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Thread: AF microadjustment tricks

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    AF microadjustment tricks

    I have seen many threads about micro adjustment and the confusion that comes with it. Do you need to pay for a fancy test target/ruler etc.? How do you figure what adjustment value to dial in? I thought I would share my tricks in case you are interested.

    There is a very convenient way to perform MA with Canon EOS cameras, all you need is a good sturdy tripod and head, a simple contrast target and a small mirror.

    First find a target that has fine high contrast features, you can print an ISO chart, a dollar bill or even a map but the target has to be perfectly flat. Pin the target to the wall at a distance ~25-50 times the focal length, for a zoom lens choose the focal length that you use most often. First use the spirit level on the ball head to level the camera in XY plane. It is essential that sensor plane is parallel to target. To do this you can use a small mirror, tape it to the target look through the camera’s finder until you can see the center of your lens in the mirror and lock down your tripod. Optical axis is now perpendicular to target and you are done with the mirror.

    You must have Canon EOS utility application installed on your machine, this is included with every canon camera, if you have an older version make sure to go to Canon’s website and download the latest update. You are ready for micro adjust now.
    Follow these steps:

    1) Connect the camera to your computer via the USB port, cancel any image download pop-up/application
    2) Run EOS utility.
    3) Click on Camera setting/remote shooting icon ( Fig 1 ).
    4) Click on Remote Live View Shooting this will open a new window with live sensor video feed ( Fig 2 ).
    5) Make sure AF is in phase detect mode (quick mode AF) that uses camera’s main AF sensor ( Fig 3 ).
    6) Choose the center AF point and make sure the white rectangle is centered on the AF point, this illustration is for 5DMKII, AF points pattern will be different for different cameras.
    7) Click on magnifying icon for a full size view ( Fig 4 ).
    8) Click AFON button (Fig 4) the camera will now perform AF.
    9) Click on a 200% magnification, you are now viewing sensor output at 2:1 ( Fig 5 ). Note it is essential that tripod be placed on a solid surface plus nobody should walk in the proximity of the setup or you will see vibrations on the screen!
    10) Now click on the ( > ) or( < ) buttons to shift focus back or front one click at a time until image appears sharpest on the screen, notice the contrast edges, you want them as crisp as possible. Write down how many clicks you have moved relative to the center, infinity symbol indicates far direction ( Fig 6 )
    11) Repeat this a few times until results are consistent.
    12) Each click on the ( > ) or ( < ) corresponds to one unit in the AF micro adjust scale in the camera.
    13) Disengage LV by clicking close in the Zoom View and Remote Live View Windows.
    14) Go to MA menu option in your camera and dial in the exact value noting the back or front direction.
    15) Go back to step 3 and perform AF again, if image is already as sharp as possible when you click 200% you are done, if not iterate until you can repeatedly get the sharpest image. You can shoot test images and transfer directly to your computer( Fig 7).

    Your camera and lens static AF should be adjusted with great accuracy now.
    Last edited by arash_hazeghi; 02-25-2010 at 04:28 AM.
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    Fig 1

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    Fig2

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    Fig 3

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    Fig 4

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    Fig 5

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    Fig 6

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    Fig 7
    Press shutter to snap a test image. If you have Canon DPP software it will automatically open in DPP once the file has been transferred. It is best to shoot in RAW mode.

    Last edited by arash_hazeghi; 02-25-2010 at 04:16 AM.
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    This is the result after one iteration of MA using the method above, notice how the fine dither is becoming visible.

    100% crop, RAW

    Last edited by arash_hazeghi; 02-25-2010 at 05:35 AM.
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    And after 2nd iteration the difference is already very subtle, the 5DMKII is resolving very fine dither texture on the map! This is with 24-105L @ 105mm f/4



    Hope you find this useful :)
    Last edited by arash_hazeghi; 02-25-2010 at 03:59 AM.
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    Wow, that is great... Thanks for sharing the info :)

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    I may have to give that a try. Thanks for the info!
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    Thanks for all the work and the details. I've been reviewing threads on different sites and people who have tried MA seem to feel that it only works at the distance they adjust for but when they bring it to the field they see the same problems. The manuals (MarkIV) dissuade owners from using lest you "prevent correct focusing from being achieved". I am confused about MA. Can you straighten me out on this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Francino View Post
    Thanks for all the work and the details. I've been reviewing threads on different sites and people who have tried MA seem to feel that it only works at the distance they adjust for but when they bring it to the field they see the same problems. The manuals (MarkIV) dissuade owners from using lest you "prevent correct focusing from being achieved". I am confused about MA. Can you straighten me out on this?
    The other problem Andrew is that with zoom lenses the MA may be focal length specific.

