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Author Topic: Interesting article on sample variations  (Read 8203 times)
ErikKaffehr
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« on: March 11, 2010, 11:58:39 PM »
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Hi,

Everyone buying lenses should read this: http://www.lensrentals.com/news/2010.03.06...and-other-facts

If you buy a lens try to test it, return to store if it's underperforming.

I had a couple of obvious lemons. The second I found out to be bad on second day of shooting and returned to the shop for prompt replacement. The other I spent to warrant repair, but they said it was within specifications and I should check the camera. I'm pretty sure that the repair shop was wrong, but I got a better lens anyway. 400 USD in the drain.


Best regards
Erik
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Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2010, 03:48:00 AM »
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Erik

Your thread shows the problem for what it is: unacceptable.

There is something far wrong with a system that permits manufacturers to put out material that is sub- their own standards; despite the fact that some people here seem able to return lenses time after time for replacement, I can tell you that trying to do that in most places that I have experienced would be impossible. When my 24-70 turned out to suck, the only way I got my money back was by exchanging it for another, slightly more expensive item, and I only managed this on the sympathy card: I pointed out that the dealer's catalogue did not state that the G lens would be inoperable with my F3, which I had also bought years ago from the same source ( the dealer knows I run it alongside the digi ones since he would no longer accept it as trade-in) and maybe the grey hair helped a bit too...

Anyway, all that toing and froing can't be without its financial (and reputational) costs to all the providers; surely they should just step up the factory inspections to where they used to be some decades ago? I have bought lenses over many many years and only in the last few have I ever come across or even heard of substandard Nikkors. To me, that's an avoidable disgrace to a fine reputation. Nikon, please take note!

Rob C

EDIT: the fact that film didn't lie as flat as digital is not the entire point. If it were such a factor against sharpness, then can anyone explain why I can get such crisp scanned prints from my Kodachromes?
« Last Edit: March 12, 2010, 04:04:12 AM by Rob C » Logged

stever
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2010, 10:29:38 AM »
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i found this article extremely interesting, in many ways consistent with my experience, and i agree with Roger's conclusion that Canon and Nikon are getting near the resolution limit for FF SLRs  without changes in manufacturing and quality control and perhaps design (Canon may have already surpassed the limit on crop-frame). i don't believe that the quality of the best lenses (Leica and Zeiss) have increased substantially over the last 30 years (Leica experts correct me if i'm wrong on this) - there are some exceptions like the Nikon 12-24 and Canon 17 and 24 TS which also reflect the cost of producing high quality lenses.

i should not have been surprised that the more obvious lens problems are batch related rather than statistical - if processes are under control, statistical variation should be relatively small.  my Canon 300 f4 and original 100-400 both seemed to be okay in the bad old days of film, but showed serious issues on the 20D and unacceptable on FF cameras - for about $250 each Canon Service dramatically improved the quality of these long out of warranty lenses to be quite satisfactory with a 5D2.

the comment on the 50 f1.4 was particularly interesting as i had just received mine back from service -- VERY soft on the right had edge wider than f5.6.  it came back much improved - but not symetrical - at f4 and f2.8 with repair comments that did not appear to relate to the problem.  i should add that at f5.6 to diffraction this lens has superb resolution - a real bargain if you don't expect it to perform at large apertures.

fortunately buying multiple copies of lenses and testing them is not an issue in the US and i've resigned myself to doing so and find Imatest SFRPlus to be a worthwhile investment for quantitatively evaluating lenses across the entire field -- unfortunately the numbers are probably not much use on an absolute basis so there's a significant time investment cross checking lenses and camera bodies to develop realistic expectations

the lensrentals.com site is generally informative and Roger's annual report on lens reliability very much worth reading as well.  my experience renting their lenses has been excellent
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2010, 11:42:12 AM »
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Hi,

I essentially agree.

Regarding returning bad lenses I guess dealers may be different. Mine has been very good. I use just two dealers in Sweden so they know who I am and that I'm serious.

