8 Things the Camera Manufacturers Won’t Tell You

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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.

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. Thanks for the info. I have been buying Canon since I was 16 years old – I’m 55 now (56 in a few months)…so that means for the past 40 years I have been loyal to Canon and not one single camera ever had a problem (6 in total and yes, I have them all still, film and digital and yes, they all work). When people ask about my cameras, I can honestly say that it’s an amazing camera, no problems and will continue to buy Canon. Photography has been my passion and fascination since I was 4 years old, I photograph life as I see it, and collect cameras (all makes), taking my cameras away would be torture. If my cameras ceased to work – torture. My dad never had problems with his Konica cameras, now they are Konica Minolta – but he switched to Sony because he wanted digital and was never a fan of Minolta. No disrespect to them – it was a personal thing. Not that he has had a lot of problems with Sony but yes, there have been issues. He bought my daughter a Sony digital camera, a small one, pink – perfect for a teenage girl – she got 2 years out of it and then nothing but problems. My 40 years of Canon cameras has been a wonderful experience…my cameras are an extension of my life, a part of me and no matter what – batteries, mirrors, gaskets and such – never a problem, ever. I appreciate the info, but past experience tells me otherwise…my Canons are excellent quality and I have never needed repair to camera, lens, filter, even the camera cases, straps and bags (all Canon of course) are still intact.

  2. I absolutely agree with the point #3. I have Canon 6D that I use to shoot professionally (http://www.digitalstudio.in) as well as personally. My camera is nearly 2 years old and the Canon battery that was bundled along with has now a reduced charging capacity as compared to another third party battery that cost much much less than the Canon.

  3. Alot of “behind the curtains” information. Thanks for this great post. I still can not understand: why manufacturers charge so much for these “2 cent” water sealing gaskets as it protects only from rain drops in best case.

  4. You are right Nikon does not stand behind their camera and lens as does Canon. Thankfully I found a camera repair shop with an outstanding technician.

    The only kudos for Nikon is if you have problem figuring something out such as camera setting you can call their 800 tech line and they will pull the same equipment and walk you through making the adjustments.

  5. We send our old 40D to Canon and when we called they were polite and explained how the system works. I forget the exact problem, it wasn’t focusing or something wasn’t returning back to “normal”. It had been a few years.
    We sent it in, paid shipping, etc, and they fixed it. I think it was around $150 total.
    We bought a Canon 6D and the extended warranty, because they also told us that we would have one free cleaning, after one year. We didn’t get that in writing. Turns out that is for the camera store Mikes, and it’s just a wipe down.
    Not sure if the warranty really works, 3rd party, and hope that is addressed one day, on a blog.

  6. LOL… Love the Northrop explanation… so … i have a DX body… spend thousands!!! on a 70-200 VRII 2.8 and all i get is a 5.6 aperture …LMAO!!!! NO wonder the 55-200 DX 4. 5.6 looks like a better option and its under $300.
    The more interesting thing is going to be WHAT lens config Nikon is going to pull out of their a$$ regarding constant fast lens apertures when they deliver the D500…. Sigma is LIGHT YEARS ahead of their game with the art line and the art line for DX!!!!

