I used to love this lens ...
February 14, 2011 12:06 PM   Subscribe

My Sigma camera lens stopped working - what's causing it and what can I do?

I bought a Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 (Canon mount) used in excellent condition in April of 2008 from a reputable online retailer. I use it on a Canon 5D Mk I body. I have never had any problems with it until yesterday.

I took a picture with the lens zoomed out to 30mm. The camera made a strange noise - basically it sounded as if the mirror flipped up and then back down correctly but something after that point didn't do what it was supposed to do. Sorry to be vague but the whole operation takes place in well under a second - it's hard to nail down the specifics. Anyway, I looked at the display on top of the 5D and saw "ERR 01". I turned the camera off, popped the battery out and back in, turned the camera back on, and everything was fine. I tried to take another picture at 30mm and got the same results - a slightly strange noise and "ERR 01". At 15mm, though, I was not getting this error.

I didn't have much time to experiment yesterday so I just put another lens or two (both Canon prime lenses) on the camera and had no issues, leading me to believe it's just the Sigma. Today when I had time I took some pics with the Sigma and not only did it start giving "ERR 01" on every shot, but I started seeing something that looks like some sort of film or filter darkening the image I see through the viewfinder.

When I look through the viewfinder it's darker than it should be, and when I take a photo the image recorded to the card (before the camera shuts down with the error) is over-exposed. The dark film / filter would go away occasionally when I turned the camera off and back on. Now it's permanently stuck in the way. When this occlusion of whatever it is is happening the lens can't seem to auto-focus.

I have put other lenses on the camera and all is still well. When I put the Sigma back on the camera it's still darker than it should be, whether or not the camera is on.

Hopefully that's enough information to help you help me understand what's going on. I typically only shoot with prime lenses, so I can't really imagine what's going on inside my only zoom lens to make it act up like this. I'm not expecting to hear good things like, "Oh, that's a $10 fix" so if you think it's dead I'm ready to hear it.
posted by komara to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Aha. I was just now examining the lens and it looked like it was stopped down to pinhole size. Could this just be sticky diaphragm?
posted by komara at 12:17 PM on February 14, 2011

I have the 5DMarkII, and I've had that error with one of my lenses. I googled at the time and I think it was a communication error between the lens and the body. Check to make sure the contacts on the Sigma are clean. A few sites recommended using a QTip with rubbing alcohol to clean the contacts. Presumably, if there's dirt on the contacts it would just be the Sigma's contacts, since the other lenses are working.

YMMV. I got mine working with a little lens blower. I know you know your way around a camera, OP, but for the benefit of anyone else who has the same problem, don't use compressed air, and, obviously, take care that the dirt doesn't get on the rear lens element. I didn't have to use any alcohol to clean my lens, so I don't know how well that works/is advisable or not.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:22 PM on February 14, 2011

I suspect that the lens aperture is sticking in something other than the default, "all open" setting.

It may be as simple as looking in there and maybe prodding it, if there are no lens elements in the way. It's more likely, though that you'll need to send it in.
posted by notsnot at 12:26 PM on February 14, 2011

Definitely a problem with the lens, maybe the diaphragm blades are not opening / closing properly or just stuck. It's probably fixable, but I wouldn't be surprised if you get quoted around $200 to do so. That's about half the cost of the 15-30 so it's up to you whether you think it's worth that much to repair this lens or to just buy another one.
posted by Venadium at 12:28 PM on February 14, 2011

I don't have an answer for you--but Canon's err 01 means the camera is having problems communicating with the lens. Cleaning the contacts might fix this problem, although I found a lot of people with your problem by searching on google, that suggest it is a firmware issue that can be fixed by having Sigma "re-chip" the lens. Check out : here and here.
posted by inertia at 12:59 PM on February 14, 2011

Sigma has super customer service in my experience and charges very reasonable rates for repairs. They're more pleasant to deal with than Canon, for sure. Call them if cleaning the contacts with an eraser doesn't work.
posted by pjaust at 1:09 PM on February 14, 2011

Take a Q-tip and dip it in Isopropyl rubbing alcohol and give the electrical contacts on both mounting surfaces a few swipes.
posted by tmt at 1:20 PM on February 14, 2011

Response by poster: I will most definitely try cleaning the contacts first. I was so busy staring into and through the lens that I did not think to look at the contacts themselves.

Question: earlier it looked like the lens was stopped down to f/22 (or whatever number would give the outrageously small aperture) and was stuck that way even when the lens was off the camera. If I hadn't been shooting at f/22 (but at f/5.6 instead) then why would the diaphragm have been made that small anyway? I guess that's explainable by communication error.
posted by komara at 1:35 PM on February 14, 2011

It could be a misfire in the connections, or maybe the thumb dial got jostled in your bag (or both). Let us know if it comes back to life!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:31 PM on February 14, 2011

If you think you do have a body/lens communication problem, which is the first thing to check out, you need to get yourself some of the Nectar of the Gods.

Among the many long time professional DSLR photographers on my favorite 11 year old email list, applying this stuff to the body and lens electrical contacts represents the court of first resort when a camera is exhibiting any kind of weirdness.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:39 PM on February 14, 2011

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