Lens AF Micro-adjustment

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Canon 7D, Canon 24-105 ƒ/4L IS lens, 1/160 sec at ƒ/4, ISO 100
Images zoomed in to 100%, with minimal editing and no sharpness applied.

The Canon 24-105 was one of the first lenses I purchased when I upgraded to the Canon 7D last year. I’d heard mixed reviews about the auto-focus with that particular lens, but a friend of mine uses it all the time and would consistently get really sharp images. So when I noticed I wasn’t really getting sharp images (especially when compared to my crazy tack-sharp Canon 70-200 ƒ/4L IS lens) I was beginning to get disappointed.

At first I thought that maybe I was somehow introducing camera shake when I was hand-holding the photos, or I wasn’t nailing the eyes (or wherever I wanted the focus point to be) so most of the time I just thought it was me. But after I was continially getting soft images and also after doing a recent food shoot with my camera on a tripod with the IS turned off I noticed that the images were still not sharp so I  could rule out human-error as a contributing factor. I know this lens has the potential to create sharp images at f/4 (which is where the aperture on my camera is usually set) so I thought it would be a good idea to test out the micro-adjustment feature on the 7D.

I enlisted my friend’s help to go through this process and he suggested we photograph our eyes to do the testing since it’s something we photograph regularly and are used to looking at on the computer. We positioned a mono-light to my left (those are my creepy-looking eyes in the photo above) and set the lights to 1/160 sec at f/4. Then we started by going into the camera’s “Custom Functions” tab and found the “AF Microadjustment” menu item. We moved the micro-adjustment incrementally until we found the most in-focus correction (it ended up being +9 on my camera). The image on the left is what my camera was defaulted to, and the image on the right is the corrected version and sharpest focus I can get with that lens.

I don’t really know the mechanics of what AF micro-adjusting on the camera does … I guess the best explanation is that it’s similar to the “exposure compensation” feature, but for focusing. All I know is that I now have much more in-focus shots because of those 20 minutes of testing.

Now, you might be looking at the above images and think that I’m crazy to even care about the sharpness of the image on the left. It’s really not too bad, but I do my best to get very clean images and work on my images at 100% most of the time and focus is one of the most important technical aspects of my images when I’m deciding which ones to “keep” and edit. Another thing to understand is that changing the micro-adjustment makes it so that what I’m focusing on is the part that will be in-focus. When the focus was off it wasn’t just soft all-over, the focus plane was in the wrong spot (like I would focus on the eye and the nose would be in-focus instead). With my line of work my images have to be as close to technically perfect as possible and having accurate focus is extremely important.

By | 2016-12-18T17:01:19+00:00 June 21st, 2010|40 Comments

About the Author:

My name is Nicole and I'm a photographer, author, & educator living in Portland, Oregon, USA. When I'm not making photos I'm writing books and tutorials for my online store, Learn more about me and my story here.

40 Comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nicole S. Young and Tommy Dickson, dusanmal. dusanmal said: RT @nicolesy: New post at NicolesyBlog.com – "Lens AF Micro-adjustment" … how I fixed the focusing on my lens: http://bit.ly/9HSA9p […]

  2. Tony June 22, 2010 at 7:17 am - Reply

    yep, I did the same thing. I’ll bet you were glad when you figured it out

  3. Daniel Torres June 22, 2010 at 11:07 am - Reply

    You can use lens align from http://www.lensalign.com/ to take the guess work out of the equation when calibrating all your lenses to your camera.

  4. Ronnie June 22, 2010 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Are the images on the blog raw or jpegs right out of camera. Just wondering if they had “some” sharpening done in camera.

  5. Nicole June 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    Ronnie, these images were shot as RAW images with zero sharpening applied in or out of camera.

  6. joanE June 23, 2010 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Where is the canon menu feature for micro adjusting? I also use this lens on my 5D…the original 5D, not the newer one. I’m wondering if there is such a menu option there.
    Thanks Nicole.
    I follow your blog every day.
    And your vimeo.
    Very much appreciate your help

  7. Nicole June 23, 2010 at 9:35 am - Reply

    Hi Joan,

    I’m not familiar enough with that camera to know where it’s located. I do know it’s on the MkII in about the same place as it is on my 7D (in the Custom Functions menu under “Autofocus/Drive”). I would suggest you get your users manual and try and find it there.

  8. joanE June 23, 2010 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Thanks Nicole. I’ll check it out.

