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I just bought a second hand Sigma lens (50mm Art f/1.4) for my Canon 7D2 body (Mark II). This combination yields a very serious back-focus problem:

  • With no micro-ajustements correction on my body, the plane in focus is about half an inch further than the one I am targeting using the viewfinder: for a portrait of someone a few meters away, when focusing on the eye, the focused area is somewhere between the eye and the ear.
  • With the maximum micro-ajustements correction in my body (-20 from the -20/+20 range), the back-focusing problem is attenuated, but still there. I am guessing -25 or -30 could have solved this but it is not available.
  • when using Liveview to focus, everything is OK.

I was using f/1.4 when trying to calibrate micro-adjustments.

Do you thing using the Sigma USB dock to tune the lens focusing parameter would solve this? Should I sell it back and buy another copy?

EDIT :

Two things happened this weekend;

  • A friend tried my copy and it worked perfectly after a few adjustment on his 5DIII.
  • I managed to get an other copy of the Sigma lens from my photography club... and it worked also fine on my 7D2 body after some tuning.

So I am going to sell my copy and get a new one... fingers crossed ! (and I will never know if the dock would have solved this issue...)

  • What aperture are you using to take the image? – Michael C Oct 11 at 1:42
  • I am using f/1.4 – Olivier Oct 11 at 4:47
  • @MichaelC Out of curiosity, why would the selected aperture matters ? – Olivier Oct 11 at 6:21
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    @MichaelC My understanding of focus breathing on prime lens is that it changes slightly the field of view. How does focus breathing affect front/back focus issues ? – Olivier Oct 11 at 13:58
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    Focus breathing can also affect the focus distance as the aperture is stopped down. It's the same term but two different effects. Sometimes the other meaning is more than "sleight", too. The AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II set at 200mm has a FoV equivalent to that of about 135mm when at MFD. – Michael C Oct 11 at 18:16
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There are several thing to consider here:

  • Based on reading a lot of reviews from a lot of different sources one can learn that the Sigma Art series of prime lenses are very sharp when focused manually but tend to not do very well on Canon cameras in terms of autofocus. I probably wouldn't consider such a lens unless my intended usage was primarily as a manually focused lens.
  • Autofocus performance basically has two components: accuracy and consistency. Accuracy describes how close to a target the center of a pattern of attempts is. Consistency describes how close to each other the attempts are. If a system is consistent by not accurate, it can often be corrected by moving the "point of aim" to compensate. If a system is inconsistent, there's not much that can be done. If the lens you have now is consistently the same amount off in the same direction and you trade it for another one, then next one may be more accurate but less consistent.

Accurate vs. Consistent

  • The Sigma dock is only about $69 new. That's not very much in the grand scheme of camera/lens expenses. It wouldn't hurt that much to at least try and see how well it can deal with your problem.
  • A lens that far "off" may be more than on the edge of manufacturing tolerances - it may be well on the other side of what is acceptable. If it left the factory meeting specs that it now does not meet, then obviously something has happened to the lens to put it in that condition.
  • The lens is used and presumably has no warranty. If whatever caused the AF to be that far off starts manifesting itself in other ways...
  • Thanks for your answer. My copy's focusing seems to be consistent but not accurate with my 7d2 body. The previous owner told me that it worked flawlessly on its APS-C Canon body. Maybe something happened during the shipping, maybe this particular body+lens combination isn't working...or maybe I have been lied to and this copy is malfunctioning. I will check with an other body how my Sigma copy behave, but I will probably end up reselling it. – Olivier Oct 11 at 19:20
  • @Olivier Assuming the previous owner is speaking honestly, it could also be that they had a higher tolerance for inaccuracy than you do. For instance, they could have used the lens at ƒ/4–8 or so, and never noticed the focusing issues. – scottbb Oct 11 at 19:37
  • @scottbb You may be right... but when playing with a new lens, a portrait with the biggest aperture available is in my bucket list :) (Ok, maybe only with lenses with a focal length higher than 20mm) – Olivier Oct 11 at 19:48
  • @Olivier understood, completely. I am supremely happy with my Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art. I am eyeing an 85 ƒ1/.4 Art very thirstily. =) – scottbb Oct 11 at 19:59

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