Incidents and accidents

5D II focus issues… again

December 3rd, 2009

Just as a general aside for anyone who needs to know or is having the same problems themselves.

What I sent Canon at 11am 12/2/09:

Dear Canon support,

I’ve been having the same issue with my 5D Mark II for a while now. It does not focus well when using the peripheral focal points. At first, it didn’t focus well at all, even with micro adjustments, so I sent it in for repair. It came back still not focusing correctly, so I requested another repair. I then tried the micro adjusts on the center point and they worked, so I canceled that repair request. The I used the peripheral points again and the micro adjusts just don’t work, so I asked for another repair. It was right in the middle of my busy season though, and I never had time to send it off.
Reading the manual, I noted that the peripheral points aren’t as good as the center one, but the camera should still be able to focus! Thinking I could cope with using just the center point and cropping, I kept the camera yet again. Well, I can’t cope. I need to be able to change focal points. The included images are straight out of the camera, shot last night, only cropped a little to better fit in email. You’ll see that the first one is nice ad sharp in the middle, but the second one is horribly out of focus and soft when shot with the far right point.

This has been a 6 month long process. It’s been eating time and stressing me out. I need a camera that works the way I want it to (ie: a camera which can focus using the peripheral points!). I have considerable Canon brand loyalty due to use for over six years. Hell, I wrote an article for Canon:…

A quick google search brings up a mountain of people who are having these same issues:…………

I don’t WANT to switch systems, but if I can’t get a camera that works, I will have to.

Where do I go from here?

Just now (8:30pm on 12/3/09) I got this:

Dear Heather Lickliter:

Thank you for contacting Canon product support. We value you as a Canon customer and appreciate the opportunity to assist you. We are very sorry to hear that you have trouble focusing when you use the peripheral focus points on your EOS 5D Mark II.

Regrettably, we cannot accept attachments at this email address. From what you have described, there is an issue with your camera that will require repair.

I cannot really say much about non-Canon websites, but if someone has an issue with their camera they should contact us. Your camera is not working as it should. I am sure that the service center can get the
camera operating properly.
We would like to send you a prepaid and insured shipping label so that
you can send the camera in to us free of charge.

I’m sending it back… again. I will have to spend another three hours resetting my settings and recalibrating my damn lenses when it gets back. I don’t anticipate it working when it gets back again, which will mean another round of pissed off letters and second guessing myself and thinking about a switch to Nikon. We’ll see.

I did play with a d700 and I purposefully didn’t use any of the center points. Oh, and hey.. all my shots were in focus! I think the things that impressed me the most were:
1. All the buttons! There’s a button for WB, there’s a button for ISO, there’s a switch to change the metering modes.. etc. I didn’t have to go through the damn menus looking for it.
2. The tracking. I switched it to continuous focus and half pressed the shutter while a friend ran around. I kept the point over her as she ran and the thing tracked her, keeping her in focus the whole time. I mean, holy crap, it was like something out of a movie.
3. Spot metering. The spot metering meters over the focal point you’re using, not like Canon where it meters the middle of the screen no matter what point you’s on.

What I didn’t like:
1. Canon cameras are just… prettier. Nikons look like they’re designed for old men.
2. No 1.2 glass.
3. The Nikon commercials with Ashton asshole make me want to poke myself in the eye.

All told, I really did like it a lot. 40 minutes in the cold isn’t really enough to base a switch on, but I didn’t run into any deal breakers. Another Nikon person says she gets 80% of s kid on a swing in focus. I know no Canon model can ever come close to that at all.

Posted in Complaint department, Photography: fun, Photography: work | Comments (10)

10 Responses to “5D II focus issues… again”

  1. Jeff Lynch Says:


    This is a “known issue” for some 5D2 bodies and Canon Service will repair it. Tell them to run diagnostics on the AF sensor and AF chip. They should be able to replace the AF sensor or even the chip if they can find the problem. Don’t give up. Try to call the Service Tech that is assigned the repair and tell him exactly what the issues are and what lenses you were using.


  2. crickie Says:

    I will be calling when it’s in, but Canon does NOT acknowledge that it’s a known issue. In fact, the last tech I talked to had never heard of this problem at all.

  3. Jake Easley Says:

    I want to hug you! I have the EXACT same issues with my 5DII. I stress out every session, worried wheather or not that key photo will be in focus. It has caused me to drastically increase the number of shots I take. Of course, that equals increased work load.
    And I’m not talking about moving subjects in low light. I’m talking about sitting subjects, in great lighting conditions. It’s sad to think that I continually got more consistant focus results with my 30D.
    I sent my camera in for a routine service and mentioned that I was also having severe problems with the focus. It was cleaned and returned without any attention to the focus issue. I am VERY curious to read your update when the camera is returned.

  4. BE Says:

    This is a known issue with the 5D. The outer AF points are simply not accurate – especially so with fast (f/1.2) glass. Canon and their fanboys will never admit it though. The 5D MkII has the same AF sensor as the 5D and therefor has the same problem.

    I have learned to live with it on my 5D. I use the center AF point only, or use manual focus. I will only upgrade when Canon brings out a camera that fixes this problem, that is if I do not switch to Nikon before that.

  5. crickie Says:

    Yes, Jake. Those were the issues before I shipped it back. Not the center point works, but I can’t cope with just the center point. Barf.

  6. crickie Says:

    Yeah, I love the bokeh on my 85 1.2, but if the damn thing can’t focus with it, what’s the point in having it? I thought I could cope with using the center point only, but I can’t. I shoot kids, so when putting the kids face in the center of the frame I can either back way the hell back or chop fingers.

  7. I’m being followed by Nikon USA « Fake Chuck Westfall Says:

    […] about what can only be referred to as the legendary AF system of our 5D Mark II, but here’s a nice story to freshen up your minds. This user hasn’t yet switched to Nikon apparently, but sure as hell was already considering […]

  8. Telmo Says:

    You know what!? I really would like them to bring out eye controlled focus again (but fixing the problem we all have).

  9. Floyd Houston Says:

    I too am having major auto focus issues with the 5d mk ii. All of my lens are L lens. I just got my camera back from repair and images are very poor. Prior to sending the camera in for repair, I spoke to a Canon rep. He suggested I send my lens in with the camera and request that they take several test shots so they could duplicate the problem. He also suggested I send them several examples. I did as he suggested. As soon as Canon got my equipment, they separated the camera & lens and sent them to different sections of the repair facility. They totally ignored my request. The camera was under warranty, but the lens were out of warranty. Next thing I knew I received close to $400.00 in repair estimates for my lens which work perfectly on Rebel T1I and 5D. It took me over 3 weeks to get my equipment back and I’m still waiting for one of my lens. I am very unhappy with Canon. I have been a loyal customer since the Canon Pelix days. Canon will not admit that they have serious problems with this camera and auto focus. I’m wondering if some type of class action suit is warranted.

  10. Wing Wong Says:

    OMG. I love your writing style! At the same time, I’m sorry to hear about your camera woes, albeit years after the fact. 🙂 I agree with the buttons… for being able to make quick changes, having direct access buttons vs menu diving is a much nicer way to go.

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