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Author Topic: Cold weather issue solved, finally!  (Read 2047 times)
torger
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« on: August 22, 2013, 02:07:10 AM »
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Regulars on this forum may have seen that I've had problems with my Leaf Aptus 75 in cold weather (unreliable), and have troubles to get the problem fixed. It's now finally fixed and all is good, so I'm finally enjoying my Aptus 75 without issues.

(It haven't seen true winter yet but my lab tests passed without issues so I have no reason to believe there will be any issues when winter comes.)

It's a very very long story; I'll try to compress it. The back (originally bought second hand) has been sent away four times from September 2012 to June 2013 before it was finally solved. I changed dealer mid-term due to pricing and competence issue with the first, the second was hard to get service from causing very long delays. During all this time I contacted both Phase One web support and Leaf centrally a number of times, and I got conflicting reports concerning what I should expect from the back in chilly weather. Leaf guaranteed function within reasonable range, the Phase One web support told failure even a centigrade below freezing could be expected. The second dealer had problems finding any error in the back at all so I had to push to get the e-box replaced (ie most electronics except sensor), since I knew the Leaf factory had found e-box issues in the first service round (which I did with the first dealer).

After e-box replacement the back became a bit better, some of the strange things disappeared, but it was still unreliable in chilly weather. After some lengthy discussion I sent it in again, and got it back with no action: "no error found". Then I really went to the bottom and made a isolated test in my refrigerator with the back only using a
wakeup cable to trigger fake images, just to not involve the camera at all, and the back failed repeatedly in +5C. However, the back had to be fully chilled, preferably overnight, and only the first attempt before heat was let into the refrigerator would cause the back to fail, so it was not super-easy to trigger in "lab" conditions unless you knew how to do. I filmed the test showing the failure as it happens and sent the film both to the dealer and Leaf and explained how the test should be made to show the error. This was in June this year. Then Leaf centrally reacted and I finally got a replacement back which I have tested in the same way and it passes the test with no issues. Wohoo! Shooting during winter without issues will be great fun!

For a while I had lost the confidence in the Leaf Aptus and Aptus-II series for outdoor use, I thought that if you got a copy that did not work in chilly weather you were out of luck, but looking back there was never a doubt from Leaf centrally -- they said from start that if there was a problem they would make sure it would be fixed in the end, and they did. I was more or less decided on trying to switch to Hasselblad, but now my next back may actually be an Aptus-II (likely the 10), because I think the Aptus
series has better user interface and (compared to Kodak-based backs) better tech camera integration than both Hasselblad CFV and Phase One P+.

So I have now full confidence in Leaf. Although I cannot know for sure I do actually think there is a cold weather issue with the Aptus backs, in the way that some copies don't do cold so well (based on getting two failures in a row and having heard some other users have issues, in parallel with many others that have experienced no issues), but as Leaf eventually step in and help out if you're unlucky I'm okay with that. MFDBs are small volume products mainly used in studios so I don't expect them to be as well-tested as journalist type DSLRs.

It should be said that the support chain is not working very well though; the quality of dealer service is varying to say the least, and having web support and Leaf centrally state different things about their products is not so good. If you get a tricky problem like this it takes considerable time and effort to get through the layers and get to Leaf, and had I not been as technical as I am and able to do that demonstration video, the replacement would probably not have happened. This means that if you are a professional user you must have some backup solution from day one, not just a DSLR to cover a few days, if you want to shoot MF you need a backup back that can
cover the many months the main may be away. It took almost a year from I first discovered the error until it was fixed, say 3 months of that delay is due to myself though as I've been busy with other stuff (I'm an amateur photographer and have periods when I don't shoot at all), but still 9 months of back-and-forth, it's a lot of time and you need to be prepared to put in effort to make things happen. If I have nagged more and made daily phone calls rather than sending a mail now and then it probably would have been faster though. Possibly the allocate less time for amateurs using ancient gear too, I don't know.

The important part for me is that the problem was finally solved, so I'm pleased.
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ondebanks
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« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2013, 05:28:35 AM »
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Glad that your problem was eventually sorted out!

I am astonished that "the Phase One web support told failure even a centigrade below freezing could be expected". What evidence had they to support that outlandish claim? Does the Aptus have internal components made of liquid water?  Roll Eyes

Perhaps they were just being casually dismissive, as it is a Leaf product...not a Phase One product!

Ray
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torger
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« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2013, 06:23:36 AM »
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Perhaps they were just being casually dismissive, as it is a Leaf product...not a Phase One product!

Yes I think they were exactly that, "casually dismissive", and they suggested to switch to something newer with passive cooling (ie no fan). But it's complicated to deal with support issues concerning subzero temperatures when virtually all cameras (including Canon/Nikon pro DSLR) is officially guaranteed for 0 to +40C, ie not freezing temperatures. I guess it's some of "if we promise one customer subzero support, we might get a flood of requests which we can't handle". I think that's unlikely though, as relatively few users use MFDBs in cold weather. Probably there's no internal policy how to handle these type of support issues, and thus I as a customer can get different answers depending on who I ask. If you as a Leaf owner do not get the help you want from your dealer or standard web support one has to contact Leaf directly, there seem to be an entirely different quality standard there (ie better, and they're proud of their products including the old ones and are interested that they are working in the field etc).

