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Gear Talk => Lenses => Topic started by: scottsdaleriots on March 19, 2012, 04:41:58 AM

Title: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: scottsdaleriots on March 19, 2012, 04:41:58 AM
I'm just about ready to pull the trigger on this and buy this lens to do some music/concert photography with, but have read quite a few bad customer reviews about the AF dying. It seems a fair margin of people are experiencing this problem. How bad/likely is it of happening?

A lot of people say their AF "quits working" after a few months and do multiple times they send it back to canon to get it fixed. AF tends to quit working after the 1yr warrantry expires. They suggest to get the 50mm 1.4 or even the sigma 50mm (which doesnt have AF which is what i want).

Anyone know more info on this issue?
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: marcosv on March 19, 2012, 05:37:42 AM
Between my friends and I we have four copies of the 50/1.4.  We bought new and Canon USA refurb.  Zero AF issues over the many years of ownership.  If you look carefully, you'll see a number of threads about issues with the front element being banged into because the front element extends during focusing.  This is a full time manual focus lens; get into the habit of retracting the front element before putting it away --- or store it with the lens hood on (great for exchanging lens quickly like at an event).

Like any other fast prime, take extra time to make sure your copy nails focus.  MAF helps.

As for the Sigma 50/1.4:  I *REALLY* wanted to buy one, but, am afraid I would get burned by the Sigma lottery --- either up front or years later when I buy another DSLR body.  Two friends of mine "lost the lottery" a total of five times (bought new from Adorama and B&H).  My local camera store that carries Sigma doesn't recommend the 50/1.4 for Canon EF mount.  It's still tempting to buy the Sigma for use as a manual lens.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: StanFoxworthy on March 19, 2012, 06:12:53 AM
As you most likely have read, if you do get the EF 50 1.4, make sure to install a lens hood and "pinch" type lens cap from the get go. By keeping the lens hood on at all times you will prevent any contact with the front of the lens, and therefore keep it fully functional for many years. My copy is almost indistinguishable from the 50L (both @ f1.4), and is the lightest and smallest footprint of the three 50's I own.

The Sigma 50 1.4 has also been a top performer for me on both the 1Ds MkIII & 5D MkII (and seems to be my favorite walk-about lens, due to its FOV of closer to a 45mm!). Just remember, when shooting wide open, there is a very shallow depth of field which can rear its ugly head when using a center point and recomposing!

I will say that each of the 50's have their own special personality and "look". I don't think you would be disappointed with either of them.

Good luck with your search!
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: wickidwombat on March 19, 2012, 06:49:18 AM
I dunno mine is a couple of years now and been used alot and never had a problem with it
AF is snappy and accurate overall for the money its pretty good. I would think it was better if I hadn't previously used the equivalent priced Nikon G 50 f1.4 which unfortunately leaves it for dead. I really hope canon updates this lens
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: rj79in on March 19, 2012, 06:54:55 AM
I got a bad copy of the 1.4 and had to send it back to Canon over soft images using the AF. Canon agreed it was a bad copy and I got a replacement. It is working fine since.

AF needs care at wide open to get satisfactory images but considering the price as compared to 1.2, it is a steal.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: iso79 on March 19, 2012, 07:50:07 AM
The 50 f/1.4 is a pretty crappy lens. The USM motor and focusing ring aren't made very well. Invest in some L lenses and don't look back.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: Tijn on March 19, 2012, 08:48:32 AM
The 50 f/1.4 is a pretty crappy lens. The USM motor and focusing ring aren't made very well. Invest in some L lenses and don't look back.
The 50mm f/1.4 focus is actually faster (but noisier) than that of its 50mm f/1.2L brother, despite the fact that it's micro USM instead of ring-type USM. The lens isn't L quality build, so you're right about the focus ring. However, its image quality from f/2 onwards is sharp, and at smaller apertures it's even sharper than the 50mm f/1.2L lens.