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    Arash -
    Looks like a simple, inexpensive technique - thanks for sharing it.

    A couple of questions:
    12) Each click on the ( > ) or ( < ) corresponds to one unit in the AF micro adjust scale in the camera - - - did you work this out by trial and error, or get the info from Canon?

    Have you tried the technique at different distances (minimum FL, 25 x FL, 50 x FL ) - - are the results consistent for a given lens

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    My hats off to you Arash, ingenious!

    Gene

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    I will have to give this a try, thanks for sharing

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Francino View Post
    Thanks for all the work and the details. I've been reviewing threads on different sites and people who have tried MA seem to feel that it only works at the distance they adjust for but when they bring it to the field they see the same problems. The manuals (MarkIV) dissuade owners from using lest you "prevent correct focusing from being achieved". I am confused about MA. Can you straighten me out on this?


    Hi Andrew,

    As John mentioned for zoom lenses you can do this for one FL at a time so while it might improve for that FL it might get slightly worse for other FLs. Also MA only corrects consistent back or front focus issues, it is not going to help with random AF misses or soft images in AI servo mode, the first thing to do is to make sure that the lens/body are indeed front / back focus, if you want to use this method make sure that you defocus to infinity press ( >>> ) button and then AF-ON button again several times to verify there is a consistent shift in focus plane. Then if you adjust accurately it should work for a range of distances at least.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Hawrylyshyn View Post
    Arash -
    Looks like a simple, inexpensive technique - thanks for sharing it.

    A couple of questions:
    12) Each click on the ( > ) or ( < ) corresponds to one unit in the AF micro adjust scale in the camera - - - did you work this out by trial and error, or get the info from Canon?

    Have you tried the technique at different distances (minimum FL, 25 x FL, 50 x FL ) - - are the results consistent for a given lens

    Hi Peter,

    Canon did not comment on this but the ( > ) appears to be a single-pulse servo stepping, i.e. the minimum amount that the focus element can move which should correspond to one "mirco" adjust step, it seems to be the case for 50D, 7D and 5DMKII

    I usually try this at one distance and it appears to work for different distances in the field. One other point is try to center the the focal plane at the sweet spot, you will find that the image will still be sharp for 2-3 clicks within the best point so centering it will allow a bit tolerance as distance changes.

    Arash
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    Arash
    Again thanks, i have now calibrated/adjusted my 300f4 and 500f4 also with the 1.4 and 2x and what a difference and as you say easy and accurate consistent results......... Why do Canon not tell us to do it this way

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    Arash
    THANK YOU!
    I'll give it a try on the Mark IV and 7D.
    Don

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    Pretty cool Arash. Never even heard of that method before. My gear is with CPS for the second time now. Mine needed too much MA with some lenses and have all hopefully being calibrated now. If I adjusted for razor sharp images at a closer distance my further shots were soft. I understand Canon uses different methods to do this and want to be at least starting from 0 or closer to it. Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Zipp View Post
    Pretty cool Arash. Never even heard of that method before. My gear is with CPS for the second time now. Mine needed too much MA with some lenses and have all hopefully being calibrated now. If I adjusted for razor sharp images at a closer distance my further shots were soft. I understand Canon uses different methods to do this and want to be at least starting from 0 or closer to it. Thanks.

    Hi Jim,

    Hope it works out for you, have seen the comments about MKIV but don't have that camera so I don't know why this is happening. One other issue is that if AF sensor is slightly miss aligned with respect to the beam splitter it will give soft images no matter what you do, you can verify this by using live view AF at different distances to see if it can focus properly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arash_hazeghi View Post
    One other issue is that if AF sensor is slightly miss aligned with respect to the beam splitter it will give soft images no matter what you do...
    Best
    Thanks Arash, but I am getting some super sharp images.... just not at varying distances. Smaller birds and anything within about 60 feet are killer sharp after dong MA but that threw further subjects off. That mirror for aligning the target is a great idea.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Zipp View Post
    Thanks Arash, but I am getting some super sharp images.... just not at varying distances. Smaller birds and anything within about 60 feet are killer sharp after dong MA but that threw further subjects off. That mirror for aligning the target is a great idea.

    In this case only Canon can help, hope they fix your gear soon!
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    Thanks Arash for all the work.

    Does anyone out there know the workflow for Nikon?

    Thanks Ray:)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Rozema View Post
    Thanks Arash for all the work.

    Does anyone out there know the workflow for Nikon?