The thing with my problematic back was that it also failed in the range 0 to +5C, ie within the official range, which made it a bit easier to complain.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2013, 06:27:37 AM by torger » Logged
gerald.d
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« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2013, 09:14:45 AM »
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Delighted for you that this finally got resolved!

Kind regards,

Gerald.
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Paul2660
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« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2013, 09:59:51 AM »
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Persistence payed off, glad to see they got it working for you.

Paul Caldwell
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NancyP
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« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2013, 11:42:52 AM »
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Consider taking a tip from the astrophotographers and astronomers, who have to deal with dew obscuring optics over long periods of time. I have just taken up astro-landscape photography and have run into this issue in the wee hours of the Perseid meteor shower. On querying the astrophotography fora on cloudynights and dpreview, I found a variety of solutions. The simplest and most portable to remote locations is to use the lowly chemical hand warmer pack, rubber-banded around the lens. Assuming you have a 12 V battery pack or deep-cycle marine battery (avoid using car batteries for long intervals of use), you can rig up a tiny resistive heater out of some resistors, electric tape, and wire, cost under 10 bucks, materials at Radio Shack. Hair-dryer (needs occasional attention though). Here's a summary from an astrophotographer who is selling a wraparound wallet for the chemical packs.
http://www.kadamsphoto.com/nightphotography/dealing-with-dew-introducing-the-digital-after-dark-lensmuff/
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2013, 04:44:28 PM »
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Or you can use a DSLR  Wink
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Slobodan

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Nick-T
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« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2013, 05:22:08 PM »
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Good on you for posting this and credit to Leaf for sorting this out. People are quick to jump on manufacturers here and complain but often slow to thank them when things get fixed.

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that some ex-mossad type got involved behind the scenes to resolve.

Nick-T

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Ken R
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« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2013, 06:23:54 PM »
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Glad you finally got a good back. So in short, you probably were sold a faulty Digital Back (the previous owner could have known this) but Leaf took a long while to realize it and make good. Guess it was made on a friday afternoon before a long weekend.
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torger
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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2013, 02:06:19 AM »
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the previous owner could have known this.

I'm sure the previous owner did not know this, as he lives in a warm country and did studio type of photography. So I don't want to cast any shadow on him. My dealer made tests of the back and did not discover any error at all, and the manufacturer actually did cold testing similar to my test without triggering the error (when it was sent back to me with "no error detected"), so it was not so easy to detect if not hiking in a snowy winter environment as I do. The thing was that the back could work well in -20C for hundreds of images in a row (since when powered on it would not get too cold internally), but not if it had been been powered off for a long(ish) time and reached ambient temperature (no matter if batteries was warm and fresh), and once it started to fail it I could not make it work without warming it up to room temperature first. So when I was out in the field carrying the back in my backpack it would usually work for the first images since the back was not entirely ambient temperature yet, then when I walked further for an hour or so to the next shooting position the problems started to appear. And then it did not need to be particularly cold, I had problems in +5C. Very frustrating to say the least Smiley
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torger
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« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2013, 02:18:05 AM »
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Or you can use a DSLR  Wink

I did Smiley, I have a Canon system too which I usually only use for people and action type of photography, but during this year it has numerous of times stepped in for my medium format system to do landscape photography. In really cold conditions I'd still use the Canon for two reasons 1) the oil in the Linhof Techno gears get really stiff when colder than say -20C so it gets very tough to work with (I could change to "winter oil" but it would be messy) and 2) the naturally slow workflow with the tech cam and the tiny exposed metal parts of the copal shutter becomes a problem in extreme cold, it's difficult to keep my hands warm. With the Canon I can do most operations with my mittens still on. I'd say the "comfort limit" with the tech cam is -15C, people with warmer hands than me can probably set it colder. Pancake tech cameras are also better for extreme cold weather as you don't need to focus on ground glass (which slows down workflow and you get freezing breath on the glass etc).
« Last Edit: August 23, 2013, 02:20:35 AM by torger » Logged
pemihan
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« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2013, 09:08:27 AM »
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I'm happy for you Torger, persistence pays...
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HarperPhotos
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« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2013, 02:53:17 PM »
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Hi Torger,

Good news on your repair.

To be honest if I had gone through the nine months you have I would never even consider owning or dealing with a company like Leaf/Phase ever.

You are more forgiving than I to consider purchasing another one of there products.

Cheers

Simon
« Last Edit: August 23, 2013, 07:06:16 PM by HarperPhotos » Logged

Simon Harper
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Ken R
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« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2013, 07:19:26 PM »
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Or you can use a DSLR  Wink

MFDB's can take it too! well, at least some of them! WATCH
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2013, 01:16:04 PM »
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+1

Erik


I'm happy for you Torger, persistence pays...
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Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #15 on: August 26, 2013, 05:05:04 PM »
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I think it's great that you've shared this.

Surely it was trying for you that it took a long time to get to the bottom of it.

And your example showed just how difficult it can be sometimes to replicate a situation and how standard lab conditions can sometimes miss.


Steve Hendrix
Capture Integration
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MFDB: Phase One/Leaf-Mamiya/Hasselblad/Leica/Sinar
TechCam: Alpa/Cambo/Arca Swiss/Sinar
Direct: 404.543.8475
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