DO Lenses - Sharpness issues in the cold?

DanCarr

I'm New Here
Apr 15, 2015
18
18
Last year on a very cold day (-30F) I had some issues with my 400mm f/4 DO II. I simply could not get a sharp shot. At the time I thought I must have dropped it earlier in the day without realizing it because everything was so soft and it looked like the lens was screwed.

Strange thing is, when I got the lens home and warmed it up, the next day everything was fine and it continued to work well at normal temperatures. I know DO lenses are complex beasts so I was wondering if contraction in the cold has a different effect on them compared to other lenses. I have never had an issue with a non DO lens in low temps.

I posted on my blog to see if anyone else had experienced the same thing, and just today someone commented that with the same lens, they too had issues in the cold.

With my own single data point, I had sort of put the issue at the back of my mind as there wasn't enough to go on, but now my curiosity has been renewed with the news that someone else might have had the same problem.

Has anyone else experienced this? Either with a DO lens or maybe a non DO lens?
 

johnf3f

Canon 1Dx
Oct 25, 2012
931
19
Wales
I haven't heard of this potential problem, I wonder if any other users have encountered anything similar.
I am interested in the idea of downsizing to a lightweight 400/500mm lens so I would be interested to find out if this a common problem.
 

AlanF

Stay alert, control the camera, save photos
Aug 16, 2012
6,693
5,561
We don’t get weather as cold as Sam McGee experienced in Canada back here in the mother country.
 

fentiger

EOS 80D
Dec 26, 2015
177
59
England
you may have to let the lens cool down to outdoor temperatures, could be thermal currents inside lens causing that issue.
i know that is the case with astro telescopes, so maybe the same thing.
 
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Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,265
1,923
Canada
Don't be offended, but are you sure it wasn't fog/condensation. If the rear element fogged up in the cold you might not notice it. Just speculating.
Yes, cold air does not hold as much moisture as warm air, so it is very possible that as your lens cooled down, that some of the moisture left the air for a lens element. Try throwing a dessicant pack into your lens case.
 

DanCarr

I'm New Here
Apr 15, 2015
18
18
Don't be offended, but are you sure it wasn't fog/condensation. If the rear element fogged up in the cold you might not notice it. Just speculating.
Yeah I'm sure that wasn't it. At the time that thought occurred to me and I checked.
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,265
1,923
Canada
Yeah I'm sure that wasn't it. At the time that thought occurred to me and I checked.
interesting.... What temperature are we talking about? If you take the lens outside, how long does it work before things go soft on you?

Could it be a lubricant problem?
 

BeenThere

EOS 6D MK II
Sep 4, 2012
961
326
I’ve seen infinity focus shift slightly on wide angles (relative to focus ring setting) when going from warm to cold. Could there be a slight AF calibration change with temp? Another good reason to move to the R system where AF occurs on the sensor itself.
Could this be why Canon has held off releasing new DO lenses until mirrorless was available to solve the issue?
 

Viggo

EOS 5D SR
Dec 13, 2010
4,484
1,157
Yeah, not only DO lenses, all lenses expands and retracts in more extreme temperatures. I’ve used different AFMA with my lenses outside and in for ever, one for cold winter and one for indoor and sometimes one for very hot. It was a big issue with DSLR’s for me as it isn’t all that constant, so fine tuning is often needed.
 
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awair

EOS T7i
Jan 3, 2013
95
8
photo.awair.net
I took a 4-hour walk in -20C a couple of years ago, can't remember which lens (but not DO), but everything appeared to come out sharp.

I do recall the camera (6D) couldn't autofocus on occasions because of the cold. However, with the shorter focal lengths this issue may not have been obvious to me.
 

Nelu

5D Mark IV, 1-DX Mark III, EOS R
Yeah, not only DO lenses, all lenses expands and retracts in more extreme temperatures. I’ve used different AFMA with my lenses outside and in for ever, one for cold winter and one for indoor and sometimes one for very hot. It was a big issue with DSLR’s for me as it isn’t all that constant, so fine tuning is often needed.
I was looking for this kind of information because this is driving me crazy!:)

I just bought a second-hand Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens and it seems in a very good shape but it gave me some contradictory results out in the cold.
For example, on Saturday and Sunday I was on Nose Hill in Calgary, at about the same temperatures (-3C on Saturday and -7C on Sunday).

The Saturday's photos turned out really nice and sharp while the Sunday's photos were a disaster; NOTHING was in focus! Not front-focus, not back-focus, just a blurry mess...

