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Author Topic: Canon L lenses and quality control  (Read 20186 times)
StephenEdgar
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« on: April 09, 2006, 05:22:26 AM »
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Hi Folks,
I'd like to buy a  Canon 24-85 f4 L-series lens and I've being doing as much research as I can to ensure I understand the optical strengths and weaknesses of this lens. However, I've been suprised, (after visiting numerous forums), at the number of these lenses that seem to be returned because the purchasers had (apparently) got a 'poor' example of the lens. Am I seeing a 'biased sample' or is purchasing any lens more hit and miss than I ever realised? I'm not a 'pixel peeper' and certainly don't want to start 'testing' a new lens to ensure I've got a 'good' example.
Any comments or insight would be appreciated
Regards
Stephen
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StephenEdgar
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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2006, 05:27:54 AM »
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Oops, sorry I meant to refer to the Canon 24-105 f4 L lens. Sorry for any confusion
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2006, 08:44:28 AM »
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Stephen, there is sample variance. When spending so much money on a lens it is best to buy it from a dealer who will allow you to exchange it within a short time period if you are not satisfied with the sample you buy.

I own one of these lenses - this website published a test comparison I did between the 24~105L and the 28~135 IS (http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/24vs28.shtml). The lens I tested was a sample from the original batch. Canon recalled all those lenses because they said there was excessive flare (which I never noticed as being excessive). The lens they gave me in exchange was less crisp than the "defective" one I returned. So, much to Canon's surprise, I promptly retrieved my "defective" lens and I have been extremely pleased with it ever since.

I don't do formal tests with resolution line charts. I'm only interested in what real-word photographs will look like as a print. There is a brick community center protected by link-fencing up the street from where I live. The sun hits it at different angles as the day progresses and it provides all the detail, texture and contrast I need to judge whether a lens is satisfactory. I do a matrix of shots at wide, 50mm and telephoto at wide-open, mid-range and f/11 f-stops.

The most challenging performance test for these zoom lenses is wide angle at wide aperture. That is where they are at their weakest. But since only a small proportion of your photos are likely to be made with those settings, it is best to judge performance accross the matrix.

Of course, testing this way you will never know whether you have the BEST this lens can deliver (you would need to test many lenses under identical conditions to judge that), but at least you will know whether the image quality is satisfactory relative to your expectations.

A note about post-processing. There are two schools of thought. One is to judge the RAW files with no sharpening to see what the lens does unaided - but biased by the influence of the sensor's anti-aliasing filter. The other is to sharpen the RAW file as you would normally, because this is how you will use the product. I think both approaches tell you something, but the latter is the bottom line.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Gary Ferguson
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2006, 12:18:49 PM »
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I've never had an optical quality problem with any of the thirty or so Zeiss or Leica lenses that I've bought new over the years. With every other brand I reckon on returning about one in three because of faults. Canon L lenses are no different, including a breathtakingly expensive 500 4.0L IS that had an obvious decentering error, and multiple exchanges of a 20mm plus hood until Canon could provide one where the hood fitted.

I'm sure that much of the internet bickering about quality is a function of sample variability, take for example the recent test by a prestigious French photo magazine of the 35 1.4L, they concluded it's a dog, my sample comes as close as makes no difference to the Leica Aspheric 35mm. Or take the experiences of Erwin Putts, the Leica pundit. He's recently bought a 5D and he's been acquiring some lenses to go with it. I haven't read his reports exhaustively but I get the impression he hasn't been able to find a single perfect Canon lens, after sifting stock he's down to accepting relatively low decentering problems.
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boku
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2006, 12:42:33 PM »
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Oops, sorry I meant to refer to the Canon 24-105 f4 L lens. Sorry for any confusion
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Stephen,

I had a 24-105. It was clearly a dud with regard to flare. Way beyond acceptable or repairable. Regarding flare, I had a bad copy - much worse than others.

This lens also exhibits above average image distortion at the extremes of its zoom ranges. All copies do because of the design. It is not a matter of a bad copy and it is not a real critical flaw bacause on images where there are straight lines distorted, Photoshop and plugins can correct. But it is above average.

Ultimately, I exchanged the lens in for a 24-70 because there were too many issues that disatisfied me. Somebody else got my dud. Think about it.

In general, most Canon L lenses do not have the quality variation I experienced. There are differences and I have no idea how the rest of my collection compares to other copies becauase I am satisfied and have no patience or opportunity for comparison, especially pre-sale.

I live in the greater-Cleveland, Ohio area. If you want to buy a Canon L lens from a Camera store you need to have them order it. Since no one stocks L glass and they hire near-idiots, I buy everything online. That eliminates any possibility of cherry-picking.

