5D MKII AF with 50 f/1.4 USM

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by hawkman, Dec 8, 2009.

  1. Hello,
    I recently purchased a 50 f/1.4 to do some landscape and architecture work with 5DMKII. Having shot about a thousand frames with this lens I have found many times that the AF fails to lock correctly in very simple and obvious scenarios (good light, plenty of contrast, no back light etc). Especially the peripheral points refuse to focus correctly and the image is very soft. I can post some examples later but here is one case, in the photo below I was using the right AF point to focus on the tower and just found out that photo was OOF. I tried defocusing the lens and moving the focus point around and took about 25 shots, most of which or totally soft. I finally gave up and used manual focus and got everything sharp as you can see here:
    [​IMG]
    I had similar results in different situations today as well. In the past I had used MKII with 70-200 f/4 IS and 24-70 L and I did not notice this issue but I hadn't extensively used the peripheral points either. I have done the AF test with close 45 degree target and there is no systematic front or back focus that would require MA.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
     
  2. Can you post one of the out-of-focus shots? What aperture were you using?
     
  3. I will later tonight, Apertures used where f/8 in most cases and occasional f/5.6 and f/2.8. The above series were all f/8.
     
  4. Did you check the micro adjustment. Try setting back at zero for default, retest and adjust as necessary. If that does not work then on to canon service center it goes.
     
  5. I owned the EF 50 1.4 USM for 5 or 6 years and used it on my Elan 7E, A2, 10D, 20D and 5D cameras. It didn't focus dependably on any of them, and was especially poor in low light, the very situation I bought it for. It worked best with the center AF point but even that was a crapshoot at twilight and in building interiors. My slow zooms--e.g., EF 24-85 USM--could AF circles around the 50 1.4 in both poor and good light. I didn't use the 50 1.4 on my 5DII but I assume it's nearly as crappy since the AF system is only slightly better than the 5D.
    Adjusting microfocus won't help for random AF misses. Canon Service was never able to improve AF on my copy. Crappy AF is a feature of the EF 50 1.4 USM design and not a defect. Nevertheless I got the best results by sticking to the center AF point and being careful to lock on points of contrast. And I always took several shots and refocused to make sure I'd get at least one good image.
    I've been using an EF 50 1.2L USM on my 5DII as a walk-around and AF is significantly better: faster, more surefooted and more dependable. Still it is not as good as my ring-USM zooms (17-40 L, 24-105 L & 70-200 L) but I can depend on it most of the time, even in low light. In fact I've had good results using the off-center AF points in all but the dimmest situations. I suspect the ultra defocused image circle of these large aperture optics are much more demanding of AF than slower and wider optics (increased DOF easier to AF due to more contrast?).
    Canon should redesign the EF 50 1.4 USM with better wide open performance and beefy ring-type USM AF.
     
  6. Thanks Puppy,
    I also never had any luck with Canon actually improving or fixing the AF of my bodies or lenses. I should mention that my primary subject is birds in flight and I shoot with a variety of super telephoto lenses (you can see my gallery here) so the fact that I was having trouble with stationary subjects and in good light had me worried that there is a problem with the new camera body, I am just surprised how poor the AF performance is with this lens in some conditions, what you say makes sense.
    I actually thought about getting the 50 f/1.2L but most of the online reviews complain about its softness relative the cheaper 50s. Are you happy with your copy's optical performance? Another option is to give up 50mm and just use 70mm or even 100mm when possible.
     
