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Cold issue with Sigma 50-500?

Dazbo 13 114 United Kingdom
2 Dec 2012 6:00PM
Hi All,

This may seem like a strange problem, but I'm having problems with my 6 year old Sigma 50-500 (none OS). About 2 months ago, the aperture blades seized while using it. I sent it back to Sigma who repaired it at a cost of 132. The first time I used it after getting it back from repair, I managed about 30 frames before the auto-focus stopped working. There was no noise coming from the motor and all I got was a flashing red light when I half pressed the shutter release as it wouldn't focus (Canon 50D). I've had this problem before when the auto-focus motor needed to be replaced about 4 years ago. Since it was fine before I sent it in for the aperture blades, I sent it back to Sigma who repaired the auto-fucus under warranty. However, I took it out this morning for the first time since getting it back again, and only managed 5 frames before I had the same focussing issue. The auto-focus refused to work. I haven't contacted Sigma yet, but I've just switched the camera on to see if it's still not working and law and behold, it seems fine again. The only thing that has changed is it's now inside where it's warm, and on both occasions where it wouldn't focus, it was outside in the cold. I've never seen this with any other lenses I use, and I've used them in Northerm Finland where it's -20c at this time of year, without a problem. It just seems the 50-500 is having problems after a few minutes when trying to use it in the cold. Before I send it back to Sigma reporting the problem (again), I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on what the problem might be? It just seems strange that all of a sudden, it's refusing to work after a few minutes in the cold but is fine again when it warms back up indoors.



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LenShepherd 10 3.6k United Kingdom
2 Dec 2012 9:18PM
How cold was it, and how long were you outdoors?
Battery power falls of quickly as battery temperature falls, and recovers when the battery warms up.
As it is still below freezing in most of the UK take the camera and lens outdoors for an hour or so and see if the AF fails again. If it does warm the battery for about 15 minutes in an inside pocket. If AF restarts the battery is getting too cool to drive the AF motor. If not the lens needs to go back to Sigma.
Dazbo 13 114 United Kingdom
2 Dec 2012 9:35PM
Thanks Len, but battery power isn't the issue. It was about 2c, but I was only outside maybe 2 minutes before the problem occurred again. With a history of the problem, I had a spare lens with me, although not as good as the Bigma, that wasn't a problem even after an hour. So its definately not a power problem as it won't have got cold in the short time before it stopping focusing. Bear in mind it's bee with Sigma for the last 2 weeks supposedly having this problem rectified, I was just wondering if it was something I was doing wrong as Sigma said they tested it before sending it back. But all my other lenses work and have been used in much colder temperatures for longer periods without issue, so my thinking is it has to be a lens problem and possibly as a result of something Sigma has done.


ianrobinson Plus
8 1.2k 8 United Kingdom
2 Dec 2012 9:39PM
in my experience of seeing many people sending there lenses back for repairs and coming back not repaired i have very little comfort in knowing this situation does not work.
I have seen many togs send there lenses back for repair to canon and sigma and found when they get them back the lens is not as it once was and after paying there money i would expect the lenses to be good but this is not the case.
LenShepherd 10 3.6k United Kingdom
3 Dec 2012 7:37AM

Quote:So its definitely not a power problem as it won't have got cold in the short time before it stopping focusing.

I generally agree - can you check the battery status in your camera - you can with most Nikon's. If a Nikon says the battery is on Level 4 it is time to replace the battery.
I presume you have carefully cleaned the lens bayonet and camera throat contacts - doing this solves many problems like yours.
Can you try the lens another body to make absolutely certain the problem, whatever it is, is in the lens?
It maybe at 6.5 years old the lens is worn out and cannot be properly repaired. If so it is a technical legal point but I would ask Sigma for my money back, or at least a credit note against a new Sigma lens.
sausage Plus
13 513 United Kingdom
3 Dec 2012 9:35AM
I have the same lens. This happens to me also, if I take it outside on a freezing day the AF stops working - bring it inside and it is ok (when warmed up) This happens every winter it is not a battery problem.

I have to revert to manual focus, non of my other lenses have this issue (Nikon).

I haven't had Sigma look at it yet.

Dazbo 13 114 United Kingdom
3 Dec 2012 10:34AM
Thanks Peter, it's not just my lens then and seems to be an inherrant problem with this lens. I had this problem a few years ago but Sigma seemed to have solved it with a replacement auto-focus motor and it was fine for the 3 winters in between. With them doing the aperture blade repair, it seems to do it everytme I try and use it in cold weather now and refuses to focus. I'll email Sigma (again) to report the problem and see what they say. I'll report back what they say.