Best regards
Erik


Quote from: Rob C
Erik

Your thread shows the problem for what it is: unacceptable.

There is something far wrong with a system that permits manufacturers to put out material that is sub- their own standards; despite the fact that some people here seem able to return lenses time after time for replacement, I can tell you that trying to do that in most places that I have experienced would be impossible. When my 24-70 turned out to suck, the only way I got my money back was by exchanging it for another, slightly more expensive item, and I only managed this on the sympathy card: I pointed out that the dealer's catalogue did not state that the G lens would be inoperable with my F3, which I had also bought years ago from the same source ( the dealer knows I run it alongside the digi ones since he would no longer accept it as trade-in) and maybe the grey hair helped a bit too...

Anyway, all that toing and froing can't be without its financial (and reputational) costs to all the providers; surely they should just step up the factory inspections to where they used to be some decades ago? I have bought lenses over many many years and only in the last few have I ever come across or even heard of substandard Nikkors. To me, that's an avoidable disgrace to a fine reputation. Nikon, please take note!

Rob C

EDIT: the fact that film didn't lie as flat as digital is not the entire point. If it were such a factor against sharpness, then can anyone explain why I can get such crisp scanned prints from my Kodachromes?
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Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2010, 11:47:43 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Erik

Your thread shows the problem for what it is: unacceptable.

There is something far wrong with a system that permits manufacturers to put out material that is sub- their own standards

Markets aren't perfect ... but in this kind of situation, the market is the best solution to the problem, IMO.

I also don't agree that manufacturing has gotten "worse" since the "good old days".
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fredjeang
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2010, 12:13:23 PM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Payne
Markets aren't perfect ... but in this kind of situation, the market is the best solution to the problem, IMO.

I also don't agree that manufacturing has gotten "worse" since the "good old days".
Well I tend to agree with both Jeremy and the other posts.
I do not think that the industry has gotten worse in terms of built quality. And this is probably true in many other industries. I remember the old Renault and if you compare to the nowdays generations, what we have now is far better built and finished.
Now, there are problems, some of them half-hidden. The tolerance should be higher now than in the "good old days", but many problems come when an increase demand force a brand to open fast others chains, generaly delocalized and in a very short time in order to supply the demand and prices pressure.
That is where most of the failure happen. They accept that many unities will be returned and they know it, it's part of the game. They have to sell, no matter the problems with customers. They have to sell, point.
Also, the products now are made in such a way, and it is not a mistake from companies, that their average life-time has to be short for obvious reasons.
This happen in consumer products, not in some very high-end specific ones. So there are various combinations that have to be considered.
Now, when I look and use my old pentaxes primes, I'm amazed how just perfect and smooth these mecanisms are still today...

Cheers,

Fred.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2010, 01:25:10 PM »
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Hi,

Both the article and the references indicate that products that are clearly below acceptable standards do reach the market and also that the problems seem to be systematic, certain batches are bad.

Less testing was done in the good old days, so we cannot say for sure, but I actually guess that we have to many issues today. Equipment today is very demanding.

An interesting issue is the 100-400/4,5-5,6 L USM IS lens which does well in tests but seems to have quite a few issues. Both Michael Reichmann and Andy Biggs indicated some issues. The lens may just be a bit to sensitive to wear.

Best regards
Erik


Quote from: Jeremy Payne
Markets aren't perfect ... but in this kind of situation, the market is the best solution to the problem, IMO.

I also don't agree that manufacturing has gotten "worse" since the "good old days".
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fredjeang
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2010, 01:40:30 PM »
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Quote from: ErikKaffehr
Hi,

Both the article and the references indicate that products that are clearly below acceptable standards do reach the market and also that the problems seem to be systematic, certain batches are bad.

Less testing was done in the good old days, so we cannot say for sure, but I actually guess that we have to many issues today. Equipment today is very demanding.

An interesting issue is the 100-400/4,5-5,6 L USM IS lens which does well in tests but seems to have quite a few issues. Both Michael Reichmann and Andy Biggs indicated some issues. The lens may just be a bit to sensitive to wear.

