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Author Topic: Leaf Aptus back fails in "cold" weather. Help please.  (Read 10703 times)
torger
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« on: September 22, 2012, 02:16:34 AM »
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I just got in from a session outside in wonderful autumn colors. Unfortunately I cannot show any picture because my Leaf Aptus 75 back starts failing when it is colder than +5 degrees celcius (40 degrees fahrenheit).

I've noted this before but thought it was bad batteries, but now I have new ones and it still fails. Problem is that where I live and shoot (northen Sweden) it is +5 or colder 7-8 months per year. So it looks like I've made a huge mistake... Silly me thought medium format would be as reliable as my DSLR, which of course have no problems even in -20 degrees Celcius. I would be satisfied if the back could do no colder than -15C, but +5C which the limit is now is totally unacceptable. I cannot think anyone would consider +5C as extreme weather either.

Ok before I get really angry I'd thought I'd verify if an Aptus 75 is supposed to be this bad in cold weather, or if my back is in need of service (it is afterall quite old, I acquired it second hand). And if it is this bad if there is some sort of workaround. I cannot have a digital back that is unusable more than half of the year. Then I must sell it to someone that lives in a warmer climate, and get a product that works here.

To describe what happens in +5C -- the back often needs two-three attempts before even booting up at all, and when booting up it locks up for 30 seconds or so and then a red text message is displayed along the lines "imaging module has a problem, please restart" and one has to remove the battery and insert it back in again to try again, but same thing happens until it gets warmer. Extremely frustrating when you have hiked to a fantastic scene and have a brief moment of fantastic light in front of your eyes, you have lined up the camera and everything is ready and then the back starts failing, and you reboot and reboot remove the battery, take a new battery out try again reboot wait reboot wait and the light disappears Angry

Is this a specific problem with my back? Or a general Aptus-series problem? Or a general problem with medium format digital backs all over? I know people use MF backs outdoor but when I think about it I haven't really seen much cold weather shots...
« Last Edit: September 22, 2012, 02:25:53 AM by torger » Logged
Isak Bergwall
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2012, 03:30:57 AM »
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Hi!

I also live in Sweden and is buying into medium format (p25+) and One Guy that I asked (he uses a hasselblad h4d I think) says he uses it down to -30 without problem except the display gets like "sirap" Smiley
He recommended putting a heatpack over the battery so it didn't unload in the cold weather..

PhaseOne has some pr youtube video where they put a P+ in the freezer until its frozen solid then boots it up without trouble.. So I don't think all MFDB are bad in cold weather Smiley
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torger
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« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2012, 05:31:42 AM »
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Yes I think phase one P-series are probably among the better, when looking at the older ones. MFDB started out as studio products so it is hard to know what the older are supposed to be able to handle. I have heard people say good things about the Aptus 75 for outdoor use, but I'm uncertain if that included cold weather.

Another problem with my Aptus is that if it due to cold or whatever fails to write the image to the CF card, it still writes something which then causes the back to lock up when the card is in. Even if I try to reformat the CF card in the back it locks up (while reformatting). The only solution is to reformat the card on a computer (the card is readable on the computer too before reformatting so I don't really know what the back has done with it).

Since it renders the CF card unusable until I get back to a computer I need to have some spares, and if it is cold it can lock up again and render also the next card unusable etc.

I like many things about my Aptus 75, but concerning reliability I'm so far not impressed. I hope it is a servicable issue. Maybe I should get a cheap P25 and have as a backup in the bag :-)
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torger
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« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2012, 05:56:11 AM »
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More details for the Leaf experts; the message I get is exactly as follows (in red text)

"The imaging module has encountered an internal problem. Please switch off the imaging module and then switch it on again. No images will be lost."

You cannot switch it off though, removing the battery is the only thing that works. This happens in cold weather, and also happens when I have a CF card in that the back wrote to when failing (after reformatting in computer it works again).

It is also quite common that the back needs a couple of attempts before it manages to boot after a CF card has been changed. If it is an unsupported CF type or an unsupported file system the back does not boot at all. Even in cases when I think it is supported it happens to not boot at all with some CF cards. The CF implementationin the back simply seems to be very unstable. The most reliable is an ancient 1 GB sandisk ultra II that I use most of the time (I don't shoot many pictures a day anyway, so 1 GB is most often enough for a day out).
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MarkoRepse
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« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2012, 05:58:28 AM »
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This is unusual. I've shot in cold weather (ok to be fair not much) with an Aptus22, maybe around -5, -10, and no problems. I kept the spare batteries in my pocket to keep them warm because as you know, when cold they don't last long. If I were to guess, it seems your back might need service...
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yaya
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« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2012, 06:05:24 AM »
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Contact your dealer and have the back checked, there are hundreds of backs out there being used in low temperatures without issues.

Regarding the cards make sure they're formatted as MS-DOS FAT32 (on a mac or PC) and try not to use them in other cameras

Yair
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torger
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« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2012, 10:56:52 AM »
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Thanks!

