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4.4 out of 5 stars
Datacolor SpyderLensCal SLC100
Price:$64.00 + Free shipping with Amazon Prime
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2013
I knew my lenses were not focusing correctly and I tried the manual approach of printing out focus test charts from the web and trying to do the 45degree angle thing with a tripod, it didn't work as well. This takes all the hassle of the manual process and makes the calibration easier to accomplish.

I'd agree with a lot of the reviewers that this is an overpriced piece of kit for the what you get but I think in the long run it will pay for itself. The parts are a bit flimsy and the ruler arm needs to sit right with the notch holding up the vertical part. The bubble level helps keep things square and the metal threaded hole makes it easy to mount this on a light stand or small tripod.

Every lens I owned needed a bit of adjustment. It was easier using this tool for lenses with lower F-Stops (i.e. 1.4 and 2.8.) where the short in-focus range is more pronounced wide open. You'll need to calibrate twice for zoom lenses; once for the wide and then for the tele end of the focal range. My Canon 24-105 and 16-35 had micro-adjustment settings for both ends of the focal length.

I noticed that it was harder deciding which lines around the zero mark on the ruler were in focus for the higher F-Stop lenses. In reality it may not make a difference since the subject would have also been in focus.

Dropped a star due to the cost.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In a nutshell: this calibrator was easy to setup, and the whole process took about 20 minutes from start to finish.

Who is it for?
First, the camera being calibrated must have Auto Focus Micro Adjustment capability.
Second, the lens' Depth Of Field is shallow (f/2.8 or less) which exacerbates focus errors.

The process is relatively straightforward: you set your lens to its max aperture; setup this calibrator and the camera such that both are level, and that the lens is aimed squarely at the center of this chart; use a distance that is about 25x the focal length between the two; and fire some test shots at different AFMA settings until the focus is cleanly on the 0 point of the ruler.

A few tips:

1] use a tethered setup with Adobe LR. The magnifier tool on the camera while workable, was much harder for me.

2] For zoom lenses, this is complicated by the fact that most cameras only support a single AFMA setting per lens. So, calibrate the focal length that you use most often.

3] Using B&W photos rather than color made it easier to detect edges

Happy photography!
~A_E~
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2014
I've just finished doing a micro focus adjustment (MFA) on a third lens, this one a Canon 100-400 rented lens which had performed poorly. I had to do the MFA on an unusually dark day, in the rain, outside. Nevertheless, the whole process was easy. It was easy to see that the lens needed a +5 adjustment at both 100mm and 400mm. After adjustment, the improvement in focus and fine detail were of images *very* impressive!!

MFA is "fiddly" but that's because of the way the cameras are set up, not because of the Spyder LensCal. You do need two tripods, one for the camera and the other for the LensCal, and that's the only "difficulty" you might have. You can eyeball the height and orientation of the LensCal as it relates to the camera, and that works fine. After setup, which should take about 2 minutes at most, take your shots of the LensCal***. Put them up on a computer monitor at 100%, and it will be obvious what adjustment is needed.

I noted that I did today's MFA on a dark rainy day, simply because somebody wrote that the LensCal is make of cardboard and it warps, and is therefore useless. That's simply not true at all! The LensCal is made of durable plastic, it has its own leveling bubble, it's waterproof, so of course it will not warp. If you sit on it or step on it, it will probably break, but what would you expect?

MFA can certainly be done without the LensCal, but the LensCal makes the MFA process more accurate, much easier, and much less time consuming. The LensCal is a good investment, well worth the money if you value the quality of your images.
______________________________________________________________

***A few technical notes - I like to take three shots at each adjustment setting - usually starting with something like -10, -5, 0, +5, and +10. I leave image stabilization OFF since the camera is on a tripod. I manually defocus between every shot, and then use Autofocus for the shot itself. Between groups, for example between my three shots at -10 and the three at -5, I take a shot with my fingers held about 3 inches in front of the lens, so it's easy for me to tell where one set ends and the next set begins. Some folks recommend using a remote shutter release, but I haven't done that, and I haven't felt the need to use a remote release for this purpose. Finally, when evaluating the shots on the monitor, I look for the finest lines possible, the very thin lines between numerals. I also look for subtle differences between the sharpness of the number "6" at each end of the oblique bar of the LensCal.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2013
I should have looked at the overall dimensions when I made the purchase. For some reason, I thought it would be bigger. When "assembled", the SpyderLensCAL SLC100 is nearly 6" square. Folded flat, it is approximately 8.5" x 5", easy enough to fit inside a camera bag if necessary. It is a nice piece of gear for calibrating lenses though, far better than my "MacGuyver'ed" attempts at one. I purchased it to calibrate my Canon EF 50mm F/1.2L since some of my images just seemed softer than I was expecting.

