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Nikon's Impact Damage

14 March 2015 - Graham Harrison

EPUK doesn't do tech. But when a tech issue affects the business of professional photographers EPUK considers it an issue worth investigating. Here Nikon user Graham Harrison looks at an undercurrent of complaints about one professional Nikon lens, the sharp but fragile 24-70mm f/2.8 AF-S zoom.

If you key "Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 zoom" into Google the prospects look good for anyone considering a lens which the Nikon brochure claims is “Praised for its reliability and overall image quality, this is a long-time favorite of passionate professionals.” 

The American reviewer, Ken Rockwell, calls the lens "Nikon's best midrange zoom ever", Photography Life gives the build quality five stars and wrote that it delivered outstanding results. Buyers who use Amazon UK have awarded the optic an impressive 4.8 stars out of five. 

But for the press photographers who give the lens a tougher and more prolonged work out on the streets of Britain, this piece of glass has a reputation. 

Nikon's

Nikon's "Incredibly reliable" 24-70mm zoom as featured in their online brochure.

When one British photographer wrote on a professional photographers' page on Facebook recently that his Nikon 24-70mm zoom was jamming at 50mm other professionals piled in with "mine too" comments. The list now stands at sixteen professionals who've encountered similar problems. Two reported their Nikon 24-70mm zooms had jammed three times. Another wrote that his second 24-70mm zoom had jammed. 

Among the first photographers in the UK to get the Nikon optic was Glasgow-based freelance Wattie Cheung. Cheung still uses his original 24-70mm zoom although it has been repaired many times, he said. He dropped it from waist height once but on a second occasion the lens just fell on its side. "It fell three inches and the helicoid went," said Cheung, who says he’s spent up to £2,500 on repairs on a lens worth £1,200 new. 

Photographers who use Nikon UK to repair the lens said on Facebook that it often came back with a new serial number. Apparently much of the optics are a sealed unit so even a minor fault can result in the entire internal mechanism having to be replaced. According to the Facebook conversation replacement can cost as much as £650. 

In 2014 the Taiwanese firm Nikon Repair Centre (NRC), who market protective rings for lenses like the Nikon zoom, revealed on their blog that they had fixed five Nikon 24-70mm zooms in one week. The lens has four design drawbacks, NRC said: 

1. A slight knock can make the rear element shift. This is the only Nikon lens to have the rear element attached to the bayonet mount. 

2. Five shallow screws hold what NRC call "the rear fixed tube", these screws cannot be tightened properly.

3. The lens barrel can be deformed by resting the lens on the lens hood.

4. The zoom looses smoothness after long-term use, a fault easily repaired say NRC. 

In the early noughties Canon had problems with their 28-70 f2.8L zoom lens. The front cell became wobbly and would eventually detach and fall off if left unfixed. It was held on by a plastic ring and three tiny set screws that would break out of the plastic lugs. Canon quietly re-engineered the weak ring and the problem went away.

Some members of the Facebook page for professional photographers said Nikon UK tell them that their optic has suffered "impact damage", a term familiar to Nikon users in America where US Customer Service Scoreboard presently rates Nikon Customer Service at 34.70 out of 200, little better than "Terrible". Contacted by EPUK last week Nikon UK declined to comment on issues raised in this article.

So the right term to key into Google is "Nikon impact damage". This reveals comments including one posted on DP Review by RB Fresno in 2012 in which he mentions "the now infamous Nikon 24-70 stiff zoom ring problem" (my italics).

Ken Rockwell calls the 24-70mm f/2.8 AF-S the sharpest midrange zoom ever made by Nikon. Fleet Street veteran Brian Harris agrees, "Optically its a cracking lens right from 24 to 70 at f4," Harris told EPUK, "the problem is it doesn't work all the time!".  Portrait and features specialist Geraint Lewis, an EPUK member like Harris, pointed out that because of it's 24-70mm range the lens would get more use than any other, so it is bound to be repaired more often. Lewis said that Nikon do try to look after their photographers and, with the exception of a bit of grating on the zoom, his own 24-70mm lens has worked flawlessly since the day he bought it. 

According to the Spanish photography website Quesabesde 51% of the winning images that they got data from in this year's World Press Photos awards were taken on Canon cameras. The once all-pervasive Nikon, despite producing some of the finest professional equipment available, came in at a disappointing 15.5%.* 

Perhaps Nikon feel that the professional market is only a small, and (knowing fellow professionals) difficult, part of their business so addressing manufacturing issues like a stiff zoom does not really matter. As a Nikon user for over 30 years I suggest it does. 

Professionals using cameras and lenses daily in all conditions are helping both Nikon and Canon, not only with their product testing for the considerably larger amateur market but with the manufacturers' public image by producing extraordinary photographs with their equipment, the best of which may grace our online media, newspapers and magazines and, of course, win prestigious competitions. And I could add that you don't have to buy the top-of-the-range Mercedes to feel that a little of its allure might rub off on you even if you bought the marque's most economic model. 

Treat the lens gently and you'll probably find Nikon's 24-70mm f/2.8 AF-S zoom is a fine bit of kit. If you use it regularly for anything like hard news it could end up failing on you at a crucial moment and then you could receive the "impact damage" treatment when you take it in to be repaired. And that’s not good enough for press photographers who invest tens of thousands of pounds in their photographic equipment. 