I guess it's time for some service then. I shall describe the error clearly so they don't just test it in room temperature and conclude that nothing is wrong and send it back without repair Smiley. I'll report back how it goes (if I remember). I'm not going to pay more for repair than I paid for the back, so we'll see if it becomes a paper weight or if it can be fixed for a reasonable price.
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FredBGG
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« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2012, 01:04:17 PM »
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While the OP probably has other issues...

For cold weather it's best to use external power and keep the batteries under your coat.

The Canon ch-910 works nicely at least for phase one backs.
You can also use much larger batteries with this charger when using it as a battery holder.
You can also attach two batteries at a time.



This works nicely with the Phase One P and P+ backs.
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torger
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« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2012, 02:55:34 AM »
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Anyone who knows about a similar external battery solution for Aptus? I like to buy something ready-made rather than soldering something myself :-)

I've heard from at least one other user that Aptus backs even when in perfect condition start behaving erratically when batteries are low, i e locking up. While I'm sure my back has some specific problems with cold, it would be good to know what to expect from a back perfectly in order so I can test that it works as it should when I get it back from service.

My DSLR runs perfectly until batteries are out and then it just shuts down, and that is what I would expect from the Aptus too. However, if it is supposed to lock up occasionally when batteries are low I need to know so I don't send it back for yet another service for a problem that cannot be fixed...

(I can live with erratic behavior on low batteries, just put in a new battery, my problem now with my back is that it doesn't help either if its a bit chilly)
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torger
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« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2012, 03:05:03 AM »
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Oh, by the way, someone who has a battery charger recommendation? I have a standard simple Samsung loader currently. I'd like to have "the best" to make sure that batteries are loaded in the best way possible... I've heard that the Hδhnel Twin V Pro should be good.
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torger
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« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2012, 04:41:10 AM »
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I've talked to the local dealer which needs €4300 for the service, and can then guarantee 0 degree celcius (32F).

I was kind of expecting this, but hoped for a little bit better price and better confidence in the cold weather reliability.

I'm now thinking about trade-in options, I shall look around and see what's possible to get. I rather pay a bit more to get a newer 30-50 megapixel back, than to service my old back for that kind of money and still risk having problems.
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yaya
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« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2012, 05:02:29 AM »
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We're you advised if the sensor had to be changed or not?
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torger
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« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2012, 05:27:10 AM »
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We're you advised if the sensor had to be changed or not?

The price is 9900 SEK + VAT (25% in Sweden) for changing glass (€1173 + €293) which is supposed to include also some basic service, I'm expecting the battery for the clock and stuff like that would be changed but I don't know. My hope was that the glass changing service would be enough to fix the problems I have, because I don't think something is seriously broken.

I does work perfectly in good conditions, except for some strangeness with the CF but that could be me not doing the correct black magic when formatting (I tend to use my cards in many different cameras etc, so it could be that, I'll look more into it).

"Standard service" costs 20000 SEK + VAT (€2371 + €593) which the dealer then added that on top of the glass changing service, so in total there's €4430. The VAT (as I'm an amateur I need to pay that) makes it look a little bit more than it is, but it is still high, €3500 without VAT.

I did describe the problems in detail, just like here.

That "standard service" actually exists in their price list for various Phase One backs (they have stopped selling Leaf backs by saying "Credo is too similar to IQ" so Leaf have been removed from their site, but I guess Leaf backs are repaired in the same location as Phase backs these days). I don't know if "standard service" comes from a global price list set by Leaf/Phase One, or if it is this dealer only.

There was no indication that the sensor would need changing, and to me that would seem very odd indeed. I have had no problem with the sensor. If the sensor would need changing I would understand the cost.

My limit before thinking "this is a bit too much for this back" is about €2500.

What I could do is to make the glass changing service, which I will have to do sooner or later anyway, and hope overview and internal battery change will make the back more stable. But it is very unclear to me if they even change the internal battery (or look at the fan etc) with that service. Changing glass oneself costs about €500 so I hope that at least something is done for the extra €600.
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yaya
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2012, 07:16:04 AM »
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Sounds like possibly unnecessary add ons...

Since there is no dealer you can create a support case and we'll guide you how to proceed: Contact Support
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torger
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2012, 10:15:14 AM »
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Thanks, I really appreciate the helpfulness!
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torger
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« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2012, 01:56:13 AM »
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Hi!

I also live in Sweden and is buying into medium format (p25+) and One Guy that I asked (he uses a hasselblad h4d I think) says he uses it down to -30 without problem except the display gets like "sirap" Smiley
He recommended putting a heatpack over the battery so it didn't unload in the cold weather..

PhaseOne has some pr youtube video where they put a P+ in the freezer until its frozen solid then boots it up without trouble.. So I don't think all MFDB are bad in cold weather Smiley

The P+ series is good in cold weather. My guess is from all user reports I've read that the P+ series is the most reliable MFDB for field use that has been made so far.