    Thanks Ray:)

    Procedure for Nikon is similar, but you need to purchase camera control pro sw and the LV magnification is not as high, but it gets the job done. I have an older version of CCP unfortunately it doesn't work correctly with Win 7 64-Bit so I can't post step by step instructions.

    Best
    Last edited by arash_hazeghi; 02-26-2010 at 05:28 PM.
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    Cool Arash... Jim and I are in similar boats mine seems not to be ablre to focus close but seems good for 15m or so out...

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    Arash, I just wanted to thank you for posting this. It works better than any technique I've tried.

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    I am going to give his a try tomorrow, if using a 300mm and 500mm what distance should the test target be set at, both with and without the 1.4TC? Also unclear about using a zoom, a 100-400, I use it at all Focal Lengths usually not above 350mm, any suggestions what FL and distance for target I should do there?
    Cynthia

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    Make sure you don't have CF4-2 set.. I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't focus...

    Well this showed a +5 MFA is still needed for my 500......

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cynthia West View Post
    I am going to give his a try tomorrow, if using a 300mm and 500mm what distance should the test target be set at, both with and without the 1.4TC? Also unclear about using a zoom, a 100-400, I use it at all Focal Lengths usually not above 350mm, any suggestions what FL and distance for target I should do there?
    Cynthia

    Hi Cynthia,

    I usually set the target at 25-50 times the focal length, maybe a bit closer for 700+ mm since the target will be too far and hard to align. If there is a particular distance that you shoot in the field (e.x. perched birds from a blind) then obviously best distance is the actual field distance.

    For zoom lenses unfortunately you cannot adjust for all FLs so its best to pick the focal length you use most, if you use all focal lengths equally then adjust for one, say 300mm and then check to see if it is good for other FLs as well, if not disable MA.


    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by arash_hazeghi; 02-28-2010 at 09:34 PM.
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    Thank you, I will try this tomorrow, appreciate your detailed instructions.

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    Hi Arash,

    Could you specify, please, because this will be a problem for many people to consider: which arrow means
    plus correction in the menu, and which means minus. What I mean is, is > = +, < = -, or the other way round?

    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited by Ivo Damianov; 03-02-2010 at 03:07 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivo Damianov View Post
    Hi Arash,

    Could you specify, please, because this will be a problem for many people to concider: which arrow means
    plus correction in the menu, and which means minus. What I mean is, is > = +, < = -, or the other way round?

    Thanks in advance!
    + is towards infinity for 7D and 5DMKII cameras, corresponding to infinity sign and ( > ) in fig. 6. minus is closer to camera
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    Quote Originally Posted by arash_hazeghi View Post
    + is towards infinity for 7D and 5DMKII cameras, corresponding to infinity sign and ( > ) in fig. 6. minus is closer to camera
    Thank you very much, Arash, let me see if I got you right:

    If you had to press let's say the > button two times, in order to get the best sharpness, then
    in the microadjustment menu you give +2 correction.

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    Thanks for the tip. I have MA with lensalign tool and your method improved on theirs. My 200 F2 and 300F2.8 both needed + 3 & +4 corrections to be at their best. Thanks again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivo Damianov View Post
    Thank you very much, Arash, let me see if I got you right:

    If you had to press let's say the > button two times, in order to get the best sharpness, then
    in the microadjustment menu you give +2 correction.
    Correct Ivo.
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    Arash,

    Thank you for sharing this. Your method looks promising, but unfortunately the version of EOS Utility that came with my 1Ds mark III doesn't include the Remote Live View Shooting tab you show in Fig. 2, and when I've tried to download and run several newer versions, the latest being eu281en (update wrapper) win, I always get an Error message (failed to expand the files). Has anyone else seen this? Anyone know why the install is failing? The version of EOS Utility that came with my camera is installed on my computer.

    By the way, my 600 IS just came back from Canon. I sent it in because while it was perfect by itself, i.e. best at 0 MA, with either of two 1.4 extenders it was front focusing with every possible MA adjustment, even at +20. As a result of the "repair," the lens now needs +14 MA by itself and is still uncorrectable (i.e. somewhere beyond +20) with the 1.4x. According to the repair notes, "the IS lens unit, usm focusing assembly and other [sic]" were replaced, and the "center/tilt/front, back focus w/extender" was adjusted, whatever that means. The 1.4x was also adjusted. I may send the lens to the Toyota brake center next.
    Last edited by Cliff Beittel; 03-02-2010 at 08:49 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cliff Beittel View Post
    Arash,

    Thank you for sharing this. Your method looks promising, but unfortunately the version of EOS Utility that came with my 1Ds mark III doesn't include the Remote Live View Shooting tab you show in Fig. 2, and when I've tried to download and run several newer versions, the latest being eu281en (update wrapper) win, I always get an Error message (failed to expand the files). Has anyone else seen this? Anyone know why the install is failing? The version of EOS Utility that came with my camera is installed on my computer.

