Stuck Focus on Canon EF-S 18-200mm IS

Home Forums Photography Q&A Stuck Focus on Canon EF-S 18-200mm IS

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    Logan Lamar

    Hi everyone!
    I’m having my first problem with gear that is either wearing out or breaking…
    My 7-year-old Canon 18-200mm lens is having focus problems. The focus ring regularly gets stuck when using the long side of the lens when the lens is oriented horizontally. I don’t have this problem when I physically point the lens down, or use a shorter focal length.

    I’m thinking about sending it in for repairs. If anyone has any experience doing this, please share it! If there’s an easy fix to this problem, please save me some money by sharing it as well.


    Logan Lamar

    Hm… I guess nobody has any experience with sending things in to Canon. Any thoughts, anyone?

    Josiah Waldner

    Well, I have never used a 18-200, but I do have a 24- 105 L series that got a broken AF cable inside. I did send that in. $300 later, I got it back. I though that was pretty expensive for that lens. It got a crack in the barrel now, and I don’t think that I will get it repaired because of the price.
    I don’t know what a 18-200 is worth, but you may be better off going lens shopping 🙂 I once took a lens apart- it might be a easy fix. You could try to take the rubber of the focus ring grip and see if there is any thing obvious wrong. Other wise, you will end up tearing the whole thing apart. It’s not too complex, but there is a risk to it. You could look at the Lensrentals blog- they recently tore down a 70-200 to remove a fly, of all things!
    Let us know what you find!

    James Staddon

    Is there any way to get an estimate?

    I too had/have problems with my 24-105 L. It wasn’t AF though. It was the zoom ring. After having it the rain many, many years ago (actually rather intentionally to test it’s weather-sealing….not that great of an idea), it would get stuck at about 40mm, and wouldn’t zoom out any more. After pointing the barrel straight up, it would get unstuck and zoom out to 24mm like it was supposed to. It would stick again if I went back to horizontal. This was the case several days after it got rained on, and it’s been fickle ever since. Sometimes it will get stuck, and sometimes it would act like just a normal lens. Right now it’s fine, and has been for a long time. Needless to say, I keep it dry all the time now, so perhaps that was the cause.

    Logan Lamar

    I looked into what it would start at (by punching in my lens model and serial no.), and it was around $125.
    The problem isseeming to resolve itself. Maybe just keep working with it and see what happens?

    That said, I have not babied this non-weather-sealed lens for the seven years I’ve had it. I haven’t abused it by any means, but I do live in the Pacific Northwest. It has gotten rained on, exposed to salty air from ocean spray, kicked around in my backpack (while attached to my 60D), hung off my belt while cycling quickly to the marina to capture a sunset, gotten sand in it… it’s been through a lot with me. I’ve used it for well over 30,000 shutter clicks (not that that would affect the lens, but it was there for those shots!).

    This same lens used in excellent+ condition off of KEH camera is going for about $300-400. Maybe purchasing a “new” one would be better?

    And while I would like to upgrade out of this lens eventually, I don’t want to part with the amazing versatility this one lens has.

    Any thoughts?

    Logan Lamar

    All right! You guys deserve an update 🙂
    So, after this lens being largely replaced by a “new” EF-S 17-55 2.8 and I stuck at home during the COVID pandemic, I decided I would have a go with a screwdriver and see what was ailing my 18-200. I figured since I wasn’t using the lens because of the focus problem and I wasn’t super attached to it as the quality wasn’t great to begin with, I should give it a shot. If I messed it up, I could probably still send it in for repair or put it toward a better telephoto. If I fixed it, I’d save money (for a better telephoto) and I’d have an additional working lens.
    I decided to go in through the front first, as my front element appeared to be loose and a lot of people with a similar problem on the Nikon 18-200 solved it by screwing the front element back in.
    I carefully took the front element off and peered inside. There weren’t any more screws… so I got my airblower and finally took care of those nasty dust flecks always staring at me ever since I acquired the lens.
    Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the front element is more or less “tuned” to the lens (with weird oblong collars and a sliding track), and I didn’t take a note on the position, but I screwed it on where I thought it should go (more or less)…
    and decided to go in through the back.
    YouTube was a big help here (though I have yet to find a “reassembly” video), and I carefully took out the screws and barrels all the way down to the front element again.
    I had a good look at my focus mechanism, and I determined the cause of the sticking focus was a lack of lubrication—perhaps it dried up over the seven years. I got some white lithium grease and carefully coated the whole mechanism and then, using YouTube and playing with the lens like a puzzle, I put the whole thing back together again 🙂 .
    The focus now works like butter, and the barrels (which were getting loose with age—there were a few loose screws upon disassembly), are now as tight as if I had purchased a brand new lens.
    So! It looks like I’ll be getting some more life out of my 18-200.
    If you want to see what the inside of one of these things looks like, I’ve attached some pictures.

    Lydia Bennett

    This was just incredible to read about, @loganlamar! Impressive.

    James Staddon

    Sorry, @loganlamar, I somehow missed this update . . . unbelievable! Fascinating. Thank you for sharing!

    M J

    Hi @loganlamar

    I think my Canon 24-70 2.8 might need some lubrication. The auto focus always gets stuck at 3ft.

    Where exactly did you put the grease? I did open the lens, but couldn’t decide where to put the grease.

    Thank you!

    Logan Lamar

    @c-anon, wow, I don’t know if I would try this on an 24-70! I think that’s a more complex lens to work with (being that it has full time manual focus and there’s a focus clutch in there…), but again, I wouldn’t know at all. You’re going to have to proceed at your own risk here, as I did with my lens.

    I don’t really know where or even if your particular lens is going to need lubrication as it’s probably going to be different. My lens would stick whether it was autofocused or manually focused, so I ruled out the autofocus pretty early on, and I wasn’t sure it was a lubrication issue until I was pretty far into the process.

    I had to look at it for a while to figure it out, but for mine, there was a tube of the lens that telescoped into another tube and moved back and forth to focus. For my lens, this was plastic on plastic and wasn’t moving freely… so I coated the whole thing in a very very thin layer of lithium grease. Then it moved freely after that.

    I think you’re just going to have to be very careful going in, look at it with a critical eye, and solve the puzzle. I don’t know if it’s a lubrication issue for you or not as I’m not the one looking at and playing with the lens.

    For me on my 18-200, I kept tearing it down testing the focus after each layer because I didn’t know if the problem was really the focus or some other part of the lens—perhaps it was a loose screw or something. I got all the way down to the focus mechanism (inside the lens) and after playing with it and moving the part back and forth as the lens would have if it were assembled, I determined that I was holding the part that was the problem. So I partially took apart the focus mechanism, greased the whole tube, and started putting it back together. I want to say I kept checking the lens for focus problems as I was putting it back together to ensure that I had solved the problem, but I think my main concern was just getting it back in one piece at that point!

    That said, be very careful, keep track of all of your screws coming out, take pictures, make marks on parts that separate so you know the proper orientation going back in, and see if you can’t find a teardown video on the internet to help you get it all back into one piece.

    Oh, and if anything looks like it has hot glue over the screw head or there are weird oblong washers or spacers around the screws, do not take that apart if at all possible.

    Good luck!


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