Phase One have a similar video showing off the IQ-series. However, users did have problems with the IQ180, running out of power almost immediately in chilly weather. I've heard there's been a firmware update since that fixes the problem - and that's great, but it does show that those tests they do is partly only for show, they don't actually do extensive field tests in the cold to see if the camera actually can operate for an extensive period of time. No matter what people say, the overall impression I have got is that if one comes from DSLR and buys into medium format one must be prepared that reliability may not be the same.
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HarperPhotos
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« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2012, 02:28:52 AM »
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Hello,

4,300.00 Euros for a repair hell for 2,568.00 Euros you can have a Nikon D800e and never have to worry about the cold again.

Think about it.

Cheers

Simon
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Simon Harper
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torger
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« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2012, 02:44:37 AM »
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Hello,

4,300.00 Euros for a repair hell for 2,568.00 Euros you can have a Nikon D800e and never have to worry about the cold again.

I'll probably sit around and wait for the the new big megapixel Nikon-kill...eehhh Canon camera. Recent rumours seem quite promising... I hope to be able to stay with my Linhof system though, I really like using it. I use shift/tilt extensively, and need the 35mm focal length (47mm in my system).
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HarperPhotos
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« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2012, 03:11:49 AM »
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Hi Torger,

I use the Nikon 24,45 and 85mm PC lenses as will as the Horseman VCC adapter with Rodenstock Rodagon lenses with great result on my D800E.

My Leaf Aptus 75 has a small bit of dust which is behind the UV filter of my back. I was told by the NZ Leaf/Phase distributor that to remove it it had to be sent to Honk Kong and would cost close to $2,500.00NZ dollars. As the dust spot in the the top right corner I now live with it.

Cheers

Simon
« Last Edit: October 01, 2012, 03:29:08 AM by HarperPhotos » Logged

Simon Harper
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torger
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« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2012, 03:27:36 AM »
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I don't know if it's good taste or not to post support progress in public, oh well probably not. These things should be handled in private. But I cannot resist. I'll post if it goes good too, but currently it does not.

To avoid confusion I've shortcut the dealer (which in any case lives very far from here, I have no local dealer) and communicated directly with Phase/Leaf now and they seem utterly uninterested in helping. In a way I understand them, since they are used to customers where money is a non-issue, why care about the others?

They also claim that the repair must go through the dealer, and interestingly enough the dealer have stopped selling Leaf gear. Why would I have to go through a dealer that don't even sell the stuff? Additionally they recommend I should use the back as is, or get an upgrade deal, but they should know that the back is too old, you cannot get an upgrade deal for Leaf Aptus 75, the message is that if you want to be in an upgrade program you need to upgrade quickly. I find it quite interesting that the same dealer actually said before I bought the Aptus 75 (knowing it was an Aptus 75 I was looking into) that it would be good to use as a way to upgrade to new gear later, but now when I ask about upgrading there are no such options.

Finally, if I still go ahead with repair I find it a bit insulting that they claim "will require a full repair and exchange of very expensive parts inside" as if they would have to exchange the sensor. I'm an engineer goddammit, I know what's expensive and not. What costs electronic component-wise in a back is the sensor, the rest is like any camera. The high back prices comes from low volumes and high development cost, why try to maintain this mythology around using very very special super-expensive components, customers are not idiots. Repairs don't need to be this expensive. Their intention seems to be to rip me off, and it's not much I can do about it.

I'm both surprised and not surprised by how this develops. I'm a bit surprised by how worthless in terms of upgrading a back from 2006 is, MFDB manufacturers often brag about the long life of their products and good upgrade programs, but in practice it seems to be untrue. Upgrade programs are good if you want to stay with the latest all the time, but if you fall behind -- you're out. I'm a bit less surprised with the total lack of understanding of that an amateur may think that €3500+VAT is slightly expensive for a repair. I know I'm a pain-in-the-butt customer, I have bought second hand so they haven't made any money on me and then I make a lot of noise for a lowly €3500 service for a back that cost €20000+ when it was new. I guess they think I get what I deserve when buying into gear I really cannot afford owning Smiley.

However, I know companies that look at my type of customer like this -- maybe if we provide good service he'll stay with MF gear and our brand, maybe eventually buy new equipment, maybe he becomes a professional photographer in the future etc. Buying a new back in the €10000 range is actually not out of the question for me, but just not now. I've just bought a complete system, the tech cam and lenses cost money too. Before I bought this back I actually had got that impression, that MFDB manufacturers thought about amateur customers this way, but I'm now experiencing the painful way that my impression was probably wrong.

What I've seen of MF support so far is not good. If money is a non-issue and you stay with the latest all the time I'm sure it's great, but if you're a poor amateur like me and use old gear it seems like you're out in the cold. The best support I've got is from members on this forum and getdpi, Yair not the least, and I thank you all for your support, it is really very valuable.

I have some more testing to do myself on the back though. I have not yet tested how it behaves when powered via firewire, it could be some problem with the back drawing power from batteries.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2012, 03:44:28 AM by torger » Logged
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