8 Things the Camera Manufacturers Won’t Tell You

10-things-canon-nikon-won't-tell
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1. “Weather sealed” often means “Chucked in a few two-cent rubber gaskets”

Nature photographers often pay a lot more for a camera with weather sealing in order to keep dust and water out of the camera when shooting in harsh outdoor environments.  Unfortunately, I think most photographers don't realize how little protection is in most cameras.

I've drowned enough cameras to know that sometimes it doesn't take much water to kill a camera.  Other times, you can get lucky and use a camera in a downpour without issues.

The amount of weather sealing in most cameras is laughable.  And if you realized what you were paying extra for, you'd likely be pretty upset.  The weather sealing on most cameras consists of a small lip along seams and ports in the body that holds a tinythin, rubber gasket.

Often, cameras will have some ports weather sealed and other openings to the camera left completely open with no protection, all while calling the camera “weather sealed.”

I'm not saying weather sealing isn't important–it is!  For me as a landscape photographer, I want every bit of weather sealing as possible.  What I'm saying is that anyone who has ever cracked a camera open to see the weather sealing would likely be surprised at how little there is.

Some cameras are better than others, but none are great.

2. Version II lenses are not necessarily any better than version I

Obviously, some version II lenses are a huge upgrade from the previous version.  Often, however, that isn't the case at all.  Sometimes “version II” simply gets bolted on the old lens with very few changes, and sometimes the changes don't affect the optics at all.

Often Version II lenses change the body of the lens, or a focus motor, or features such as image stabilization without changing the optics.

Before you fork out the money for a new lens, do your homework and find out exactly what was changed on the lens.  Often it's something that makes little or no difference to you, so you can keep your money.  Similarly, when buying a lens, don't skip over the previous version of many lenses which may be exactly the same optically.

Notice the expensive Nikon battery is 1900mAh, 7V, 14Wh.  The cheap battery is 7.4V, 2200mAh, 14Wh.  I have used third-party batteries for YEARS and have never had an issue.  They are cheaper and last longer in my experience.
Notice the expensive Nikon battery is 1900mAh, 7V, 14Wh. The cheap battery is 7.4V, 2200mAh, 14Wh. I have used third-party batteries for YEARS and have never had an issue. They are cheaper and last longer in my experience.

3. They use cheap batteries – even in your $3,000 camera

You never see the camera manufacturers publishing the mAh count of their batteries like the cell phone makers do.  Why?  Because they usually aren't great.  If you go out on Amazon and buy a third party battery for your camera, you'll often find that the mAh count (how long the battery lasts) is often 20% higher–or more!

Why do they use cheap batteries?  Probably so that we have to buy more batteries from them–often at $50 each!

Oh, and along with the cheap batteries, they specifically write in the warranty contract that the batteries are not covered under the 1 year warranty when bought new.  They obviously wouldn't do that unless they were uncertain about the batteries lasting.

4. Mirrorless Camera Specs Are (Almost) an Outright Lie

This is not a “hate on mirrorless” post.  I'm intrigued by the mirrorless cameras and fully believe that eventually we will all be shooting mirrorless; however, the way mirrorless cameras are marketed is almost an outright lie.

Here's the lie (I'm quoting Adam Collins who wrote in to me and expressed the issue very clearly): “Most Mirrorless cameras are marketed with false specs in which they rate the focal length as that of a full frame camera, but the maximum APERTURE as the actual f ratio.  For example, an Olympus 12-40 f 2.8 is not equivalent to a full frame 24-80 f 2.8. It is the same as a 24-80 f.5.6, which is not worth $1000 and does not constitute a pro lens by normal standards.”

This is tough to understand for those who aren't particularly nerdy, but basically the camera manufacturers are picking and choosing the way they measure a camera's specs to make it look better than it really is.

For more on this issue, spend a few minutes with the awesome Tony Northrup (who recently joined us on the podcast) in this video where he explains it more clearly.

 

5. “Brand new sensor” usually means “Tired old sensor from last year”

Remember the Canon Rebel T2i from February 2010?  Canon used that same sensor in the Canon Rebel T3i, and the T4i, and the T5i, and the 60D, and the 7D.