It's made of a sturdy plastic that folds down flat for easy storage. The focusing surfaces of the device are covered in matte finish plastic stickers. On my copy, the vertical plane sticker was slightly askew, but I didn't feel that it would affect focusing accuracy.

Overall, a great tool, but I deducted one star for price.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The SpyderLenCal is a very clever and well designed device. The way it folds into it's configuration, has a nicely done brass tripod socket and an integrated bubble level all make this a very easy device to setup properly.It's clear a lot of thought went into the design.

I used the SpyderLensCal to check and adjust lenses on my Olympus E30 DSLR. I checked the 12-60mm prime zoom and the 40-150mm kit lens. I first tried to check the focus indoors under moderately bright room lighting. It wasn't so great. My poor camera wasn't happy. The next morning I had bright north-light available and things went much better.

I strongly recommend using a tripod or stable level surface for the SpyderLensCal and a tripod mounted camera. Just eliminate as many variables like shake or motion with hand held camera test. I have 2 tripods so no problem.

I found my 12-60mm lens focus was off by a bit and corrected it pretty easily. The manual for my E30 camera covers making focus adjustments, but only minimally. Fortunately it's not too hard to fill in the gaps intuitively. A nice feature is being able to store a default adjustment (for body corrections) and adjustments for up to 30 lenses! The E30 provides for a general adjustment for a lens or separate adjustments for wide and tele zoom settings. The general setting I used gave good results at both wide and tele zoom settings.

My 40-150 kit lens did not need an adjustment. I was happy to have that confirmed.

In summary the SpyderLensCal is easy to setup and use with an elegant and photographer friendly design. It found and helped me correct a focus problem with one of my lenses (the much more expensive one!), With bright lighting use a tripod for the SpyderLensCal and your camera if you have two.

I'm very pleased with the results and it was easier than I expected to setup and use. That and a nice design and actually working as advertised I think it rates 5 stars in my opinion.

I'll update this review as I check more lenses and see if I have some interested friends with different DSLR cameras.

Updated: June 4, 2014

I've tried the LensCal with all my lenses and only one needed correction (the one mentioned in the main review). Nice to know and to catch the one. I have had one friend take me up on my offer to check their lenses and the two they tested were OK.

Since then I also got the Datacolor SHD100 SpyderHD which is very helpful at providing calibration for color throughout the process. The result is more accurate color/exposure throughout the processing path - camera, editing, printing. Most useful in studio-like situations. It also supports video which I do not use. It is also well designed.

Hope this is helpful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Datacolor SpyderLensCal SLC100 is well made and easy to use. It's made of plastic, but the construction is very robust and the "fit and finish" is absolutely first-rate.

The Spyder is relatively compact. When collapsed, it measures 5 x 8-1/2 inches at its widest points and it has the thickness of roughly 4 credit cards stacked together. When erected, it is very sturdy and the parts fit together very precisely -- the zero mark/line on the rule lines up perfectly with the horizontal midline of the checker board.

The printing is good -- all lines and numbers are clearly printed. The Spyder has a bubble level to help ensure it is completely level. It can be tripod mounted or set on top of a level surface.

It's very easy to use. To use it:

1. Erect the Spyder and set it on a level surface or mount it on a tripod. (I mount it on a tripod -- that way I can adjust the ball head to ensure that the Spyder is perfectly level.)

2. Mount your camera on a tripod and make sure your lens is in direct line-of-sight with the Spyder.

3. Use Aperture Priority mode and set your lens to its smallest F-number (largest aperture) (Edited. Thanks to Stephen Mahanes in the comments section for correcting me)

4. Set your camera to autofocus.

5. Focus the camera on the Spyder checker board and take a picture.

6. Display the image on a large monitor (so you'll be able to better see all the details). If the zero line on the rule is in perfect focus -- Congratulations! You're done! Your lens is good to go!

If, however, a line below the zero line is in focus, you have a "front focusing" problem. Or if a line above the zero line is in focus, you have a "back focusing" problem. Continue on to step 7.

7. Use the focus compensation utility on your camera to compensate for the front focusing or back focusing problem. If you don't know how to perform this step, consult your camera's user manual for instructions. Repeat steps 3 through 7.

The only downside to the Spyder is its price. Can you rig your own and save yourself some money? Sure. Will it be as effective as the Spyder? I certainly think so. If you do decide on the DIY route, here's a tip: Use photo paper to get a sharp printout for your calibration chart!

---
The Spyder Len Calibrator is well built and an invaluable tool for helping you fix back focusing and front focusing problems. If you're a professional/serious photographer or if you don't want to rig your own, the Spyder is a good way to go -- definitely recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really wish there were a few more competitors out there to drive the costs of these things down. They're really pretty simple, and ought to be ten bucks or so, for what they are: a focusing target attached to a ruler. All plastic.