  9. […] you read Monday’s blog post you know that I really like sharp images. Well, I recently purchased the Canon 50mm f/1.4 (an […]

  10. […] AF Feinabstimmung an ihrer 7D, weil ihre Fotos am 24-105 nicht so scharf waren, wie sie sollten. Das Ergebnis macht durchaus einen […]

  11. Elsie McDonald Lopez July 13, 2010 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    Wow, I’m so glad that I found this. I just bought the 7D and after my first photo shoot with it, I was terribly disappointed because NONE of my images were completely in focus. I looked it up online and learned that quite a few people are having the same problem. Some were able to fix it after AF micro-adjustments and others were not. I’m going to try it tomorrow and hope it works for me! Thank you for posting this!

    Have you found that you need to adjust for ALL your lenses?

  12. Randy Oyarzabal July 24, 2010 at 3:32 am - Reply

    Did you do any tests with / without flash. I did this on the exact setup of mine and it worked great. Just wondering if you saw a difference or tested it with flash. Thank you!

  13. Nicole July 24, 2010 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    All of these tests were with a studio light (you can see the octabox catchlight in the eye).

  14. Wayne July 24, 2010 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    I got to AF MICROADJUSTMENT
    2) Adjust by lens

    But I can’t change the +/- 0 default setting.
    What did I miss?

    Thanks!

  15. Nicole July 25, 2010 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    @Wayne – on my Canon 7D once I get to that spot I have to click the INFO button (it says it on the screen) … then it takes me to the screen to micro-adjust the focus.

  16. James August 5, 2010 at 5:04 am - Reply

    Am i right in thinking this only adjusts for the lens that you are currently using? as in, if i plugged in my 50mm lens would it also have applied the adjustment to that?… also does it remember each lens or do i have to do that each time?

  17. Nicole August 5, 2010 at 10:44 am - Reply

    @James – on my 7D I can specify whether the adjustment is “by lens” or adjusting “all [lenses] by same amount”. I only adjust “by lens”.

  18. editopan September 4, 2010 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    @nicole

    i love this blog!

    finally my 7D could shoot sharply!

    i almost die for keep seeking more sharper lens and also bought some L lens.

    @wayne,@james

    yes, just press info and scroll it

    i also use 9+

    and only apply to lens i plug it in the camera (for apply for all)

  19. Kirsty September 15, 2010 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    i am also having problems with my 7d but mine seems to be happening because I use BBF (back button focus). Once I switch the camera to BBF the centre point which I use to obtain focus will not flash to say that focus is locked although the camera will beep. THEN I have the camera set to show the red AF squares on the review screen but no squares will show up while I am shooting in this function but it will work if you switch the camera to it’s green square auto mode which also shifts the focus back to the front shutter button. I assume that the lack of these squares in my review then confirms that focus is not being achieved but I don’t know what I am doing wrong.

  20. […] with the focusing on the 24-105 f/4L IS lens that I had to adjust with the settings on my 7D (blog post here). I don’t expect to be hung up over this not being in the menu, but it would be nice to […]

  21. Liana Lehua FITtorrent September 29, 2010 at 10:59 am - Reply

    Awesome! Thank you.

    Do you have any thoughts on how to best use, if at all, micro adjustment on the fly? I’m shooting sports – triathlon, and I’d like to be able to show the agony in the faces of competitors and want to be sure to get eyes. I feel like it’ll be hard to anticipate and manually focus since I’m not sure where an athlete in pain might move, versus knowing where a cyclist will cross my plane.

  22. Nicole September 29, 2010 at 11:40 am - Reply

    @Liana – There’s no way to micro-adjust on the fly (other than manual). You might want to use one of the “Zone AF” modes to see if that will catch their expression, especially if your composition puts their faces in the same spot for most shots.

  23. Ted October 18, 2010 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    Nicole,

    I have purchased your book and rectified my 7Ds sharp focus issues thanks to you. i will not hesitate to purchase anything else you write.
    Thanks for the help.

    Ted

    Canon 7D, 24-70 2.8L, 70-200 2.8L, 50mm 1.8

  24. Mathew Crow December 10, 2010 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Hi Nicole, what was your camera to subject distance and what focal length did you use? I’m planning to try this with my 7D as well.