The 50mm f/1.4 is good value, really. Decent image quality, good sharpness at f/2 and beyond (but 'dreamy' haloes at the widest apertures lower than f/2). The 50mm f/1.2L is better at sub-f/2 sharpness, bokeh, build quality and flare. The f/1.4 is better at AF speed, price, weight and small aperture sharpness. If you're going to punish the 50mm f/1.4 in comparison to L lenses, pick a different aspect than its focusing motor. Considering that it costs 4x less, the 50mm f/1.4 will be plenty good for anyone but the most bokeh-fanatic prime lovers.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: FunPhotons on March 19, 2012, 08:54:10 AM
Wow, that's interesting to hear. I have a 50 1.4 where the AF got flaky. It started when I took it to the beach and it got a few grains of sand in the lens from a blowing wind.

Strike #1, no weather sealing, very easy to get dust/dirt inside

Eventually I cleared the sand, but holding it face down and shaking and what not. Didn't see the sand exit the body, must have been a few grains. Until then the lens was locked up, the USM wouldn't work. Anyhow with the sand cleared out, the AF started to work again, intermittently.

Strike #2, AF fails after about five minutes of use, every time.

The lens kicks around, I've thought of sending it in, but it wasn't expensive in the first place and didn't seem worth it. Now I have the 24-105L and get much better pictures, colors in particular are better on this lens, plus the weather sealing.

The only thing the 50 has going for it is that it is small. It's fast, but you don't want to use it wide open as DOF is too narrow.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: 7enderbender on March 19, 2012, 10:13:48 AM
I'm just about ready to pull the trigger on this and buy this lens to do some music/concert photography with, but have read quite a few bad customer reviews about the AF dying. It seems a fair margin of people are experiencing this problem. How bad/likely is it of happening?

A lot of people say their AF "quits working" after a few months and do multiple times they send it back to canon to get it fixed. AF tends to quit working after the 1yr warrantry expires. They suggest to get the 50mm 1.4 or even the sigma 50mm (which doesnt have AF which is what i want).

Anyone know more info on this issue?


Well here is my biased and unscientific take: To me the 50 1.4 is still one of the best optics ever. The current EF version has exactly the same lenses as my old FD versions of it. There is a reason why this has been considered the reference lens for years and decades. And if it was good enough for film it is good enough on my 5DII. It's one of my favorites and it performs.

That being said, the EF 50 1.4 is built like junk and in that respect has nothing in common with its predecessors. Mine is working fine but I also baby it. I bought the original hood for it and NEVER take it off. My suspicion is that the flimsy little clutch of the little AF motor gets banged up via the protruding lens element. So the hood protects it from physical impact that way. Are there other reasons why many people report problems with it? I don't know. Maybe.

The other problem is what the alternatives are. As far as I know there are issues with literally all 50mm lenses available for the EOS system. Different issues but non is perfect. Given the price and my past experience with the optical design I took the risk. I'm waiting for Ed Mika to come out with his general FD/EF conversion kit. Alternatively, I'm still tempted to go find a good FL 55 1.2 and get the conversion kit for that one.

Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: 7enderbender on March 19, 2012, 10:21:29 AM
Wow, that's interesting to hear. I have a 50 1.4 where the AF got flaky. It started when I took it to the beach and it got a few grains of sand in the lens from a blowing wind.

Strike #1, no weather sealing, very easy to get dust/dirt inside

Eventually I cleared the sand, but holding it face down and shaking and what not. Didn't see the sand exit the body, must have been a few grains. Until then the lens was locked up, the USM wouldn't work. Anyhow with the sand cleared out, the AF started to work again, intermittently.

Strike #2, AF fails after about five minutes of use, every time.

The lens kicks around, I've thought of sending it in, but it wasn't expensive in the first place and didn't seem worth it. Now I have the 24-105L and get much better pictures, colors in particular are better on this lens, plus the weather sealing.

The only thing the 50 has going for it is that it is small. It's fast, but you don't want to use it wide open as DOF is too narrow.

