I can remember back years ago, I had very little idea of what was going on with my camera. I had recently purchased my first DSLR and instead of learning what things did, I simply fumbled around and pushed buttons in an effort to take a nice looking photo. I had already heard about the different modes one could use to capture photographs and fiddled a bit with those too. I’ll admit that I had very little success with anything I tried to accomplish with that camera. Auto mode was my best friend, so I stuck with that for a while. Surprisingly, learning about photography the right way wasn’t so difficult after all and when I experienced my first taste of success, I took off like a rocket.
One of the gadgets on my camera that I used to twist and turn was the diopter wheel. Since I didn’t know what this wheel controlled and since it never seemed to make a difference one way or another after I turned it, I used it as sort of a nervous twitch apparatus. As I was waiting for my shot, I’d lift my finger up to that wheel and roll it back and forth. I know, so silly. I didn’t pay attention to a lot of things when I was younger. Today though, I’m much more mature and I now have an appreciation for what that small device does. It allows the scene to appear clearly if you’re looking through your viewfinder and your camera is in focus. This makes all the difference, especially if you wear glasses. What once may have appeared blurry can absolutely appear sharp. All it takes is the twist of one tiny wheel.
Where is the Diopter Wheel?
Take a look at the image above. I just snapped this photo of our Canon Rebel T6i. Do you see the button with the red dot next to it? Good. Now look above that button and slightly to the left. That’s the wheel I’m referring to. It’s got a + and a – next to it.
How Do You Know if Your Diopter Needs Adjusting?
Here’s a little test for you. Turn your camera on and take a look through your viewfinder. Then, press your auto-focus button so whatever it is you’re looking at has been focused on. Is everything clear? Look closely at the grid inside your viewfinder and the image specs down below. You know, the aperture, shutter speed, etc… If the information that’s appearing inside your viewfinder is sharp, but the scene you focused on isn’t, then there’s something wrong with either the auto-focus or your focusing finger. Try focusing again. If your camera isn’t focusing on the scene, you’ll need to check into that. But, your diopter is fine and doesn’t need to be adjusted at all.
Now, if both the information inside the viewfinder and the scene are blurry, you’re diopter most likely needs to be calibrated. Don’t worry, it’s so easy to do this.
How to Calibrate Your Diopter
The simplest method for calibrating your diopter for most DSLR cameras available today is to mount your camera on a tripod for stability and then point it towards something that it can easily focus on. Try hanging a piece of newspaper or magazine in the wall. The camera needs to have crisp edges to bite into to really get a nice focus.
Once you have something to focus on, point the camera lens straight at that (about four feet away) and then use the camera’s auto-focus to focus in on it. Then, take a look through the viewfinder to check out the scene. Is it clear? Is the scene information inside the viewfinder clear? If not, turn the small wheel that sits to the right of the viewfinder one click at a time in either direction. You should see everything get more blurry or less blurry. Continue on until both the scene and the information are both crystal clear. At that point, you’ll know your diopter has been calibrated.
One more thing. If you usually shoot wearing your glasses, try adjusting the diopter without wearing them. The purpose of the diopter is to compensate for not wearing the glasses and to actually mimic wearing them. Calibrating the diopter essentially helps match the camera to your eyesight.
I hope I clearly explained how to calibrate the diopter of your DSLR camera. If you have any suggestions or questions regarding this post, please leave them below in the comment form. You can also ask any photography related questions in our new photography cameras and lenses discussion forum. Thanks for reading!