Thanks Len. You can't check the battery status as such, but the battery is charging to full capacity and is showing as such in camera so it's definately not a problem with the power. As I mentioned, all my other lenses are working fine and I'm getting the usual number of frames per charge and all other lenses perform as expected. It's just the 50-500 when it gets cold. The lens and camera contacts and mount are all clean, it's the first thing I checked to make sure it wasn't a bad contact, but that's not the problem either. I have a 350D, and it's the same problem with that. As soon as it gets cold, it stops focussing. I'm wondering if a metal part inside the lens contracts slightly when it gets cold and prevents a part from moving? It's certainly the lens that's at fault. You may be right about there being a warn part, but it's been back to Sigma for service and repair, and been tested twice in the last 6 weeks so you'd have thought they'd have picked up on it if it was a warn part. I'll email Sigma (again) to report the problem and see what they say. I'll report back what they say.

Thanks both yor your help.

sausage Plus
13 513 United Kingdom
3 Dec 2012 2:09PM
I thought it was water/condensation that had got inside. I've had the lens for some years from new but this problem first came to light 2 years ago when I was photographing some wolves. It had started snowing and it was really cold and the AF packed up. When I got home it was ok. Last winter it happened again - freezing weather. Since then I have kept some silica gel in the case to try and soak up any moisture as well as leaving the lens out to 'dry it out'.

That may not be anything to do with it but it certainly points to components freezing. Not used the lens this winter yet. (Fine during the summer)

I'd like to hear what Sigma say though.

Dazbo 13 114 United Kingdom
3 Dec 2012 4:43PM

I don't think condensation / moisture is the issue. I could understand it if the problem was coming inside after being in the cold when you'd expect condensation to form, but not when going from a warm car in to the cold. I've used the lens in Kenya with humidity over 90% where it's impossable not to get condensation on everything, and it worked fine. I've never had a problem in that way, only when using it in winter. I'll keep you posted.

lawbert 11 1.8k 15 England
3 Dec 2012 5:04PM


I don't think condensation / moisture is the issue. I could understand it if the problem was coming inside after being in the cold when you'd expect condensation to form, but not when going from a warm car in to the cold

The lens is very warm from being in the car and then taken into the cold...The heat stays within the lens and then condensates when it cools down.
I had a 50-500 from new for 3 years and I had an issue with dust inside it which I had to force sigma to strip it down under warrantySad
Add dust to big temperature changes and im guessing there is a film forming on the ap blades....Just a guess
Your repair should be warranted for 6 months at least so get it back to them and tell them you want it fully stripped downWink
Dazbo 13 114 United Kingdom
3 Dec 2012 9:10PM

With any large zoom range, dust is always going to be the problem. Unless there's a large amount inside the lens, it shouldn't be a problem. There was dust inside mine after a few years of use, but it didn't show up and Sigma cleaned it while doing the aperture blades. Going from warm to cold shouldn't be a problem for condensation, it shouldn't form. The other way is a problem, cold to warm but not when going from warm to cold. I've emailed Sigma with an explanation and that they still haven't solved the problem so I'll see what they come back with.

Dazbo 13 114 United Kingdom
6 Dec 2012 11:15AM
Thanks for all your comments. An update from Sigma after contacting them;

"Hi Darren,

Sorry to hear you have an issue again with your lens.

Please send it to the address below again and we will look into the
fault and repair it as necessary.

Apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Kind Regards"

It's in the post on the way back with a cover note explaining the exact problem. I doubt I'll get it back before christmas but I'll let you know if the problem is resolved, especially Peter as you seem to be experiencing the same problem.

sausage Plus
13 513 United Kingdom
9 Dec 2012 10:48AM
Thanks Darren.
Dazbo 13 114 United Kingdom
4 Jan 2013 7:07PM
Hi all,

Firstly, happy new year and all the best for 2013. Just to update you on the above problem, the lens is still with Sigma with no word where they are up to with it. With the wet and dull weather, I wouldn't have been using it anyway. With any luck, it'll be back in the next week or two.

Dazbo 13 114 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2013 10:50AM
Just to update, my 50-500 is back from Sigma after it's 3rd visit and so far so good, it seems to have been fixed.For some strange reason, first press of the shutter and nothing happened, exactly like it was before I sent it back. After moving the focus ring a little, it seemed to free it up and everything seems to be working fine at the moment although given the weather, I've not had chance to use it in anger at the moment so time will tell.


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