calibration party at my studio and we embarked on a journey to make our gear perform better. In our group were five Nikon shooters and one Canon shooter. Between us, we probably had over $50,000 worth of bodies and glass waiting for a checkup. The results were at times sobering, but every lens, once calibrated, focused better than ever before. The calibration method involves the following steps; it took a little trial and error, but they were pretty easy to do reliably.

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Old School Meets New School. Getting an edge:

by Barry Howell: I have been a professional photographer since the early 80’s and am in the throws of embracing change like I never could have imagined. I have photographed hundreds of weddings and thousands of high school seniors. I was honored with the first ever Haga Wedding Album award for the best wedding album in Minnesota, and have entered many competition prints over the years. I began shooting weddings for a couple of studios, worked part time on my own for several years, and bought a very large studio operation in 1995.   My first digital camera was a Fuji S2 and that is where my journey into the digital world really began. A good friend (and former employee) encouraged me to take a look at Lightroom and then Gavin Seim’s presets from Seim Effects.

My years of experience (and significant volume) causes me to very careful how much “post production” we commit to. Having studied with the likes of Monte Zucker, Frank Cricchio  Don Blair, David Ziser and others, I learned to produce near perfect images in the camera. There just wasn’t much editing we could do with our C-41 in-house lab printing from medium format Hasselblad negatives. I am the “techie” guy that loves everything shiny, new and cool, but I didn’t jump into digital until I felt the cameras and output options rivaled film quality.  My journey from film to digital has been a long and at times very frustrating path. If you are just starting out (i.e. have never shot a roll of film-I know you’re out there), appreciate my story and be glad you can develop a workflow without  transitioning from anything else. Take the time to think about ways you can do it right from image capture to customer delivery.

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