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mmeyer

Lens Calibration (Nikon/Sigma)

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Hey All,

I have been having an issue with a lens that has been buggin me for some time. Since I bought my new body, a Nikon D80 in March, my Sigma 170-500mm has been giving me focusing issues. It doesn't focus correctly. This happens especially if I focus on on something then move to something else that is close it won't adjust the focus. This happens in servo or continuous modes. I don't think I had this problem with my other body and I loaned the lens to a friend and it worked great for him. It just occurred to me that I might need to get the lens calibrated.

Is this a correct assumption on my part? Would I send it to Sigma along with the body or just the lens? How much does something like that cost to get done?

Thanks

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Mike, while you would be without your gear for awhile, you could send the lens back to Sigma for calibration and the camera back to Nikon.

It could just as easily be the camera that needs recalibration, and since it didn't happen before you got your D80 or to your friend when he borrowed the lens, it could be that a camera recalibration is needed. However, I've read that some second-party lenses, even the top Siggies and Tamrons, sometimes need to have upgraded electronic components installed if they were manufactured significantly earlier than the new camera body. It seems in some cases the new camera body and the old lens have trouble talking to each other (that problem is on the lens end, I've read.) And the fact that it didn't happen until you put the new D80 on it, and also assuming your friend had an older camera model than the D80, is evidence the problem might be with the lens.

So it could be either, or both. If both are warrantied, you could just send them both in and be done with it. The camera being warrantied, that recalibration will be free, one must assume. Is the 170-500 warrantied?

And last, but perhaps the first thing you might do, is call Sigma and let them know about the issue. Could be it's a fairly common problem with the 170-500/D80 and they can give you guidance.

Mike, you'll also note I changed to title of your thread slightly so the folks with direct Nikon and Sigma experience will be more likely to look in. Could be there's someone paying attention who's had the same problem.

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Thanks Steve, Neither of them are under warranty any longer, unfortunately. I bought the D80 used from a friend and the 170-500 was used as well.

If I get the camera calibrated would that hurt my other lenses?

Thanks again

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If I get the camera calibrated would that hurt my other lenses?

No, it won't hurt a thing. With Canon, camera focus calibration is done using proprietary software and only Canon service can do it. Not sure if Nikon is the same or not.

Given that nothing is warrantied, I'd definitely make the call to Sigma first. If the 170-500, which is an older design, is having trouble talking to the much newer D80, others will have had the same problem and Sigma will let you know, and should be able to give you a cost estimate.

If you get the all-clear from Sigma, maybe then it's time to send in the camera.

Six of one, half dozen of the other, maybe. That's how I'd do it, but of course that's just me.

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A couple of things come to mind Mike and this is just another opinion. You said the focus issue didn't show up until you got your D80. Your friend tried it and it worked fine. From your description I might be more inclined to think the issue is with the camera body first.

A few other things to consider. Does the body have any focus issue at all with other lenses? What type of camera did your friend use? Do you still have your old camera, does it work on that? Can you try it on more than one body, I know you are active in a camera club. Would any other members be able to see if it works with their cameras?

Focus calibration is not an uncommon issue with DSLR bodies. Bodies can take more of a beating than you imagine. The previous owner may have bumped it around as well. I've had three bodies calibrated in the last 2 years with excellent results. I assumed lens with one of those and it turned out the body was at fault.

Most folks recommend sending the body and lenses in together but that obviously won't work here with a third party lens. Customer service on the Nikon end would most likely result in your body being returned to you fairly fast. I personally experienced lengthy times with Sigma a few years back and the lens never was repaired to my satisfaction.

I also did a search to see if this has been an issue with that lens and body combination and found no definitive results to suggest that. Good luck with resolving the problem whether it is body or lens or both!

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Mike, this is the only reference I could find online without spending hours at it. It comes off a Nikon users forum where a D80 user reports autofocusing and softness difficulties using his D80 with an older Sigma zoom (he did not have the same problem with his Nikon film bodies). Here's one of the replies to his problem:

"some of the older sigmas have issues with nikon d-series, newer lenses are fully compatible. from what i've heard, sigma is happy to recalibrate or chip lenses, you should contact them."

Still don't know if that's your problem, of course, nor can a person always trust what they read on the Internet, just another piece of food for thought. As I'd said originally, it could easily go either way. I've also put out a call for info on a photographers' network I belong to, to see if anyone there has input. I'll let you know if anyone gets back to me. I'm interested in finding this out myself.

Oh, and one more possibility. Dan's feedback got me thinking a little more. You can check your camera's firmware and then go to Nikon's Web site to see if it's the latest available for that body. Sometimes these types of issues can be eliminated through firmware upgrades. You should be able to download the lastest D80 firmware and install it for free in a few minutes. I've done that with some Canon bodies and all has gone smoothly.

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Thanks you guys. You have been very helpful. I updated my firmware today. I went out and messed around a little and it seemed better but I'm thinking it couldn't be that easy. I'll try it more this week and try calling Sigma if it still happens.

Thanks again, I do appreciate the help!

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That would be way cool if it was only a firmware issue, MM.

I know Canon firmware upgrades have helped autofocus performance on at least one DSLR body (one of my old ones), and it was partly through firmware upgrade/alterations that Canon tried to come to grips with autofocus issues on the 1D3.

Keeping my fingers crossed for you! As long as it works, free is always better than the spendy alternative! gringrin

Here's a response from one of the photogs who belongs to the same nature network I do: When I switched from film to digital about 5 years ago my Sigma 105 macro would only function at f2.8 on my Canon 10D. Sigma rechipped the lens, which was way beyond warranty, for free and now it is fine. I would not hesitate to call them on these types of issues.

Not completely on point, since I believe the 170-500 is designed for digital and the old 105 macro from 5-10 years ago was not, but interesting nonetheless. Gives hope that, in case the updated firmware doesn't ultimately fix the problem and if it isn't a camera calibration issue, Siggie may not try to get rich off you, Mike, if you have to send the lens back for rechipping/recalibration.

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After some experimenting and playing, I am pretty confident that this focusing issue has been fixed! This may have saved me hundreds of dollars, since I was going to get a new lens that would focus better.

Thanks to all of you guys that offered suggestions and especially thanks Steve, for suggesting the firmware upgrade. I'm glad I checked with you guys before jumping to any conclusions!

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