  7. My 50 1.2L is much better at F5.6 and faster than either my 50 1.4 USM and the two 50 1.8 I've owned. However my EF 50 2.5 CM is better than all of them all in terms of across the frame sharpness from F2.5 onwards. However I bought the 50 1.2L for low light and creamy bokeh so I mainly use it from F1.2 to 2.8. I didn't buy it to stop down to F16 for landscapes. There are better lenses for that. But it does whip the 50 1.4 and 50 1.8 silly at F1.4 and 1.8 respectively.
    I haven't noticed any problems with the focus shift at F2.8/1 meter many posters love to complain about. Perhaps my 5D and 5DII misfocus just enough to make up for the shift, or the shift is so small it doesn't matter.
    My 50 1.2L review:
    http://emedia.leeward.hawaii.edu/frary/canon_ef50_1.2usm.htm
     
  8. My 5D has poor AF performance in some conditions even with the 24-105 f4L when using off-center focus points.
    Last week at the beach I was shooting in bright light and trying focus on ripples on the sand and water, which seemd contrasty enough for me, but getting focus lock was a crapshoot. In the end I had to switch to MF.
     
  9. Here are the samples
    00VD5o-199155584.jpg
     
  10. Another one
    00VD5s-199155684.jpg
     
  11. After two dozen OOF shots the subjects left the bench so I decided to see if I could get the empty bench!
    00VD5t-199155784.jpg
     
  12. No luck with this one either
    00VD5x-199155884.jpg
     
  13. In each of the above cases I have taken at least 6 or 7 photos and they are all soft... I am going to try the 50 on my 7D and a few more lenses on MKII.
     
  14. Here is the tower example
    00VD6T-199161684.jpg
     
  15. My 30D with its simpler focusing system does this often with varying focal lengths. I happily manual focus for critical compositions most of the time anyway. Makes you wonder about all that "new technology". A pro friend of mine used a 5DMKII for about a week and sold it due to focus problems...said he preferred the 5D instead.
     
  16. Peter wrote:
    I owned the EF 50 1.4 USM for 5 or 6 years and used it on my Elan 7E, A2, 10D, 20D and 5D cameras. It didn't focus dependably on any of them, and was especially poor in low light, the very situation I bought it for.
    Adjusting microfocus won't help for random AF misses. Canon Service was never able to improve AF on my copy. Crappy AF is a feature of the EF 50 1.4 USM design and not a defect.
    Nevertheless I got the best results by sticking to the center AF point and being careful to lock on points of contrast. And I always took several shots and refocused to make sure I'd get at least one good image.
    Canon should redesign the EF 50 1.4 USM with better wide open performance and beefy ring-type USM AF.​
    ALL of these statements mirror exactly my own experience with the EF 50 1.4. I couldn't have said it better myself, so I won't try.
    Arash wrote:
    I actually thought about getting the 50 f/1.2L but most of the online reviews complain about its softness relative the cheaper 50s. Are you happy with your copy's optical performance? Another option is to give up 50mm and just use 70mm or even 100mm when possible.​
    I can't afford the 50 1.2 that Peter bought, but I recently bought the Sigma 50 1.4 (from Amazon, so I could easily return or exchange it if it was one of those notorious "bad copies") and found it to be excellent in every respect (well, it's big but I can deal with that if it performs well, which it does).
    The Sigma 50 1.4 is my only non-Canon SLR lens, out of perhaps 25 lenses total (numerous L's).
    My Canon 50 1.4 is now permanently in a drawer. The only way I could in good conscience sell it to another photographer would be to list it as a manual lens that works fine when manually focused using zoomed Live View.
     
  17. I have a 50 f1.4 but not a 5D MkII so it might not be relevant. My experience with my copy is perfect though, I recently did tests of it at 1.4 and it has no focus shifting or errors or inconsistencies, it does this with all the focus points I tested it on including the outer ones. I never noticed it as being bad on my older bodies either. Whilst I have wanted to upgrade to the 50 f1.2, mainly because I had an older FD one, from the performance of my 1.4 I just can't justify it.
    Whilst it might have struggled for contrast in Arash's first posted picture it would definitely have nailed all the others, the bench in particular (with or without people) would have been easy.
    I did have some focus inconsistencies with a couple of my lenses until I spent a few hours doing AF Microadjustment, please note they were not consistent front or back focusing errors just intermittent misses, after going through this method of adjustment http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/cameras/1ds3_af_micoadjustment.html my already good AF has become superb. It is free so worth a try, it is also the most accurate way that I have found to dial in very small adjustments and to see the changes tiny focus movements have.
    I would say give it a go before getting too down on the performance of the 5D MkII and 50 f1.4 AF combination.
     
