But a Lesson Learned in Time

Discussion in 'Nature' started by Phocal, Apr 17, 2017.

  1. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I went out to my favorite gator park on Saturday and saw some great Yellow Crowned Night Heron action as well as some gators. When I got home and started going thru my photos I realized there was something off but couldn't put my finger on it. Nothing really had that sharpness and pop that I have come to expect from the Little Tuna. Needless to say I was really disappointed in the photos.

    I watched this Yellow-Crowned Night Heron for close to 2 1/2 hours and got to watch him catch a number of crawfish, some kind of grub, and a small turtle.

    This is probably the best shot from the day, but the high ISO really kills the detail in the feathers. ISO 800 is really my limit on wildlife unless I can get much closer, it just kills the fine feather detail.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 + EC-20 - 300mm, ISO 800, 1/1000 @ f5.6, Handheld
    34063557796_c459a7fe8f_h.
    Yellow Crowned Night Heron 03
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    This was a little greater distance then I really like. I had just switched out the EC-20 for the EC-14 because he had gotten really close, only to have him move farther away and catch a crawfish. The slow shutter speed here didn't help, I failed to notice it dropped that low.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 + EC-14 - 212mm, ISO 200, 1/400 @ f4.0, Handheld
    33292505773_058e295533_h.
    Yellow Crowned Night Heron 02
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Shooting this next action I thought he just missed his prey and got a bunch of weeds. While waiting for the next action I looked at the photos and was shocked to see it was a small turtle. This was the first time I have seen a bird catch a turtle, he dropped it right away and didn't even try to eat it. Unfortunately it looks like he probably killed the turtle in the process of his catch and release. It also appears that he moved just forward of my focus point during the action, which resulted in his head and the turtle not being nice and sharp.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 + EC-14 - 212mm, ISO 200, 1/1250 @ f4.0, Handheld
    34104010775_dd92b54e13_h.
    Yellow Crowned Night Heron 01
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I also had a large male gator swim by while I was on a foot bridge, would have loved a lower perspective for this shot. He is about 9 feet long and is missing his right eye as you can see in this shot (I see him all the time in this area). While only 9 feet long, he is a very stout gator and one of the dominate males in the area. He is just a huge massive gator.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 - 150mm, ISO 200, 1/640 @ f2.8, Handheld
    33719052490_208509c18e_h.
    American Alligator 01
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    Shortly after snapping that photo he stopped and looked like he was getting ready to bellow in answer to another male gator (mating season is just starting). I quickly set up the tripod and got ready for some video. He was perfectly sideways to me in nice clear water and I thought I was finally going to get the video I was after. But.................the damn gator turned into the weeds to do his bellow, not sure why but here is the video of him bellowing (I got it started a few seconds late as I was still getting the tripod setup). Love watching the bubbles from their vibration.

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0, tripod


    This final shot I tried and tried to get an angle where that flower was not in the way. Other then the flower I really like the ethereal feeling to the photo. I will be trying to reproduce this style of shot on my next trip to the gators, which may be as long as month from now (have my next 3 weekends booked).

    EM1 w/ ZD 150mm f2.0 - 150mm, ISO 200, 1/3200 @ f2.0, Handheld
    33292503173_584c58aa74_h.
    American Alligator 02
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    I am guess that most people are wondering what lesson it was that I learned, which is also why none of my photos really had that pop I am use to. In one of my Facebook groups someone asked about where in the menu is the focus adjustment. I can never remember what letter it is, so I picked up my EM1 and looked. To my surprise the focus adjustment was turned off on my camera. No idea how it happened, but it was no longer set to make any adjustments. I can promise it is going to be something I look at right after pulling my camera from the bag for the first time that day. I am still honestly perplexed on how it could have gotten turned off.........................

    This does reinforce to me how important this is when dealing with 4/3 lenses (or m4/3 lenses if you are using CAF). While looking at the photos I suspected the micro focus could have been off, as in I needed to recalibrate it and not actually turned off. I am pretty rough on my gear and it got banged around on the rocks when I was shooting the Great Blue Herons 2 weeks ago, which is the last time I had used the camera. I figured maybe I had messed something up and was going to check the alignment on Wednesday, have a special photography trip planned for Saturday (can't wait to share what I get from this coming weekend, some of it will be way outside my typical shooting). It also proved to me that I really do know my gear and can tell when something is not right while looking at photos taken. I only have a small adjustment dialed in with no TC, but even that first gator shot I could tell it was not the typical magic I am use to from the lens. Then the TC shots where I have progressively more dialed in, it was really showing (to me that is). Just glad to realize it was not me having an off day and thankful I checked the settings by random chance as this coming weekend is going to be great..........or so I hope.

