This week it's another one of Datacolor's products, the SpyderLENSCAL lens calibration tool!
If you're a professional, or even a serious hobbyist, you've probably got at least one lens that goes to F/1.8 or wider. Dealing with that shallow of a depth of field can be tricky, and if you're intent on nailing sharpness then you've got to take all of the steps to be certain you nail it! One of the steps is lens calibration, and that's where tools like this one come into play. Let's dive in and talk about it!
Single Sentence Summary
Quality means making every effort to ensure you're delivering the best you can, and for professionals calibration with units like this is more often than not a necessary step.
Why I Bought It
Though sharpness isn't absolutely necessary to make a photo great, for the shots that sharpness is critical then I need to be sure my equipment consistently performs to its optimal abilities. This was cheaper than sending my lenses in to be calibrated annually, and I also get peace of mind from doing it myself and knowing that they're to my high standards.
What I Like
This unit is VERY simple and straight forward. I hate complicated, so the simplicity of it all is really refreshing to me. All you have to do is set it up, ensure that you're perfectly parallel, and start adjusting. They've built in a leveling unit to help with ensuring that everything is perfect.
I like the size of the unit; it's big enough to see clearly if the unit is parallel or not, but small enough to fold flat and pack away easily. In my field I travel often, and with so much equipment I can't carry everything on (especially with ever changing laws); that means I have to check a good number of valuable lenses below the plane. Sure, I pack them well, but I still like to cover my butt on the back end, so if anything happens I've always got this packed neatly away so I can adjust.
The build quality is fair, and not just some cardboard cut-out - which admittedly would suffice, but wouldn't last. This unit features a leveling tool, and a threaded spot for your tripod/light stand, so that you can adjust it conveniently with tools likely to be in a studio or near a photographer.
What I Don't
The price for the quality. Let's be real Datacolor, you had me at, "Hello," with your Spyder5 Pro. But the Spyder5 Pro at least feels like it's built with high quality materials and features. This thing feels like a piece of plastic with some stickers. It feels that way because it's a piece of plastic with some stickers. Granted the stickers are likely printed to some of the most exact specifications ever or something (who knows), but still. The cost of making and shipping one of these is probably on par with many things you'd find at Dollarama. So why do we have to pay $100 for one? It's insanely marked-up; to the point where it's just insulting to our intelligence.
I know it's weird, but I wish it came with a case. I don't want to scratch or peel any of the stickers, and I do travel with this thing, so I wish it had a case to protect it. Recognizing that not many other people would think to take this on the road, I just like to be prepared so that I can continue to function. The military sends me to all corners of the Earth, and (sadly) that includes places without a B&H or a Henry's. A simple solution would be to design it to have the ruler come completely off, and the remainder fold into a closing case with room for the ruler. The unit could neatly fit into anything, and it wouldn't have to be much larger than my X-rite Colorchecker Passport - which incidentally folds up exactly like I'm suggesting AND bundles in a grey card.
Where's the pop-up stand?!? I can sit it on the bottom no problem, but that won't put it perfectly level with the camera. I wish it came with an adjustable stand so that I could use it on tabletops easily. It's plastic! Build it in! It's not like it would take a rocket surgeon to figure out how to make that work.
Most lenses come pretty great straight out of the box. If you're not a pro then be careful, you don't want to attempt to calibrate and have it go awry just before an important event. However, if you are a pro, or a serious enthusiast, and you've explored all of your other options to reach optimal sharpness, then get one of these. It's something you should have, but not something you'll likely need unless you're REALLY serious, or your lens is really off.
I would have given it a 10/10 if they had priced it reasonably and designed it to fold itself into a self-protecting case. I'm not sponsored by them, nor by anyone else, hence the lack of links to buy products on my site. I don't care if you buy them or not. I'm just offering my opinions and experiences, so take it as you will. :)