Using Diopter Adjustment

Using Diopter Adjustment

Have you ever looked through the eyepiece of your DSLR and thought things just weren’t quuuiiittee in focus?  Or perhaps you wear glasses and find they get in the way, but you need them to frame your shot properly?

Did you know there is a little dial called the Diopter Adjustment?  This may seem basic for those of you already in the know, yet I have received enough questions and pointed out this miracle adjustment to enough people that I’m hoping this post will help just one of you out there enjoy your camera all the more.

Most brands of DLSRs have a dial of some type to the right of the eyepiece.  Nikon’s can be big or small and obvious, Canon’s is more discrete (especially with the eyepiece cup mounted).  They function the same on both systems.  In essence the diopter adjustment knob works as a lens switching from near to far focus.  It does not affect the focus circuitry of the camera as it is after the auto-focus mechanism.  It only affects how your eye picks up the image.

It works just like the device an eye doctor puts in front of you when checking your vision.  That device has lenses of various concave and convex curves to adjust for nearsightedness and farsightedness.  They adjust for an eye that can’t focus at a reasonable distance, such as for close objects like reading this text.  That little dial on a camera typically has an adjustment range of -3 to +3, with 0 being nominal 20/20 vision, more or less.

If your eye-site is anything less than average (essentially what 20/20 is telling you), this knob will be your best friend to help shoot better photos, especially if you attempt to use manual focus.  To set the diopter correctly, you will need to set your camera on something solid, like a tripod, and point it at something flat with enough texture to be easily seen.  Press your shutter release halfway down to force your camera with auto-focus.

This test relies on the idea that your camera focuses properly, obviously.  Without moving the camera, turn the diopter control until (with or without glasses) the image is in focus to your eye.  Really that is all there is to it!

I know it seems simple, but sometimes even a small adjustment for those who think they have average eye sight can be helpful.  Happy shooting!

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • christopher Francis June 2, 2013 11:08 pm

    please help me out to set the diopter on my eos 1100d,recently bought New one.i would also appreciate with all basic settings guide line only for EOS 1100D THANKS

  • Chris August 15, 2012 01:03 pm

    Where can I get a diopter extension please for canon 600d. Struggling with focus and finding info on canon site

  • Alinadec December 22, 2011 09:05 am


  • Kuti O.A December 6, 2011 03:55 am

    for photographers and or videographers, the use of a textured surface is not of high necessity as long as the individual can see the digital display trough the viewfinder (eye piece) of the camera being used most especially DSLRs......

  • SO4PY January 22, 2011 08:23 am

    If you still can not focus properly, I know Sony sell the corrective eye pieces for people with really bad eye sights. Not to sure about other makes though.

  • TJ McDowell January 22, 2011 03:48 am

    Yea, this is something that newer photographers don't even know it's there and may accidentally adjust it without realizing what they're doing. You can definitely tell when it's off though. Like wearing your grandma's glasses.

  • tjmurph9 January 20, 2011 10:39 pm

    I wear multi-focal spectacles and found it too cumbersome to be removing them each time i wanted to shoot, but the "out-of-the-box" diopter setting meant I had to tilt my head to use the close-vision section of my lenses to see a sharp image in the viewfinder. Now, I've adjusted the diopter to the main section of my lenses and my photographic life is so much easier!!

  • January 14, 2011 04:24 pm

    How did I never know this? Thanks for pointing out the obvious!

  • Saud January 14, 2011 01:09 am

    Thank you. Helpful article.

  • Star January 13, 2011 10:04 pm

    Thanks for this information. I was a little confused as to what this dial did and how to work it but now when I look through my eyepiece everything is crystal clear.

  • William Williford January 13, 2011 07:39 pm

    As a retired ophthalmologist, I find the diopter adjustment to be a rather inexact method of correcting refractive errors(need for glasses). It may help correct simple myopia(near sighted) or hyperopia(far sighted) but has no astigmatic adjustment. The best solution is well fit glasses or contacts if a correction is needed. I suppose a custom ground lens could be fashioned but it would be expensive to mount if,indeed, it could be done.

  • Len Taubman January 13, 2011 04:53 pm

    I can't focus enough with the diopter control. Some people need to buy new eyepieces with a higher diopter from the manufacturer.

  • christian January 12, 2011 09:39 pm

    I'm pretty sure that astigmatism is not fixed by this diopter adjustment. Astigmatism means that smoething in your eyes(and mine) is not spherical, but oblong, so you can only focus up-down or left-right, but the other axis will be out of focus. The diopter assumes a spherical eye, so you need your glasses.

  • Tammy January 12, 2011 08:13 pm

    Excellent article. Thank you for the info!

  • MarshP January 11, 2011 08:47 pm

    I use a slightly different method. If you viewfinder has markings on it like crosshairs or the squares that indicate the autofocus points, just look at those and turn the diopter adjustment until they are in focus. I find it easiest to do that if the camera is not focused on anything. That lets you really see the screen without distraction. 2 ways to do that:

    1) Take the lens off the camera (if you can) and hold the camera in a well lit room or good daylight.
    2) With lens on camera, point camera at a well lit flat surface (like a white wall) and throw the focus completely out (example: set focus on infinity while close to wall).

    The whole point is to make sure your focusing screen looks sharp, not what the camera is focusing on.

  • Michelle Goodrum January 11, 2011 08:11 pm

    Thank you for a very helpful tip!

  • Matt January 11, 2011 06:11 pm

    I have an astigmatisim that I use glasses to correct. Can a Diopter adjust fro this type of correction? I prefer to shoot without glasses but everything is fuzzy if I do not.

  • Mei Teng January 11, 2011 01:55 pm

    Now I know how that little diopter button works. Never figured out its use before. Thanks for sharing.

  • matty78 January 11, 2011 07:57 am

    Personally i will be using the "point and focus on something" method as i found using the viewfinder was not accurate enough, there were 4 settings on the diopter of which I couldn't tell the difference. Hopefully this method will get a more accurate result. Thanks Peter.

  • Joshua January 10, 2011 11:22 pm

    @Mike_ That method is actually how my Nikon users manuals recommend.

  • Beverly Everson January 10, 2011 10:59 pm

    Canon sells diopters that go beyond those provided on the camera. I couldn't function without using the diopter adjustment! Excellent article to inform! :)

  • Scott January 10, 2011 10:37 pm

    I wrote a very similar article in April 2010. So many people forget about the diopter

  • Alex January 10, 2011 09:03 pm

    I was told years ago to simply turn it until the on screen display was crisp rather than looking through the lens at something the AF sensors supposedly put into focus. Was this advice wrong?

  • mike January 10, 2011 08:31 pm

    You don't even need to focus on and object to tune your diopter. Simply stare at your viewfinder's display as you turn the diopter until the letters/numbers are perfectly sharp. This eliminates the whole "Is my diopter off or am I just not focused properly?" element.