That said, it's been really nice having this. I've "made do" in the past with other homemade options:
1. cut-out paper designs you can find on the net (flimsy, too much effort, and they don't work all that well.
2. Stacks of objects arranged so that each is just a little further from the camera than the next (AA batteries standing on end). That was a lot of work also, and not easy to judge very fine distances.
3. Shooting an object (like a book page with lots of text) at a diagonal angle... hard to make sure the camera is actually focusing right where you want it to, so the results aren't totally trustworthy...

Anyway, there are other options. But they all suck compared to having the right tool for the job. Which this is. If your DSLR camera body has some sort of microfocus adjustment (note: the cheapest ones usually don't), something like this is handy to use to calibrate all of your lenses on the camera so that they don't back-focus or front-focus. You don't necessarily need your own one of these though, since you won't be using it all the time. Try suggesting that your local camera club get one for the use of its members, or borrow one from a photographer friend.

Or just buy one. They do make life easier. Note that Datacolor's tool isn't the only one out there. Here are others:

LensAlign MkII Focus Calibration System (costs even more).

LensAlign Fusion Integrated AF Calibration System (I don't know how, but this costs even more than that last one).

Focus Pyramid Autofocus Lens Calibration Tool (cheaper, but the design isn't as good as one with a high-contrast focusing target perpendicular to the lens axis; I'd use a web printout before this thing).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon January 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There is this little voice in the back of my head that kept asking, is my camera achieving precise autofocus? I don't have to wonder any more, the answer is yes; and well I don't need this device any more. The good news / bad news, after spending a morning messing around with setting this up, taking pictures and evaluating focus points; both of my lenses focus perfectly - no adjustment was necessary. The biggest culprit to missed autofocus is not that the autofocus system is not calibrated, but the camera choosing the correct autofocus point.

Until I used the SpyderLensCal, I would have never been satisfied that my camera was focusing correctly. I had absolutely no reason in the world to believe there was something wrong, just this doubt in my mind. When I discovered that my camera has the micro focus adjustment capability, I wanted to test my lenses. Now that I've done the test, well I feel kind of silly.

Here are the cameras that have micro focus adjustment (March, 2014 update, as listed by DataColor at the time of this review - see comments, there are more sony cameras than listed here)
Canon (50D, 7D, 5DMkII, 5DMkIII,1DMkIII, 1DMkIV, 1DsMkIII, 1Dx, 1Dc)
Nikon (D7000, D300, D300s, D700, D800, D800E, D3, D3s, D3x, D4)
Sony (A850, A900, A77)
Olympus (E-30, E-620, E-5)
Pentax (K-20D, K-30, K-5, K-7D, K-2000/K-m, K200D, 645D, K-x)
The caveat with this adjustment is, if you are using a kit lens, don't bother with this target. The depth of field on a kit lens at f 3.5, 4, or 5.6 is so great - even at 200mm, you will never ever see a need to adjust the focus plane. This target is really only useful for f2.8 and above lenses. And frankly, it is only useful for 70mm and longer. I suppose it could be useful for macro lenses, except that the tolerances at incredibly close focus distances are so critical, I'm not sure you can align the target and your camera correctly to reliably do this test.

The procedure is simple but painful. Essentially you set up the target parallel to your film plane, with the camera exactly centered in front of the target. You need to be about 50 times the focal length away from the target (so with a 200mm lens, that means about 10 meters, or 30 feet). The camera has to be on a tripod and the target on something very stable - a table or another tripod. The target needs to be lit fairly brightly - a flashlight will do the job (color balance and even lighting is irrelevant). Set the camera to ISO 200 (you want a sharp grain free image) and the largest / finest Jpeg image you can dial in (yes you can mess around with Raw if you like, but you already knew that - and it doesn't really improve the test other than to add an extra step at the computer). Set the camera to aperture preferred and set the lens to the widest aperture. Now comes the critical piece - you need to set your camera autofocus to a single center spot and use pinpoint if your camera has that setting (some cameras can use a wider or narrower square for focusing). If you allow the camera to choose the focus point, it will focus on the front edge of the target and it will look like your lens is way off. There is one positive thing I learned about my camera, even though it lit up with the focus point on the center of the target, it actually focused on the front edge of the target. Put the center focus spot exactly on the tiny square target next to the 0. Now move the focus to infinity, press autofocus, and take a picture.

