blurry phone camera

Camera Focus Chart

Whether you refer to it as a Siemens star, spoke target, or focus chart, it serves a similar purpose. A focus chart assists you in obtaining the best focus for your camera, especially when experiencing a shallow field depth.

Have you ever noticed mild blurriness in a video or picture you took? A sharp focus eliminates the blurry display and channels a person's interest in the image's subject.

A focus chart allows you to conduct lens calibration and camera autofocus testing. Continue reading to learn more about a camera focus chart.

Get Pricing for Dibond calibration targets here! 

Definition of a Focus Chart

Simply put, a focus chart refers to a target for the camera to track. A focus calibration chart offers you multiple areas to zoom into and achieve a precise focus, a technique improved by Zhang.

A focus chart aids when testing your camera's autofocus or when calibrating your lenses. The focus test chart also helps in finding out whether your camera or lens has a chromatic distortion.

Focus test charts are more common in conditioned studio environments. A focus test chart is essential when picturing inanimate objects and during a dim-light shoot and pair well with AprilTags.

There are multiple ways in which you can obtain the sharpest focus your camera can achieve. Like the latest Canon cameras, some cameras enable the adjustment of camera focus with just the camera itself. But still, you may opt for the typical focus correction method using a lens test chart.

A lens test chart is vital when you want a shallow focus in which your subject is evident, with the background being blurry. And there are various methods in which you can acquire a focus chart for your next focus fine-tuning or lens calibration task.

What Causes a Blurry Image?

out-of-focus image


The main reason for blurry shots is your lens being out of sharp focus. And this happens when you fail to calibrate your lenses.

Most people assume that upon buying a lens, its Auto Focus allows the capturing of sharp shots all the time. However, camera sharpness is not always a guarantee resulting in a fuzzy image.

Adjusting Autofocus on Your Camera Without a Back Focus Chart

When in a bind and lacking a back focus test chart, it is possible to auto-focus a lens or camera body without requiring additional tools. You will have to recalibrate your camera to sustain a sharp focus.

To autofocus your camera with ease, you will need:

Below are the steps for camera lens autofocus adjustment.

Organize the Target Area

Draw a thin line on your poster card to create a focus calibration test chart. Place your DIY focus calibration test chart on the table. Ensure the focus test chart is stationary as any movement is unacceptable as you auto-focus the camera.

Ruler Placement Next to Your Line

Upon focusing the camera on the line, position your rulers on either side of it. While setting up your rulers, proceed carefully to avoid repositioning anything on the table.

Ensure you place your rulers at a similar distance on the line. For instance, you can set the ruler touching the line at the 15cm point.

Picture the Composition

Photograph your rulers and lines until you are satisfied with the setup. Often, several numbers on your rulers will be more into focus than the line. This signifies that the camera's auto-focus is away from its center. Therefore, you need to adjust it properly.

Altering Settings in the Camera Menu

To correct the camera's focus:

Head to its menu.

Click on "AF" followed by "AF Micro Adjustment."

Scroll down and select "Adjust by Lens."

At this point, a graph should be visible. Using the graph, pull back your camera focus or zoom it out basing on what your first picture looks like.

Capture a Second Image and Adjust Your Camera Focus Accordingly

After adjusting your camera lens focus, take a picture of the focus test chart and rulers. Hopefully, your camera lens should now be in focus. If the camera's focusing is still off, continue adjusting your menu settings and taking photos until you achieve the desired camera lens sharpness.

Although it is easy to make a DIY focus test chart using a pen, rulers, and a poster card, getting a lens calibration focus chart is essential when undertaking a professional shoot requiring high-resolution images.

How Do You Use a Focus Chart?

Using focus charts, you can follow similar steps like the camera lens calibration method above using a straight line. Begin by positioning your focus test chart before the camera. Ensure the focus test chart fills up your whole camera frame.