    Also, I came to your site from listening to the TWIP podcast. You recently mentioned that you’re using this lens less because of the focus. Has it continued to be a problem for you despite the microadjust? I’m thinking of buying this lens myself with a full-frame body in the future and wondering if its still a good choice. Thanks!
    Matt

  25. Nicole December 10, 2010 at 11:18 pm - Reply

    @Matthew – My camera was probably about 5-ish feet away, not exactly sure. I think the lens is good, I just have some that are much sharper (plus I’m super picky about focus). I really should do some more testing with it. Also, it could just be that it’s not crazy sharp at f/4 (which is usually where I shoot). It might be great at 5.6 or 8, but I’d have to try it out to be sure.

  26. Andrew December 22, 2010 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    I just did this with my 7D as well as I was getting soft images with many of my lenses. I ended up having to go around +15 on most, only one lens didn’t need any correction. I was about to send my 7D back or buy a 5D Mark II, which I really cannot afford at the moment. I’m glad I tried this first!

  27. Ed December 28, 2010 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Extremely helpful and useful information! Glad I found your site. Do you use any L series lenses with your 7d and if so how do you deal with the crop magnification factor? Is it a hassel? Thanks

  28. RJ February 6, 2011 at 1:47 am - Reply

    Thanks Nicole. I was wondering how this would effect your purchase decision for the 60D since it incredibly lacks this feature. I know several people who want the 60D with the 70-200 f4 L and now we all wonder the wisdom in that if we couldn’t fix image quality. Do you have any thoughts to help us? Thanks.

  29. Emil February 7, 2011 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    Hi Nicole, many thanks for posting this, i just tested and i am really happy with the results. it is sharp than the other images i shot. i have my 7D recently with 24-105L. Thanks & God Bls

  30. Eddie May 21, 2011 at 10:57 pm - Reply

    Hi, great write-up. I was wondering if the micro adjustment affects focus for different distances. I have heard that after micro adjusting, some people got their shots from 5ft. really sharp but it caused their shots taken from further away to back or front focus. Thank you.

  31. […] Read this Libra: Lens AF Micro-adjustment | Nicolesy […]

  32. Canon 55-250mm October 5, 2011 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Your lens test is so good, Canon 7D is perfect DSLr Cameras and if you want telephoto lens I suggest Canon 55-250mm that is the good one.

  33. Paul Wesson January 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    I had the same problem with 7D and my 50 f/1.4, it use to be sharp as a tack on my Rebel XSi. I ended up setting the micro adjustment to +10. The focus was “front focusing”.

    Over Christmas I bought the Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 and have the same problem. It looks pretty good at everything except 2.8 @ 70mm. Just can’t seem to get it right. I know most of the reviews say it is softer at 70mm compared to the canon but at 700.00 cheaper it was all I could afford. I have 3 days left before I have to decide to take it back or not.

    • Nicole January 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      Paul, you may want to look at the optimal f/stop for focus on that lens. Most lenses are going to be a bit soft at their widest aperture, so it may be a normal issue with that specific lens. DPReview.com usually has that type of info available (http://www.dpreview.com/).

  34. Mark Fradley August 1, 2012 at 11:22 am - Reply

    Great stuff……For those that want to try taking the battery out and the small round flat type memory battery as well for 10 minutes..

    This will return your camera back to the factory firmware and sometimes solve you AF/focusing problems

  35. Anita September 18, 2012 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    I have had a NIkon D700 for a few months. I primarily use the Nikon 24-70mm lens on it. I have noticed in the last couple of months that my images seem really soft. I have been wondering if it might be a combination of the iso, shutter speed and f-stop used. Maybe even the zoom on the lens. I know I use 70mm a good bit. Can you tell me if I am right in my thinking? I also shoot raw + jpeg. Not sure if that has anything to do with it. Help please!

    • Nicole September 23, 2012 at 11:34 pm - Reply

      It could be a lot of different things. The best way to know is to do a test … put the camera on a tripod and test the focus, that way you know it wasn’t camera-shake or any problem with hand-holding, etc.

  36. Erik Hedin August 19, 2013 at 2:03 am - Reply

    Thank you so much!
    I thought there was something about the lens or the camera. I love Sharp and crisp images.

    // Erik

  37. francisco December 5, 2014 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    Thanks Nicole ;) I just tried on my 6d with 24-105 L and it works. I’ve been messing around to sort this issue and now thanks to you it’s sorted. Take care :)

  38. rem October 13, 2016 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    hi,
    i have same problem with focusing, using 70D with 24-105mm…is there any of u here have try set the adjustment for that body?

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