    Extra points to anyone who knows the song reference without looking it up :biggrin:
     
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  2. AussiePhil

    AussiePhil Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 1, 2014
    Canberra, ACT, Aust
    Phil
    Great write up that's going to cost me money......
    Time to order a lens align I guess to really check my lenses
     
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  3. Web-Betty

    Web-Betty Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    632
    Jun 16, 2013
    Denver
    Melissa
    "While looking at the photos I suspected the micro focus could have been off." Can you elaborate on this feature?

    Great shots BTW, regardless of what you think is off, lol. :)
     
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  4. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Great shots though...
    Could it be you changed MySets or reloaded a saved config?

    Last month I went to the beach with my 12-40 and 40-150...
    This weekend I took them and a 135/2.8 + focal reducer to a kids' performance, indoors... With the 135 at 95/2.0 I was getting ISOs around 250-400 at 1/160, but when I switched to the 40-150/2.8 it was mostly at 1200-1600. I double checked the shutter speed and aperture, and continued shooting.
    Afterwards, when I was putting the cap back on, I noticed the front of the lens was really dark... CPL still mounted! :doh:
     
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  5. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks. I have always been really anal OCD and neurotic about having my lenses calibrated. That obsession was really driven home this weekend. It also helped that I shoot 95% of my photos thru that one lens and know exactly what kind of images it should produce. I would bet that just about anyone could go thru my images from Saturday and be happy with a majority of them, but I immediately knew something was off because of my extreme familiarity with the lens and camera. Needless to say it was an eye opener.

    I highly recommend the Lens Align system, it is fast, accurate and easy to use.
     
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  6. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    PDAF is not 100% accurate because of the way it works and can/does require calibration for each lens you attach to a camera that uses it, this also includes separate calibration for any combination of TC's you use with that lens. PDAF and CDAF also operate in very different ways, so much so that lenses have to be designed differently. When I say designed differently I am talking about the kinds of motors that are used in the lens and they way they operate. Lenses designed for PDAF systems are horrendous when it comes to CDAF, that's why the older 4/3 lenses work so slowly and terrible on any camera other then the EM1.

    I almost exclusively use the older 4/3 lenses on my EM1 and when you attach them to the EM1 the camera will only use PDAF. Unlike if you put a m4/3 lens on the EM1, it will use CDAF when you use SAF and PDAF when you use CAF. So, all my lenses need calibrated because they only use PDAF. If you use CAF on an EM1 (regardless of lens) you should check the focus accuracy with PDAF because there is a very good chance that it needs an adjustment.

    Keep in mind this is not a fault with the EM1, it is an inherent problem with PDAF. Any camera that uses PDAF (all the DSLR's out there) needs to have this checked. Problem is most of your entry level DSLR's don't have the option to make adjustments. Years ago you had to send your camera and lens to the manufacturer to perform this alignment, so nice that it is now able to be done by the owners. Nikon introduced a way to do this in camera with the D5/500, which is a first.

    I use a special target and software to perform this alignment. You can do it without this but it is highly inaccurate and much harder to do. I also feel that spending a few hundreds dollars on the system is just a drop in the bucket compared to all the money I spend on lenses or the money spent going places to take photos. I spend way more in a month just on gas driving places to take photos then the system cost me.

    If you have any further questions don't hesitate to ask. Here is a link to the system if you are interested - LensAlign
     
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  7. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I am not sure. Today when I get some time I am going to check that, never thought about it. I turned it on shortly after getting the camera and doing my lenses and have never turned it off. So really am perplexed. I am going to check all MySets to see if any have it turned off and then check if that is something you can use a Myset to actually turn on/off. Honestly that could be really useful if I ever come across a lens that needs a different setting for close and far subjects.
     
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  8. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    :rofl: I only laugh because I have done the same thing before.....it's why I have gotten in the habit of removing it when I am done using it.
     
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  9. AussiePhil

    AussiePhil Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 1, 2014
    Canberra, ACT, Aust
    Phil
    Thanks mate,
    its $135AU for the mk2 kit which in the big scheme of money spent on lenses is chicken feed.
    I've spent the last few nights working my way through the first 2 days of tennis shots from January, about 7000 odd images to cull down and whilst i'm doubtful that i'm seeing micro focus issues with the 40-150Pro there is just enough doubt on some of the images that i think it's worth the money to check, besides i do have the 4/3 50-200 that whilst largely relegated could be worth at least calibrating on both em1.1 and em1.2.
    Cheers
     
  10. ijm5012

    ijm5012 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 2, 2013
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Ian
    @Phocal@Phocal, I've ordered a 150/2 & EC-20, and I already have an EC-14. Your posts here have proven the importance of calibrating the lens by itself as well as with each of the converters. My question is, is the LensAlign system really necessary?

