Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX APO RF HSM is a pretty decent lens for the money. It provides a reach that is generally inexpressible without a huge investment of 5 to 10 times it’s cost in equipment. Recently, it was necessary to repair one. The issue was a malfunctioning focus. Manual and auto both were being impeded at their far range. It was rather maddening because, first it worked, then it didn’t, then it did, then it didn’t. I wasn’t about to invest any money in this lens, so, I decided to fix it myself. At least, I was going to give it the old college try.
I think I spent more time looking at this lens, trying to figure which screw to pull first and next than actual repair. It was a tricky little devil to start out. It’s also maddening how little information is available for doing such work. Nothing on the web for free or for sale. You would think some industrious souls would be selling schematics or manuals but I guess maybe the manufacturers probably don’t want that sort of thing getting around.
So here’s a couple photos of the process. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go too far into this puppy to figure out the problem and fix it.
First up is a shot of the mounting plate. It’s straight forward enough to remove the obvious screws, but that’s not the way. In the sides of the vertically oriented sections of the mounting flange are itty (and I do mean itty) bitty screws. You can probably see the the black piece in the center which is obviously disjointed. There are four screws. Two hold the round piece and two hold the contact plate in place. Remove them all.
Once that’s done then remove the mounting flange retaining screws. That will allow the aperture selection ring to come loose. Remove it and note that there are some (5 in my case) shims underneath it. I’m not sure if sorting order of the shims is important, but keep them in order just in case. They are flimsy and will interweave with each other if you don’t keep them tidy and in order. There will also be a long metal arm which works the iris of the aperture. Be sure to note that it has to be reinstalled into a slot down inside the barrel.
Now you have exposed the entire circuit board and you will notice there are three screw heads visible in the outer most diameter. These are the next to be removed and will facilitate the removal of the upper most part of the lens barrell.
A note about screws in general, and specifically, about screws within a lens. You MUST BE EXTREMELY DILIGENT when attempting to loosen and tighten these screws. It it more than likely that they have had a thread locking compound applied and are GLUED in place. Further, it is imperative that you use the appropriate driver bit. There are many different sizes, and use of an inappropriate driver bit will result in a stripped head. Another source of a stripped head will be allowing the driver to slip within the head while applying heavy pressure. Make sure you have good contact and good bearing. Don’t ever go at a screw in any manner other than square to the head. I don’t want to think what sort of grief that might cause. So, BE SURE and apply a good amount of pressure.
Here is the lens with the upper portion of the barrell housing removed. Once removed it will reveal the focus gearing mechanism. It consists of several (an inner and outer) ring gears and several smaller drive gears.The manual focus ring is just below the arrows and is still operable at this stage. I worked it around a few time to see if I could find a problem, but didn’t notice anything obviously out of whack. I didn’t really want to tear into this thing any further unless I had to, so I went and got an halogen lamp and looked very carefully around and, low and behold, I found the problem. There was a loose screw floating around in the mechanism. Next was to find out where it had come from.
It didn’t take long. It was pretty obvious, though I had to rotate the focus mechanism to reveal the spot. There are holes in part of the workings and there is no other reason for their existence than to provide access to a screw. Here’s the empty threads. That’s the same hole in the photo above.
Now I can head to the mountains and give this baby a workout at the elk rut, where it failed last year.
Update:16 September 2013 – From an email by Rob Nunya, elaborating on the BIGMA Repair. Thanks for all the additional information, Rob. It will be most helpful to anyone doing this repair. Especially, the heads up about the different screw heads. I managed to ruin one of mine in a subsequent repair, though not with the wrong driver bit. It was just too tight. Imagine that.
“Rick, thanks for this. It made my journey into the inner workings of my Bigma a lot less mind numbing. I HATE opening lenses, but seeing as I live about a million miles from any sort of service agent, it is sometimes unavoidable.
A few points, if I may.
First – modern Japanese lenses (goes for camera bodies, too), are assembled using fasteners made to the JIS Standard. The slots for this standard are different to the standard Phillips or Pozidriv slots. Phillips/Pozidriv screwdrivers WILL severely damage JIS screw heads, especially if they are tight into the assembly. It’s well worth going to your local quality tool shop and buying a set of JIS spec ‘drivers; good ones aren’t cheap (not that expensive either – mine cost me less than A$10 each), but will make your lens repairing jobs a lot less nerve wracking.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_screw_drives for a bit more information. Haha, a ‘bit’ more information. (Fascinating stuff if you’re a tech-head.)
Second, the 4 big screws on the shiny chrome bayonet fitting are not all the same – one of them is shorter than the other 3, and if you leave that one in, it will prevent the whole aperture control ring mechanism from falling to pieces and needing to be lined up again. Not to mention that tricky little detent ball. On my Nikon-fit example, the short screw is the one (almost) directly opposite the red alignment mark.
Third, while you’re in there, check the tightness of every single screw you can find – 75% of the ones in my lens were loose… and there I was wondering why the focus accuracy sucked so bad.
Fourth, the flex cable that is attached to the lens distance wiper can be a PITA (pain in the a**). On my lens, the darn thing just wouldn’t stay in its little slot. The best fix that I found was to lay a reasonable length (mine was about 6″) of double-sided sticky tape backing paper (the shiny, slightly waxy stuff that protects the sticky bit, NOT the sticky bit) over the lens rear element and down the side of the lens, covering the flex cable. When you slip the rear cover back down, the paper will take the brunt of the sliding action, and the flex will be well behaved. Breaking these things is a major drama, as they are usually attached to a module that is a ‘replace the whole thing for half the cost of the lens’ sort of price. Ergo, I treat them with a lot of respect and always err on the side of cation when it comes to interfering with them. Once you have the cover in place, it’s easy to slide the slippery paper out of the way.
Fifth, refitting those shims under the bayonet can be made a lot easier if you line them up, then drop a couple of long pieces of thin plastic rod or soft wire into 2 of the screw holes. Feed the whole bayonet assembly down over them, then once you have it in place, drop a screw into the remaining hole, and jiggle it around gently until the screw falls into place. Wallah, as they say. 🙂
I hope this is of some use to someone.
Thanks again, this is an official ‘Great Post’. Three thumbs up. !!!
jfers commented on 1 April 2015
Old thread but yes undo the six screws and the front element comes away. It is one big lens.
Now the face of the second and moving zoom element is exposed and you need to lock the zoom at 100 or it will protrude and get scratched. I have yet to find the way to remove the second element to get at the mould behind it.
The screws are JIS cross head but good pro toolmaker quality Phillips 00/000 do fit, not the normal PHO size but smaller and not the made of cheese diy prosumer (cof) type screwdrivers. Driver tip must be sharp and hardened, don’t let it slip because the screws are soft and they probably used a thread-locking cement during assembly. Problem here is Phillips drivers are imperial and Japan is very metric, they cannot do feet and inches at all..
Those six outer screws are a self-tap type into plastic. At the other end they are all metric machine screws, probably non-standard pitch japanese super-fine metric specials so don’t lose them. Green baize on the bench like a jeweller to catch bits.
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