My best experience with CPS yet

Hulett House - April 2009
Hulett House – April 2009 | Canon 5D Mk. II and 70-200mm f/4L IS lens @ 144mm | Exposed 1/100 sec. @ f/6.3, ISO 800.

A brief history of CPS

While I believe that customer service should be important to all businesses great and small, it’s clear that it isn’t always the case.  So when a company does something for one of its customers that is above and beyond all expectations, it’s a good feeling.  It’s also something that should be recognized by the end customer and held up as an example of loyalty-earning service.  There was a lot of complaining two years ago, when Canon Professional Services transitioned into a fee-based, tiered program.

I recall a few people asking why they should have to pay for “better service,” and I scratched my head.  The airlines have had a tiered fee structure for years: pay the base rate and sit in coach, but pay them several dollars more, sit in business class, and get better service.  Pay even larger sums, and sit in first class with an even greater level of service.  I had only been a member of CPS for a year when they changed up the program, but I have to say that I’ve seen only improvements in the past two years.  Sure, Nikon Professional Services doesn’t charge (yet), but that’s in part because they’ve cut costs by firing some of their beloved NPS representatives, such as Carol Fisher, who used to represent Nikon at photojournalism programs such as the University of Missouri.

So, for the past two years I’ve paid $100 per year and received a discount of 30% on repairs plus several equipment loans for evaluation.

The problem

So what is this all about?  Last week I sent in my 550 EX Speedlite that I damaged in a shoot for my Advanced Techniques class in my second semester at MU.  It’s sat on a shelf for close to two years after I melted its diffuser from an hour of firing at 1:1 on manual.  Before asking, the answer is that I wasn’t thinking at the time.  One of the last photographs that the flash helped me to make is at the top of this post.  Both of my 550 EX flashes were mounted on light stands and firing against the white walls of the mixed martial-arts gym, Hulett House.  Of course an hour of shooting at full power will do bad things.  But how bad?

550EX test before CPS repair
550EX test before CPS repair: damaged flash is labeled “B”. Note that the identical units are zoomed to 35mm and firing at 1/16 power. Canon 7D and 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens @ 27mm | Exposed 1/100 sec. @ f/4, ISO 100

While behaving normally under E-TTL II mode, my 550EX that I had labeled “B” (for grouping purposes in wireless flash with the Canon ST-E2 transmitter) would only fire on full power in manual mode.  The photo above shows just how badly the Speedlite had been damaged: both are supposed to be firing at 1/16 power, but the only one doing that is the flash on the left.  So, after two years of my 550EX “B” Speedlite working only as a paperweight, I decided to send it in to CPS to be repaired and then sell it to recoup the cost of the repair.

An aside:

I have an odd hang up about broken gear: ultimately, I’d rather fix it and sell it to someone to recoup the repair costs than to let it rot on the shelf indefinitely.  This is what I did a few years ago when I bought an Olympus 21mm lens off of eBay that turned out to be woefully scratched.  I sent it into a man out in Colorado who gave it a new lens coating and then sold it, barely making up for the cost of the lens plus its repair.


Refurbished Canon 580 EX Mk. II Speedlite
Refurbished Canon 580 EX Mk. II Speedlite from CPS

Last Thursday I packed up the 550 EX and shipped it FedEx to Canon’s Newport News, Virginia factory service center.  One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about living in North Carolina is that FedEx Ground will get a package to Canon overnight.  On Friday I approved the repair that was estimated to cost far less than I had mentally prepared for: only $77.

On Monday morning I received an e-mail that the factory was out of parts to repair the (discontinued) 550 EX, so they would be replacing it…with a 580 EX Mk. II Speedlite!  I am completely convinced this would not have happened had I not been a member of Canon Professional Services.

Today, my Canon-refurbished 580 EX Mk. II arrived…and it doesn’t have a scratch on it.  Sure, am I excited that I received a flash that retails for more than $450 by paying $77 and trading in my old unit?  Absolutely.  But it would have been far easier for Canon to tell me that they don’t have parts any more and simply ship my old flash back to me in its damaged state.  This is the kind of thing that makes me think twice about ever switching brands–my loyalty has been earned with time, but it was renewed once more this afternoon when the package arrived.