    With a telephoto lens + the converters, one should really be using the large ruler, which when added to the base kit, brings the cost over $200. I'd really hate to buy this, only to really only use it once for one lens & 2 teleconverters. Instead, I was planning on taking the lens to an area with a distant brick wall, and shooting in 5-position increments for the focus adjust. Then, I'd load those images on to my computer, look at them to determine which two increments are the best, before going and shooting at each focus adjust point between those two initial points. I'd go and load those images on to the computer to determine which focus adjust point is ideal. I'd then repeat this with the EC-14 & EC-20.

    In my head, this sounds fine and a logical way to go about calibrating the lens as well as each of the TC's, but I'd be curious to get your input on it since you've gone through the calibration process before with a number of lenses.
     
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  11. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    Could you also just use a meter / yard stick with well defined increments and put it on a 45 degree ramp (i.e. couple pieces of wood screwed together)? That way you know exactly the measurement tick that you intended to focus on, and you see very precisely which direction you are off, and by how much?
     
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  12. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    Ok, first...................Price of the system

    $200 is a stupid little amount of money to spend when you compare the amount of money spent on gear. It is even more stupid little when start to factor in the amount of money you spend in just going to places to take photographs. Now, my vehicle (a 2009 4 door Jeep) is not the most fuel efficient..........but I easily spend $200 just in gas each month driving various places to photograph wildlife. So, buying the LensAlign system is 1/12 (probably closer to 1/6 over the course of the year) of my yearly amount of money spent on gas just to go take photographs. That doesn't even take into account the money spent on gear. Also, this is not a one and done thing and should be checked yearly and definitely before any major photographic adventures. Gears wear and things change within a lens, so it does need repeated on occasion. It's also something that needs to be at least checked on any m4/3 lenses that you would use in CAF. I don't remember who or what thread but they showed a focus error with a shorter focal length m4/3 lens they just happen to play around with while doing the calibration on their 4/3 lenses. So, if you use CAF on an EM1 regardless of lens it is something that really should at least me looked at.

    I was doing detailed analysis of my in focus shots while shooting action and I have consistently gotten better % of keepers then I see most people reporting with an EM1. Which has always surprised given I am using the slower focusing 4/3 lenses over everyone else I see reporting this kind of data who is using m4/3 lenses. When I was doing this detailed look it was mostly comparing my results with the 50-200 SWD to others using the 40-150 Pro. Then I get people telling me that I can't be right because they are only getting 50-60% using a much faster focusing lens then my old SWD, but I was and continue to do so. I honestly believe it is because no one is doing a micro focus adjustment on the Pro lenses because they believe that it is not needed. I put some of the blame on Olympus for not really talking about it and how they claim their hybrid focusing is so perfect. But the EM1 (I also suspect the mk2 is the same) uses only PDAF when in CAF and PDAF requires calibration or at least needs to be checked. This was never more obvious to me then this last weekend. I stopped awhile ago doing this analysis because it is time consuming and I am confident in the EM1 to perform up to what I need.

    Second.......................why use the LensAlign system

    Sure you can do this manually without the system. I honestly believe that doing it that way is not as accurate or as easy as using the FocusTune system or something like it. PDAF will never focus at the exact same distance. Let me add that a brick wall is really not the best target because you can't tell if you are front or back focus or by how much, you really need a slanted ruler of some sort. Ok..................if you have a target at lets say 10 feet. You may focus on it and the camera actually focuses at 10' 1" and the next time at 9'11" and the next time at 10' 1/2" and the next time at 10' 1". It will never ever ever focus at the exact same point in space. I have looked at and looked at the photos from doing my alignments and I honestly would have a really really really hard time getting it perfect doing it manually. What the software does is takes all those minor deviations for each setting and plots the average focus distance for each one. Sure you could do it manually and you may get the perfect setting or you may not. It would also take way more time to figure it out. The system is also designed to get you as perfectly parallel to the target as possible, something that would be almost impossible any other way.........being parallel is required to get an exact determination of what setting you need.