  18. Mine works fine, but I rarely, if ever, use anything other than the central AF point. Once you get off center then it is less reliable. Focus and recompose is the rule for me. It is a non-issue for me, but it might be for some people.
     
  19. I would say give [microadjustment] a go before getting too down on the performance of the 5D MkII and 50 f1.4 AF combination.​
    That can't hurt, but as Peter and I suggested from our frustrations with this lens on numerous different bodies, the problem is likely with the lens itself, not with the 5D2 (which Arash said focuses fine with his other lenses).
    My EF 50/1.4 does not focus well on my 1Ds2 or on my 5D2.
     
  20. I have AF problems with mine as well - on a 40D and an EOS3. It not only misses focus...it hunts where it ought not to do so.
    There really isn't much choice in 50/1.4 AF lenses for EOS...
    It is a "standard" lens with a decades-old design...you would think Canon would have overcome the quirks by now.
    I considered selling mine and buying the Sigma...but...there are reports of inconsistent AF on that lens as well:
    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/Sigma-50mm-f-1.4-EX-DG-HSM-Lens-Review.aspx
    If I could afford the 1.2 (or if I was a working photog that needed that capability) I might give it a try...
    Honestly, as far as AF goes, I prefer my EF 35/2. It is, an even older, micro motor...but it has very good and consistent AF. Maybe Canon should have binned the idea of that flakey micro motor/USM idea.
    Cheers! Jay
     
  21. Yep, the EF 35 2.0 does have much better AF. It's a keeper. Actually the EF 35 2.0 does not use a micro motor. It is an even older AFD design of mid-1980s vintage. Oddly AF in the EF 50 1.8 (MK I) is about as flakey as the EF 50 1.4 USM, and yet it has a similar AF design to the EF 35 2.0. Probably the increased DOF of the 35 2.0 gives the AF system more contrast to lock onto.
     
  22. My mistake (about the AFD)...
    I bought a 50/1.8 MkII new for my son...the out of focus background highlights are Harsh...and...it "spontaneously disassembled" during autofocus. This lens had Very Little use before it failed.
    Upon careful inspection, I discovered that a small plastic "tab" on the inside of the lens, which is, apparently, responsible for keeping the lens assy in the barrel, had broken. So, turns out the EF 50/1.8 wasn't such a bargain afterall. In spite of all the positive reviews for this lens, in my opinion it is Definitely Not an option for someone who needs a fast 50...and probably not a bargain a the $100 price point.
    As I mentioned earlier, there are not a lot of sub-$ 1000, "fast 50", AF lens options for Canon EF mount.
    I can honestly say that if these two 50mm lenses (the 1.4 & 1.8) had been my first two Canon lens purchases, I would have fled to another brand. Thankfully, I have had much better luck with all my other Canon gear.
    Cheers! Jay
     
  23. I know this is juvenile so please don't shoot me but are you focusing multiple times or just once? I have found that by moving AF off the shutter on onto the AF button and focusing multiple times that I get far better results. Typically it takes three presses to get consistent focus. I always use just the centre AF point. My technique is to place the focus point over the area I wish to focus on and then press the AF button once. Typically the AF point flashes red and the AF beep goes off the first time to confirm focus. But then I press the AF button again while the AF point is still over the area I wish to focus on. I can typically feel (and sometimes hear and see) if the lens moves again, if it does I press it a third time. I get AF confirmation each time but I find that the number of keepers is much much higher with multiple AF attempts. It sounds worse than it is because you can press the AF button quite quickly in succession (quarter to half a second or less between presses). Then for followup shots at similar distance I don't do any refocusing so it stays where it was. Of course this only really works for landscape shots where the subject isn't moving around.
     