Well done, Canon.  Kudos on raising the bar for CPS!

A good change, but is it worth the price?

Mode dial lock
Mode dial lock modification - image from


Canon is now offering to modify 5D Mark II and 7D camera bodies with a mode dial that locks in place to prevent the dial from moving accidentally.  Unfortunately, it’s not free of charge: $100 per camera body.


You know the frustration: you’ve set your camera to “aperture priority” and then you sling it over your shoulder.  You pick it back up to make a quick image and suddenly the viewfinder blacks out far longer than you expected.  A second-long exposure in bright daylight?  “Oh, ” you realize, “it slipped over to shutter priority which was set for making blurs.”  But the decisive moment?  It’s long since gone on account of a technical problem.

I’m going to make a broad-spectrum criticism here: the mode dials on pretty much every camera suck because most of them do not lock in any way, shape, or form.  Nikon locks the “sub-dial” beneath the mode dial on many of their bodies, but even they are not blameless.

Time to celebrate?

Maybe.  I own both bodies, and I’m not really thrilled at the thought of contributing $200 into Canon’s coffers for something that is really a fix, not a “modification.”  And I’m disappointed that there’s no suggestion that a locking mode dial will be a standard feature of future camera bodies.  Finally, a mod for the 5D Mk. II really gives me pause: this camera was announced over two years ago, so shouldn’t owners be looking for its replacement, not pouring more money into the existing body?

I think this one is worthy of discussion, so what do you think?

A Positive Repair Experience (how often does that happen?)

Canon 24-70mm lens and repair paperwork
Canon 24-70mm lens and repair paperwork | Panasonic G1 and Olympus 17mm f/2.8 lens; exposed 1/25 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 400. | Color corrected with X-Rite Color-checker Passport


In my Lightroom library, 5,824 photographs were captured with my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens that I purchased  in the summer of 2005.  While the actual numbers of images made with the lens are certainly higher (I delete a fair amount), it is the most used lens that I have.  The second place honor goes to my 50mm f/1.4, with 1,856, and third runner up is the 400mm f/4 DO IS lens and its combinations with the 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.

Because of the heavy use that my 24-70 receives, I had become concerned that it was getting a little worn.  While cosmetically it looks fantastic–better than camera bodies that have been used less–I noticed that the zoom was a little “stiff” sometimes, one of the mounting flanges was a little dog-eared, and I wondered about the effectiveness of the rubber seal after all of this time.  This lens has been to Africa, the Galapagos, and all over the United States.  It’s been exposed to blowing sand, blizzards, and rainstorms.  It’s banged against countless door frames and walls as its hung on my camera body, slung over a shoulder.

Along with my 1D IIN, it survived the downpour that sent my 50mm to the repair shop this past fall.  My 400mm DO actually went in for a repair in 2007 when its image stabilizer died in Kenya, and the 50mm was inspected and repaired in October.  But I had two vouchers for Canon to clean and inspect my gear for free that were due to expire this coming March, and they were burning a hole in my filing cabinet, so to speak.

I received the vouchers as part of re-upping on Canon Professional Services last year, and did not think much of them at the time.  I’ve had these clean & check vouchers in teh past, and let them lapse without using them.  However, something told me that my semester of working for the Columbia Missourian had strained a lot of my gear.  So, as soon as Christmas was over, I packed up my 1D IIN and my 24-70 and shipped them off to Canon’s facility in Jamesburg.  I figured that the worst that would happen is that Canon would clean my 1D’s sensor for free.

Continued after the jump!

Continue reading “A Positive Repair Experience (how often does that happen?)”

