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FORUMS Canon Cameras, Lenses & Accessories Canon EF and EF-S Lenses 
Thread started 19 Apr 2013 (Friday) 02:32
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85mm f1.2L MFA/Focus Error Increases With Distance

Junior Member
24 posts
Joined Apr 2012
Apr 19, 2013 02:32 |  #1

A few weeks ago I picked up a new 85mm f/1.2L for my 5D Mark III (have used the body for over a year now) and started using it. Right away, I started to suspect there was something not quite right with it. Autofocus accuracy was incredibly spotty (still is). After trying and trying and trying to get consistently accurate results (mostly thinking it was just me), I finally took it back to the store to request an exchange for a different copy of the lens. The store does not accept refunds (fine, I didn't want a refund, just a working lens) and only accepts exchanges of defective product within 14 days. My first attempt to exchange was within this 14 days. They said they would have someone test the lens before accepting an exchange. He tested the lens, assured me it was a fine copy (and optically I believe it is, since I could live-view focus it fine), and said that its just a difficult lens to focus (no argument there). He even said it was sharper than their rental copy.

After doing a ton of testing, MFA adjustment, and more testing, this is what I've discovered: As focus distance increases, the autofocus error (front focus, specifically) increases. Wide open, the front-focus error increases faster than the gain in depth of field from the increased distance, so the farther out I get, the softer my pictures become.

So at this point I'm not sure what to do... I'm stuck with a rather expensive lens that's so off the mark most of the time that its not really worth it to me. Sure I can live view autofocus and it does great, but that's not the point. The person at the store who tested the lens suggested it may be my camera that is to blame. But I have 6 other lenses and never noticed this problem with several thousand clicks between them over the past year on this body. Granted, none of my other lenses are 1.2, but I do heavily use the 200 f/2.8L and the Canon 50 1.4. I did try the lens on my 5D Mark II for a bit, but the autofocus was so incredibly inconsistent on that body that I couldn't draw any conclusion as to what the trend was.

Any ideas how to proceed? I'm a bit frazzled, and tired of photographing test targets and playing with FoCal instead of being out and about making real photographs of real things.... I've never had such a disappointing lens purchase experience. And the 85 1.2L is so revered. I haven't been able to find anyone with a similar problem, and I can't seem to find many reports of bad copies of this lens at all for that matter....

Thanks for reading my long ramble. :)

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1,187 posts
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Joined Feb 2010
Location: Dublin
Apr 19, 2013 02:45 |  #2

I hear you and I understand your pain. The inconsistencies of the focus on my old 5D2 was the reason I had to sell it. It was a magical lens and when it does focus it's amazing. Unfortunately my keeper rates were 30% ish then. It had to go.

I'm surprised that you had similar issues with 5D3. Did using AV servo help? How much did you have to MA it? Was there significant focus shift?

5D3 | 450D | Panasonic DMC-LX3 | 430 EX II | ST-E2
24-70 L II | 50L | 50 1.8 I | 100L | Zeiss 35/2 ZE | Zeiss 85/2.8 | Zeiss 135/3.5
[COLOR="Silver"]Sold: 17-40L | 24L II | 85L II | 135L | Sigma 50/1.4 | 5D2

Junior Member
24 posts
Joined Apr 2012
Apr 19, 2013 03:01 |  #3

At +3 on the near end. +9 to +13 maybe 12-15 feet out and still iffy at that. AI servo didn't help. The focus error at the far end is so blatantly obvious that no test targets or pixel peeping needed. Wish I would have discovered the issue sooner...

I Chimp, therefore I am
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Location: Sydney, Australia
Apr 19, 2013 06:06 as a reply to  @ najik's post |  #4

Bummer. Send to Canon seems only option.
Hopefully being able to give them a precise description of problem will help.

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Senior Member
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Apr 19, 2013 06:10 |  #5

Definitely send to Canon. Mine is a lot better since I got it back.

"my bits and pieces are all hard"
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Location: Detroit, MI
Apr 19, 2013 07:01 |  #6

I had a 135L that backfocused progressively more at longer distances.

Canon fixed it, but it did take two trips to service in order to get it right.

Incidentally, I would tell that store that the 85L they sold you is also the last lens they are going to sell you. Having to fix a brand new lens through the warranty system is a pain, and there are options like Adorama or B-H that take returns without giving you the runaround. The store's return policy is not competitive.

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I use a Canon 5DIII and a Sony A7rIII

grabbing their Johnson
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Location: Gig Harbor, Washington
Apr 19, 2013 07:03 |  #7

cdang wrote in post #15844464 (external link)
Definitely send to Canon. Mine is a lot better since I got it back.


Mine was spotty as well. One trip to canon and this thing is razor sharp every place i can shoot it at,,,,glued to the 5D3,,,,,,,best way is to send in the body and the lens that way everything is set right...I actually am shocked at how accurate this thing was when i got it back.