I'm not really following here. I have both those lenses and they simply don't compare. Taking any camera to a beach or into the desert to me is user error - unless it's a paid gig. Not that I haven't done it since I live at the ocean but you have to be extremely careful and maybe lucky. Sand is just nasty independent from weather sealing or no weather sealing.

The 24-105 is a completely different lens for a different application. The 50 is really meant to be used wide open in my book and it is exactly that narrow DOF that some people are after. I suspect that the 50 is also better when stopped down as far as sharpness and contrast is concerned but if so then it's likely so marginal that it doesn't matter for any practical purposes.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: 7enderbender on March 19, 2012, 10:25:13 AM
The 50 f/1.4 is a pretty crappy lens. The USM motor and focusing ring aren't made very well. Invest in some L lenses and don't look back.

Which "some L lenses" do you recommend as an alternative? The 50 1.2 comes to mind but that has it's own issues especially when considering the price.

I'm still hoping for an upgrade of either of the two lenses (and hopefully not another non-L "IS" version like they did with the 24 and the 35...).
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: DJL329 on March 19, 2012, 11:49:51 AM
I had the EF 50mm f/1.4 for less than a year before the AF died, but that was because it fell out of my bag while hiking!   :P  Yes, the micro USM does suck, but it is a nice, fast, light lens.  The Sigma 50mm does have AF, but it's larger (takes 77mm filters, as opposed to 58mm), and can have AF issues.  If you are really concerned, check out the 85mm f/1.8 as a possible alternative, if that isn't too long for your purposes.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: scottsdaleriots on March 20, 2012, 09:01:23 AM
^ the sigma 50mm has AF? Really? I thought it was excusively MF.

Between my friends and I we have four copies of the 50/1.4.  We bought new and Canon USA refurb.  Zero AF issues over the many years of ownership.  If you look carefully, you'll see a number of threads about issues with the front element being banged into because the front element extends during focusing.  This is a full time manual focus lens; get into the habit of retracting the front element before putting it away --- or store it with the lens hood on (great for exchanging lens quickly like at an event).

Like any other fast prime, take extra time to make sure your copy nails focus.  MAF helps.

As for the Sigma 50/1.4:  I *REALLY* wanted to buy one, but, am afraid I would get burned by the Sigma lottery --- either up front or years later when I buy another DSLR body.  Two friends of mine "lost the lottery" a total of five times (bought new from Adorama and B&H).  My local camera store that carries Sigma doesn't recommend the 50/1.4 for Canon EF mount.  It's still tempting to buy the Sigma for use as a manual lens.
So the reason the AF 'quits working' is about 80% fault of the owner/photographer? Of course there are going to be bad copies I know, but it is a bit of a relief hearing that as long as you take care of your lens it'll be alright.

Can you please elaborate a little more on why you didnt buy the sigma 50mm. That you didnt want to get burnt by the "sigma lottery." What's that mean exactly? The current sigma 50mm lens wont work on future canon dflr's?
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: AnselA on March 20, 2012, 09:26:33 AM
I have nothing but superlatives about this lens. I have had it for several years and keep it on the camera as the discreet walk around lens. It is great indoors and provides a beautiful bokeh. It renders skin tones well and, of course is great to use without needing flash. Get it!
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: AnselA on March 20, 2012, 09:45:39 AM
Take a look at this:  http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos/159-canon-ef-50mm-f14-usm-test-report--review (http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos/159-canon-ef-50mm-f14-usm-test-report--review)
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: Beautor on March 20, 2012, 10:25:07 AM
^ the sigma 50mm has AF? Really? I thought it was excusively MF.

...

Can you please elaborate a little more on why you didnt buy the sigma 50mm. That you didnt want to get burnt by the "sigma lottery." What's that mean exactly? The current sigma 50mm lens wont work on future canon dflr's?

