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Use a High Contrast Target

In certain situations, placing a small and high contrast target in the scene aids precise focus. Print horizontal and vertical bars, a star pattern, etc on a paper stock that offers high contrast. Use double-sided tape to mount it to a stiff backing such as GatorFoam. Then stick it in your bag and pull it out when needed.

The reality is that I have one of these, but rarely use it, because Live View almost always does the job just fine. If you do not have Live View, it could be helpful though. And it can be useful for making repeated tests where you must have a high quality focusing target. It can also be useful for mid-range work, where it can be quickly placed, then removed.

The use of the fine spot of a good quality laser pointer as a focusing target is an interesting idea, but I deem the risk to eyes and digital sensor unacceptable, especially with “fast” lenses. And it’s one more gadget to carry, so your best bet is probably using supplementary illumination for dim conditions.

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Diglloyd Making Sharp Images articulates years of best practices and how-to, painstakingly learned over a decade of camera and lens evaluation.

Save yourself those years of trial and error by jump-starting your photographic technical execution when making the image. The best lens or camera is handicapped if the photographer fails to master perfect shot discipline. High-resolution digital cameras are unforgiving of errors, at least if one wants the best possible results.

  • Eases into photographic challenges with an introductory section.
  • Covers aspects of digital sensor technology that relate to getting the best image quality.
  • Technique section discusses every aspect of making a sharp image handheld or on a tripod.
  • Depth of field and how to bypass depth of field limitations via focus stacking.
  • Optical aberrations: what they are, what they look like, and what to do about them.
  • MTF, field curvature, focus shift: insight into the limitations of lab tests and why imaging performance is far more complex than it appears.
  • Optical aberrations: what they are, what they look like, and what to do about them.
  • How to test a lens for a “bad sample”.

Intrigued? See Focusing Zeiss DSLR Lenses For Peak Performance, PART ONE: The Challenges, or (one topic of many) field curvature.

A good focusing target

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