Nothing is more frustrating than taking blurry photos. If you have followed several ways to nail the focus and still got unclear images, welcome to the club. The problem may not be your focusing abilities but the lens itself. Consider calibrating your camera lens to fix the issue.
To calibrate lenses, you must first check if your camera allows calibration. If it does, you can use a focus test chart to adjust the focus point. Ensure the camera is steady on a tripod before taking a photo for lens calibration.
Besides using a focus test chart, you can try other ways to calibrate the camera lens. This article will teach you the different methods of calibrating lenses. But first, we will cover why your images are blurry.
Why Are My Images Blurry?
This is among the most common questions we receive from other photographers. However, we always answer that blurry or soft photos often result from several factors.
Below are the main reasons why you might capture blurry images.
- Dirty camera lens
- Dust on the camera sensor
- Slow shutter speeds (which are unable to stop motion and camera shake)
- Wide apertures
- Wrong focal point
- Incorrect image stabilization or vibration reduction settings
- Slow autofocus
- Improper camera handling or positioning
- Poor lens quality
- Cheap lens filter or accessory
- Badly calibrated lens
As you can see, there are different reasons behind blurry images or missed focus. The culprit is usually user error. However, most photographers do not realize the importance of lens calibration.
How Do You Know If Your Lens Needs Calibrating?
Several signs indicate that your lens requires calibration.
First, if you have already cleaned your lens and camera sensor but still kept taking blurry images, you may need to calibrate the lens.
Damage and old age are other signs that your lens needs calibration. Internal glass elements in the lens can shift over time. Any movement, no matter how tiny, can affect focus. Calibrating lets you fix the sharpness of the lens to your liking.
New lenses also tend to be not as sharp as you would like. That is because manufacturers produce lenses with an acceptable range of sharpness instead of perfection. And if you got a new camera, you might also want to calibrate the lens as the settings would differ.
Finally, a lens calibration might be in order if you have followed all the rules for getting sharp images but to no avail. For example, you have already tried faster shutter speeds and narrower apertures, yet the photos are still blurry.
However, if you notice that you are missing focus inconsistently, the problem lies in your technique rather than the lens. For instance, you took a photo with the subject’s eyes in focus but not their lips. This is a result of using a large aperture, which gives you a shallow depth of field. In another image, you captured your cat with motion blur because you used a slow shutter speed.
You must improve your photography technique to fix the blurry images. Lens calibration is unable to correct these photos.
What Is Lens Calibration?
By now, you know that your lens needs calibration. Still, you may be curious about how it works.
Lens calibration is the method of adjusting the focus point within the image while using autofocus. In an ideal world, autofocus gives you sharp images where your subject is in focus. However, this is not always the case.
Different lenses will have slight variances. They will focus and redirect light in distinct focus points. These can be closer or farther away from the sensor.
Lens calibration allows you to fix the focusing problem. It can change the focal point of the camera in small increments ranging from -20 to +20.
If your lens has its focal point behind the target area (back focus), you must fine-tune it towards the camera sensor. Move the focus point to negative calibration values, which are closer to the camera.
To compensate for front focusing, you must adjust the focus point into positive numbers (away from the camera).
After fine-tuning the focal point, the camera will save this setting. It automatically loads it whenever you use the lens with the camera.
How to Calibrate Camera Lens? 3 Different Ways to Try
You will find different methods of calibrating camera lenses. Below, you will learn three common ways to perform this task.
But before doing anything else, you must first determine if your camera allows lens calibration. Most entry-level cameras do not allow you to fine-tune your lenses. Meanwhile, other models require extra gear before calibration.
Check the product manual to know whether your camera has lens calibration or not. You can also locate it in the menu setting. However, it has different names, depending on the camera manufacturer. Names might include “fine tune,” “adjust focus,” or “micro adjustment.”
Once you are sure that you can calibrate the lens, you can choose from the different calibration methods below.
Calibrate Your Lens Using a Focus Test Chart
A simple way to calibrate a camera lens is to use a focus test chart. These can be easily bought online. You can also make this lens calibration tool from scratch, but purchasing one will save you some time.
