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Need advice, 5d mark ii autofocus issues


Hello everyone!

Me and my 5D mark ii need some advice. I bought it some years ago, but didn't use it too much until the last year or so (long story) and I really should have, since the warranty is long expired 😕


I'm having issues with autofocus. I was shooting some product photos in studio when I realized that this was a pretty big issue, I've just told myself that it was a user error other times when a shot was out of focus, but this was getting serious and I'm honestly not that horrible of a photographer 😛


I recently also purchased the spyder lenscal, to check if it could be my lenses (though it did seem weird that this issue would affect ALL my lenses, and that it would only happen sometimes) and with my first test I took a photo and it looked a little off center, so I did a minor micro adjustment, turned the focus ring all out, made the camera focus and take a photo, and the focus was now WAY off. I found it odd, so I simply turned the focus ring again, focused and took another shot, and this time the focus was almost spot on. Oh, I only used center af point, the red point shows focus where I wanted it. I did the above several more times, in good lighting and camera on tripod, and some photos turned out pretty sharp while others were completely out of focus. I own 2 lenses, 17-40 and 50mm, and this happens on both though it seems to happen less frequently with the 17-40. I also find the autofocus hunting something fierce from time to time, no matter if it's in a well lit studio, outdoors or indoors.


Have anyone else had this issue and had it fixed at a certified canon service center? I'm trying to figure out if it's worth fixing or if it's time looking for a new camera. Honestly, I do want it fixed. I bought this camera with a small inheritance, investing in a camera that was going to stay with me for as long as possible as I usually dont have the funds to buy new ones that often. I'm afraid that sending it in for repair will cost so much that it would be wiser to just get a new one.


I'm guessing there isn't anything I can do myself about this issue. Does anyone know how much approximately it costs to get something like this fixed?


Sorry for the wall of text, and thank you for any advice you can give me.



You know that if you focus and recompose the focus point will not be accurately reflected on the screen when you go to review?

I'm not sure I understand what you mean, I should disregard the info about where my camera focused? Just to clarify, I did use autofocus, only center af point activated and aimed at the same spot on the lenscal every time, I've just read that for the focus to be accurate I should manually adjust everything out of focus before using autofocus again.

I just mean that according to my camera, it focused at the right spot every time, despite images being out of focus.

Okay, if you are not recomposing, are you focusing where there is sufficient contrast to guarantee sharp autofocus? If not, you might very well experience a variety of results. I have the 5D Mark II and when I shoot stills in the studio, I use the live view mode and if autofocus isn't sharp, I'll use manual focus with the 5X and 10X enlargement feature to guide that focus.


The 5DII doesn't have the most sophisticated autofocus system but given enough light and a sufficient amount of contrast, I've found the autofocus to be reliable if not perfect. You might try using the outer focus points. While not cross type, they are still very capable. I've attached a diagram below which points out those points that are vertical and horizontal as well as the cross type center point. Also note that maximum lens aperature also determines autofocus performance.


The lenscal should have sufficient contrast I'd say, but this is an issue that is constant. Portraits, landscapes, product photos, dark enviroment, light enviroment, flowers, you name it. I cant stand live view because I rarely get anything in focus using it, it takes ages to try and find focus if it actually does. 


I wary what focus points I'm using when I'm photographing. It was just for this particular test that I used only the center one, as I've read many will say "center focus is the most accurate/will give the best or sharpest result". 


I am aware of aperture, of course, but I've gotten out of focus shots being no more than 50cm away from my product, at F11. With a tripod.


My eyes were not made for manual focus I'm afraid, and sometimes I just don't have the time to focus manually before a moment is gone. By the way, thank you very much for trying to help me 🙂 It's been a frustrating time trying to figure this out, I had the 10D and 20D before and never had any issues like this. It would be nice to be able to use F4.5 to get beautiful depth without having to take 10 photos to get the focus where the camera said it was 😛

Because the camera will autofocus on maximum aperature and close to selected aperature only after you press the shutter, there shouldn't be any need to experiment.


Are you listening for the focus lock beep when you shoot? Sorry about forgetting that you had the lenscal solution and all the questions, I'm hope I can help but was trying to narrow the circumstances. (You name most situations as being a problem but maybe there's something in common that isn't helping you.)

Yes, I always make sure to keep the beep on so I can hear, as well as see, when the camera has locked focus. I also use the function where the camera can't take a picture without being in focus, though that doesn't help if I should fall forwards or something when I take the picture, lol ^^ 


I know the autofocus is rubbish if there is little to no light in a room, but I'd rather it didn't beep and tell me it has something focused when it clearly hasn't 😛 But the part that is most important to me is having accurate autofocus in good to great light. I do feel like the problem is worse with my 50mm, but that is the cheapest one Canon sells so I don't expect the same performance as my 17-40 F4 usm lens. That being said, the 17-40 hunts more than the cheap 50mm, but that too is mostly a dark enviroment issue, or low contrast issue. 


It feels a little bit like entering a lottery every time I take a picture. One of the reasons I bought the cheap 50mm lens was to see if the issue would disappear with a different lens. I've tried to narrow it down too, but I'm not very technical so it's really helpful to discuss these things with someone that knows more than I do.

The EOS 5D Mark II has two types of focus systems. Phase-detection AF is active when using the viewfinder and Quick AF mode in Live View. Contrast detection AF is available in Live AF and Face Detection Live AF modes in Live View. Generally speaking, contrast detection will focus where the issue is "camera will not focus". If you were able to adjust to using Live View at least some of the time, I think you could increase the number of keepers you get.


In order for the center point to function as a cross point, it needs an aperature value of f/2.8 or greater (f/2, f/1.8, etc.). Your 17-40mm lens is not fast enough to enable cross point functionality.


I can't remember if you'd said that the 50mm lens was a recent purchase. Because of the larger maximum aperature, you should be getting better results through the viewfinder with it.


I can't remember if you'd said that the 50mm lens was a recent purchase. Because of the larger maximum aperature, you should be getting better results through the viewfinder with it.

True... if it's the 50/1.4 USM. But not if it's the 50/1.8 II, even though it's got greater than f2.8 aperture.


There's quite a difference in focus performance, between these two lenses. The 50/1.8 is a great little entry level prime (a lot of lens for very little money). But the f1.4 USM lens is well worth the upgrade and additional cost for more serious use. One of the key reasons to spend the extra for the upgrade is the difference in AF performance. Aside from that, fhe f1.4 is somewhat better built, 2/3 stop faster, and has subtly better image quality: a bit better flare control, better saturation and contrast, nicer background blur. But the difference in focus speed, accuracy and consistency might be the single most important reason to spend more for the f1.4 lens.


Alan Myers

San Jose, Calif., USA
"Walk softly and carry a big lens."
GEAR: 5DII, 7D(x2), 50D(x3), some other cameras, various lenses & accessories

Your conclusions regarding autofocus accuracy are not universally held by many reputable reviewers. Depending on the review, I've read that the f1.8 focuses more accurately than than the f1.4. All reviews mention that it isn't the quietest lens when focusing.

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