Thursday, July 15, 2010

Exploding Nikon Lens

Friday, July 15, 2010
I never expected to see this.
While hiking the Hi-Cannon Trail up to the top of Cannon Mountain in the Franconia Notch region of the New Hampshire White Mountains, my camera swung around and caught a thick, dead branch right in the middle of my Nikkor 18-200mm zoom lens. I've hiked with my Nikon camera equipment all my life, from the Grand Canyon to Glacier National Park to the Czech Republic, and I've occassionally knocked the equipment around - but that's precisely why I love Nikon equipment: It's built to last. But this time the sound I heard was very different from the normal ping's you hear when the equipment hits something.


The Crescent Roll Sound

The best description I can ascribe to the sound I heard (and felt) was that it reminded me of when you pop open a container of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. I looked down at the camera, and, to my horror, I saw something that I never dreamed that I would ever see: The zoom lens was popped open right in the middle (see photo above). Yikes! This was NOT good.

The outside of the lens was just fine - there wasn't even a mark on the barrel of the lens indicating where the contact with the log occurred. Not a scratch much less a dent. The glass was absolutely perfect too. However, there it was. A completely useless, very expensive, high-quality lens exposing its inner workings to me.


What Was The Cause?

I suspect what probably happened was that there was a micro-fracture or defect within the lens that left it vulnerable to the perfect strike causing it to completely fail and spring open when it impacted the log. If true, I probably could have hit the lens in other places multiple times and never have seen this catastrophic failure (in fact, I'm sure I banged the lens around plenty of times before this particular incident occurred).


Before and After

Just to make sure to highlight what happened to the lens, I took a photo with the broken lens next to a new one so you can see the differences (see second photo).


Can It Be Fixed?

When I went to the store to purchase a replacement lens the salesman thought the broken lens was repairable, but he wasn't sure for how much. I do wonder how much Nikon would charge because overall the lens is in great shape (it's only two years old). You can see from the last photograph that the glass is in beautiful shape as is the rest of the lens body. As I said earlier, there was no outwardly sign that the lens took any blow whatsoever when it popped open. I'll have to do a little research, but it might be a good idea to put the lens up for sale and let someone else send it in for repair. In the end, they may wind up with a great lens at an unbelievable price.
Anyone else have any lens horror stories to share? Please post them here. I look forward to the dialog.