Calibrating the Diopter of Your Camera

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Did you ever pick up your camera and think your eyes had suddenly gotten worse? In photography, there's good blur—and there's bad blur. When your diopter isn't calibrated correctly, it's bad blur. This can lead to your shooting photos that aren't in focus, because what you're seeing through the viewfinder is not exactly what the camera is seeing. Here are ways to remedy this problem.

 

Where is the Diopter?

For those who might not be aware, the diopter is located right around the viewfinder. It has been circled in the photo above. The diopter is usually characterized by a +/- sign. It needs to be adjusted to your vision, and because everyone's vision is different, people will see differently through someone else's viewfinder.

For example, the diopter on my Canon 5D Mk II is adjusted to suit my vision—which is very poor. When I hand my camera off to my boss to use—and he has perfect vision—he needs to make a substantial adjustment to the diopter to work with his vision.

This applies to both optical and electronic viewfinders, but the way to adjust them are different.

Optical Viewfinders

One of the best ways, I've learned, to calibrate an optical viewfinder is by doing the following:

- Make sure your camera is off, and the lens and body cap are unscrewed.

- Point the camera up into the light and look through the viewfinder.

- While doing this, start to adjust your viewfinder. As you dial in the + or -, you'll start to see the focusing points become either blurry or sharper.

- When you believe that the focusing points are their sharpest, you've successfully calibrated your diopter. Now you can put your lens or body cap back on.

Proper diopter calibration is paramount to achieving sharply and accurately focused photos—especially if you're manually focusing! As an extra tip when you're focusing manually, I recommend using a split image focusing screen.

Electronic Viewfinders

Electronic viewfinders are different than optical. They are tiny LCD screens that are magnified, so that you can better see what your camera is focusing on. You'll often see these on Micro Four Thirds cameras. To calibrate these, you'll need first to ensure that your lens's aperture is opened all the way. Then, focus on something using your camera's autofocus. Then you should turn the +/- dial accordingly until your image becomes sharper. When you see that the area focused on is extremely sharp, you'll know that you're all set.

Luckily, most cameras with an electronic viewfinder also have an option of magnifying the area that you are trying to focus on. This can help you to achieve sharper photos.

Was this information helpful? Let us know in the comments below, and please share your thoughts on how important calibrating your diopter is.

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you take the lens off to do this? 

unregistered wrote:

you take the lens off to do this? 

As stated in the Optical diopter section, yes. In Electronic, no.

I have Walgreens glasses for reading close.  Do I take my glasses off and calibrate so I won't have to wear them?  Also, same as above, you take the lens off? 

Angela wrote:

I have Walgreens glasses for reading close.  Do I take my glasses off and calibrate so I won't have to wear them?  Also, same as above, you take the lens off? 

It depends on if you shoot with your glasses on or not. If you shoot with the glasses on, then calibrate the diopter with your glasses on. Otherwise if your vision is good enough to shoot without the glasses, you can feel free to calibrate without them.

And yes, you do take off the lens.

So what do you do with the 7D? The focus points are electronic.

This is what I've been doing:

*Put camera on tripod in REALLY bright location 

*Pick a detailed subject that fills the viewfinder

*Switch to live view and focus

*Switch back to optical viewfinder and adjust diopter 

Any other tips?

SomeAudioGuy wrote:

So what do you do with the 7D? The focus points are electronic.

This is what I've been doing:

*Put camera on tripod in REALLY bright location 

*Pick a detailed subject that fills the viewfinder

*Switch to live view and focus

*Switch back to optical viewfinder and adjust diopter 

Any other tips?

Hey SomeAudioGuy,

You do the same method that I stated in the posting. The reason why you may not want to do that is your lens may not be microadjusted to achieve sharp focusing. There's more on that here: http://www.bhinsights.com/content/never-take-unsharp-photo-again.html

I hope this helps, but if you want more info feel free to come back to pick my brain.

After you take off the lens you can clean your camera in the dish washer.

unregistered wrote:

After you take off the lens you can clean your camera in the dish washer.

There's a photo of this floating around somewhere on the web...

unregistered wrote:

After you take off the lens you can clean your camera in the dish washer.

 

I just took mine out of the dishwasher and it doesn't work anymore =( I don't understand. 

I have a Canon XTi, and lens has to be on to focus and change diopter. 

unregistered wrote:

I have a Canon XTi, and lens has to be on to focus and change diopter. 

The lens does not need to be in focus to adjust the diopter.

I have always adjusted the diopter to make the readout of shutter speed, aperture etc. the sharpest. No need to focus on anything or remove the lens. Quick and easy.

unregistered wrote:

I have always adjusted the diopter to make the readout of shutter speed, aperture etc. the sharpest. No need to focus on anything or remove the lens. Quick and easy.

I hope you're tuning your autofocus then! http://www.bhinsights.com/content/never-take-unsharp-photo-again.html

 The distance from the info displayed in the viewfinder to your eye never changes. That's why you set it once and unless it moves you are fine. If you need glasses to see up close, adjust without them. If your photos are still out of focus it is possible that the lens needs a small adjustment, many indeed do. I noticed one day while my lens was at infinity and I rocked back just a tiny bit the focus got much sharper. I had been driving myself crazy trying to figure out why my pics were "soft" 

The guy who wrote that he adjusts so he can see the shutter speed in the finder makes a very good point.

Thank you so much for this information. I recently saw that my viewfinder was very blurry and thought that something had went wrong to make it that way and i would have to spend money that I dont have to get it fixed.  Although I feel very stupid after looking this up a month later and seeing that it was an easy fix I'm also extremely relieved and thankful that I was able to fix it in about 30 seconds. 

Hello:

On a Canon 5DMII, can I use a viewfinder that does not have it's own diopter if I have the camera's dioper set to my eye?

Thanks!

Setting the diopter on the camera’s optical viewfinder would only adjust what you see through the optical viewfinder.  This wouldn’t have an effect on using an external view finder with the LCD.  If you wanted to correct that as well, the external viewfinder would need to have its own dioptric adjustment.

Thanks!  I have a subtle but annoying astigmatism which I wear glass for usually just to look at a computer, watch a movie, or read a book.  But, I started noticing how sore my eye - it felt like eyes - were after only 20-30 minutes shooting. Finally, it occured to me what was going on and I wondered what to do about it, and, voila!, your article.  Funny that I never really paid any notice to the diopter...my brain ignored it from younger days as something for people with eye problems - older people... wow, I'm old! 

Thanks again!