Once you have the lens chart, you can assemble it. Place it on a steady flat surface where there is bright light. You can also attach the lens calibration tool to something stable. Just ensure it is level to ensure accuracy.
Next, mount your camera body on a tripod. Adjust the height of the legs until it is aligned with the lens focus chart.
Then, go to your camera settings and change the autofocus point to “center focus point.” Use the smaller f-number to get the widest aperture setting. As for the shutter speed, adjust it accordingly to achieve proper exposure.
The next step is to focus on the lens chart. Press the shutter button to take a photo.
After that, check the image to know where the focus point has fallen. If it is located in front of or behind the 0, you must fine-tune the focus.
Go to the AF Fine Tune settings in the menu (the name will depend on the manufacturer) to calibrate the focus of your lens.
Take another photo and check if the focus is on point.
Calibrate Your Camera Lens Using a Ruler
If you want a free option for lens calibration, try using a ruler! Note that this DIY method is less accurate than the lens focus chart. However, it can still work if you do not want to buy a calibration tool.
Besides a ruler, you will also need a table, a whiteboard, a pen, a tripod, and your camera to calibrate your lens.
Place the whiteboard on the table or any flat surface. Use tape to stick it to the desk and prevent movement. Ensure the board is stable and unmoving before starting the next step.
Sketch a very thin, straight line across the whiteboard. It will act as the focal point for the camera.
Next, place the camera body on a tripod, ensuring it is level with the target subject.
Then, use the “center focus point” setting. Also, set the aperture to the largest or widest opening.
Place the ruler perpendicular to the straight line that you drew. Now, you are ready to take a picture.
Check the results after and make the necessary adjustments using your camera’s micro adjustment setting. Take test shots again and see if the focus point has improved.
Calibrate Your Lens Using Software
Those who want to achieve accurate lens calibration results can invest in software. You can find different programs that calibrate your lenses.
However, you must perform certain tasks before running the lens calibration software.
First, you must attach the focusing target to the wall. Most programs come with a printed target, while some offer a downloadable one. You will need to print it yourself.
Next, mount your camera on a tripod. Adjust its height until it is level with the wall target.
Then, connect your camera to the computer via the USB cable. Turn on the camera and use the Live View mode.
After that, the lens calibration software will automatically adjust the focus point. Wait for several minutes for the lens calibration process to finish. Once done, you can now capture sharp photos.
Calibrating a Zoom Lens
It’s a bit difficult to calibrate a zoom lens because of the multiple focal lengths.
In most cameras, you can only make micro-adjustments at a single focal length. If so, you might want to fine-tune the focus point toward the telephoto focal range. This is where focus errors are usually emphasized.
You can find a few cameras that allow two-point adjustments. With this setting, you can calibrate the zoom lens at its shortest and longest focal lengths.
How Often Should You Calibrate Your Lens?
You only need to calibrate the lens if the images are not as sharp as before. This can happen sooner than you expected, depending on how much wear your camera gets. In general, you may want to perform lens calibration every six months to two years.
At the end of the day, though, there is no right or wrong answer. Feel free to calibrate your camera and lens combination as often as you want.
How Much Does It Cost to Calibrate Your Lens?
Calibrating your lens at home can cost around $10 or less. If you already have the required materials (ruler, board, etc.), you can perform the lens calibration for free.
But if you are not confident with your skills, you can get your lenses professionally calibrated. The service fee will depend on the area and the type of lenses you want to calibrate. It ranges from $25 to $75 per lens.
There are several reasons why your photos are not as sharp as you want. Most of the time, the culprit is the photography technique. However, it can also be a poorly calibrated lens.
To calibrate your lens, you must first determine if your camera can undergo the calibration process. If it does, you can fine-tune the focus point with a test chart, a ruler, or software. Refer to the steps above for more details.
Do you have more questions about camera lens calibration? Leave a message on our contact page, and we will get back to you soon.