Answer: Fixing Canon 7D Focus Issue
Update August 2, 2011: There is now a petition to gather signatures for all those who feel affected by a 7D focusing issue: Sign Petition
Update April 25, 2011: In total, my 7D had been to Canon 4 times in a year. The last time in for repair, they did exchange it out for a refurbished unit that does not have any focusing issues.
I’ve got a new post that has an interesting graph of user visits that makes me question (along with many others) if the Canon 7D is a lemon: Is the Canon 7D a Lemon?
I’ve had my Canon 7D for 5 months now. I had upgraded from the Canon 40D. At times, I feel the focusing on the 7D is fantastic. Fast and accurate. At other times, especially in low light, I feel like throwing the camera out of frustration. I’ve missed so many beautiful shots! ARRGH!
But, is it just me? I’ve scoured the Internet, I’ve Googled my eyes out, and this is what I’ve found. I’ve compiled the best information so you don’t have to go hunt for it.
First, if you are having focusing issues, just what type of focus issues are they? I have found people are frustrated in one of two areas:
- AF not being able to quickly grab a focus point causing excessive ‘searching’ and lens focus ring actuation.
- Photos turning out ‘soft’ even though the 7D finds a focus point with low ISO, fast shutter speed and adequate lighting.
This YouTube Video shows what is happening in regards to the excessive search issue. The person who posted the video was able to fix the issue through a ‘Hard Reset’ of the Canon 7D.
A Hard Reset is simply removing the battery and also (while the battery door is open) removing the ‘watch’ battery that keeps the date/time stored. You’ll lose your date/time setting as well as your image numbering. Fortunately, all your custom settings are not lost (including your custom menu).
Once you remove both batteries, let the camera sit no less than 1 hour. Anything less doesn’t seem to fix the issue.
If a Hard Reset does not fix the issue, the only alternative seems to be sending the unit to Canon for service. Canon repair site
Soft Photos/Out of Focus (OOF)
Out of Focus issues refers to having taken your photos with a high f-stop, low ISO and plenty of light to only find that in post-production the photos are not adequately in focus. The last section of this post has some instructions on how to test for this.
There are many (15+ documented) reports I read of people having the OOF issue and after having their camera either ‘Hard Reset’ or sent to Canon service, the issue was solved.
Through all the forum ‘flaming’ smoke, you can clearly see there is an ongoing issue with the Canon 7D that affects the AF mechanism. The Canon service fix is a simple re-calibration of the AF mechanism and most cases report having the camera back in a week. One report said it took a month, FYI.
But before sending your camera off for service, there has been some success in just checking and/or tweaking your custom functions on your camera.
Over at Photography-on-the.net, I found this great bit of info from poster ‘timbop’:
Set CF III-3 to 1, which is tracking priority. Also, remember that the first shot in a burst with AI servo can be OOF if you quickly press the release before it actually acquires focus. You can change that behavior as well, with CF III-2
And there is this post by photoframd that speaks to the camera simply not auto-focusing at all. This was a case of assigning a custom setting and forgetting about it, but sometimes that is part of learning when you get a shiny new toy!
How to do a Focus Test
So how do you know whether your Canon 7D is really having an OOF issue? Test it of course!
A basic test is to set your camera up on a tripod and make sure that what you are going to photograph is set a minimum of 50 times further away than the focal length of your lens. The formula for this is:
- In Meters: 50 * [camera focal length]/1000
35mm Lens: (50 * 35)/1000 = 1.75 Meters
- In Feet: (50 * [camera focal length]/1000 )*3.28
35mm Lens: (50 * 35)/1000 = 1.75 * 3.28 = 5.74 feet
This ensure that depth of field doesn’t produce any softness. And when taking your shots, make sure to either use a remote trigger or the timer, this ensures no added vibrations to your shot (when depressing the shutter button).
Next, set your ISO to the lowest setting you can (to reduce noise) and set your camera to aperture-priority mode. Choose the highest f/stop of the lens.
Set your lens to manual focus and manually focus the subject you are shooting to be crystal clear. Take the shot and it is recommended to take at least 3.
Finally, set your lens to auto-focus and be sure the camera is set to Single-Shot AF. Now allow the camera to choose the focus point and again take 3 more shots.
Load the shots into whatever software you use to manager your library and compare results. 100% magnification will most likely see some slight variation for Auto-Focus, but anything ‘out of the ordinary’ would need further attention.