Long Range Hunting Online Magazine

Go Back   Long Range Hunting Online Magazine > Rifles, Reloading, Optics, Equipment > Long Range Scopes and Other Optics

Long Range Scopes and Other Optics Nightforce Optics


Parallax vs Focus

LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Unread 11-23-2012, 07:22 PM
Bronze Member
Join Date: May 2005
Location: England
Posts: 77
Re: Parallax vs Focus

Also come back to this thread after many years and must correct.

Regarding my previous post I was hoping for some response from Dave and Catshooter
Hey guys! I read your string of posts and found them quite informative as I am currently setting up my new Leo Vari-XIII 3.5-10x40 LR M3. I used Catshooters instructions for setting up the scope and ran into an issue when trying to zero the AO side knob. I focused in on an object at aprox 400M (the farthest I could conveniently find without obstruction) and played with the AO knob as Catshooter instructed. I started at infinity and worked my way back until I was parallax free. I was concerned that this point was at the middle dot on the adjustment knob so I went thru the process again starting back at infinity. The result was the same so I loosened the screws and reset the knob so infinity lined up with the hash mark. Now the knob bottoms out at the low magnification end around the second dot and consequently turns way past the infinity mark on the top end. I called Leupold to ask their feedback and the WOMAN who answered the tech line basically said that the knob is set at the factory and not meant to be adjusted. I obviously mentioned that there is adjustment screws on the knob which usually means they are there to enable adjustment but she stuck to her limited insight. [/ QUOTE ]

What you have done there is physically move the label ring, nothing else. Who ever told you to do that wants sacking. ie the 400 yard marking may have been 600 yards but you have moved it so it lines up with previous 600 and therefore the last 1/4 rev may be lost.
As Dogzilla said, no scope produced to date will have the marks line up, mark them yourself been doing so for 21 years.

There is absolutely and categorically no reason to move focus to infinity then go down to the range. Some misconception i reckon theres backlash when not! If there is backlash, what happens when you move the focus adjuster? I'll tell you, it takes up any play first so cannot be backlash, its taken up on initial movement.
Of the hundreds i know everyone focus going up in range, ie 50 yards to what you intend to see.

There was someone ask whether could leave scope set at a certain distance for all ranges = no.
Whats the point in buying a pa adjustable scope if not prepared to adjust focus for every range.
One of my scopes if left focus set at 400 yards, i would only just about see 370 to 440 yards in the sense its a shallow field of view.

What you should be doing is ignoring the range markings and adjusting the focus so target is in focus. Not just set some where.
Reply With Quote

Unread 12-17-2012, 05:33 AM
Junior Member
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: north texas
Posts: 18
Re: Parallax vs Focus

Originally Posted by CatShooter View Post
Good morning Dave.

I received an e-mail this morning from one of your readers about this thread, asking, in effect, "What the hell is that?"

The text you copied is a bit confusing... it is filled with a mix of over-scientific terms like "coplanar" that would be out of place in a research paper on the subject, and words like "coincident" which means nothing to a shooter... and these are mixed with cutesy phrases like "guzin" and guzout" ;(

But then again, what would one expect from something that originated from UC "Berkeley".

I wrote the following a few months ago for a friend, and I'm putting here (in total), cuz I think it is written for real people, and might throw some light on the subject.
(HA!, I made a pun on purpose [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img] ).

It drew some flack from a few whimps that would love to have ME in their sights, but it is right on, and you can take it to the bank!


OK... here goes (Whew, this is gonna be a long one).

There are several things that go on inside a scope, and in the eyes at the same time.

Some of them workie against each other.

But some terminology first... and we'll leave out lenses that are there to correct some optical or color errors, but don't have anything to do with image forming.

We'll start at the front of it all, and work back.

1 - The "Object"... the thing that you are looking (shooting) at.

2 - The "Objective". The front lens is called the "Objective"... it forms the first image of the "object" we are looking at (that why they call it the Objective [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img]

It is the lens that "captures" all the light, that is solely responsible for the image quality of the scope... if it is poor, you can't fix the poor image later.

This lens is usually made of two different types of glasses (called "elements") sandwiched together, and is called an "Achromat".

