The LensAlign Pro by RawWorkflow is a lens alignment tool targeted towards professional and amateur photographers who want the sharpest possible focus from their DSLR. LensAlign works by having the camera focus on a set target, and with an angled ruler on the side shows you where the focus starts to fade forward or back.
Using this information (if your DSLR supports lens focus adjustments) you can change the settings on your camera to fine tune your focus until it is perfectly centered. In this review we try out the LensAlign on a Pentax K20D with an assortment of lenses to see if it is easy to use and if it helped us correct focusing problems.
How it Works
The LensAlign works by forcing you to focus on a correctly aligned center point on the target, with a ruler on the right side with "0" centered on the same plane as the targeting area. If your camera is focusing incorrectly, any misalignment will show when looking at the ruler, having unequally focused numbers on each side. RawWorkflow makes it easy to target the focusing pattern, with red targets on the rear board, which when aligned properly will be perfectly centered in the hole on the focusing screen. The two pictures below show the difference between out of alignment and perfectly centered.
Using the LensAlign System
Our test bench for the LensAlign was our conference room table, giving us plenty of room to reposition our tripod for different lenses. Here's what we found using the system with a variety of Pentax lenses.
Pentax 16-45mm f/4.0 SMC
Our first shot shows some minor back-focusing. The Pentax K20D allows -10 to +10 adjustment, with this lens needing about +4 to be properly aligned. After playing with the adjustment range, the final shot turned out appreciably sharper than the original.
Pentax D FA 100mm f/2.8
The first shot was basically perfect, with no adjustment needed. I ended up leaving this lens at the default "0" position.
Pentax DA* 200mm f/2.8
Again, this lens shot centered on the first try. Some chromatic aberration mixed with the focus blur, so I stopped it down to f/4 and it still looked even between the numbers on the ruler. I also left this lens alone since no adjustment made it better or worse.
Pentax DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL (first generation)
This entry-level lens was the worst of the test group, with severe back-focusing noticed on the first shot. In normal use with the high aperture it isn't as noticeable since everything stays in focus around your general target. With the camera set to +10 it was better, but still needed more range to bring it into proper focus. I think somewhere between +15 to +20 is where this lens would need to be set.
The LensAlign by RawWorkflow worked exactly as intended and allowed me to make some corrections to my camera to take (in theory) better pictures. For very fast aperture lenses where very slight focus problems can bring your intended target out of focus, a tool like this would be very handy.
At first glance, the introductory price may seem pretty steep at $139.99. While the LensAlign's design works on a relatively straightforward principle, though, the system's precise construction and simple yet smart approach to alignment help to justify this cost. And if you're willing to give up some features, RawWorkflow does offer a less expensive lite version, which uses the same ruler but doesn't offer the same alignment plane as the pro model.
Overall, even considering its price, if precise focusing is life and death for you, this is a useful tool to easily and accurately adjust your camera body's focus compensation for different lenses.