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM (current EF model) does have autofocus with HSM (Sigma's version of USM), but that's where the lottery is primarily too. Sigma has some quality control issues where some lenses will nail the focus great, and others consistantly front or back focus. The lens is very sharp if you get a good copy, and can be extremely frustrating if you get a bad one. There's also often problems where the lens will work fine on one camera body, and then be way off on another body. It can be a great lens though, especially if you prefer manual focus since it eliminates the inconsistant AF.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: BillyBean on March 20, 2012, 10:31:13 AM
I have the Sigma 50mm 1.4. It's a very nice lens, especially for portait work on a crop frame. I love 50mm, and I use it a lot. I looked very carefully at the 50mm Canon offerings before purchasing the Sigma - after all, it costs more than the Canon equivalent. In the end, I decided that the Canon was optimised more for the landscape market that it was designed for back in the 1950s (the optical design is that old) and did not reflect what I do with 50mm today - looking for good bokeh and all that.  And the Canon autofocus motor seemed a bit naff at this price. So I went for the Sigma, rightly or wrongly. But I'm happy with my decision. I also have the Canon 50mm f1.8 (mark 1 version - with the metal lens mount!) which costs the price a round of drinks, and is a great lens for more general work. Get one on eBay... but don't get the mark II - it has a crappy plastic lens mount and structure, which breaks in about 10 minutes, from friend's experience.

I think the 'Sigma lottery' refers to the possibility that Canon will change the electronic/software lens interface in some way in order to 'inadvertently' invalidate 3rd party lenses. I think that's actually very hard nowadays, because they have to maintain backward compatibility with their entire back catalogue of lenses back to 1987, but I guess theoretically it could happen. All I can say is that I've no compatibility issues with this lens whatsoever. And it autofocuses great by the way - fast and accurate, IMHO.

My only minor gripe is the size - its a little on the weighty side.

Review is at: http://www.dpreview.com/products/sigma/lenses/sigma_50_1p4 (http://www.dpreview.com/products/sigma/lenses/sigma_50_1p4)
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: slinky on March 20, 2012, 10:32:43 AM
I picked up the Canon 50 1.4 from Craigslist a few months ago and the autofocus died after a bit. I don't think that it was a problem that it had but as others have said, this lens is very susceptible to damage by being struck on the front element. I don't remember dropping it but it must have just been shaken in my bag.

Actually the autofocus didn't totally go. I just couldn't focus on anything closer than 1 metre.

However... thankfully this is not an uncommon problem with the camera and there was lots of advice online about how to fix this problem. So actually it was a great adventure and lots of fun to open this lens up and fix the problem. Obviously not everyone will feel comfortable with doing this but it is possible.

As long as you take care of the lens (store it horizontally) you shouldn't have a problem but in the worst case, even if you do, it is fixable. Obviously the build quality could be better but the price is right. A great value lens.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: DJL329 on March 20, 2012, 10:37:27 AM
^ the sigma 50mm has AF? Really? I thought it was excusively MF.

...

Can you please elaborate a little more on why you didnt buy the sigma 50mm. That you didnt want to get burnt by the "sigma lottery." What's that mean exactly? The current sigma 50mm lens wont work on future canon dflr's?

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM (current EF model) does have autofocus with HSM (Sigma's version of USM), but that's where the lottery is primarily too. Sigma has some quality control issues where some lenses will nail the focus great, and others consistantly front or back focus. The lens is very sharp if you get a good copy, and can be extremely frustrating if you get a bad one. There's also often problems where the lens will work fine on one camera body, and then be way off on another body. It can be a great lens though, especially if you prefer manual focus since it eliminates the inconsistant AF.

Scott, I think you are confusing the Sigma with the Zeiss, which is MF only.  The Zeiss is more expensive and, from what I've read, the bohkeh might not be great, due to its 9-blade diaphragm (the Canon's 8-blade diaphragm is rounder).