You can verify whether your camera lens has a consistent level of sharpness across its frame or whether it gets blurry in some sections. You can then rack the focus on the camera to achieve your desired image resolution. Another way of fine-tuning your lens focus issues is by adjusting to the camera focus settings when your lens focus is further away or too close.

Get a Camera Focus Chart Application

There are various camera focus chart applications like that by Distant Blue, excellent for back focus. Moreover, some of these apps are free, allowing your phone usage as the focus test chart when on a budget. With Distant Blue's focus chart app, you get two focus charts and can alternate between the charts as you please.

Print A Personal DSLR Focus Chart

A printed lens calibration chart is handy when your phone dies while still taking shots. You can make your lens focus chart with Adobe Illustrator, PhotoModeler, or other software.

Upon signing, you can enjoy a free Adobe Creative Cloud trial. Therefore, you can install it on a computer, create your focus calibration chart, and unsubscribe once done without spending more money. As a result, you always have a target focus chart ready anytime you need to tweak how sharp you want your images.

What Makes an Excellent Lens Testing Chart?

Numerous factors make a focus chart impressive or not, but the most crucial determinants include:

  • Ensuring its autofocus locks on to precisely where you want it positioned
  • Ability to permit a clear interpretation of relative focus sharpness across the image

The absence of the first condition nullifies the meaning of the focus test. On the other hand, the unavailability of the second one clouds the purpose of the lens testing.

Besides the two features above, a focus chart with proper instructions is essential too. This is because you can easily conclude wrongly if you improperly use your focus chart.

Printing a Lens Test Chart

The trick to proper test chart printing is achieving a result where your gray sections are faint. The idea is to have these gray areas distinct to allow you to determine your results but not so conspicuous to an extent where the camera's autofocus system can lock onto them.

Ensure you print the test chart the way it is without selecting "fit to paper." This way, your printer produces the focus chart with as much crispness as it can. Resizing may affect the fuzziness, making it challenging to decipher your results.

Select the "center image on page" command if your print dialog box provides you with it. Depending on your printer, it may be necessary to pick borderless printing to fit the entire image onto your page. Similarly, you can let a small position get cropped off. Both situations are better than changing the size to fit.

Print on high-resolution photo paper with a matte finish, for example, Canon's MP-101 if you can.

Once printed, test to find out whether your low-contrast gray is perfect. Do this by filling the gray section on your viewfinder and confirm if your camera's autofocus can lock on to it. If yes, you should opt for a lower percentage of gray.

The version you print is promising if your autofocus system can't capture the gray, though this test is only the start. Make sure you confirm the same in actual conditions upon positioning your focus chart for accurate imaging.

How Do I Calibrate My Camera Focus?

Assuming your camera and lenses have accurate focus during autofocusing is unwise. It would help if you calibrated your camera lenses for precise focus and sharp images. If you never examine your lenses, you may have to conduct focus calibration.

Calibrating camera lenses is pretty straightforward whether you do this often or are calibrating your lenses for the first time.

Obtain a Calibrator

During camera lens focus calibration, it isn't a must to get lots of equipment. A focus pyramid and a few minutes are all that is necessary to correct your lenses. You can even use a paper and ruler though a focus pyramid still does excellent work.

Position Your Calibrator and Camera On Stable Ground

When calibrating your lenses, you need to position your camera on a sturdy tripod. You can also position the pyramid and camera on a table or any other stable surface.

Achieving Focus with Viewfinder

Ensure that Live View is off, then focus with only the viewfinder. Live View employs its own autofocus system. So, any adjustments you make on your camera won't get noticed if you use Live View. Ensure it doesn't turn on throughout the calibration process.

Focus on Your Centerline as You Adjust

Focus on your pyramid's central line as you look through the viewfinder. Shoot with your lens positioned on the widest aperture. Press play, then zoom in to determine where your camera's focus hits.

It may be slightly challenging at first. But with the numbers over and under the central line, you can identify where your lens gets focused and in which areas the lines are sharpest.