With regard to cherry picking: If you choose to do that, and if you have a retailer that permits it, how do you know the last person in the store didn't buy the primo copy before you got there? Meanwhile, your copy was out of the box, pawed, and rejected.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2006, 12:44:23 PM by boku » Logged

Bob Kulon

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Play it Straight and Play it True, my Brother.
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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2006, 01:00:24 PM »
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Bob,

Needless to say I have no vested interest in plugging for them, but just for the record you CAN return lenses to B&H if you aren't satisfied. Here is their return policy:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller...urnExchange.jsp

Cheers,

Mark
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
Ray
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2006, 12:00:52 AM »
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I think most of us who have a accumulated a number of lenses, whether they be Canon, Nikon or 3rd party, will have experiences of duds and sub par performance. My biggest surprise was the Canon 400/5.6 prime. I expected it to be sharper than my 100-400 IS zoom. It was in fact not as sharp, yet it appeared to be in pristine condition. Before getting my refund, the store sent it away for calibration. I tested it again and found it to be marginally better but still worse than the zoom.

My first copy of the EF-S 10-20 had a focussing problem. The second copy was simply not as sharp at 15mm as my Sigma 15-30. The third copy I tested was almost as sharp as my Sigma, did not appear to have any focussing problems, so I bought it. However, I now have little use for it because the Sigma 15-30 on my 5D is more useful.

It's worth noting, if I'd bought the Canon 400/5.6 prime before the 100-400 zoom, I would probably have assumed that the 400 prime was average and no worse than what one could expect for the price. On buying the 100-400 zoom, I would probably then have raved about how good the zoom was. It's all relative.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2006, 07:30:40 AM »
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Ray, whether it is relative or not I think this thread reveals that there are quality control issues at Canon. As for relative - yes and no. Yes in the sense that one usually compares one thing relative to the next. No in the sense that I can sit back, look at print in isolation and ask myself whether what I'm seeing is megabucks worth of crisp detail.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Ray
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« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2006, 08:45:01 AM »
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Yes in the sense that one usually compares one thing relative to the next. No in the sense that I can sit back, look at print in isolation and ask myself whether what I'm seeing is megabucks worth of crisp detail.
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Mark,
You can ask yourself these questions but you can't answer them unless you have seen and remembered what true megabuck quality looks like. Whether the comparison is with another lens you own, a memory of what a sharp print should look like, or what an actual sharp print looks like because you already have a few, it's still a comparative process.

We should also bear in mind that most prints that are not as sharp as they could be, are 'not sharp' as a result of misfocussing and/or an inadequate shutter speed.
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D White
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« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2006, 02:14:41 AM »
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I have had a 600f4L and an 85f1.2L that both back focused and thus initially performed poorly at full aperture when used with autofocus. Once I finally realized the problem, it was rectified by Canon. The 85L also showed what was likely a de-centering problem, with the plane of focus off perpendicular, as if it was a tilt and shift lens. This too was finally corrected by Canon and now performs stunningly. Since then, I have had no further problems with the many other lenses I have acquired. I know of one other person who had initial back focus problems on a 600f4 and a 300f2.8 before correction by Canon. Thus, if you are aware that you are not getting full potential from your lens, Canon seems capable of solving it.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2006, 07:43:16 AM »
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If these extremely expensive "L" lenses are the "best Canon makes" and the cream of the crop, it demonstrates they have serious quality control problems in that company - and I have nothing against Canon - I use a 1Ds - I am simply making an observation that when one pays top dollar for the best professional equipment a company manufactures, one expects these units to be inspected by hand individually before they leave the factory.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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wtlloyd
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« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2006, 09:32:35 AM »
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I've purchased most of my Canon lenses used - but I wouldn't in the future. I sent the lot in to Canon factory service to be checked out, with some noticable improvement in 2 of the lenses. I will now buy new, and send in for a free calibration/checkup close to the end of the warranty period. I'm about to send my 600mm in, I've only a few weeks left to do so.
Gone are the days Canon would calibrate all your lens and bodies for free - min charge now is $60-$80 per lens, and up. This pretty much negates the minor savings on a mint copy of most lens. Canon won't go by the mfg date code on the lens, they insist on a dated sales receipt for the warranty.
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lensfiend
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« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2006, 03:04:20 AM »
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Hi Folks,
I'd like to buy a  Canon 24-85 f4 L-series lens and I've being doing as much research as I can to ensure I understand the optical strengths and weaknesses of this lens. However, I've been suprised, (after visiting numerous forums), at the number of these lenses that seem to be returned because the purchasers had (apparently) got a 'poor' example of the lens. Am I seeing a 'biased sample' or is purchasing any lens more hit and miss than I ever realised? I'm not a 'pixel peeper' and certainly don't want to start 'testing' a new lens to ensure I've got a 'good' example.
Any comments or insight would be appreciated
Regards
Stephen
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=62200\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


I have seen it happen on Both Nikon and Canon lenses.  It is not as often as I think the internet makes it seem though.  The Nikon included a 400mm 2.8, 17-35mm 2.8 and the canon I had was the 300mm f/4.  Once sent in for calibration they were fine. Except the 17-35mm Nikon because Nikon insisted it was within specs but relented after I sent them sample images and the camera body.
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jjphoto
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« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2006, 09:59:22 AM »
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It's sad that this is an issue at all. I have plenty of Leica glass, all of which performs as expected with no seeming "irregularities" or quality control issues. In fact, I can accurately compare every Leica lens I own with their published MTF charts for the same lenses and can see how accurately they seem to correspond.