    By the way, my 600 IS just came back from Canon. I sent it in because while it was perfect by itself, i.e. best at 0 MA, with either of two 1.4 extenders it was front focusing with every possible MA adjustment, even at +20. As a result of the "repair," the lens now needs +14 MA by itself and is still uncorrectable (i.e. somewhere beyond +20) with the 1.4x. According to the repair notes, "the IS lens unit, usm focusing assembly and other [sic]" were replaced, and the "center/tilt/front, back focus w/extender" was adjusted, whatever that means. The 1.4x was also adjusted. I may send the lens to the Toyota brake center next.

    Hi Cliff,
    This sounds more like a conflict in your computer, either there is not enough disk space or a problem with the program that unzips the installer. If it is not a self-extracting package you can try installing winzip or winrar to unzip the files, some antivirus sw may also cause problems.

    As for the camera, did you send your MKIII camera along with lens and TC? problem maybe the camera AF sensor itself. If you have a different body try with that to isolate the issue. Hope you can get it fixed! :)
    BTW, as the name suggests "micro" adjust is for fine tuning AF the achieve max pixel level sharpness as shown in the example above. If the AF is way too off, it is unlikely that MA would help.
    Last edited by arash_hazeghi; 03-02-2010 at 09:47 PM.
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    Arash,

    Pausing Kaspersky Antivirus solved the problem. Odd that the error notice looked liked Windows, didn't mention Kaspersky, but that was it. Thanks again!

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    Quote Originally Posted by arash_hazeghi View Post
    Hi Jim,

    One other issue is that if AF sensor is slightly miss aligned with respect to the beam splitter it will give soft images no matter what you do, you can verify this by using live view AF at different distances to see if it can focus properly.

    Best
    Jeez this sounds like what I have been battling. I sent my rig in to be zeroed and when I got it back did some near and far testing for MA and everything looked gret at a setting of zero. However all shots were OOF. Only through testing in the field and adjusting everyday till I got a value of +9 has everything come into focus. But in servo on moving subjects I'm lucky to see one in 25 real sharp. But I have always been seeing different results for different distances.

    Arash you've done us all a great service with posting this--and a nice thorough job of it. Where did you read up on this or is it your own concoction? I think if I knew more on the working intracacies of AF I'd be better able to diagnose things.

    Paul

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    At first glance, this method looks OK. But, there is a BIG weakness. Suppose you are checking the focus of your 400mm f/5.6 lens. At f/5.6, there is a fair amount of depth of field at 33 feet distance from the target (the recommended distance for a 400mm lens). You could look at a flat target and see that your lens is in sharp focus. But what you cannot tell from a flat target is how much is in focus in front of the target and how much in back of the target. In other words, within the depth of field zone, where is your lens focusing?

    I use the LensAlign system which incorporates a flat focusing target and an angled ruler. The camera focuses on the flat target and the ruler shows you very clearly where your depth of field focus "zone" lies. Having just done this with fellow Canon shooter, we saw his lens was in complete focus on the target. But most of the depth of field "zone" was in front of the target. Remember the rule of thumb, one third of the zone in front and two thirds behind. Using the LensAlign, we were able to calibrate precisely his 400mm lens on his 7D with one third in focus in front of the target and two thirds behind the target. Almost like focusing on an imaginary flying bird.:D

    You would encounter this same issue on all big lenses - 300, 400, 500, 600, and 800. Don't you want to control the exact position of your depth of field? A flat focusing target will not show you this.

    I do not work for LensAlign. I paid for my LensAlign just like everyone else. I like it because it works and I can repeat and reproduce the results accurately every time. It is not cheap. But neither are the wonderful big lenses you own!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Don Saunders View Post
    At first glance, this method looks OK. But, there is a BIG weakness. Suppose you are checking the focus of your 400mm f/5.6 lens. At f/5.6, there is a fair amount of depth of field at 33 feet distance from the target (the recommended distance for a 400mm lens). You could look at a flat target and see that your lens is in sharp focus. But what you cannot tell from a flat target is how much is in focus in front of the target and how much in back of the target. In other words, within the depth of field zone, where is your lens focusing?

