Wes Kauffman is the President and Lead Technician at Perfect Image Camera, an independent camera repair center located in Lancaster, PA. Perfect Image has been providing professional camera repair service to the amateur, advanced amateur and professional photographic community for over 30 years.
“There are only two guarantees in life, Death and Taxes.” – Ben Franklin
I could not disagree more with the above statement. There are three guaranteed things in life. Death, taxes, and the fact that 90% of the lenses you buy will not focus properly on your camera. As a camera repair technician I am continuously hearing photographers complain about soft images. Either their lenses used to be sharp and now are not, or they just never performed up to their expectations. The truth is they are right, their lenses are not sharp, no matter how expensive, how new, or how well they take care of their lenses. Taking a camera and lens off the shelf, putting them together and getting perfectly sharp images is just not likely.
The reason is simple. Manufacturing relies on producing a high quality product, not a perfect product. Could Canon and Nikon produce perfectly matched cameras and lenses? Yes, but none of us could afford them. So in order to keep cost down they manufacture equipment to fall within “Allowable Tolerances”. In other words if a lens back focuses just a little, or a camera front focuses a tiny bit that is ok, because the amount of time and money it would take to get things perfect is just not worth it.
So, what’s a photographer to do? Thankfully the answer is really quite simple, Micro-Adjust (for the Canon lover), and AF Fine Tune (for all you Nikonians out there). Essentially what the manufacturers have come up with is a software solution. The process goes like this. We take a camera and lens that are having front or back focus issues, test them on an AF adjustment tool, enter the correct adjustment into the camera and voila we have a camera and lens combo that focus correctly. Now in real life it takes a little more work than that, but you get the idea. In my opinion the most practical and well thought out feature in newer DSLR’s is the AF Calibration feature. Very few technical advances have had such a profound impact on image quality as this one tool.
Now I’m going to be honest with you. Calibrating your camera is something you can do yourself, some of my customers do, and some of my customers try. The truth is a qualified repair tech can do it faster, and probably more accurately. They will have the correct tools and more importantly the experience. You also need to keep in mind that not all camera models have the AF Calibration feature built in. Here is a list of current cameras that can be calibrated.
Canon and Nikon
Sometimes calibration is not the answer to focus issues you might be having. Often times, (especially in Canon lenses) the USM (ultrasonic motor) unit in the lenses can go bad. If you have a Canon USM lens and the focus “seeks” (goes in and out without locking focus), or is very erratic (i.e. will back focus one moment and front focus the next) you need a repair not just a calibration. Nikon lenses don’t have the problem as frequently, but it still does occur. I always check a lens for these problems before I even begin the calibration process. If your lens does need repair please keep in mind that once the repair is complete it should still be calibrated with your camera.
So to wrap things up, your images are soft, guaranteed! Well 90% guaranteed anyway. Thankfully there is a solution and I can help you with it. Check out my website www.perfectimagerepair.com or click here to order your calibration service today.
Perfect Image is committed to being the solution to all your camera repair or professional sensor cleaning needs. Use the following code: “tiffinbox” and receive a $5 discount off of calibration or sensor cleaning from Perfect Image Camera.
Vanessa German says
I want to try calibrating. This article doesn’t really tell me HOW to do that. Know any good tutorials?
Andrew Politano says
No. This is one giant advert telling you to contact them to have you pay for the service. Lame article, indeed.
Duncan Dimanche says
yeah… not cool
There are tutorials all over You Tube about how to do this, but I don’t trust my ability to get it right. The tool you use costs about $100.
Andrew Raia says
The tool you buy to do this cost more than the service, plus we do not have a trained eye for it either.
Amanda Lynn Gray says
so the canon 60d can’t be calibrated?
Wes Kauffman says
Amanda. You are correct unfortunately the 60D cannot be calibrated. The 50D and 70D can both be calibrated.