Camera woes-a cautionary tale and a suspicion confirmed


Kia ora tatou:

I guess it is every photographer’s nightmare; you’re a stranger in a strange land, dependent on your equipment, and your key asset (CAMERA!) fails  on you. What do you do? 

I was to find out. 

Canon advertise the 1Ds Mk III as having a shutter cycle life of around 300,000. Certainly, with the price you pay for one (New Zealand $12,000) you’d expect that to be the case. Here, even the 5D MkII at less than half the price offers 200,000 shutter cycles! The big 1-series Canon is supposed to be bullet-proof, built like a tank and able to deflect AK-47 rounds. 


A few days ago, I started to notice that the other part of my image was considerably lighter than the  (you can see the fault in the picture attached to this post). I put it down to incorrect placement of my lenshood. But the fault continued. So was time to do something about it. 

I got on the Internet and tracked down Canon South Africa, and found the number for their repair agency. I must say here, that the camera is less than a year old (as a replacement for one that died after I’d had it only four months) and this camera has undershot about 30,000 frames. Maybe less. So I was less than thrilled. I rang them, and after some phone calls, Canon South Africa have agreed to replace the shutter under warranty, not necessarily a certainty.

Being used to the speed and efficiency of the Canon repair service and New Zealand, I was fully expecting the repair to take weeks. How wrong I was. They got straight on to the job, made phone calls, and sent me to the repair shop in Cape Town. Again, I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take, so I walked in, expecting a delay. As requested, I took him a card full of offending files (I downloaded them first!). Raymond, Their repair technician, took one look, and diagnosed: shutter bounce. It works this way: modern cameras have two sets of shutter blades. When you press the shutter, the first curtain opens and gets out of the way, to allow the light through to the sensor. At the end of the exposure, the second curtain closes to cut the light off. Then they return to their original position, and the whole process starts over again. What was happening in my case was that the first curtain was doing its job, but the second was not closing properly. Back to the story. 

What will you do I asked? Oh, I’ll replace the shutter, he replied. And then the question: how long do you think that will take? No more than two days, he replied. I was stunned. And grateful. 

Just as a matter of interest, I enquired, how long do you normally take with average Canon DSLR’s. Between five and eight days he replied. Note here, this is not the main agency, which is in Johannesburg. This is the branch office. Those of you have sent your camera into Canon New Zealand know that the wait time is usually much longer than that! 

The service got even better. They rang me to tell me when they are about to take on the repair, rang me this morning to tell me the shutter is installed and now they had to do the programming, and that I can expect to have it after lunch today. 

I’m told the Canon repair service in the United States is even faster! 

So what made the difference? A small but little-known service which can offer: the CPS (Canon professional services) membership. Applying for one is more involved than getting a passport, but doesn’t cost anything. If you’re a professional and you’ve got a bagful of Canon equipment, then it’s well worth applying for. The benefits are that when faecal matter does happen, you go into a priority queue and have access to loan equipment if necessary. My recommendation: if you’re a pro, get one. It’s well worth the hassle! 

On another note, talking to Raymond, we got onto the subject of filters. I don’t tend to use them, since II have found they affect the image quality is subtly but noticeably. The only one where I maintain a filter is on the 16-35 II, which needs one to protect the lens mechanism from sucking in dust. I happened to mention this, and he confirmed that UV/sky filters can have an impact on the quality of the lens is capable of delivering, particularly the higher end glass. Over time, according to him, the glass performs in the filter mount, and can lead to corruption of the image quality. His suggestion is to carry out the following text:

Put your camera on a tripod, and pointed at a sheet of newspaper sellotaped to the wall. Shoot a picture at 2.8 or your widest aperture (4, 5.6) with the filter on the lens. Then shoot the same picture with no filter on the lens. Download, enlarge to 100% and compare. If you notice a quality loss in the file with the filter was attached to the lens, it’s time to discard or replace it. Of course, if you never print above a fall, then this may not be an issue. 

I really rate the service of Camera Tek. I got fantastic service, and had a suspicion confirmed about filters. What could be better than that?


Ka kite ano



4 Responses

  1. Neil says:

    Glad to hear the camera got sorted, Tony. All’s well that ends well.

  2. Jenny says:

    Off to find the newspaper now! Did you copy Canon NZ in this post? – hehe; would be nice if they felt obliged to lift service standards to match the rest of the world. Sadly us plebs not qualifying for the pro service have to wait weeks and months more. Ka kite

  3. Mark says:

    I’m a rare contributor as Tony will vouch for, so it takes a bit to get me to do so… but I’m coming to the defence of Canon NZ!

    A problem with my 5Dmk11… (I can understand the stress Tony and I was only in North Canterbury) a phone call, (OK two…). It needed to go to them – no dispute. Aware of ‘history’ (courtesy of TB) I enquired about loan equipment. Canon chap mentioned the CPS as being for folk with two or three bodies and a bag full of L lenses… which got the logical response from me that if I had two or three bodies I wouldn’t actually need a loaner…. still with me?

    Settled for a commitment to expedite… sick camera was taken into Canon in Christchurch on a recent Monday afternoon, shipped by them overnight to Auckland,receipt acknowledged by phone Tuesday, it was back in my hands first thing Thursday morning with a new main circuit board. (following a telephone report to advise what was happening on Wednesday afternoon)

    Maybe it’s a blip, or maybe, as the finance guys say, past performance is no indication of future….

    One tip… ask for Goran!

  4. Tony Bridge says:

    Hi Mark:
    goodness! i am stunned….
    Yes, I know Canon have been working hard to bring their turnaround times down. Sounds as if they are nearly there…
    A new circuit board???? On a brand new camera? Maybe they can work on their build quality. Not the first instance of this I have heard of….
    Have a great time in Fiordland!

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