Recently the 'auto focus' only focuses on the far left point in Manual & AV mode - but, strangely enough, works fine when in auto mode. Awhile back I got an error 05 - I think, or something like that - could it be related? What should I do to correct the problem?
Most likely, you have changed the AF point, which only takes effect in the creative modes (Manual, Av, Tv, P, etc)
There should be a button on your camera that has a grid like pattern above it, like - - - - - - -
or so. press that, look through the viewfinder, and move the shutter or rear wheel, you should see the different AF points like up in red, and as you turn different ones will light up, and eventually all of them. also, you can look on the screen on top (or back, if its a rebel) and it will show you which ones are selected while in that mode, instead of looking through the viewfinder.
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You may just have the left auto focus points selected. You don't say which camera model you have. If on the back of your camera you can see a button with an icon showing 5 small white blocks in a plus sign in a white box press this to select the auto focus points. It should show the available auto focus points and then use the left/right (wheel) button to change the selection
There is no communications between the camera and lens. When using a set up like this everything becomes manual and you must remember to stop down the aperture to your taking aperture before releasing the shutter. I don't know what camera or format you are going to use this lens with but assuming it is a digital "bridge" (a camera that is between an amateur and a pro) or a professional the sequence would be the same. To view, focus and compose the lens would be set in this case F2, to select the correct light meter reading the lens is set (stopped) down to the taking aperture. The modes I've used for this have been mostly manual but lately I found that "AV" worked equally well and the camera metered to the proper exposure. Most times the camera was mounted on a tripod and the shutter was released with a electronic shutter release. Sequence for taking a photo for me anyway was/is (with the camera mounted on a tripod) focus, compose, stop down to taking aperture, check metering and release the shutter if in AV mode or manual mode to set the shutter speed and release the shutter. You will find that all makes of digital cameras will function differently so what sequence works for one won't work on others. This meaning I have had digital cameras that wouldn't meter through anything other then the lenses meant specifically for them. Problems that I've had. Forgetting to stop down to taking aperture (like Duh), not fine focusing (manual), not trusting the in focus indicator, forgetting that the viewfinder is/was only 94% of the scene. Once a little time has been spent with a lens set up like this the rewards are far beyond the trivial annoyances. Have fun with it
I experienced the exact same problem with my 100-300mm lens and I was never able to get it to work correctly again. In fact, attempting to use it further seemed to exacerbate the problem.
The further you zoom, the wider the aperture opens allowing more light for the camera to focus properly. If the aperture mechanism is damaged, the auto-focus process may not work as it should; which would explain why the auto-focus feature works only when at 18mm.
Regardless, I strongly recommend you discontinue use of the lens until a professional technician can examine the lens and figure out what's going on. I'm sure you can contact the manufacturer to open a support case or you can find a camera store that offers repair services.
Mine occasionally does this as well, but only when trying to focus on the left side of my viewfinder. I found there is a piece of dust on the sensor in just the right quadrant that prevents it from focusing. Try setting your focus settings so that you can press the left or right buttons to select the focusing quadrant (left, middle, or right). If that fails, you can always manually focus.
Your Sigma 28-300mm doesn't have a HSM-motor as far as i know. When you switch it from MF to AF, you also have to disengage the manual focusing ring by pulling it towards the camera, or pushing it away from the camera. Using the AF without unlocking the manual focusing ring may damage the AF motor.
I hope this helps,