I'm trusting that Nikon will understand this now that a new smaller and lighter 24-70mm f2.8 with VR may be on the way but I don't wonder at all why so many professional photographers have already migrated to Canon.

Text © 2015 Graham Harrison

* Quesabesde analysed the EXIF data of 45 winning images in the 2015 World Press Photo awards. Out of those seven were taken on Nikon cameras, 23 on Canon.

 

 

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Comments

I can echo these comments. My lens has been in twice for repair, the second time only days after it came back. Nikon fixed it without charge the second time (although very slowly) but it was only fortunate I still had a 28-70 lens available, as time without is lost money or lost opportunity for the right lens and a compromise a professional shouldn’t have to make.

Comment 1: Roger Goodgroves, 14 March 2015, 09:52 PM

Mine also has an issue. It is not sharp. I bought it on Nov.11, 2014.

Comment 2: Chandra Jangam, 24 March 2015, 04:49 PM

Hi dont know if this is in the right place but my issue with Nikon is with the D4S expensive bit of kit but the warranty is something you need to be aware of it only covers manufacturers and material defects. Mine had a small tear on the shutter curtain which resulted in dust spots and dust and fibres on the sensor. Nikon are inferring it was me that caused the damage! and have given me a repair estimate of £304 not a bad price for the fix but why should I pay when I didnt do anything, who in their right mind would put anything anywhere near the shutter curtain they are by their nature fragile. But the big bug bear is Nikon are expecting me to pay as it isnt covered by their warranty and practically blaming me for the damage. Just something to bear in mind when sending something to Nikon for repair..

Comment 3: Andy Miller, 19 May 2015, 05:45 PM

Mine survived 2 months since new. When I triped it hit the pavement. there was no even a little scratch o the camera, impact was very little but 28-70 broke in half over bayonet. I sent it to estimate cost of repair to non Nikon service: They didn’t even call me with the quote but sent it back saying it would be far to expensive to repair it. (£1200 joke: yes it’s possible is to make new lens ftom scetch cheaper then repair the brocken one )
Issiue number 2. lens release button. it’s about 3mm high but to release a lens you need to press it like 1/3 way. Probably all bodies bodies are affected, I just checked it on D4s and D3x. Because of the build of my hand- quite big and skinny I released lens several times once resulting in droping lens (second write off this year). First thing when camera body stop comunicating with lens is to check if lens is locked- especcially affects my work with short lenses. So just as precaution I always use tripod shoe attached to my 70-200 that is straped to the camera strap.
As far as you work in the studio you can care about your gear, but I suggest to practise triping with 2 cameras on you and consider if you want to smash your camera or face if you are a jurnalist.

I’v seen similary damaged 24-70 lens on ebay. Serching ebay for damaged lens showed me that there are similar number of damaged lenses of other brands.

Comment 4: Tomas, 3 June 2015, 07:21 AM

Nikon repair UK have turned out to be the biggest bunch of incompetent and ignorant folk I have ever come across. Firstly I brought a brand new D700 about 3 years ago, took the flash card out only to find it said error when I tried to put it back. Sent it back to Nikon they said I had bent the pins in the camera, I must have been heavey handed therefore I was to pay for the repair which like a fool I did, after loads of protest phone calls that fell on deaf ears. Now recently I have sent back for the second time my 2nd camera a Nikon D 300 and an 18-200 lens that had suffered impact damage 8 months ago and cost £600 to fix. It still does not focus correctly and is not as sharp as it was, so I sent it back to them asking for them to correct this fault, they say it’s out of the 6 months guarantee so I will have to pay and have cheekily put on the invoice “Shows signs of impact damage”. God can I see why people move to Canon !

Dave Edwards October 2015

Comment 5: Dave Edwards, 26 October 2015, 10:55 PM

Dear Friends,
Over here, across the pond in the USA, the situation is the same. My 24-70 rolled off a table and traveled 21 inches to the floor where on I discovered the focus was acting like a tilted view camera lens. As of this writing it’s six WEEKS since the lens went to a shop an hour from my home and they have no idea when all the parts may come in.

I’ve called Nikon and ripped them a new one. Do they care? Probably not, but the word will spread, and I will spread it.

The shop I’m dealing said a Canon lens would be done in a week, tops.

I’m a retired pro, starting in the 70’s, with my own shop opening in 1980, using Nikon 35 and large format lenses from college days. This experience has ended that relationship. On renewal it will be Canon.

Tell everyone you know. Marketing can beat down word of mouth only so long. Have you ever been treated so shabbily in any other repair situation? I can’t think of any; even with automobiles!

Brian McNeill

Comment 6: Brian McNeill, 29 October 2015, 01:04 AM

Well Brian I would love to move to Canon over the way I have been treated by Nikon customer service/repairs, but having all Nikon gear it’s such an expensive upheaval mate I think we are doomed to remain with these idiots.

David Edwards. 29 October 2015.

Comment 7: Dave Edwards, 29 October 2015, 09:07 AM

Second repair for my 24-70 this year – now helicoid has to be replaced – costs are EUR 750,00… I’m very disappointed about the poor mechanical robustness. Looking for the NEW 24-70 I had to consider: larger, heavier, costs a fortune and… made by plastic all around ! I can’t believe it….

Comment 8: Robert, 21 October 2016, 12:08 PM

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