  24. Thanks guys for the comments, looks like this is a common issue with this lens, I have also performed AF test, at close range all AF points seem to work fine on a contrasty targets so I can't find and dial a micro-adjust value.
    I will go to the store today and try the Sigma. If not I will just get a 100 macro or use my 70-200 for these conditions.
     
  25. I don't have the 50 f1.4 but I have had trouble getting accurate focus with the 5D2's peripheral focus points using almost any lens. I've had problems with the 24-105, 50 f1.8 and also the 200 f2.8. I am more inclined to think this is a camera issue rather than a lens problem.
    Having said that, my previous camera was the 350D and it was no better when using it's peripheral focus points. I'm sticking to the central point only from now on.
     
  26. Focus recompose on the center AF point works very well for me. And LiveView manual focusing with zoom will give you the best accuracy you can ever dream of.
     
  27. This are the pain and pitfalls for buying fast lenses. They can have front/rear focus issues depending on the mating tolerances of mount.
    Is there a AF-tuning option in a 5DMk2, like what a D700/D3 has?
     
  28. Yes Arthur MKII has MA which is the same as Nikon AF fine tuning , but that is not the problem here as I mentioned since there is no systematic front or back focus. I have a D700 too, there is no comparison in AF between the two but I got the MKII for high resolution landscape and architecture shots, stationary subjects mostly.
     
  29. Arash,
    As I mentioned earlier my AF inconsistencies were not all front or back focused but after MA they were eliminated. When I went through the process linked to above it was very interesting to watch the focus ring, it goes past the correct focus and then back to where it thinks is the best. As you dial in adjustments the amount it corrects get less and less.
    Anyway, for your intended landscape and architecture uses, whilst I don't excuse the poor AF performance you seem to be getting, Live View is a far far better choice. You will get much better results with it and I am sure you will be happy with the resolution of the 5D MkII.
     
  30. Hi Scott,
    Can you explain how to perform MA when the results from AF test target seem to be in perfect focus? In other words what amount of MA should I dial in and on what basis? Will this then affect the conditions where AF seems to be good already?
    I use live view on tripod it is also easier to frame but sometimes I am handholding and it's difficult to use live view. I am happy with the sharpness and amount of detail in the RAW files it is excellent.
     
  31. Arash,
    If I were in your position, thinking of giving up with the lens, then I would do several series of shots and dial in +10 and -10. Did you use the interference pattern I linked to? It is far more accurate than any test target visual inspection, no ten test shots and asses the results rubbish.
    If either shows promise I'd then do two more tests + and - 5 from the setting that helped and narrow it down like that. It is important to have the test subject a distance from the camera, Canon say a minimum of 50 times the focal length, it seems the longer the better for distance work like your landscapes and architecture though.
     
  32. I used my usual test image http://www.photo.net/learn/focustest/ that I use for my telephoto lenses at about 1.5m from Camera, I will try the wave pattern at 2-3m distance to see if it makes any difference.
    Thanks
     
  33. I did the focus test with the wave pattern at ~ 10ft, result is no MA was needed. I also tested the lens with 7D which not only has better AF than MKII but also all points are cross-type and equally accurate (leaves you wondering why Canon did not put this AF module in the 5D MKII!) anyways the phrase that best describes AF performance of this lens is "crap shoot" as someone said earlier! It is better if you glue the AF switch to manual position.
    Looks like 50mm is a real handicap for Canon, for now I am returning this lens and sticking with what lenses I have, I will test the Sigma if AF was any better I will get one. Also I found out that distortion was pretty high for this lens despite being a 50mm prime, not good for architecture work to begin with...
    00VDev-199511684.jpg
     
  34. Samples from 7D
    00VDew-199511784.jpg
     
  35. Another one
    00VDex-199513584.jpg
     
  36. stb

    stb

    Sorry, but I have to ask: do you really need AF for landscape photography?
     