Best regards
Erik
...fast and maximum profits, short term politics, cheap unskilled labours, marketing lies, consumers spoiled etc...
Look what just happened to the world economy...
we are all in a nice friendly world.

Fred.
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vandevanterSH
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« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2010, 01:49:09 PM »
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Interesting article, especially since the author has the opportunity to examine a lot of "product".

"The “silent upgrade” may simply be that a subcontractor of a part was simply replaced by a different subcontractor that made a better part. Recently, for another example, Nikon’s 70-200 f2.8 VR II lens has been noted to have small metal sparkles (shavings? flakes?) which Nikon states are “air holes remaining in the metal portion of the barrel in the process of component production”.

It is interesting that the six copies of this lens that I have examined, they all have the "pitted" light baffle and metallic sparkles.  The interesting thing is that they were are different in "severity".  Nikon has address the "pitting" issue by saying it was basically caused buy inconsistencies in the casting process (makes sense) but I don't think that they have ever explained the metallic sparkles.  In their response they said they were not caused by the "pitted" metal (pretty obvious since the problems are in different parts of the lens) and that image quality isn't affected (also true, probably).  The conclusion was that since image quality wasn't affected, the lens meets Nikon standards.

I think that "meets standards...move on folks, nothing to see here, etc" is unfortunate position for Nikon to take but seems to be the big business standard.   At least with Nikon, unlike denial of problems with Cars, Drugs, food, etc....no death or injury will result.

Steve
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JohnKoerner
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« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2010, 11:05:05 AM »
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Well, this article may seem to be "revealing," but in truth it is really just common sense. While it is easy to imagine everything made being "exactly the same," in truth nothing ever is. As Heraclitus once said, "It is impossible to step twice into the same river."

Have you ever built something? Have you ever built another of the same thing? The two results are never quite the same, in every detail, are they?

Consider this same truth as it applies to automobiles. How many auto companies (most recently Toyota) have "recalled" their products (and spent billions of dollars doing so), simply because they tried to cut corners somewhere? With automobiles, plenty never do get recalled, but when they are recalled it is ONLY because human lives are at stake and the potential for catastrophic, company-killing lawsuits are possible. With cameras, even though the principle is the same (as far as the attempt to cut corners and save money is concerned), but how a product blunder is handled is a whole different deal, because the potential for damage isn't as great. Hence the "silent upgrade" in future renditions, whilst the company will just deal with "the complaints" on the previous renditions, in a case-by-case basis, that didn't turn out so well.

As an interesting addendum, how many of you, as you read this article, harkened back to the story of "The Canon 5D Mk II and Antarctica" post made awhile back, where many of the photographers experienced a surprising "product failure" of their 5D Mk IIs ... but several did not? I would be willing to bet a million dollars to a penny that this same "product variation" was going on there too, where a certain run of the 5DMkII was simply inferior to the rest.

So, what is a person to do? Really there is nothing you can do, besides test your products when you get them, as has already been mentioned. I think this is one of the most valuable features of this forum and forums like this, which is a place for consumers to go to and share their experiences. To this end, I believe folks were already comparing serial numbers on the "Antarctica" thread, which empowers the consumer with the ability to "know where they're at" on a much broader scale than ever would be possible only knowing their own situation.

Yet still, by and large, I don't think there is a whole lot to worry about. A simple reality check will remind us that it will never be a perfect world, and some offerings of any company will simply suck. And some products will simply have "bad batches." Is this so-called revelation anything we don't already know? I think, in the end, most of the offerings produced by any (long-term successful) company will be good, and most people will be quite happy with their purchases.

Jack




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« Last Edit: March 13, 2010, 11:10:41 AM by JohnKoerner » Logged
Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2010, 01:41:55 PM »
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Quote from: ErikKaffehr
Both the article and the references indicate that products that are clearly below acceptable standards do reach the market and also that the problems seem to be systematic, certain batches are bad

I think you misunderstood me ... perhaps ...