    Personally I think getting it perfect without using the LensAlign is going to be either hit or miss, lucky, or take much longer. I can do my 150/2 in 20 minutes, so about an hour with both TC's and that is from start to finish (including setup of target). The result is I have absolute complete confidence in the focusing of my gear. I know that my lens will focus as perfectly as possible each and every time. When you are laying on the ground at the edge of the swamp and photographing a baby gator with mama someplace close and you are so close that you have if lucky 0.2 inches of DoF.....................the last thing I want to be thinking about is if my camera is focusing where it should. In this shot below I have 0.2 inches DoF and only had a few minutes to get the shot................I have complete confidence that my lens will focus where it should, because any miss focus and this shot will not work.

    29670836684_e7f999b155_h.
    Curiosity
    by RRcoleJR Photography, on Flickr

    How you do it is up to you, but I feel like my results speak to the effectiveness of the LensAlign system. Seriously, $200 is shit compared to the $1,000's and $1,000's of dollars we spend on gear or the even greater cost of going places to take photographs. In the two years I have had the LensAlign system it has accounted for less then 1% of my total photography expenditures (which includes gas and other such expenditures associated with getting). That small amount of money to have complete confidence in my gear is a very cheap piece of mind.

    Third.................doing the alignment

    When I first did my EM1 I took a weekend and did each and every focus point separately. I concluded that while there was a +/- 1 difference between some points it was not worth the very significant amount of time to do that. So, a few times I would spot check a few focus points. Now..............I just check the center point and call it good.

    The distance you do the alignment is up to you. I use to do it at 50x the focal length then check the 25x as well as 10X and found there was no difference. I now typically do the alignment at around 35x the focal length and call it good.

    Any more questions let me know.......or any further discussion anyone would like to have I am open for it.

    @Turbofrog@Turbofrog That could work but you can't guarantee being parallel or what exact spot the lens will focus. Even using the small focus point and even if you set it at exactly the zero mark, it could get focus at the top or the bottom of the focus point.........which very easily could make a difference. Then add in repeated photos to get an average and each one could be different......this one used the top this one used the bottom this one the center etc.............The LensAlign target has a flat target to focus on that is at the exact zero point, is perfectly perpendicular to the ruler and parallel to the lens.

    Yes I know I get very OCD and anal about everything being perfect and feel there is no way to get that accuracy with a homebrew setup. Not everyone needs that perfectly aligned lens and are fine with somewhat soft photos. Since I make a substantial amount of my income from photography, I want my gear to perform at the best it can. I also know that 90% of the people on this forum would be fine and very pleased with a large majority of my photos from Saturday. But even the small amount of adjustment I have on my 150 without a TC was noticeable to me, so it really reconfirmed my value in the system I use to align my lenses. I am also a firm believer in all those that say this TC or that TC are soft have never done a proper micro focus adjustment, I have found I need more adjustment with the EC-14 then bare lens and even more with the EC-20. People always claim that the 50-200 SWD with EC-20 is not usable because it is to soft, I don't buy that. It is unusable because they never adjusted their focus to allow for the TC..............I have far to many photos using that combo that are perfectly sharp to believe otherwise.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2017
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  13. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I am really interested in what you come up with on the 40-150. One day I will get one of the Pro lenses and be able to test it myself.
     
  14. ijm5012

    ijm5012 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 2, 2013
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Ian
    @Phocal@Phocal thanks for the detailed write-up.

    You're certainly correct about the cost of a LensAlign being a drop in the bucket compared to our overall expense in this hobby/profession. However, much like buying tires for your car, or running all new electrical for a room renovation, people don't like to spend money on things that aren't readily tangible (despite them keeping you safe, or in this case, resulting in better photographs).

    I think my biggest concern about getting a LensAlign is that I've already planned out my photography purchases for the next month, which when combined with my recent purchases (12-40 PRO, 40-150 PRO, 150/2 SHG, EC-20) have left my "camera funds" account quite depleted. Having said that, it's something that come the June-ish timeframe, I should be able to pick up.

    You bring up a good point about m43 lenses in C-AF situations. I just purchased a 40-150 PRO, which will replace my 50-200 SWD, and it will be used extensively with C-AF. Because of this, it would make sense to perform the focus adjustment with this lens as well.

    I think the LensAlign is a worth investment for those looking to get the most of their lenses (which if you're spending $1000+ on a lens, you probably are). However, it'll just be something I'll have to wait a couple months to pickup at this point. In the meantime, I may find myself a yardstick, prop it up at an angle, and attempt to do a manual calibration to get me by until I can get ahold of a LensAlign.