The Achromat is fully color corrected for blue and green. The red wavelengths are partially corrected, but have what is called "residual color errors".

This is the normal type of objective used in shooting and spotting scopes.
In quality, they can vary from badd, through sorta OK, to pretty damn good.

If one of the elements is made of an "ED" glass, or a "Fluorite" (CaF) glass, the two element lens can be very good to friggin' outstanding.

In some instances, objective lenses are made of three elements, and all three colors (blue, green, and red) are completely corrected. This type of lens is called an "Apochromat", and this is the finest lens that can be bought. The best of these can also have "ED" glass, or Fluorite as one of the elements.

3 - The "First image plane". The Objective focuses the light to make an image of the subject, just like a camera lens. This image is upside down, and right/left reversed. This is the first image plane, but NOT the "First image plane" that is talked about when shooters talk about reticles.

4 - The "Erector lens"... (if it is a group of lenses, it is called the "Erector cell"). Because the first image is upside down/wrong way around, we (as shooters) can't use it... so we flip it around with a simple optical group called the "erector cell".
This cell gives us a new image that is right way around, called the second image plane. Moving this cell causes this second image plane to move... so micrometer spindles are put against the cell, to get elevation and windage adjustments.

5 - The "Second image plane". This is the second real image plane in the scope, and this is the image plane that shooters call the "First image plane" when talking about reticles. In a fixed power scope, or in a variable with a "First image plane reticle", the reticle would be placed in this image plane.

This is where Premier Reticle puts those magical "Gen II" reticles.

6 - The "Zoom group". In a variable scope with standard (non-magnifying) reticle, the zoom group of optics would follow #5. This group of lenses can change the size of the image plane in #5 and then form a new (third) image plane behind it.

7 - The "Third image plane" In variable power scopes, this is the plane that the reticle is placed in. By being here, it allows the image to change sizes, but the reticle to stay the same size. In the context of reticles, this is the image plane that is referred to as the "second image plane"

8 - The "Eyepiece". This optical group is like a jewelers loupe. Is is (or should be) a super fine magnifier. It's only job in the whole world, is to focus on the reticle.

Let me repeat that for those that live in Rio Linda...


It CANNOT adjust, or compensate, or do anything else when things look bad in the scope, or when you can't hit the target... and to try to make the eyepiece correct for parallax, is sheer folly at best, and raw stupidity at worst.

If you expect it to do anything else, then stop wasting your time with long-range shooting, cuz you are never gonna make it past mediocre... and take up golf!!

OK... now that you know what the insides are like... lets move on. We'll use the zoom scope for our examples. cuz if you can understand the zoom, then the fixed is a walk in the park.

In the scope that is set for infinity range, the object forms an image behind the objective (the first image plane)... the erector cell "sees" that image, and flips it over and makes a NEW image plane (the Second image plane). The zoom group adjusts the size of this image plane, and makes a NEW image plane (the Third image plane) that is the desired size.
There is a reticle placed in this last image plane, and the eyepiece focuses on the reticle AND the image at the same time.

When things are good, that's how the scope workie!


But... now the booger falls into the soup... IF the third image plane and the reticle are not exactly, (and I mean EX-ACT-LY) in the same place, then your eye cannot see them LOCKED together as one picture.

It sees them as two separate things, and the eye can look at each separately, and the eye can also look AROUND one to see the other.


Lenses are normally measured in metrics (aka Millimeters). Not because the Europeans wanted it the metric system 20 years ago, but because optical strings and chains of lenses (like scopes) are really a string of numbers.

There are constant ratios of "this divided by that's" that give image sizes, "F-ratios", and image locations. It's so damn easy to do the engineering using a 10 based system that the optical guys were using the metric system way back in the 1800's.

The objective has a "Focal length"... this is the distance behind the lens that the first image plane falls when making an image if a subject that is at infinity (or very damn far away).

If the objective has a focal length of 100mm, then the image of that 1000 yd target is 100mm behind it.