It costs millions of dollars to produce a new imaging sensor, so the camera manufacturers often take the same old sensor from cheaper cameras, spruce it up slightly (or sometimes not at all), and bolt it into a more expensive camera.

There isn't necessarily anything wrong with this, but often I see the camera marketing engines taking these new cameras and promising dramatically improved performance, when we all know it's the exact same sensor with a very tiny change to the way it's implemented.

Makes me sad when I see photographers save up money for a long time and buy a new camera only to find out that there is hardly any difference–often because it's almost the same sensor.  There are plenty of other reasons to upgrade, but I think image quality is certainly the #1 concern of most photographers, and sometimes you don't get it even by spending more.

6. Using third-party accessories does NOT void the warranty

Camera manufacturers like to scare photographers into using only their batteries and accessories, which often cost twice the price of the third-party accessories.  They do this by threatening to void the warranty if you use anything but their own accessories.

That's not true.  While they certainly would not cover any damage done to the camera by the third party accessory, it doesn't mean that your camera suddenly has no warranty.  Reading through the Nikon limited warranty card shows only the clause “This warranty shall not apply to any defects or damage directly or indirectly caused by the use of unauthorized REPLACEMENT PARTS and/or service performed by unauthorized personnel.”

However, it appears that while this is the policy at Canon and Nikon, other camera manufacturers like Panasonic are less forgiving.

7. Nikon looks for any excuse to not repair your camera

I have recently needed to send in cameras for repairs a number of times.  On two occasions, I sent in cameras to Nikon for repair and they sent the camera back, saying they refused to fix the problem with the camera that I asked them to fix, because it could not be restored to “default condition.”

I pressed a few Nikon repair people as to what “default condition” means, and they said it means anything that they deem to be wrong with the camera.  So if you send in a camera that can be fixed easily, and they can find any excuse to say there is something else wrong with the camera–they won't repair it.  I pressed them about what was wrong and they said the body was cracked.  Uh… checked it myself and there is not even a hairline crack to be found.  And frankly, even if there were and it doesn't prevent the camera from shooting and functioning perfectly, who cares!?!?

To prove that the fix was simple and the camera was fine otherwise, I took the camera to a local repair shop that fixed the issue easily and inexpensively.  Even in lab tests with Imatest, the camera shoots sharp and functions perfectly. The truth is, they are looking for any excuse to not fix the camera so you'll be forced to buy another one.

I am working to find out if Canon, Sony, and others have the same policy or not.  I have had horrible experiences with Nikon repair centers.  I have also had a negative experience with Sony repair, who refused to fix my new camera under warranty because they insisted it had been dropped, but it actually never was.

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An email I got from Nikon. I had to call a few times and complain repeatedly to even get them to tell me what issue prevented it from being in “default condition.” Ugh!

 

8.  Cameras are shipped with only bare bones firmware

Just like how your computer has an operating system, a camera has firmware that determines what the hardware can do.  Most cameras have far more capacity than the camera manufacturers give them.

All you have to do is try something like Magic Lantern for Canon or Nikon Hacker, and you'll quickly see a large list of features that the hardware is capable of doing, but the camera manufacturers keep out.

Timelapse mode on cameras that don't have it built in, HDR, video overlays, very long exposures, zebras for exposure viewing, crop mark overlays, faster frame rates, bracketing, and far more–all of this is possible with a free and simple firmware upgrade, but the camera manufacturers refuse to add these features.

 

 

43 thoughts on “8 Things the Camera Manufacturers Won’t Tell You”

  1. Terrill Harris

    Reading your article has somewhat cemented my fear of investing deeper into Nikon. I own a Nikon D3200 and a Canon 60d. I called Canon Care for help and actually felt like the guy I was talking to cared. He helped me through my issues and did not seem in a hurry. I had a friend give me a couple of Nikon lens, but they are the older screw drive lens and Nikon doesn’t include a focus motor on the low end models. I thought about getting a better Nikon body so that I can autofocus the lens but your complaints about Nikon support worries me. I have a co-worker that has a Nikon 400mm lens that has been a nightmare for him. Nikon claimed the lens was abused but he bought it new and couldn’t get it to focus consistently. After about $500 in repairs (the warranty didn’t cover it because they said the lens was abused) and shipping both his D7000 and the lens to Nikon he still is not satisfied. Sometime the lens will focus and other times it will not.