Of course they reach the market, but if the current manufacturers are sloppy beyond what is reasonable or commercially acceptable, they will open the door to competition and new entrants.

I'm by no means a market purist, but in THIS kind of situation there is nothing that will resolve the issue like competition and transparency.

Call them out - by all means ... but when I hear people calling for a new "system" to enforce manufacturing standards like that, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
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fredjeang
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« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2010, 02:22:08 PM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Payne
I think you misunderstood me ... perhaps ...

Of course they reach the market, but if the current manufacturers are sloppy beyond what is reasonable or commercially acceptable, they will open the door to competition and new entrants.

I'm by no means a market purist, but in THIS kind of situation there is nothing that will resolve the issue like competition and transparency.

Call them out - by all means ... but when I hear people calling for a new "system" to enforce manufacturing standards like that, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
I agree completely Jeremy.
The market will simply regulate by himself with the competition pressure ( if your products failed there are other brands ), simply when the information start to be too visible. In that sense, there is no need for a new system to reenforce manufacturing tolerance, just with the communication tools that are available and current consumer organisms, when the information is spread out then the industry will start to rectify by itself IMO.

Fred.
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2010, 05:50:54 PM »
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Quote from: JohnKoerner
Consider this same truth as it applies to automobiles. How many auto companies (most recently Toyota) have "recalled" their products (and spent billions of dollars doing so), simply because they tried to cut corners somewhere? ... So, what is a person to do?

We could stop evaluating equipment on a features per dollar basis.  Lots of features make impressive spec sheets, but it's only after the purchaser used the tool for a while the usefulness and appropriateness of the feature become apparent.  As long as camera makers see us tripping over each other to buy the next, cheaper, feature-loaded camera they'll keep cutting corners.
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Ray
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« Reply #13 on: March 14, 2010, 12:08:24 AM »
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C'mon guys! You know the solution to this problem. It's one I've been advocating for years.

We have MTF procedures. Photodo used to specialise in this, but perhaps they realised that their results were not reliable because of too many QC variations in the manufacturing process.

Each lens after manufacture needs to be tested by an independent company, preferably in some sort of relationship with the manufacturer, in order to provide reliable and detailed MTF specifications for each lens packaged for sale.

The lens would ship with a complete set of MTF charts and an imatest-type test for lens flare (veiling flare).

Of course such testing will add to the cost of the lens. (You want something for free!!)

Lenses of the same model would be graded according to quality, say A, B, C, D, E.

The cost of an A grade Canon 100-400 zoom might be double the cost of an E grade Canon 100-400 zoom, and 50% more than the current cost of an ad hoc, take-your-chances lens. The choice is yours.

Such a procedure would also provide a feed-back mechanism to manufacturers regarding price and appreciation of quality.
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Rob C
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« Reply #14 on: March 14, 2010, 05:04:45 AM »
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Ray, whilst I am not happy at the thought of paying more than I have to for anything, I have to agree that some form of qualification might help. However, how on Earth would you police it? How do you show that your A quality lens is inferior (as it sometimes still might turn out to be) to the B quality version, and get your refund?

I would rather bite the bullet and pay more on the understanding that any lens I bought from Nikon was going to be top-grade and reliable - a staggered array of standards might just become a further cop-out for the makers, though I do remember that Nikon played with that idea with its E lenses. Final inspection and quality control is the responsibility of the maker, not the buyer; why should we have to buy inconvenience along with the glass?

Attention has been drawn to competition between brands as being a sort of alternative quality control of its own - I don't think so. It seems to me that the reverse holds true: all makers are in the same boat and happy to paddle along together at the lowest possible cost to themselves. In a sense, the internet has actually helped them in a sort of perverse manner, because they know perfectly well that the forums are full of moans and groans about all of them, and few are likely to swap brands, lose a fortune in gear, simply to swap over from one company that they mistrust to another whose products are just as slated by other owners.

Come to think of it, Leica seems to be the only firm whose customers seem happy with the lenses it produces. I can't think those people are all stupid.

