Noticed that if I'm zoomed more than about halfway from the smallest (widest) focal length, I can't get the lens to focus in Macro mode on subjects that are definitely within the macro focus range. Pulling back to wide angle seems to correct this.
Did I miss something in the manual, or do I have a defective unit?
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Yes. You won't have the same macro focussing ability at all focal lengths.
But usually the important thing is that it's not how close the camera can focus, but how large the image is, so you'll often find that a longer focal length (i.e. not wide angle) will produce a larger image of the object even though the camera has to further away to achieve focus. This also results in less distortion as extreme close-ups in wide angle produce extreme perspective distortion. It's why a wide angle close up of a face results in an exaggerated nose and mouth.
Some of the Rokinon (and other ) zoom lenses could only go into MACRO at certain focal lengths- the lens you have "zooms" from 80 to 200 focal length,but is that done by "sliding" a ring forward and back on the lens, or by twisting a different ring that the one that focuses?
All cameras have a minimum focal length. That is the minimum distance they have to be from an object in order to focus clearly. If you have a digital camera with changeable lenses, that minimum focal length is determined by the lens and how it is constructed. If you have a fixed lens digital camera then the manual should tell you what the minimum focal length is.
One other thing to keep in mind is that on most fixed lens digital cameras, there is what is called a macro setting. If you switch to macro mode, it will allow you to get closer to the object and still get a good focus. Your manual should tell you how to turn on that mode.
Barring a malfunction with your len's autofocusing mechanism, the problem that you're experiencing is likely due to the limitations of the camera's focusing / zoom range in Macro mode.
You didn't say what ranges you were shooting from but basically, in order to get proper focus, you must first make sure you're within the proper lens to subject distance for the macro mode that you've chosen.
There are two macro modeson the S5, Macro and Super Macro. Macro shooting is done only within the ranges of 3.9 inches to 1.6 feet from your subject. SuperMacro mode (which is entered into by simply pressing the Macro button for one second) will only focus within the ranges of 0 inches to 3.9 inches. So if you are in either of these modes and stray from their focusing ranges, your camera won't focus properly.
Another issue that you may be dealing with is the very limited zoom range in Macro/Super Macro Modes. The zoom is basically meant to be set toward the maximum wide angle end of the zoom range. There is a yellow indicator bar below the Zoom Bar in the viewfinder that indicates the Out-Of-Zoom range in which the zoom basically can't be used. As you may see, only the first 10% or so of the zoom range is useable.
It might be that you could possibly be wavering in and out of the two macro mode focusing ranges and/or zooming into the Out-Of-Range zone during your session. Either can cause a similar effect such as you are describing. It's hard to say without actually being there.
To test this out I would simply set my camera on a tripod or other stand at a known fixed distance from the subject, set the camera to the macro mode indicated by that distance (either MACRO or SUPERMACRO), zoom out to the widest focal length and take the shot to see if it is clear or not.
If so, your camera probably has no problem. If it is still not focusing properly you might want to send it into the service center for a diagnostic. There is no charge to diagnose a problem with your camera and if nothing is found to be wrong you will only be out of the shipping charges spent to send the camera in to the service center. If a repair is needed, it can be done at that time.
(From Sigma lens literature) Capable of macro photography, this
lens has a 1:2 maximum close-up magnification at the 300 mm focal
length. It's the ideal high performance lens for portraits, sports
photography, nature photography, and other types of photography that
frequently use the telephoto range. It also has a switch for changeover
to macro photography at focal lengths between 200mm and 300mm with a
maximum close-up magnification from 1:2.9 to 1:2. The minimum focusing
distance is 1.5m / 59 in. at all zoom settings.
In wide-angle macro mode, the minimum focus range is as close as 30cm from CCD (21cm from the lens front.) At this point, the magnification is 0.03x (equivalent to 0.12x in 35mm format).(Focal length is 7.2mm. At maximum magnification 283mm x 213mm of the subject can be captured.) In telephoto macro mode, the minimum focus range is 25cm from CCD (13 cm from the lens front) and the magnification is 0.18x (equivalent to 0.7x in 35mm format). (Focal length is 42.7mm to 50.8mm. At maximum magnification 52mm x 39mm of the subject can be captured.)
In wide-angle macro mode,
the minimum focus range is as close as 30cm from CCD(21cm from the lens front.)
At this point, the magnification is 0.03x (equivalent to 0.12x in 35mm format).
(Focal length is7.2mm. At maximum magnification 283mmx213mm of the subject can be captured.)
In telephoto macro mode, the minimum focus range is 25cm from CCD(13cm from the lens front )and the magnification is 0.177x (equivalent to 0.7x in 35mm format).
(Focal length is42.7mm to 50.8mm. At maximum magnification 50mmx37mm of the subject can be captured.)
The macro setting on the fz series allows you to get within a couple of centimeters of the subject and obtain focus. That is pretty close. That is too close. The camera will throw a shadow. You need some room. Most high zoom cameras (notably Olympus) have macro capabilty throughout the zoom which not only increases the magnification but also allows you (requires you) to put some distance between the lens and the subject. The panasonic fz series is different. They do not have macroability at zooms greater than 2x-3x. Beyond that there is no increase in magnification. Why? I dont know. Maybe this feature was designed on a Monday. Fortunately this can all be rectified with the use of a closeup lens. Now the fz series will react like most other high zoom cameras and do it well. The Olympus b-macro is such a lens. There are many others
Sorry you're having such a problem with the fz1 w/b-macro. Here is a shot of the stock fz1 w/b-macro at full 12x zoom - resized only. Try practicing on still objects such as coins or jewlery. If you are beyond 10-12 inches you are probably too far away.