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Current Canon Controversies

10D Autofocus Issue
and
100-400mm Zoom Softness

Backfocus

There are currently two controversies ongoing within the Canon community — one quite public, about the 10D camera, and the other more contained, concerning something that I wrote a while ago about the Canon 100-400mm zoom lens.

The larger issue concerns the fact that some purchasers of the new Canon 10D digital SLR are complaining that the autofocus doesn't work properly; that the camera focuses slightly ahead of or behind the intended spot. These complaints have mainly been voiced on Net discussions boards.

I have used two 10D bodies, the sample loaned to me by Canon when the camera was first announced, and my own which I subsequently purchased at retail. Neither of these camera show the front focus or back focus problems that are rumoured.


Fig 1. Dawn Dragonfly. Florida, May 2003

Photographed with a Canon 10D with Canon 100-400mm f/5.6L IS lens @ 400mm
ISO 200 1/640 sec @ f/8. Hand Held.


Fig. 2 — 100% detail

In Fig. 1 above is a recent frame taken with my 10D. Focus is pin-point accurate, as can be seen by viewing the enlarged frame (click on Fig. 1), or the actual-pixel frame above in Fig.2. Fig.3 below similarly shows tack-sharp and accurate focusing.

Curious as to what might be going on I spoke recently with a representative from Canon. What I was told is that while there indeed have been a few reports of cameras with this problem, the absolute number reported is extremely small — maybe a handful in thousands of cameras. The suggested solution is to send the camera body plus any affected lenses in to Canon's service department, and they will quickly make the required adjustment.

I also spoke with a very large urban retailer who has sold hundreds Canon 10's and who reports not having seen a single example of this problem. (Please note — I'm not saying (and neither is Canon) that the problem doesn't exist — just that it appears to only affect a very small number of units that have been sold). It would therefore appear that because of discussion forums on the Net the impressions has been created that this is a much more prevalent problem than it actually appears to be.

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UPDATE:

In the few days since the above was first published I have received a huge amount of mail from readers who claim that the 10D focus issue is much worse than what I have written would lead one to believe. Many of these e-mails are from people who claim to be professional photographers with extensive experience, rather than the newbies who fret unnecessarily over what they read on web forums.

Given the shear number of such e-mails I have no reason to doubt them, or their concerns. This of course raises the specter of a cover up by Canon. Given that Canon in the U.S. has not made any official statement on this issue, and that there are now a large number of apparently knowledgeable and honest photographers who are seeing this problem, one can only conclude that there is more here than meets the eye.

An open request to Canon — tell us what's going on! If there is a problem, let us know what it is and what steps are being taken to remedy it. If there isn't a problem, or if it's as minor as some Canon representatives are telling us it is, then provide us with the reassurances needed to rebuild confidence in this product and your company. At the moment, and until something is said publically on this matter, both remain in doubt.

June 5, 2003

— Michael

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Is the Canon 100-400mm Sharp?


Fig. 3
Heron and Reeds. Loxahatchee NWR. Florida — May, 2003

Photographed with a Canon 10D with Canon 100-400mm f/5.6L IS lens @ 400mm
ISO 400 1/250 sec @ f/7.1. Hand Held.
Monochrome conversion in Photoshop using Channel Mixer

In the late Spring of 2003 I reviewed Canon's 400mm f/5.6L lens and commented at the time that when used with the very demanding Canon 1Ds camera this lens, plus the Canon 28-135mm f/5.6 zoom, "revealed that they weren't able to deliver the goods". As I anticipated this caused a storm of controversy in private e-mails and on various discussion boards around the Net. What people didn't process is what I wrote in the next sentance... "I'm not saying that these lenses are bad. I'm simply saying that the 1Ds reveals deficiencies that other cameras don't, and makes them problematic for me".

I'd like to elaborate on this further here, because I still am receiving comments from photographers saying that they love their Canon 100-400mm zoom, and that I must be either nuts or have a bad personal sample of this lens to be "dissing" it on my site. Well, the truth of the matter is, this is a very fine lens, and I have shot thousands of frames with it over the past few years, and many of them are of exhibition grade quality.

But, I stand by what I said in my review. The 1Ds can outresolve any lens that Canon makes, and this means that only the absolutely best lenses can really deliver what that camera is capable of. At the 400mm end of its range the Canon 400mm f/5.6L prime lens simply is better that the zoom lens, especially when used on the demanding 1Ds, and that's all that I was saying.

Michael — June, 2003


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Concepts: Camera, Digital single-lens reflex camera, Single-lens reflex camera, Zoom lens, Canon EOS DSLR cameras, Prime lens, Digital camera, Canon

Entities: Canon, U.S., Michael Reichmann, Michael, SLR

Tags: camera, Canon 100-400mm zoom, Canon 10D, zoom lens, Canon 1Ds camera, 100-400mm zoom lens, Canon community, new canon, Canon representatives, discussion, Net discussions boards, large urban retailer, e-mails, bad personal sample, exhibition grade quality, various discussion boards, prime lens, fine lens, prevalent problem, camera body, intended spot, enlarged frame, larger issue, actual-pixel frame, digital slr, absolute number, shear number, required adjustment, recent frame, suggested solution, single example, open request, affected lenses, best lenses, private e-mails, accurate focusing, honest photographers, service department, focus issue, late spring