I currently have an EOS 7D with a number of lenses, mainly Canon mid-range stuff (24-105L IS, 70-200L F4 IS, 17-55 2.8 IS, 100L 2.8 IS Macro, 85 1.8 ) and two Sigmas (30 1.4 EX (i.e., the old one), and the 10-20 3.5-5.6 EX).
I had always wanted a short FL prime lens which ended me up with the Sigma 30 1.4, but its lousy AF (both regarding precision and
consistency) and soft images below f2.0 make me use it only on rare occasions where I can live with a low number of keepers.
I had been eying the new 18-35 1.8 since it was announced, even more so when the first rave reviews came in. Prime like quality and aperture in a zoom, simply amazing. Getting what basically seems to be a "variable FL prime lens"
I pulled the trigger when there was a good deal on Amazon recently (710€).
When it arrived, I was thrilled by the lens' haptics and feeling for quality, which is better than any of the Canon L lenses I own and just light years away from the Sigma 30 1.4 EX with its delicate "crinkle" finish and scratchy AF ring.
Focal-length-wise, while the 18-35 is definitely not an "always on lens", I found it to be very useful for a variety of situations.
I had no intentions to shoot any test charts, so I started testing it mainly indoors in mixed light with mainly static real-life subjects, which is my primary use case for such a lens. To my great disappointment, this particular copy on my particular body appears to exhibit a considerable frontfocus. So I printed an autofocus test chart (the one found at http://www.klein-bild.de/focus.htm
) and did some test shots at 35mm and varying subject distances. I always set focus back to MFD or infinity before autofocusing again and did three test shots at each distance and AF adjustment setting. For each subject distance, I concluded the series with a shot focused manually with live view for comparison.
The good news is that different from my 30 1.4 EX, autofocus was very consistent. But that's where the good news ended already.
It turned out that both at around 1 meter and at 0.5 meter subject distance, I needed to dial in a whooping +20 to get about the same level of sharpness that I got from MF (see screenshots below, the legend is in German, "Motivabstand" meaning "subject distance"). While I would not like the idea of having to do such a huge adjustment, I guess I could live with that.
However, at 0.35 meter subject distance, I got the best results at an adjustment setting somewhere between 0 to 10. That meant that at the +20 setting that I would need for the longer subject distances, I would be in the "barely acceptable" range of sharpness. Anyway, at that point it became pretty clear that even for a single focal length, the single adjustment value my body offers me would not suffice.
Being tired of test shots for the moment, I then did some additional research and found the "dot tune" focus adjustment method (check out this video:
), which seemed to make a lot of sense and promises much faster adjustments and does not require taking hundreds of test shots.
I tried it out at 35mm and 1,75m subject distance (as recommended for dot tune, 50 times FL). I found the range where I got a stable focus confirm to be between -3 and +16, which would indicate a correction setting of +6 or +7.
The big surprise was at 18mm and 0,9m subject, the range of stable focus confirmation only started (!) at a correction value of +17.
I could visually confirm both correction values with actual test shots.
A quick test on my trusty 450D basically confirmed the results on the 7D: Considerable front focus at 35mm which gets better at shorter subject distance, and a plain massive front focus at 18mm.
I found that the Sigma's AF is consistent at a certain focal length and subject distance, but would require different correction values for different FL/SD combinations. This gives me some hope that I could fix it with the Sigma USB Dock and some patience, but I am just not sure if I am willing to accept this.
So what should I do?
Keep it and get the USB dock? I have a week before my "no questions asked" return period expires.
Or send it back for good?
Any comments or similar experiences welcome.