I would be happy to pay more for a lens if it would guarantee performance. Thatís why I'm a big fan of Leica. Many Canon lenses are easily as good as Leica glass, the real problem in my mind is why should I spend big dollars on Canon glass and gamble on the quality of the sample that I happen to receive when I can buy almost any sample of a particular Leica lens and feel very comfortable that it will perform as expected.

I don't understand why Canon allow so much sample variation as it is obviously a thorn in their side and one that many, many people are aware of. It almost seems to be a business decision to pump out products as fast as possible, regardless of quality. Maybe itís cheaper to fix the few lenses that are returned than to spend big bucks on retooling to make sure that they never come back in the first place.

JJ
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gear junkie22
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« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2006, 06:39:58 PM »
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This sample variation certainly doesn't apply to just Canon.  I just dumped about $5k in Canon gear to move to Nikon, because the D200 build quality smokes the hollow feeling 5D and 30D, while still providing all of the features that I really need.  I never got a bad sample out of about 8 Canon lenses (3 of them L glass).

However, now that I have moved to Nikon, I have had nothing but problems trying to get a decent lens.  (Although I did get lucky with a banding-free D200!)  So far, I am 0 for 3, on trying to get decent (not perfect) pro lenses.  I have tried 2 70-200 VR lenses (The first had a large metal shaving on an interior rear element.  The second sample had an elemnent out of alignment such that the bottom right corner was totally out of focus.)  I am also trying to get my second sample of a 105VR lens.  (The first sample had an aperture blade that was not located correctly, and created a diamond-shaped opening, instead of a circle.  This same sample also had a minor scratch on one of the aperture blades.)  All of the Nikon lenses that I have sampled so far have had between 10 and 20 dust particles within.  So far, I am completely disappointed with Nikon, and plan to write a letter to their consumer relations department to inform them of their poor QC.  

I am going to try one more sample of each lens.  If they are garbage, too, then I plan on moving back to Canon and settling with a 30D until the 5D upgrade (with weather sealing and an MLU button please!!!) arrives.

I LOVE the D200 body, but am at my boiling point trying to get a decent Nikon lens!

OK, [end rant/]
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thompsonkirk
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« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2006, 06:50:14 PM »
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I agree with the posts that have said Casnon has a quality control problem, but the problems I've had - with zoom lenses - have had to do with the way the lens was calibrated, not with the L glass itself.

You can return lenses under warranty to Canon Service for re-calibration, & my experience is that my two duds (a 17-40 & a 24-105) turned out to be stellar prerformers with proper adjustment.

I just think it's a bit of a disgrace that Canon doesn't catch these things in the first place!
« Last Edit: April 20, 2006, 06:56:12 PM by thompsonkirk » Logged
LynnB
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« Reply #16 on: April 21, 2006, 07:36:57 AM »
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Hi Stephen,
I recently purchased a 24-105/4L lens for my 5D and found quite noticeable chromatic aberration (red/green) at 24mm in bright light, particularly at the edges but also near centre frame. I returned it and exchanged for another copy which still shows some R/G CA but to a lesser extent, so I am keeping it.
Barrell distortion is noticeable at wide angle but easily corrected in PS.
Regards,
Lynn
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Ray
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« Reply #17 on: April 21, 2006, 07:48:49 AM »
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It's sad that this is an issue at all. I have plenty of Leica glass, all of which performs as expected with no seeming "irregularities" or quality control issues. In fact, I can accurately compare every Leica lens I own with their published MTF charts for the same lenses and can see how accurately they seem to correspond.

I would be happy to pay more for a lens if it would guarantee performance.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=63073\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I tend to agree. I think all lenses should ship with a set of individual MTF charts. That's definitely going to increase the cost but I expect that at least part of that additional cost would be offset by the higher price that demanding people would pay for the cream of the crop. Each model of lens could be divided into Grade A, B and C. Grade A could sell at a significant premium; grade B at a small premium and grade C at roughly current prices.

We could then have endless debates as to whether or not a Grade A Sigma 12-24mm at double the price of a Grade B is worth the extra cost   .
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #18 on: April 21, 2006, 08:08:44 AM »
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Hi Stephen,
I recently purchased a 24-105/4L lens for my 5D and found quite noticeable chromatic aberration (red/green) at 24mm in bright light, particularly at the edges but also near centre frame. I returned it and exchanged for another copy which still shows some R/G CA but to a lesser extent, so I am keeping it.
Barrell distortion is noticeable at wide angle but easily corrected in PS.
Regards,
Lynn
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=63250\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Based on my copy, there should be VERY LITTLE C.A. with this lens. I've also noticed the slight barrel distortion at W.A., and I agree it is easily corrected.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
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« Reply #19 on: April 21, 2006, 08:11:59 AM »
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I tend to agree. I think all lenses should ship with a set of individual MTF charts. .................Each model of lens could be divided into Grade A, B and C. Grade A could sell at a significant premium; grade B at a small premium and grade C at roughly current prices.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=63251\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Ray, did you really mean that? I think they should simply set a standard for what "L" means, test each piece before it is intended to go out the door and not ship anything that doesn't meet it.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
Author: "Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8....." http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/film/scanning_workflows_with_silverfast_8.shtml
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