But the problem with geometric optics (which is what we are dealing with here), is that they follow the laws of geometry...
... and optics make triangles like rabbits make babies.
AND... in an optical chain, when you change one thing, one angle, one ANYTHING, everything else follows along and changes BASED on the ratios involved at THAT stage.

If we take that same target, and move it to 100 yds, the image in the scope moves BACKWARDS, going further into the scope. Not by much, but it doesn't take much, cuz we're dealing with very small distances inside the scope, and very high magnifications.

How far the image moves back, and what it's new position is, is predictable by the mathematical ratios of the angles formed by the subject and the first image...

...OR (for us dummies that lost our slip sticks) by the ratio of the distances to the Target and the focal length, multiplied by the focal length. then ADDED to the focal length.

The target is at 100 yds (91440mm), the focal length of the objective is 100, so the displacement is 1/914 x 100, which means that the first image is now at ~100.1mm. Hmmm only .1mm, that doesn't seem like much.

Read the following paragraph twice...

In a 1x scope, 0.1mm would mean nothing... but this displacement is repeated throughout the chain, AND if any of the optical groups change the image ratio, then the displacement (aka ERROR) is changed in direct proportion to the increase in magnification.

So in a 3x scope, it would be .3mm, and in a 10x scope, it would be 1mm, and in a 30 power scope, the image would be 3mm behind the reticle. This means that if you have a variable scope, and things look good at 3x, they may NOT look so good at 12x. Set your parallax corrections at high power.

Now, you should have seen a pattern in this last paragraph.

With the same error in the objective (scope focused at 1000, and target at 100), the parallax INCREASES WITH MAGNIFICATION... got it? If not, READ IT TWO MORE TIMES!!

OK... now, if we do the same math for closer distances, like 50 yds, and 25 yds we will see that the error gets really big, so that with a target at 50 yards, and the scope set at 35 or 65 yds, the parallax makes the combination un-usable.


Parallax is... when the image of the target, and the reticle are NOT in exactly the same plane, and by moving the eye up and down... or side to side, either the target OR the reticle appears to move in relation to the other.

You might see the target move and the reticle stay still, or you might see the target stay still and the reticle move over it... both are exactly the same, and which you see, is only a matter of your OWN perception.

It is impossible to have parallax while moving up and down, but not have it when you are moving side to side.

If you think that is what you have, you have other problems... either you are moving the rifle, or you have eye problems.



This is the only way to do it...

First, screw the eyepiece out (CCW) all the way, until it stops.

If you wear glasses, put them on.

Hold the scope up and look OVER the scope at the sky, and relax your eyes.

Then move the scope in front of your eye.

The reticle should look fuzzy

Turn the eyepiece in 1/2 turn, and do the same thing again. You will have to do for a while before the reticle starts to look better. When you start getting close, then turn the eyepiece 1/4 turn each time.

Do this until the reticle is fully sharp and fully BLACK immediately when you look through the scope.

Than back off a turn and do it again to make sure you are in the same place.

Then LOCK the ring on the eyepiece, and leave it alone forever!


Set the scope down on something sold, where it can see something at a long distance... half a mile of longer is good.

It can be on the rifle, and rested in sand bags at the range... but pick something at least 1000 yds away... even further if possible.

If the scope has an "AO" Adjustable objective, then set it for infinity, and look at the distant object, and move your head from one side to the other, or up and down if you prefer.

If the reticle seems to move, there is parallax.

Change the distance setting and try again... if you are very careful, you can move your eye, and adjust the distance at the same time, seeing which direction gets better.

With front objective adjustments, you can turn them either way without worry... BUT with side adjustment scopes, like the MK4-M3, the M3-LR, or the other LR family of scopes, the adjustment must ALWAYS be made from the infinity end of the dial. Turn the adjustment all the way until it stops (past infinity), and then start turning it in a little at a time, until there is no parallax.
If you "overshoot" the proper setting, you can't just turn back a little, you must go back to stop at the end of the dial, and start over again.

While "AO"s dials are locked in place, and if the indicated distance doesn't match the real distance, there's nothing you can do about it...
... the side focus dials are not locked in place.