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Senior Member
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Joined Nov 2010
Apr 19, 2013 09:28 as a reply to  @ umphotography's post |  #8

Bought mine about a couple months ago and I had AF issues similar to yours. I couldn't for the life of me get a MFA to work right in different lighting, distance, or AF modes. I sent it into Canon along with the body and got it back within the week and the AF was spot on.

So I thought.

The center point was spot on, but the AF on the outer edges were, well, not working (I didn't really noticed because I was so concerned with the center point before, so I don't know if the fix introduced this or whether the symptom was there before). So I sent it in again with the body, and it took a little over a week, but I just received it, and the AF appears to be fixed. According to the manifest, they fixed the AF circuit on the lens as well as the one in the camera (both times). I didn't think there was anything wrong with the AF on my 5DIII with my other lenses, but apparently they fixed something that affected the 85L.

I feel for you and know what you're going through with the test charts. Been there done that :-( But your best best like what everyone said is to pack up your lens and body with plenty of bubble-wrap and send them to Canon like today. You may want to test the outer points and mention that too so that their QA specifically checks that before shipping back to you, possibly avoiding a 2nd trip back to Canon.

5D Mark III, 6D, EOS-M 22mm f/2 | 24-70mm f/2.8L II | 50mm f1.4 | 100L | 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II | Rokinon 8mm Fisheye

Junior Member
24 posts
Joined Apr 2012
Apr 19, 2013 09:51 as a reply to  @ sportmode's post |  #9

Sounds like sending it to Canon is the right thing to do. I am heading out on an overseas trip in two weeks and was hoping to have my full kit with me. What are the odds of getting the body and lens back in time?

Senior Member
297 posts
Joined Mar 2007
Location: Wheeling, IL
Apr 19, 2013 10:51 |  #10

You should have it back within a week. Send in body/lens with 2 way shipping or quicker.

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71 posts
Joined May 2010
Apr 19, 2013 19:22 |  #11

I just picked up a 85 1.2 on thursday also, seems mine is doing the same thing as yours but not to that degree, I did MA my lens indoors. Its at +6 indoors, I did some shooting outside and it is front focusing @ longer distances. I'm going to MA it tommorow outside and see if the lighting changes the MA and also see how much it changes at different distances. I did try their demo and it was also front focusing for me, but I didn't do any adjustments with it. Good luck with your issue!

5D Mark III | 7D | EFS 15-85 IS | EFS 17-55 IS | EF 85 1.8 | EF 70-200L IS Mark II | EF 40 2.8 | EF 100-400L | 85 1.2L |24 70 2.8L II | 2x Einsteins | 2x EX580's |Cyber Commander|Cactus 5's|

Junior Member
24 posts
Joined Apr 2012
Apr 19, 2013 23:10 as a reply to  @ Jomax's post |  #12

Sounds similar to me. Lighting seems to change AF behavior significantly. Fortunately, good light (usually side-light from windows) seems to make it behave much better and more consistent. That's usually a +3 MFA for me. Outside all bets seem off, especially when trying to put the focus point on an eye. Sadly, in dark lighting (which one might suspect would be a reasonable application for a 1.2 lens....) it seems to struggle.

When it works, it does bring tears of joy. :D

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Joined May 2006
Location: Ghent, Belgium
Apr 20, 2013 01:07 |  #13

I have the same combo and IMHO it's just a DSLR-phenomenon.
It's a sensor thing. The further you go from your object the less "information" the sensor can hold.
When you want cristal sharp images no matter the distance you'll have to go bigger on the sensor format I'm afraid.
I know that de 5DIII+85L is supposed to be top notch but with limitations.
For myself I'm still pleased with the results :D

Senior Member
824 posts
Joined Aug 2012
Apr 20, 2013 13:20 |  #14

This sounds like the sigma 35 1.4 issue that a few people had, it'll be nice to refer the sigma haters to this thread! I do hope you get that worked out, though.

| Bodies - 5D Mark II, T2i | Lenses - Helios 44-2, Sigma 35mm 1.4, Sigma 85 1.4, Sigma 70-200 2.8 OS, Tamron SP AF 1.4x TC | Lights - 430ex ii x2, Random 3rd party strobes

Mushy ­ peas
48 posts
Likes: 1
Joined Aug 2010
Location: Melbourne
Apr 20, 2013 20:38 |  #15

My 85L and 5D3 combo has no such problems, it's dead on and a FoCal test had it at +1 MFA. In AI servo mode it rarely misses at anything other than 1.2. I'd be sending it to Canon for calibration with your body when you can.

And as the other poster said, I'd be going back to that store and letting them know that they've lost your business.

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85mm f1.2L MFA/Focus Error Increases With Distance
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