Rice to the Rescue…With Help from my Favorite Tool Kit

The other night I found myself on assignment in the pouring rain and my 1D Mark II N, as well as my cell phone and a 50mm f/1.4 lens, all came into contact with the buckets of cold water falling from the sky.  After I got home, as a result of improper weather precautions, generally wet conditi0ns, and some forgetfulness regarding the acclimation of a cold camera body to a warmer, drier environment, I found myself resorting to dunking my lens, cell phone, and even my 1D II N into containers of rice.  To recount: rice: 1, weather: 1.  My cell phone came back alive, but my 50mm is on its way to Canon’s facility in Jamesburg, N.J. at this moment.

What I didn’t mention much in my previous posting was the sad state of my 1D II N’s viewfinder.  It completely fogged up after coming home, and I immediately began to kick myself for not sealing it in a plastic bag before taking it inside, as the viewfinder had not been a problem–had not been fogged up–before bringing it in.  Absolutely brain-dead stupid!!!

1D II N with rear viewfinder cover plate / convex lens removed.
1D II N with rear viewfinder cover plate / convex lens removed.

Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my greatest personality flaws is my impatience.  When I want something to work, I want it to work right now.  I also have a tendency to tinker with the electronics that I own; when they stop working and they’re within warranty, I’ll send them in for repairs.  Why not?  But when something is long-since out of warranty, I have the proper tools, and the fix looks like something anyone can do, why should I spend lots of money to FedEx the product to the manufacturer to have them do exactly what I could have done, and have them bill me for it?

Story continued after the jump!

Continue reading “Rice to the Rescue…With Help from my Favorite Tool Kit”

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Memorial Stadium in the pouring rain.  The Nebraska Huskers beat the Missouri Tigers in a last-minute comeback in the 4th quarter to win 27-12 on Thursday, October 8, 2009 in Columbia, Mo.
Memorial Stadium in the pouring rain. The Nebraska Huskers beat the Missouri Tigers in a last-minute comeback in the 4th quarter to win 27-12 on Thursday, October 8, 2009 in Columbia, Mo. / Canon 1D II N and 24-70mm f/2.8L lens @ 42mm; Exposed 1/60 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 1600

This evening I spent a solid two hours in the pouring rain to photograph fans outside of Memorial Stadium before tonight’s football game.  In particular, my editors wanted a photo for Vox Magazine that would illustrate the tremendous amount of refuse and recycling generated by the tailgaters to football games.  Too bad that the assignment seems to have killed my 50mm f/1.4’s autofocus, and possibly my cell phone!

More after the jump

Continue reading “Rain, Rain, Go Away…”

Canon Teleconverters & Sticky locking pins

I am not certain to what extent it is common knowledge that Canon’s teleconverters (TC’s) can develop problems with their locking pins. Specifically, that the locking pin becomes “sticky” and does not always engage into the lens to which it is being attached.  This past April, on Artie Morris’ Fort DeSoto, Florida IPT, one participant’s Canon DSLR and 1.4x TC fell off of his 500mm lens.  The TC’s faulty locking pin, which never engaged into the 500mm lens, led a counter-clockwise turn of the camera and lens (via the lens’ tripod collar) to become a near disaster.  Thanks to a flash cord attached to the camera’s hot shoe, the camera splashed in the salt water but bounced back up and later recovered–it was never wholly submerged.

Ever since that event, I’ve been far more aware of the condition of all of my Canon TC’s and extension tubes.  I noticed shortly thereafter that my 1.4x II TC’s locking pin began to engage only half of the time.  Pushing the lever forward would force it to work, but did not constitute a fix.  Finally, I sent it to Canon Jamesburg at the very end of April and had it repaired for $70.00.  However, the fix did not last!

This November at Bosque del Apache I noticed that the locking pin was developing the problem that Canon repaired at the end of the spring.  It had been six months and three weeks: three weeks outside of Canon’s warranty on all repairs.  The good news–and kudos to Canon–is that sending it in with a letter explaining the problem, and a copy of the dated invoice from the repair in April, led them to repair the TC free of charge.

Just let it serve as a warning: if anything is not working as it should, and it is of enough concern that you need to remind yourself whenever using it to exercise caution because it could break, just get it fixed!  The last thing you want is to lose a $4000 camera body because you didn’t want to pay for a $70 repair.