Once you have found the setting for infinity on the side focus models, then (CAREFULLY) loosen the screws, and set the dial so that little sideways infinity symbol is lined up with the hash mark, so it is calibrated. You can also make little marks or put on a paper tape for other ranges instead of using the round dots that don't match any range.

Now you can set it to infinity, but remember that you MUST turn the dial all the way past infinity to the stop, EVERY TIME before going from a close range to a longer range.

If you are set for 500 yds, you can go directly to 100 yds, but if you are set for 100 and want to set it to 500, you MUST go all the way back to the stop, and then go to 500

This is because there is a fair amount of backlash (aka SLOP) in this wheel linkage to the focusing cell, so you can set it only from one direction to make sure the slop is always on one side.
The other problem with it is, even if you decided that you wanted to calibrate from the other end... the recoil will push the cell back. SO you must ALWAYS set these dials from the infinity end of their scales.

To make it easy to not have to remember... I always start from the end stop, when I change range, no matter which direction I'm going in... it adds about 0.023 seconds!

Now... you gots a friend that says to set up a scope a different way???...
... he don't know doodly-squat about scopes.

The guy at the range said to do it a different way... he don't know **** either.

Some guy who's in the Marines says something different... he don't know crapola!

You got a friend that shoots benchrest and does it different... he doesn't know **** about optics either.

This is the way, the only way, there is no other way.

... as Rush Limbaugh would say... this is from GOD-da [img]images/icons/wink.gif[/img].


So, Dave... there are two focus' in the scope. One for the eye, that should be set once, and one for the target that should be adjusted often.

In a perfect world, manufacturers would ALL call the eyepiece adjustment "FOCUS", and call the objective adjustment "PARALLAX"... but many companies call the the target adjustment "focus" so there will never be an end to this.

CatShooter [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img] [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

[ 03-08-2003: Message edited by: CatShooter ]

never read or heard anything that made as much sense as this does...... thank you!!!
Reply With Quote
Unread 12-17-2012, 08:56 AM
Bronze Member
Join Date: May 2005
Location: England
Posts: 77
Re: Parallax vs Focus

Quite agree a comprehensive write up thats 90% correct.

The error is stating must go from infinitty every time even when over shooting down to the range as it takes out the 'backlash', total crap.
Anyone with any inclination to mechanics will see as soon as initial movement of focus is made, if at all any backlash is evident, it will be taken up - end of.

I would slightly agree where recoils involved on some scopes, but most are spring loaded any way so makes no odds!

The only scope i have ever come across whereby you can go either direction to focus on a subject and still remain at the same place is the March X series with rack and pinion adjustment, the Tacticals wont do it and as said always work one way.
Reply With Quote
Unread 04-11-2016, 01:32 PM
Official LRH Sponsor
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 56
Re: Parallax vs Focus

See these 2 short youtube videos we made and it will help you understand the scope and it's functions.


Reply With Quote
Unread 09-22-2016, 12:23 AM
Gold Member
Join Date: Sep 2012
Location: Mojave Desert, Nevada
Posts: 872
Re: Parallax vs Focus ("focus/focus")

Actually it is:



3. CENTER YOUR RETICLE WITH A "FRINGE SHADOW" (This insures that the reticle and target are centered so that even if there is a slight amount of parallax it will be negated.)
"Fringe Shadow" refers to having a thin, even "shadow" all the way around the edge of your scope picture. Done by moving back a bit from the scope and therefore slightly out of the eye box.

Eri B.
"There are no comfortable packs, only packs that are less uncomfortable than others."
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads for: Parallax vs Focus
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Schmidt & Bender Parallax vs. Non-Parallax OnTarget Long Range Scopes and Other Optics 7 01-06-2011 03:58 PM
parallax Jynx597 Member Introductions 1 09-29-2009 02:32 PM
How much parallax is acceptable? Topshot Long Range Scopes and Other Optics 1 08-14-2009 09:15 AM
Parallax ? Curly Long Range Scopes and Other Optics 0 04-21-2009 02:39 PM
parallax question John Baer Long Range Scopes and Other Optics 4 01-30-2003 03:41 PM

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:31 PM.

All content ©2010-2015 Long Range Hunting, LLC