    1. Tasos Papazahariou

      I feel really hesitant to invest money in both Nikon and Canon to be honest.Nikon doesn’t seem like they even test their camera bodies and Canon is extremely overpriced for the outdated technology it offers,imo.

    2. Interesting article indeed. Had a Canon Rebel XTI to which I was very loyal. Last summer it up and quit on me. Willing to pay for it to be fixed as I was all but positive there was no warranty left on it, I called Canon who told me that it was 6 months beyond its “usable” life and therefore they could not take it in for repairs. So I sent it to KEH camera because they were the only repair shop I could find that was affordable. Paid $250 base rate. They replaced the shutter, motor and mirror, sent it back and it works a charm now. I don’t think it’s fair that Canon can sell a product knowing how loyal their customers can be and say hey your camera is too old we think you need a new one so we won’t repair your broke pos. When I got my camera back I was practically in tears. This camera started off my career as a photographer. I wasn’t about to give up on it. Camera companies should take this into consideration. It would only strengthen customer relations.

  2. Thank you for sharing the little secret tips. So important to gather all the facts, mainly from other sources than the manufacturers.

  3. Thankfully I’ve only needed to use it once, but the service with Canon was fabulous. They sent a pre-paid shipping label (I had my original packaging still) and repaired it promptly.

  4. I have been buying canon products for 21 years, and have yet to have a problem with canon. Real people answer the phone, they go out of their way to find the answers, and when my T4i had a problem (not the grip problem) they gave me a merchandise card for my original purchase price and I replaced it with the 70D. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about Nikon, and now that they are using Sonys crappy sensors I cannot in good conscious recommend the brand to my students. Thank you for the article though, there are a couple things I want to look into that you talked about.

  5. Terrill Harris, please tell your friend it’s not his lens, but his camera that’s the issue! I have a D7000 and it had to be sent in for repair. If you do a Google search, you’ll see this is a pretty wide spread issue with the D7000. I sent mine in for repair ($150) and just got it back. I’ve only done one shoot with it, but it seems to be fixed.

    1. The first D7000 I got was a lemon. I was at a camera function which I never really had to attend but glad I did. It was during this function that my new barely used D7000 locked up and refused to work. I had the over priced replacement warranty and got a new one. Had I not had the warranty, God knows what kind of financial hit I would have taken. Just my luck that the sales rep would pick the one camera of the four he had to be the lemon. Whether Nikon went after the problem or not I don’t know. By the time they get anywhere near finding it, they have a newer model out.

  6. I purchased my first DSL 3 years ago. It was the nikon d7000. From the start I was having trouble focusing. Even outside I could not get it to focus and I was using the stock lens, 70-200 fx and 50 1.8. It kept losing and searching for focus. I called nikon and they said that I needed to use manual focus at times and that there wasn’t anything wrong. After having a pro take a look at the camera the pro said my camera needed repair. At that point my husband surprised me with the 800e. And it was amazing I could focus even in low light and outside. I knew for sure nikon was wrong. Luckily I had extended warranty and best buy gave me credit since they could not repair it. Ad first best buy tried to give me the 5100 as the equivalent. I made the argument that wasn’t the same as my 7000. Eventually I got credit for the 7000. For once it was the machine not the user. I am still so disappointed with nikon support for giving me such bad advice. If I wasn’t so vested in all my lenses I would switch to canon. I have heard nothing but good support from them. Nikon really needs to improve their service.

  7. Sony’s poor service extends to more than just their cameras. We bought one of their laptops and the power cord would not work. When sent in, they refused to fix because they said the computer was abused. This is just one example of their poor service. We no longer allow any Sony products in our house due to their poor service. We took our business elsewhere.

  8. Well, when I bought my first DSLR, it was Canon. I just blindly trusted this brand as I have been using many Canon P&S cameras & was very satisfied. I think I had made a good decision that time. Thank for this info.