Rob C
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #15 on: March 14, 2010, 04:33:02 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
... Final inspection and quality control is the responsibility of the maker, not the buyer; why should we have to buy inconvenience along with the glass?

It seems that many people are more willing to put up with the sample variation than with the cost of manufacturer QC.

Quote from: Rob C
Come to think of it, Leica seems to be the only firm whose customers seem happy with the lenses it produces. I can't think those people are all stupid.

I'm not sure what role stupidity plays in my choices but I'd rather pay the cost of Leica lenses that put up with the degree of sample variation often seen in other brands.
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Ray
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« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2010, 12:26:55 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Ray, whilst I am not happy at the thought of paying more than I have to for anything, I have to agree that some form of qualification might help. However, how on Earth would you police it? How do you show that your A quality lens is inferior (as it sometimes still might turn out to be) to the B quality version, and get your refund?

I would rather bite the bullet and pay more on the understanding that any lens I bought from Nikon was going to be top-grade and reliable - a staggered array of standards might just become a further cop-out for the makers, though I do remember that Nikon played with that idea with its E lenses. Final inspection and quality control is the responsibility of the maker, not the buyer; why should we have to buy inconvenience along with the glass?

Attention has been drawn to competition between brands as being a sort of alternative quality control of its own - I don't think so. It seems to me that the reverse holds true: all makers are in the same boat and happy to paddle along together at the lowest possible cost to themselves. In a sense, the internet has actually helped them in a sort of perverse manner, because they know perfectly well that the forums are full of moans and groans about all of them, and few are likely to swap brands, lose a fortune in gear, simply to swap over from one company that they mistrust to another whose products are just as slated by other owners.

Come to think of it, Leica seems to be the only firm whose customers seem happy with the lenses it produces. I can't think those people are all stupid.

Rob C

Rob,
Policing should not be a problem. We have the internet.  

This is also why I suggested that any company specialising in the MTF testing of lenses straight from the factory floor, should have an association with, and endorsement by, the manufacturer, otherwise it's would be too easy for a disreputable private lens-testing company, experiencing a shortage of Grade A lenses of a particular model, to substitute grade C or D lenses which were in plentiful supply, and use fake MTF charts.

The problem at present seems to be that the QC tolerance range for many popular lenses is from Grade A to Grade E. If you have the time and opportunity to spend many hours and even days testing and comparing a number of different copies of a particular model of lens from perhaps a number of different suppliers, in order to cherry pick a Grade A copy, you might consider your time and effort well spent, if you eventually succeed.

However, if you fail to find a Grade A copy after a lot of effort, how do you know when to stop? This happened to me with the Canon EF-S 10-22mm. I tested 3 different copies from 3 different suppliers. Each retailer I visited had only one copy of the lens in stock at the time; one in Australia; one in Singapore, and one in Kuala Lumpur. I took photos in each shop, comparing the quality on my laptop with identical shots from my Sigma 15-30 at 15mm.

The third lens I tested in KL appeared to be the best and the closest in sharpness to my Sigma, but still not quite as sharp as the Sigma. I was very undecided, but ended up buying it because the price was so good and the sales assistant was so helpful and so attractive.

I wish I hadn't. I rarely use the lens because it's really not up to scratch. I recently compared a few shots using the 15mp 50D with the EF-S10-22, and the 12mp D700 with the Nikkor 14-24. Despite the higher pixel count of the 50D, the D700 shots with Nikkor 14-24 were vastly superior.

With my idea of including real MTF charts specific to each lens sold, the customer would know exactly what he's buying (if he takes the trouble to inform himself) and the manufacturer would know exacly how much the customer is prepared to pay for a premium product, and might adjust their own QC practices accordingly.

We'd all benefit from such a process.