Upon determining whether your camera's front focus or back focus needs adjusting, you can check your camera settings and alter them accordingly. Keep capturing test shots until your center line gets into perfect focus.

Nikon Menu Settings

Nikon menu settings are under the setup menu or wrench. They have the AF fine-tune label with a diagram indicating to which direction you move your focus point. Ensure the fine-tune is on and only adjust the saved value. Your camera recalls the settings each time you use that particular lens. So, you only need to alter this once.

Canon Menu Settings

Canon cameras are also quite similar to Nikon when it comes to menu settings. Alter your lens requirements within Function followed by Auto Focus settings. The rest of the steps are similar to dealing with a Nikon camera body.

If you have multiple cameras, you should remember that the changes occur on your camera and not your lens. So, you need to calibrate all your lenses on all the cameras.

Camera Focus Types

Camera focus is more than just achieving image clarity. So what types of camera focus exist?

Deep Focus

Deep focus involves photos and scenes in which you want an observer to see all the aspects simultaneously. For example, when you want an extensive display of hills far in the background to be visible at the same time as ducks in the foreground, then your depth of field should be deep.

To achieve a deep focus, you should familiarize yourself with the ideal camera lenses for the task and understand the functionality of the aperture.

Shallow Focus

Sometimes, you may want to distinguish subjects within frames, with the depth of the field being shallow. Shallow focus is a great way to direct attention to something without having an extreme close-up or a close-up photo at all.

When looking at focus images, your eyes tend to follow and stick with what is on focus naturally. Shallow focus is vital to attract audiences to precisely what you want them to notice.

Soft Focus

While the depth of field being deep results in attracting attention to everything, a soft focus draws it away from everything. The whole image exudes a calm atmosphere with a mild glow or blur around subjects.

Soft focus images need special lenses or filters to achieve the effect. Soft focus provides a dreamy and almost imaginary quality to scenes.

Rack Focus

You can achieve rack focus by taking shallow focus a step further. A rack focus image is ideal when shifting your focal plane from the background to the foreground or otherwise.

By adjusting your lens's focal length, you can attract attention to particular subjects even more. Changing the focus subject from one to the next can allow you to skip having to cut between two scenes. While this offers the practical advantage of saving time while shooting, it ensures audiences stay entertained.

Maintaining action within a single scene using a rack focus is one of the best tolls during visual storytelling. Rack focus adds dynamism to a shot and offers your audience a way to relate to the unfolding action.

Split Diopter

Split diopter lenses are unique equipment that can improve the flexibility of your outcomes. These lenses form two different shallow focal planes within the same scene. As a result, they allow for something in your scene's background to have a shallow focus while another subject in the foreground has a similar focus.

But why not just use rack focus or deep focus between your subjects?

Deep focus leaves a lot to chance as all you have to do is hope that your audience concentrates on the most vital aspects you are trying to communicate. On the other hand, rack focus is incapable of bringing the two subjects to focus simultaneously.

So when creating a shallow focus in two different sections in one scene, the split diopter lens is ideal.

However, the issue with split diopter lenses is the production of difficult shots. Our eyes are unable to develop their split focus pictures as this is unnatural. Therefore, using this effect in films may draw the viewer's attention away from the action.

Tilt Shift

The tilt-shift focus may be the most radical camera focus type in films. Typically, you align your camera's sensor directly with your camera lens. A tilt-shift lens allows you to vertically tilt or horizontally shift them based on the relation with your sensor.

Tilt-shift lenses are dynamic in that they can capture a natural-looking scene like a wide-angle view of the landscape or make a whole city appear as a toy.

Tilt-shift images have an unnatural appearance, just like the split diopter.

Wrapping Up

Whether you make your own focus calibration test chart or buy one, proper adjustment of your lenses is vital in ensuring resolution and accuracy.

Focus charts are essential equipment that aids cinematographers in achieving the image resolution as their applications dictate. And with affordable focus charts available, you can pick a suitable test chart to help curb your focus issues in the next shoot.


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