  7. Lawrence Lowndes

    In 2014 I had a Nikon D800. It was a couple years old when I took it to Iceland. I was shooting outside when a light misty rain started. I did my best to cover in my jacket, but the camera got a light misting on the body. I was back in the car in 30 minutes. Dried it off and carried on. Within 60 minutes, I noticed that camera LCD was blinking, and it would not turn off. I immediately pulled the battery and blew hot air into/onto the camera as I guessed moisture got in. When I returned to Canada, it was sent to Nikon, and they claimed the camera was unrepairable and accused me of immersing it in water. I pushed and they sent photos which showed corrosion inside the camera. Until this time, the camera had never seen a drop of rain, but I had used it in humid environments. And now it was fried. Due to some amazing negotiating on the behalf of my wife, I managed to get it replaced with a D810 (don’t ask) by the seller, not Nikon (who basically said go screw yourself). I’ve owned it for 1.5 years, and been very careful with it. Upon another trip to Iceland, I noticed condensation on the inside of the LCD screen. This time there was hardly a drop of rain on the camera, however it was in a waterproof Nikon backpack which was “damp” for one day of hiking. So far the camera is fine, but I did approach Nikon about the poor weather proofing and I got the most amazingly aggressive response, IMMEDIATELY stating that the camera cannot be wet or used in very humid environments. This immediate push back the moment I mention the condensation means to me that they have a policy of blaming the customer for any problem that can be blamed on moisture. Now, there is no problem with the camera, but maybe in a year or two this “humidity” will corrode something and a $3500 camera body will be useless. If this camera dies, I will be selling all of my gear and moving to a company that makes a camera which is less delicate.

  8. Nikon has the worst service ever. I sent in my nikon d50 and they said it would be $1400 to fix it. I call bs on that. The lense that was on it would focus sometimes and then not so I told them to fix it. $180 later I got it back and it does exactly the same thing. Would not use them ever again.

  9. Too bad you are wrong about the mirrorless story.

    A 35mm f1.4 is equal in optical performance no matter on what system it is being used.
    Its still a 35mm f1.4. Its not that all of a sudden the light gathering capabilities of the optical components (lenses) inside the lens gathers less light.

    The difference is image circle and therewith you will perceive the images differently. It may look like its being taken with a 50mm lens. However its still a 35mm lens that has the same optical components as the 35mm f1.4 used on your full frame camera. So the only difference is image perceivement. Not optical performance.

    Get your facts right next time you put down something on the web.

    Get your facts right before

    1. 100% correct. Its also strange how so many “enlightened” photographers actually believe a sensor is the source of magnification when we educated people recognize that’s the job of a lens….

  10. I wouldn’t say they look for any reason to not do your repair. Repairs are actually a huge money maker for the manuafacturers, and I know for certain they do perform most repairs that are sent in, as a former technician.

    It sounds like your body casting was cracked, which is where everything attaches to on your camera. The covers don’t have to be cracked for the casting to be cracked. Why they don’t fix it is because it would cost more in parts and time than replacing the camera. Additionally if they left it like that they can’t guarantee everything will stay aligned and you won’t have problems down the line. That’s why they just send it back.

  11. 7. Nikon looks for any excuse to not repair your camera…….
    I’ve NEVER had any issues with Nikon service, and strangely I’ve read the same on Canon forums, shill much, Jim?

  12. I have the same problem with sony… am done buying there product… I bought a sony vio… vino the laptop It would restart on its own all the time they refuse to fix it… then a 3 different camera they all had issue… my a5000 was the last one I bought they refuse to fix it with no explanation… probably waiting for my warranty to expire. But thats the last product I will ever buy from them…

  13. You are not the only one to have trouble with the Nikon Repair. Centre. I’ve been really unlucky on more than one occasion.
    As soon as any major sports events take place, then their entire team disappear.
    They appear to more interested in servicing sports photographers than anyone else with a camera. Camera also had to go back on more than 5 times before they had to send it back to Nikon Japan – they did provide me with a replacement (used not new)
    Had to call Nikon on numerous occasions to get an update let alone a fix.

  14. Frank Frabert

    Good Day,

    Please let me know the price, if you have something in

    stock that matches or is close to what I have specified


    Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body

    50.2 MP full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting
    Up to 7.0 frames per second continuous shooting speed
    61-point AF system with 41 cross-points for expanded vertical coverage
    ISO range 100-32000 with 50-102400 expansion
    4K video recording at 30p or 24p and in-camera still frame grab of 8.8MP images
    Touch-screen LCD monitor
    EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Refurbished.

    Hope to read or hear from you soon as you find some

    Best Regards.

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