Now comes the painful part. On the camera LCD you can vaguely check your work. Because the target image will be fairly small, you'll have to blow up the playback to maximum size. At this point, basically check to see if you can read the numbers and lines clearly (you didn't get camera shake and the exposure was somewhere near right). If all looks good, repeat the image two or three more times (each time rack the lens to infinity focus). With those three or four images, now go to your computer and look at the image. You will have to blow the image way up to see the lines. You are looking for the one line that is the sharpest. If the 0 line isn't the sharpest line, then you need to do the micro focus adjustment on your camera. I would suggest changing it a lot at first so you can see the difference (this is a bit like when you make adjustments with Photoshop, first go big to see the effect, then go back and tweak it to the subtle change you really need). After making the adjustment, take more pictures.

Now you probably see why a really solid tripod is critical (you are going to do a lot of removing and inserting your memory card), and why it is critical to set the target on something solid.

In the end, if you find out your lens was focusing one direction or the other by a half an inch or an inch - well that's good news; you made the adjustment and now can rely on autofocus in those critical situations. If on the other hand you find out everything was just right, well this was a futile exercise. Remember, this test doesn't tell you anything about the quality of your lens, it only tells you if your lens can autofocus accurately.

Some tricks I learned while setting this up. Don't over think the set up. If the target is a little bit crooked, it isn't going to make a lot of difference (the 0 line and the focus target are right next to each other, you'd have to be a long ways off crooked for that to matter. Make sure you get your tripod perfectly level - the bubble in the exact center of the bubble level. Match the camera and target height as best you can. Ultimately I switched to Manual on my camera and bracketed the exposure several stops. I was using a flashlight to light the target and the target image size was so small, the evaluative exposure was way off. Don't mess around with lenses less than f2.8, this isn't worth it.

When I consider the cost of my equipment (a Canon 7D, with 70-200mm f2.8 II and 24-70mm f2.8 lenses) and the cost of my time missing focus, this device isn't terribly expensive. Now that I've found out my camera focuses correctly, well this is a waste of money. I'm not sure I'll ever use it again.

I find it very difficult to figure out who would really benefit from this device. In some roundabout way, a professional might find it useful if they have three or four bodies, and several f2.8 lenses. Unfortunately for Datacolor, those people already belong to the professional camera services of their brand of camera and the manufacturer does this adjustment for them (Canon has this service for gold and above Canon Professional Service members). A cleaning and calibration provides exactly this service.

There are ways to build this device yourself for virtually no money. They aren't terribly hard to do if you are a little bit handy. After I've used this commercial device, I'm not sure I would be happy if I'd spent a day building one myself. I really think this is a solution looking for a problem.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First, this device is for cameras that support AF adjustment. And instructions for its use assume that you are familiar with your camera's operations and/or manual. I am a professional photographer with 50 years of experience and found the device to be very helpful. Sure, the price is high for a small piece of black and white plastic. But that's not what you're paying for. You're paying for precision and the ability to avoid the inconvenience of constructing one for yourself out of who-knows-what. On the other hand, if you have only one lens, you may want to see if your camera club would like to buy it.

The photographs with this listing are accurate and really show you what you're getting. The device measures 8 1/3" by 5" lying flat. It is not flimsy, but you wouldn't want to subject it to unnecessary stress either. The video with the listing is 1 min 48 secs and lets you know how the SpyderLensCal is used.

The instructions are simple, but leave out some essentials. They are irritating to follow because they are typed on both sides of a 5 inch by 30 inch long paper that is folded into six 5" by 5" squares (12 if you count both sides). One instruction is printed on each square followed by the same information in nine other languages. This complicated layout makes the process of following the points extra cumbersome. Here they are so you can see how simple they are:

1. Open SpyderLensCal and lock in the upright position.
2. Mount the SpyderLensCal on a tripod, or set on a flat surface. Align your camera and lens to the center of the target. Set your camera and lens to AutoFocus. In Aperture Priority mode, set the Aperture to the smallest number possible (often 2.8 or 4.0). Aim at the main target, check that the autofocus chooses the main target, and shoot.
3. View the image on the camera LCD and zoom to maximum magnification, navigating to the intersection of the target and the ruler.
4. Choose the Lens Focus Compensation option from your camera's menu (SpyderLensCal can only be used to calibrate lenses on cameras that offer this option). Adjust forward or back as indicated by the ruler's sharply focused section in the image of SpyderLensCal. Shoot a second image and review to verify the focus adjustment. Repeat this process to calibrate other lenses.

That's it! Just 4 steps. But in fact Step 2 really is about 5 steps summarized into one paragraph. I found that I got a better, more accurate reading by following guidelines given by Keith Cooper in a 2010 review on a U.K. website, which I found through a simple online search and highly recommend to you.

BOTTOM LINE: I set up two tripods, followed Keith Cooper's instructions, and easily recalibrated my lenses to perfect focus.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2014
Assembled easily and functioned as advertised, easy to use and interesting enough all three of my lenses required some minor adjustment.
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