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The Datacolor SpyderLensCal. Photo provided by Datacolor. SpyderLensCal helps fix finicky focus
(Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - 14:56 EDT)

Lawrenceville, NJ-based DataColor has announced a new tool to help with digital SLR autofocus calibration, the Datacolor SpyderLensCal.

Designed for use with camera bodies that include an autofocus microadjustment feature, such as can be found on prosumer and professional DSLRs from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, and Pentax, the SpyderLensCal is available for pre-order immediately, and will be officially launched at the Photokina tradeshow later this month.

The calibration process is relatively straightforward -- the camera is focused on a target on the SpyderLensCal, and a photo captured. An adjacent angled ruler makes it easy to see where the actual focus point lies, and whether it correctly matches the focus target plane, or indicates front- or backfocusing. An adjustment can then be made using the camera body's adjustment feature, and the process repeated to confirm an improvement in autofocus performance. The design of the DataColor SpyderLensCal is reminiscent of a competing product -- Michael Tapes' LensAlign series -- but with some important differences.

One big difference is in the tools provided to confirm correct alignment. When using an AF calibration tool, it's important to get the sensor and focus target planes parallel, and the competing LensAlign products all include features to assist in this process. For the LensAlign LITE, there's a low-tech solution in the form of a mirror attached to the AF target, making it easy to see if alignment is correct. The LensAlign Pro offers both the mirror method, and a sighting panel, which shows red dots through holes drilled in the focus target when alignment is correct. DataColor's SpyderLensCal lacks either option, although users could likely attach a small mirror to the focus target themselves, to emulate the LensAlign Lite method.

The SpyderLensCal also offers an option absent from the LensAlign products -- a built-in spirit level that helps users confirm whether the focus target itself is correctly, vertically positioned. Of course, this isn't an issue when the devices are placed on a level surface, but both the SpyderLensCal and LensAlign products are tripod-mountable, useful when calibrating telephoto lenses that require a fair distance between camera and target.

Another difference of significance is ruler length -- particularly important when calibrating telephoto and wide angle lenses (or any lens offering significant depth of field). The SpyderLensCal's ruler is a little under eight inches in length, and quite steeply angled. By contrast, the standard ruler for the LensAlign Lite or Pro is 9.5 inches in length, and has a shallower angle that would further increase the depth of field that could be accommodated. In addition, a 47-inch long ruler kit is available for the LensAlign products (and included in the Pro Plus kit), whereas there's not currently any such option for the SpyderLensCal.

Another notable difference between the two products is that the SpyderLensCal is designed to fold flat for both retail and storage -- useful, for a product that's likely to be used only very occasionally, when AF calibration appears to have strayed, or a new lens purchase has been made. When folded, the SpyderLensCal has approximate dimensions of 8.5 inches by five inches (22 x 13 centimeters).

One last difference that may prove important for amateur photographers on a tight budget is pricing. Where the SpyderLensCal is affordably priced at around US$60 (list), the LensAlign series ranges anywhere from around $80 to $250, depending on the model, chosen. (The LensAlign Lite with 9.5 inch ruler and mirror alignment system is the base model, with the LensAlign Pro a significant step upwards at $180 with a 9.5-inch ruler and alignment sighting panel. The Pro Plus kit adds the 47-inch ruler to the standard Pro kit, and is priced at $250. Finally, the 47-inch ruler is available separately for around $100.)

More information on the Datacolor SpyderLensCal can be found on the Datacolor website.

The Datacolor SpyderLensCal. Photo provided by Datacolor. Click for a bigger picture!

The Datacolor SpyderLensCal.
Photo provided by Datacolor.

Original Source Press Release:

Datacolor® SpyderLensCal™ Offers Accurate and Repeatable Calibration of DSLR Camera and Lens Combinations

New Tool Enables Photographers to Measure and Improve Autofocus Performance

Lawrenceville, NJ and Photokina (Hall 4.1, Booth E010/F019) – September 1, 2010 – Datacolor®, a global leader in color management solutions, today announced SpyderLensCal™, a reliable method of measuring the focus performance on camera and lens combinations that delivers razor-sharp focusing using modern DSLR autofocus micro-adjustment.

Photographers have enjoyed the benefit of autofocus for 25 years yet many still struggle with its accuracy and repeatability. Until now, lens calibration inaccuracies were corrected by shipping the camera and lenses to the manufacturers for servicing. This can be both costly and time-consuming, with each new lens requiring calibration. By adding the SpyderLensCal to their gear bag, photographers can easily calibrate interchangeable lenses on their own and eliminate the need for service.

Many newer models of popular DSLR cameras have a lens micro calibration feature which requires a reference test system to adjust the autofocus. SpyderLensCal was designed to aid in correcting the autofocus by enabling photographers to store them in custom camera settings on recent DLSR bodies. With the capability to store lens autofocus corrections on recent DSLR cameras, users can easily change from lens to lens without needing to recalibrate.

“Autofocus inaccuracy can exist on even the most high-end lenses, and can negate an entire day’s worth of shooting or other assignments if left unaddressed,” said Christoph Gamper, Vice President, Consumer Business Unit. “Professional photographers today are using a variety of lenses, differing in focus depending on the combination being used with the camera body. The SpyderLensCal gives photographers a tool that allows them to correct discrepancies on their own while improving the quality of their work by increasing the number of usable shots.”

SpyderLensCal’s lightweight and compact design comes with a built-in level and is tri-pod mountable for optimum consistency. Molded in durable, rigid resin, SpyderLensCal is the ultimate hard-wearing and long-lasting accessory, able to handle even the most extreme conditions.

Availability and Pricing
SpyderLensCal is available at a suggested list price of $59.00 from www.datacolor.com/spyder or at participating resellers. Pre-orders for the SypderLensCal begin today with its official worldwide launch to take place at Photokina in Cologne, Germany, from September 21-26, 2010. Datacolor will be demonstrating the SpyderLensCal at Photokina, allowing attendees to calibrate one camera body and lens. An introduction video to SpyderLensCal is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-JrUQO_Z5U.

About Datacolor
Datacolor is a global leader in color management solutions and color communication technology. The world's leading brands, manufacturers, creative professionals and consumers have been choosing Datacolor's innovative technology and solutions to consistently achieve the right color for nearly 40 years. A Swiss held company, Datacolor's global presence encompasses a sales, service and support network serving customers in more than 65 countries throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia, along with 13 worldwide operation and production facilities. Industries served include apparel and textile, paint and coatings, automotive, plastics, photography, home theater and others. For more information about Datacolor and its products or services, visit www.datacolor.com.


The Datacolor SpyderLensCal with Canon DSLR and lenses for scale. Photo provided by Datacolor. Click for a bigger picture!

The Datacolor SpyderLensCal with Canon DSLR and lenses for scale.
Photo provided by Datacolor.

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