  37. "Sorry, but I have to ask: do you really need AF for landscape photography?"

    *sigh*, I can't decide if your question is sarcastic or not. You obviously don't NEED AF for any sort of photography but it is useful and convenient in many situations, including landscape photography.
     
  38. The 50mm 1.4 is one of my favorite lenses but the AF has a material margin of error. When precise focus is needed at close distances I us my Minolta manual focus instead.
    See a thread I posted on the topic a while ago:
    http://www.photo.net/film-and-processing-forum/00UIER
     
  39. I have the same camera and lens. The 50 f/1.4 is great optically but lousy when it comes to the focusing mechanism.
    Here's my question... Have any of you sent the *THIS* model lens back to Canon to have them work on the problem, and what was the result? Cost? Mine is about 6 years old and long out of warranty. It's had the problem from when it was new, but I think it's worse now. It's really not worth spending more than, say, $100 to get it fixed. It would really burn me if it came back as bad is it is now having spent a lot of money to fix it.
    Thanks,
    Joe
     
  40. Mauro, you sure spent some time on this. I'd never heard that the 50mm f/1.4 had a broad AF tollerance. I think everyone that uses AF knows that sometimes it pays to focus twice or three times to get precise focus, but apparantly that didn't work for Arash on his lens/camera. I wonder if the date of the lens makes any difference, I'm going to try to pay more attention and see if the issue pops up on my sample. Arash's example looks pretty severe where as yours looks like it is closer to normal tollerances. Thanks for the testing.
     
  41. Your welcome Cole.
    You could test it now at home if you have a subject you can shoot with fine detail 20 feet away or so.
    Shoot 3 shots at f1.4 and compare them to see whether they all look the same.
     
  42. The 50mm 1.4 is one of my favorite lenses but the AF has a material margin of error. When precise focus is needed at close distances I us my Minolta manual focus instead.​
    Why not just manually focus the Canon 50mm? It seems unnecessary to change a standard lens just so you can focus manually.
     
  43. I just wanted to add that I returned the 50 lens and got a 24-105L instead to use it for general purpose situations. AF is much better than the 50, even in low light I can track subjects in AI-servo mode, here is one example, peripheral points aren't bad either as long as you give them enough contrast... Time for Canon to make a proper 50mm with good AF and low distortion.
    Focus point was on the umbrella.
    00VFPU-200451584.jpg
     
  44. My 50 F1.4 has very high IQ but the AF is a bit hit or miss with the 1V, 5DII and even the 7D. Still it is not an expensive lens for the quality of the results.
     
  45. Arash, glad you resolved your issue! Before I sold my 50 1.4 USM I tested it against my 24-105L, both at 50mm/F4 and found the L zoom both sharper and more contrasty. And, as you noticed, the zoom focuses much better, even in low light.
     
  46. You guys made me curious. I heard of questionable AF performance with the 5Dmk2, so I googled it and came to this. I know my 50mm 1.4 isn't exactly an AF champ, but I never put the entire AF system into question. I own a 5Dmk2 but it wasn't available for this test. After reading this thread I slapped a calendar up on my desk, grabbed my 10D with 50mm 1.4 and sought my own results. The following test was very make-shift and quick. The calendar was just a few feet in front of me, and I set the focus to infinity before Auto-focusing. Aperture was f/2.8, 1/30 shutter, AWB for the first image (I changed it to tungsten for the next 2). After each photo I manually set the focus distance back to infinity. The results were interesting, but I'm not a super pro so I don't really know how to analyze them. Here are the images at 100% crop.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    So, why did the focus get progressively better? I turned off the camera and uploaded the pictures to look at them. I put the CF card back in the camera and ran the test one more time. Same results, only, the first picture wasn't as badly out of focus. Any comments from a knowledgeable pro would be cool.
     

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