    I use the LensAlign system which incorporates a flat focusing target and an angled ruler. The camera focuses on the flat target and the ruler shows you very clearly where your depth of field focus "zone" lies. Having just done this with fellow Canon shooter, we saw his lens was in complete focus on the target. But most of the depth of field "zone" was in front of the target. Remember the rule of thumb, one third of the zone in front and two thirds behind. Using the LensAlign, we were able to calibrate precisely his 400mm lens on his 7D with one third in focus in front of the target and two thirds behind the target. Almost like focusing on an imaginary flying bird.:D

    You would encounter this same issue on all big lenses - 300, 400, 500, 600, and 800. Don't you want to control the exact position of your depth of field? A flat focusing target will not show you this.

    I do not work for LensAlign. I paid for my LensAlign just like everyone else. I like it because it works and I can repeat and reproduce the results accurately every time. It is not cheap. But neither are the wonderful big lenses you own!

    The purpose of MA is to align the sharpest focus plane with the precise location of subject, You can easily tell the location of focus plane within dof by using (>) or buttons (<), just click until you go oof each way and you can tell how many clicks you have in the front or back, more accurate than trying to read the cm scale on a ruler in a photograph. You can also then shift the focus plane within dof to your desired location while trying to maintain an acceptable sharpness if that is what you want to do although I don't see the point as long as the sharpest plane is on the intended subject. If the sharpest plane is too froward or too backward in the dof zone, MA cannot fix this issue and one of the optical elements in the lens is misaligned, although I have never seen a lens like this.

    Also you can use this method with any target not just a flat target, it doesn't really matter what target you use... it does matter for target be parallel to sensor though. The method is not about the target but by how you choose what value to dial in. The scale on a ruler does not correspond to the MA values in the camera menu, so you have to dial in values randomly and find the best by trial and error. Also the 200% magnified live video feed from sensor makes it a lot easier to judge edge sharpness than using camera's LCD, and the remote control operation allows for very fine stepping of the servo, not possible if you try to manually focus using the focus ring on the lens.

    Any ways, of course you should use whatever method you like and feel more comfortable with that works for you.
    Last edited by arash_hazeghi; 03-03-2010 at 02:46 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by paul leverington View Post
    Jeez this sounds like what I have been battling. I sent my rig in to be zeroed and when I got it back did some near and far testing for MA and everything looked gret at a setting of zero. However all shots were OOF. Only through testing in the field and adjusting everyday till I got a value of +9 has everything come into focus. But in servo on moving subjects I'm lucky to see one in 25 real sharp. But I have always been seeing different results for different distances.

    Arash you've done us all a great service with posting this--and a nice thorough job of it. Where did you read up on this or is it your own concoction? I think if I knew more on the working intracacies of AF I'd be better able to diagnose things.

    Paul
    Hi Paul,

    I just came up with this when I was playing around with EOS utility, found that works well! As I mentioned MA will not help with random AF misses or soft images during tracking in AI servo mode, you should always do adjustment and testing for stationary subjects on tripod to diagnose any problems.

    Good luck :)
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    Arash, thank you very much for this thread! When focusing in live mode on my 7D I have observed that the center auto focus point is not focusing on the exact same location as when looking through the view finder. The difference is about half the width of the focus point. It is close, but not spot on. Not sure if this is normal and wondering if others have found the same thing. Ken

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Foss View Post
    Arash, thank you very much for this thread! When focusing in live mode on my 7D I have observed that the center auto focus point is not focusing on the exact same location as when looking through the view finder. The difference is about half the width of the focus point. It is close, but not spot on. Not sure if this is normal and wondering if others have found the same thing. Ken
    Not sure I understand what you're saying, the active sensor is indicated with a red frame in the LV screen, within the red frame sensor will pick any point that has the highest contrast, this is normal.

    Also make sure 7D is not in spot AF mode when performing MA.
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    Thanks Arash, I did not realize that I should not be in spot AF mode. What I was getting at with the active sensor is when the camera is locked down with a tripod and I am looking at the red sensor in the view finder and compare it to the red sensor in the live view screen, they are covering a slightly different location. Ken

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Foss View Post
    Thanks Arash, I did not realize that I should not be in spot AF mode. What I was getting at with the active sensor is when the camera is locked down with a tripod and I am looking at the red sensor in the view finder and compare it to the red sensor in the live view screen, they are covering a slightly different location. Ken
    I see what you mean, how much of a difference do you see? The focusing screen may not be aligned then, which is strange given that 7D is calmied to have 100% finder coverage. I will chek with mine later.
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    Arash, I assumed the difference probably had something to do with the registration of the transmissive lcd screen in the viewfinder. The difference between the focus point in the viewfinder and the focusing point on the LV screen is about 2 inches with my 300mm lens at 75 feet. I am probably nit-picking but I was curious if others see the same thing. This could definitely be problematic if it was any more. Ken

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