The only difference was that on Saturday I put my camera and lens on the tripod very soon after leaving the parking lot, so the camera-lens combination had enough time to adjust to the exterior temperature before I took the first shots.
On Sunday I took the camera from the backpack and I just started to shoot; bad idea but the buck was right there, looking at me!

Just for the heck of it, on Saturday I used both my 5D Mark IV and the EOS-R and all photos turned out great. Unfortunately I didn't use the EOS-R with the 600mm lens on Sunday; that would have been the ultimate test because that combination doesn't need AFMA.

Oh well, maybe next time!:)

I have to say, the 1DX is much more resilient in this regard than the 5D Mark IV, it doesn't really care about cold, just keep on shooting and shooting in perfect focus, all the time. Its huge battery might be a factor, I suppose...

Thanks,
Nelu
 
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R1-7D

EOS 7D MK II
Jun 25, 2012
726
62
Canada
I was looking for this kind of information because this is driving me crazy!:)

I just bought a second-hand Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens and it seems in a very good shape but it gave me some contradictory results out in the cold.
For example, on Saturday and Sunday I was on Nose Hill in Calgary, at about the same temperatures (-3C on Saturday and -7C on Sunday).

The Saturday's photos turned out really nice and sharp while the Sunday's photos were a disaster; NOTHING was in focus! Not front-focus, not back-focus, just a blurry mess...

The only difference was that on Saturday I put my camera and lens on the tripod very soon after leaving the parking lot, so the camera-lens combination had enough time to adjust to the exterior temperature before I took the first shots.
On Sunday I took the camera from the backpack and I just started to shoot; bad idea but the buck was right there, looking at me!

Just for the heck of it, on Saturday I used both my 5D Mark IV and the EOS-R and all photos turned out great. Unfortunately I didn't use the EOS-R with the 600mm lens on Sunday; that would have been the ultimate test because that combination doesn't need AFMA.

Oh well, maybe next time!:)

I have to say, the 1DX is much more resilient in this regard than the 5D Mark IV, it doesn't really care about cold, just keep on shooting and shooting in perfect focus, all the time. Its huge battery might be a factor, I suppose...

Thanks,
Nelu
A fellow Calgarian! Did you buy your 600 late this last summer by any chance? There were two available that I know of in Calgary around that time, and I bought one.

I was warned by Joe Desjardin (wildlife photographer here in town) that the big lenses need time to adjust to big temperature changes. The front elements expand and contract.

If Joe is right, that might explain your different experiences from one day to the next.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had chance to try mine in the cold. Hopefully this upcoming weekend I’ll get chance.
 

Nelu

5D Mark IV, 1-DX Mark III, EOS R
A fellow Calgarian! Did you buy your 600 late this last summer by any chance? There were two available that I know of in Calgary around that time, and I bought one.

I was warned by Joe Desjardin (wildlife photographer here in town) that the big lenses need time to adjust to big temperature changes. The front elements expand and contract.

If Joe is right, that might explain your different experiences from one day to the next.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had chance to try mine in the cold. Hopefully this upcoming weekend I’ll get chance.
Well hello there!
I bought mine in October and I know there were a couple for sale in this area; one on Kijiji, somewhere in NW, which I missed; I bought mine from someone from Southern Alberta but not Calgary.
As well all know very well here in Calgary, big temperature changes are what we have in Chinook conditions. Of course, they usually come with strong wind and...headaches for quite a few people. The weekend was pretty calm though, no wind, which was very unusual for Nose Hill.

Joe must be right because even if I microadjust the AF perfectly indoors (I got both FocalPoint and Lens Align but I prefer the latter one), the best setting doesn't work well in the backyard. Even more, while I was doing the AFMA outside, two weeks ago, at around -13C, the optimum value changed like 8 or 9 points while doing the measurements, until the lens reached the outside temperature.
Now I kind of know that the 5D Mark IV with the 600mm and the 1.4TC is front-focusing the colder it gets, so I had to add some positive values to the adjustments.
This weekend the measured values were -1 indoor and +5 outside. That might not seem much but when all you have is 3-4 cm DOF, it's a lot!
Not to mention that I want my focus to be on the animal eyes and those deer don't stand still for long!:)

Anyhow, I thought of sending the lens to Canon for cleaning and adjustments but I'm not sure that would solve anything; I'll think about it because it might be worth it, with the CPS membership...