  9. Your part about the Nikon repair center is absolutely true! It took 3 times of packing up my body and resending back to the repair center to finally get my camera fixed while it was still under warranty! And not to mention the third time I sent it in, a not so nice hand written letter went with my body. I love my Nikon camera, but when it came time to use the repair center, I got nothing but headaches!

  10. I’ve actually had very good luck with Nikon Service. My gear is cleaned and serviced every six months, at least – but I use it pretty hard, in unfriendly conditions, too.

    When camera body or other equipment is repaired, Nikon goes through the equipment completely and returns it to factory specs. When that’s done, a new six month warranty is placed on that equipment. The only thing I’ve encountered not covered has been impact damage-yes, I tapped the lens on a fence when I turned, and bent the mounts. Things like water damage obviously wouldn’t be covered, either. Nikon has replaced hand grips, bottom plates, shutter arms, auto focus motors, battery doors and more, that have worn from normal use, in addition for whatever I’ve taken that gear in for – all under warranty.

    If they can’t return it fully to factory spec, granted, they won’t repair it.

    I believe that Nikon can and will guarantee to have parts for something like seven years after a camera or lens goes out of production and is discontinued. After that, it’s a crapshoot and depends on whether they still have parts available. That’s the ONLY reason my old dependable (1986) 80-200mm 2.8 lens is now in a backup position – and it was repaired by Nikon as recently as 2009. I CAN have it repaired at an independent Nikon Service location however, where they can canibalize parts. Just not warranteed.

    1. Good article, and nice points. Sadly – from experience, a lot of it is true on my side 🙁

      But whenever Tony Northrup is mentioned , I run… that guy has a pile of bad/ignorant advice throughout his channel that is simply stupid.

  11. George Kremer

    I’ve had very good luck with Canon repairing my gear. I do belong to their Canon Professional Services (CPS) as well, which cost about $100 a year and well worth it. The two times I’ve needed to fix a camera body due to some electronic issues, the turn-around time was a week. My camera was placed at the head of the line due to belonging to CPS, a discount on parts and labor and it was FedEx’ed overnight back to me for free.
    The weather sealing on my Canon 1Dx and 1Ds MKIII is very good. I’m an evidence photographer for my local sheriff’s office and I have to be able to photograph outside in all sorts of weather, which gets pretty interesting here in the high Rockies.
    I definitely agree the the version II lenses are not worth twice the price of the Version I. I bought a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L II lens and it was no better or worse than my Version I. Thankfully, B&H took it back.

  12. richard warren

    I can’t comment on Nikon or Canon repairs – I can on Carl Zeiss and Epson, though.

    On one occasion, the local Zeiss repair shop actually damaged the drive on my Contarex, and I chose to send it to Carl Zeiss (Germany), rather than back to the repair shop which had caused the problem. Carl Zeiss stripped the camera to pieces, sent it through their assembly line, re-assembled and checked it, and returned it to be here in Australia – free of charge – with a report claiming they had found absolutely nothing wrong with it. In a perfect imitation of the classic stand Rolls-Royce once took. Except you can SEE they have replaced something directly connected to the component which had jammed and caused the problem. Top marks to Carl Zeiss!

    And Epson took a similar position, when I purchased a scanner from them and it unfortunately had a dust particle. They were horrified – tried for about two weeks to fix it, and couldn’t locate or remove the offending particle. So they replaced the unit, with a brand new one (which has performed perfectly ever since). Again, at no cost to me.

    While I can’t really imagine all manufacturers showing such an extreme display of standing by their product, it is very reassuring to the customer when it does occur, and I would never hesitate to buy from Zeiss or Epson. Which is something I CANNOT say for several others.

  13. It seems that no one ever talks about Pentax camera so I assume that they are not a very good camera I do notice that you never see them advertised. Just curious that’s all

  14. I use the “Canon Hack Developers Kit” (CHDK) on my Canon S5IS to open up so many features. Some of the features were only in their higher priced DSLR’s.

  15. This was interesting to learn about the Nikon repairs. I haven’t heard about Nikon Hacker so I’ll be checking them out next to see what may have been left out on my DSLR.

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