    Speaking of which, why does nobody rent these out? It seems like a perfect item to rent out, because it's not something people will use every day. It's something that someone could rent for a weekend for say, $50, calibrate their lenses, and then ship it back. They get the benefit of tuning the focus for all of their lenses without having to spend the money to fully purchase one, and you would get the benefit of making your money multiple times over on the investment.
     
  15. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    I fully understand the camera funds account, if the money isn't in it I don't get a toy. When you do get the system make sure to let us know how it went with the 40-150 Pro as I really am curious. Maybe I will break out my 60mm Macro and test it before sending it off to KEH or B&H, about to sell a bunch of stuff I just don't use.

    The problem with renting it is it's hard to rent software. Sure there are ways to render it useless after x amount of time, but it really would be a pain. I have had friends ask to borrow my target and then want me to give them a copy of the software to put on their computer. I tell them, come over and we can do it, but I am not lending you my target or giving you a copy of the software. Not one has come over and I laugh every time they complain about their focus not being perfect.
     
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  16. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    @barry13@barry13 and anyone else who is interested.

    Myset does look at the status of the micro focus adjustment. If you have two different settings for a lens it can even pick between those. This could be really useful if you have a lens that needs different calibration when say really close vs your standard distance.

    I am still have no idea how mine got turned off. It is on in every Myset and I have never turned it off since doing my first micro focus adjustment. Oh well, I will make sure I check it on occasion from now on.
     
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  17. ijm5012

    ijm5012 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 2, 2013
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Ian
    Yeah, I may do some impromptu testing with a tilted yard stick to get me through in the interim, and it'll be interesting to see how the 40-150 PRO does out-of-box compared to adjusted. I guess the question I have there is, we would need to be using C-AF with m43 lenses so that PDAF would be used, and NOT S-AF which would use CDAF, right?

    Regarding the 40-150 PRO, I was really surprised when I got it yesterday just how well-built it feels and how light it is. IMO, the tripod collar isn't necessary, as the lens itself weighs 777g with just the front & rear caps. The lens hood brings the total closer to 900g, but it's still much less than the 50-200 SWD + MMF-3. I'll be selling the 50-200 SWD, and will instead be using the 40-150 PRO & 150/2 SHG along with the EC-14 & EC-20.
     
  18. Phocal

    Phocal Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 3, 2014
    When you go into the menu for the micro focus adjustment it puts the camera into PDAF.

    Since I have decided to not really do much sports photography and really concentrate on wildlife I have no desire for the 40-150, not real useful focal range for wildlife other then the 150mm end and I have the 150/2 for that. I prefer keeping the tripod collar on all my lenses that have it because I like to carry it around by that. I don't use straps unless shooting sports with 2 cameras, then it is BlackRapid dual camera strap. So the tripod foot makes a great handle. I also rest the tripod foot in my hand while shooting handheld and find this makes it perfect if I need to zoom or manually focus. I can just reach up with my fingers and turn the appropriate ring while keeping my steady hold of the tripod foot.
     
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  19. ijm5012

    ijm5012 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 2, 2013
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Ian
    Good to know about the camera automatically switching in to PDAF in the MFA menu @Phocal@Phocal.

    As for the 40-150 PRO vs 50-200 SWD, you're exactly right. The 40-150, even with the MC-14, doesn't have the necessary reach for shooting wildlife. When at the zoo last weekend, I regularly shot my 50-200 SWD with the EC-14 attached. However, in my case I'm more interested in shooting sports (motorsports, track & field, etc.) than wildlife, and that's where having the dual-coil AF motors in the 40-150 PRO will be beneficial. The 150/2 SHG with the EC-14 & EC-20 will get its fair share of use at the zoo for sure though, as the reach is invaluable.

    It's funny you mention the BlackRapid dual strap. I have that on my list of things to get this summer for shooting at the track. I can have one camera & the 40-150 PRO on one side, and another camera with the 150/2 SHG on the other. Also, with the weight of the 150/2 SHG, the tripod foot will definitely be staying on, as that's where I'll mount my 1/4-20 screw for my strap. FYI, this is what I was using with my 50-200 SWD on the tripod foot. It gives me a 1/4-20 mount for my strap, but still provides the arca-swiss mounting points for use on a tripod or monopod. It's worked very well, and is what I'll use on my 150/2 SHG as well.
     
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  20. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Rob
    Try this instead of a yardstick. There are probably others too.
    Jeffrey's Autofocus Test Chart
     
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