It's all very well saying, why not just buy an expensive lens like a Leica or Zeiss manufactured with more stringent QC practices. Do they have the type, the fitting, the focal length, the IS or VR that one desires? Not in my case. Two lenses I use a lot are the Canons 24-105 and 100-400 zooms. They both have IS and autofocus, and both complement each other in focal length. There are simply no other lenses available with the same features and a Canon fit.
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2010, 06:37:50 AM »
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Quote from: Ray
It's all very well saying, why not just buy an expensive lens like a Leica or Zeiss manufactured with more stringent QC practices. Do they have the type, the fitting, the focal length, the IS or VR that one desires? Not in my case. Two lenses I use a lot are the Canons 24-105 and 100-400 zooms. They both have IS and autofocus, and both complement each other in focal length. There are simply no other lenses available with the same features and a Canon fit.

So what you're telling Canon is that you prefer features despite the poorer QC.  And they're listening.  Tell Canon with your purchases that you value QC over features and I suspect that's what they'll provide.  Or provide both - but be prepared to pay more.

This is sounding like an opportunity!  How many would be willing to pay for a cherry-picking service?  Suppose an enterprising individual were to buy a dozen samples of a lens, test them all, and return all but the best.  Would you be willing to pay this person to do the QC the camera makers have skimped on?
« Last Edit: March 15, 2010, 07:03:55 AM by telyt » Logged
JohnKoerner
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« Reply #18 on: March 15, 2010, 08:58:37 AM »
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Quote from: telyt
We could stop evaluating equipment on a features per dollar basis.  Lots of features make impressive spec sheets, but it's only after the purchaser used the tool for a while the usefulness and appropriateness of the feature become apparent.  As long as camera makers see us tripping over each other to buy the next, cheaper, feature-loaded camera they'll keep cutting corners.



Why would anyone want to cease evaluating equipment on a features-per-dollar basis? Only a fool would want to "spend more money to get less product," while any thinking person is going to want to "get more product for less money spent."

Nor do I see how this relates to a company's desire to forever reduce its spending, while forever trying to maximize its profits. ALL companies are forever looking for ways to achieve the same thing, for less, and will forever have "low bidders" coming to them for a try. Some of these "low bidders" will stay, after proving their worth, while others will prove inefficient and get whacked from the list of acceptable providers. For example, I publish a book via an online publisher, who itself has contracts with various printers all over the world who print and ship the books in an on-demand basis. One of those outlet printers (in Europe) has steadfastly caused me problems, where the books that it is printing are continually "lost," or printed backwards, or have pages falling out, or some other pitiful example of "quality" ... yet this never happens from any of the other outlet printers. I am sure this European outlet will be xxed from the main publisher's list of printing outlets very soon. Everyone wants to cut corners, but no one wants to do so at the expense of quality, and where the variance is found to be consistently unacceptable, a replacement vendor will always be around the corner.

Thus, in the end, I do agree with you that only after using a tool for a length of time may a person come to understand all its functions and applications, but I am not sure how this relates to the simple fact is there is variance with everything that gets manufactured ... whether you keep it a long time or not ... and that there will always be some vendors that prove to be a bargain to the main company, while others prove to be a bust.

Jack



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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2010, 08:00:26 PM »
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Quote from: JohnKoerner
Why would anyone want to cease evaluating equipment on a features-per-dollar basis? Only a fool would want to "spend more money to get less product," while any thinking person is going to want to "get more product for less money spent."

The typical purchaser isn't a 'thinking person'.  He (usually) doesn't think to ask if these features are useable, reliable, or accurate.  More useful features for the money spent, cool.  More crap-shoot features?  Why bother.  Spec sheets don't show manufacturing tolerances, MTBF, or in most cases, meaningful environmental tolerances.  45-point AF is pointless if it's not accurate, 'weather resistance' that fails in ordinary use is likewise pointless.  Yet there are consumers who live for spec sheet 'performance' and dump perfectly good lower-spec equipment for the latest stuff.  It's very common on this forum, and most others.  It's great for me when I buy lightly-used, user-QC'd 'obsolete' equipment, great for the camera makers because these consumers don't think to ask if these features are any good, more of a crap shoot for someone who needs to use a reliable, accurate, durable camera.  More features without good QC invites Murphy's Law to play havoc with your 'features-per-dollar' equipment.
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