Posted by: Stacy Hanna | September 9, 2009

When Bad Things Happen to Good Gear: Part #1

Nikkor 18-200(Well look who dropped by – our favorite Vision author, Ms. Stacy Hanna. And Stacy’s loss is our gain today as we deal with the temporary absence of our gear.)

We’ve all been there. The moment right after we almost drop our precious lenses or camera bodies, or almost knock over a lightstand with strobes and modifiers attached. We sigh with relief if we catch ourselves before disaster strikes and cringe helplessly if we couldn’t save the day and our beloved gear falls to the floor with a thunderous boom and shattering glass.

I’ve been there. Not too long ago, I accidentally pulled my camera with 50mm lens attached off of countertop in the dark after getting the strap tangled in something else. I heard the explosion of glass and wanted to weep before I could even turn on the lights to see the damage. Luckily, the terrifying sound was only that of the UV filter being blow to bits from the impact with the tile floor. I was fortunate that the filter took the brunt of this tragedy, after all, it only had 3 lbs of camera mass thrusting it downward to its demise. But, that is why we buy them right, for protection?

If I hadn’t been so luckily, then most certainly something would have needed repair or replaced.  I get to go through the process now, however, but not because of the dreaded butter fingers and clumsy syndrome, but because my gear  just simply starting acting up and isn’t working right. After a recent European vacation where I put my Nikkor 18-200mm DX lens through the paces, it started behaving badly. The only cure I see in its future is a visit to Nikon for a thorough examination and some TLC.

Here is the rundown. It is making terrible clicking sounds. It clicks several times when the lens is attached and the camera is initially turned on.  It also clicks when the shutter is pressed down halfway to engage the autofocus. Along with the clicking comes a disturbing sight in the viewfinder as the image jumps to coincide with the clicking sounds. I can still take photos, but I know something just isn’t right. A loose lens element, a faulty vibration reduction mechanism, angry autofocus, who knows. What I do know is that I have to send it in for repair and probably be without it for a month.

So now what? What do you do when your gear is on the fritz either by your own destructive hands or the freak of nature.  If you have to send it in, you have a couple of options:

Option #1

Visit your local reputable camera store. They’ve got connections with your favorite camera brand. Here in Peoria, I buy gear from Peoria Camera Shop. I made a quick phone call to see what my options were.  For a $20 fee, they will send in my lens to Nikon and handle the packing and shipping. If my lens is under warranty, the $20 is all I will pay. To send it with warranty, they will need a copy of my receipt. Now, I didn’t buy this lens from them because it was a gift. That’s okay, they will just need a copy of the receipt from where it was purchased to send along with the gear.

Option #2

Do the dirty work yourself. I also sent an email to Nikon Service and Support to see what steps I had to take to send my lens in for repair with them.  I will need to pack the lens myself by placing it in a plastic bag (to keep moisture out I am guessing) and pack it in a sturdy box with several inches of quality packing material on all sides. I was informed not to put the lens in its original box or to include any accessories . No filters, lens hood, or lens caps (I admit that I am completely uncomfortable about not puting the lens caps on the lens). I will also need to keep a record of the model and serial number and need to send in either a description of what is wrong with the lens or fill our their online service form and a copy of the purchase receipt. If the lens cannot be repaired under warranty, they will provide a cost estimate for my approval. There is no charge for the estimate.

These are the steps for Nikon, but a quick visit to Canon’s website revealed a similar process. So basically, if you need to send in something for service, you will need your purchase receipt and you will need to mark down your model and serial number and give a description of the problem. You can either give your gear to a reputable dealer and let them handle the shipping and correspondence with the manufacturer or you can package and insure your shipment yourself to send into the manufacturer direct. While, it is one more set of hands on my gear, I think I am going to trust it to my local dealer and let them package and ship my lens. $20 seems a small price to pay and I won’t have the hassle of buying a box and packing materials and paying for the shipment and insurance.

You always hope you never need to send in your precious gear and be without it while it gets serviced, but if you do, you’ve got options. If you have any investment at all in your gear (and how many of us don’t really at the cost if gear these days) then I also suggest you insure your equipment. I currently have my equipment insured under my photography business insurance, but another option is to include it under personal articles with your home policy.

Stay tuned for Part 2 to see how the whole ordeal plays out.

Here are some service links:

Nikon Service & Support

Nikon Service Form

Canon Service & Support

The send-to address to Nikon Service:

Nikon Inc.
Photo Service Dept.
841 Apollo Avenue
Suite 100
El Segundo, CA 90245

Or:

Nikon Inc.
Photo Service Dept.
1300 Walt Whitman Road
Melville, NY 11747

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Responses

  1. […] Stacy was nice enough to report on her issues with her Nikon 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 lens last week, I thought I should get involved. I wouldn’t want her to go through this trial […]

  2. When I sent in my camera to Nikon for warranty work (hot pixels) I had to remove all lenses, the battery, everything…even the strap! What they sent back looked like a brand new camera, all clean and nicely shrink wrapped, and in perfect working order. They had it about a month, which beat my expectations.

  3. Yeah, I’m hoping it doesn’t take too long and comes back all pretty =)

    Update – I did give up my lens to the local camera shop. I’ll be nice and say my confidence is low. The experience level of the associate I was working with was zilch. I pretty much had to fill out the form for her and tell what they needed to send in. I should have done it myself since I had already spoken with Nikon. Then I had to wait around the store to make sure the took the lens off the counter and moved it to the back. I was NOT leaving with my lens just sitting on the counter – ugh!


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