Sigma:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/560577-USA/Sigma_310_101_Normal_50mm_f_1_4_EX.html (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/560577-USA/Sigma_310_101_Normal_50mm_f_1_4_EX.html)

Zeiss:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/583975-REG/Zeiss_1677_817_Normal_50mm_f_1_4_ZE.html (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/583975-REG/Zeiss_1677_817_Normal_50mm_f_1_4_ZE.html)
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: EOBeav on March 20, 2012, 09:25:13 PM
The 50 f/1.4 is a pretty crappy lens. The USM motor and focusing ring aren't made very well. Invest in some L lenses and don't look back.

No. I'm guessing you made this comment to see what kind of reaction you would get. Yes, the motor and focusing ring aren't what I would consider top-notch, but that lens can hardly be considered 'crappy'.  The images it produces--by far the most important consideration of a lens--is virtually indistinguishable from the 50mm f/1.2 L, which costs about 3x more.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: scottsdaleriots on March 21, 2012, 12:51:24 AM
Scott, I think you are confusing the Sigma with the Zeiss, which is MF only.  The Zeiss is more expensive and, from what I've read, the bohkeh might not be great, due to its 9-blade diaphragm (the Canon's 8-blade diaphragm is rounder).

Sigma:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/560577-USA/Sigma_310_101_Normal_50mm_f_1_4_EX.html (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/560577-USA/Sigma_310_101_Normal_50mm_f_1_4_EX.html)

Zeiss:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/583975-REG/Zeiss_1677_817_Normal_50mm_f_1_4_ZE.html (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/583975-REG/Zeiss_1677_817_Normal_50mm_f_1_4_ZE.html)
Yeah maybe i am. I know that (at least) one of the 3rd party 50mm lenses is only MF. Until today I didnt know that sigma made a macro 50mm lens.


I forgot to mention it's not only AF that quits from the canon 50mm 1.4 lens it's also the MF. They both stop working and it becomes a dead lens.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: bigblue1ca on March 21, 2012, 01:02:17 AM
I have the 50 1.4 and I've never had a problem with it.  It's a great little lens.  Is it the same build quality as my L glass, heck no, but dollar for dollar for IQ, it's a great lens.
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: scottsdaleriots on March 21, 2012, 01:09:32 AM
^ How old is your lens and do you use it with a filter? Im afraid that if i buy this lens, it will break after a few months :(
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: D.Sim on March 21, 2012, 01:39:17 AM
Just how exactly are you using (abusing?) your lenses if you can be afraid of breaking one after a few months? =/

And its not even the plasticky nifty fifty?

Lenses are not exactly easy to break, not unless you go out of your way to abuse it, and while the AF may fail - its pretty much what could happen to any lens if you don't take care of it.

Also:

Quote
I forgot to mention it's not only AF that quits from the canon 50mm 1.4 lens it's also the MF. They both stop working and it becomes a dead lens.

MF failing?  :o

where are you getting this info?
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: wickidwombat on March 23, 2012, 01:46:09 AM
^ How old is your lens and do you use it with a filter? Im afraid that if i buy this lens, it will break after a few months :(

I've had mine 2 years now and still going strong and its been all over the world with me
Title: Re: Canon 50mm 1.4 AF problem?
Post by: slinky on March 23, 2012, 02:18:30 PM
Also:

Quote
I forgot to mention it's not only AF that quits from the canon 50mm 1.4 lens it's also the MF. They both stop working and it becomes a dead lens.

MF failing?  :o

where are you getting this info?

Unfortunately he's right. If you have the problem like I described above, the MF will also fail. This lens is notorious for this problem. The focus ring can easily get bent and severely limits the range of the auto or manual focus. This is not an isolated issue and if you google "fix canon 50 1.4 focus problem" you will see many results of people having this problem. Like I mentioned if you're not scared to open your lens up and fix it, it isn't a deal breaker but if you are rough with this lens, you will likely have problems. Actually I was much rougher with my 50 1.8 and never had any problems but I'm taking extra care with the 1.4 now. If this lens takes a hit to the front, there is a chance that you'll have focus problems but still, a great lens and highly recommended from me for its cost/quality.