Aug 052011
 

At the end of last week, I finally got my D7000 back from Nikon, after having sent it in for servicing. In the interim, I’d been using the D3 that I was temporarily in possession of, and had started to forget just how gargantuan the D3 really is:

The D7000 is by no means a small camera – but it looks and feels tiny in comparison to the D3. It’s amazing what you can get used to; if we think of the size of a Walkman now versus an iPod Touch (let alone an iPod Nano), it seems huge – but the size never bothered us at the time. That said, the D3 is simply enormous in absolute terms – if you’re trying to use it one-handed with a big lens (often necessary due to the kids), you’d best ensure your wrist is in good shape!

If you’re wondering, I took the picture above using my Canon PowerShot S90 compact camera. It actually took quite a bit of effort – there’s no good light in our home at night, and the S90 doesn’t support an external flash, so I was holding and manually firing a Nikon SB-600 in one hand, and a Nikon SB-800 in the other.  I missed quite a few times :).

So why did I have to send the D7000 back, and how did Nikon do?

Oil Spots on the Sensor

This return was actually the second instance of having encountered an issue with spots appearing in my photographs.  While in many pictures you wouldn’t notice them, they were extremely visible with some lenses and when taking pictures of a very uniform object – like the sky. A good example is this picture from Paris:

It’s a bit hard to see at this small size, but you can clearly see noticeable blobs in the sky at the top of the frame. These were occurring in a consistent location from shot to shot, and appeared with multiple lenses, so it was clearly a camera issue.

If this was just dust on the sensor – a pretty common phenomenon – it would have been easy to deal with, just use an air blower or something to that effect and it’s likely to take care of the problem. Since the D7000 has a sensor self-cleaning function, this rarely becomes an issue in the first place. Google searching for users with similar problems indicated I wasn’t alone – others saw this on their D7000s as well.

Those with some knowledge of camera internals – or at least, that could pretend to have such knowledge in online forums – linked this to the higher maximum shutter speed in the D7000 (1/8000th of a second) compared to earlier models (1/4000th in the D90).  Apparently, this led Nikon to use lightweight oils for lubrication of the shutter mechanism, and in some instances, tiny droplets of this lubricant would fly off and land on the sensor. The oil droplets are sticky enough to resist the built-in sensor cleaning and plain old blowing – meaning a “wet cleaning” was needed. This didn’t sound like something I wanted to perform myself, certainly not while the camera was under warranty, so off to Nikon it went!

Unfortunately, even after I had the D7000 cleaned by Nikon back in February, the issue recurred over the summer, and I had to send it off for cleaning again. It’s come back clean, but I hope this issue doesn’t recur!

Nikon Canada Service

I’ve mentioned this in passing before, but Nikon’s customer service is pretty unbelievable – and not in a good way – for a global corporation of Nikon’s size.  I’m not talking about the repair/service itself – my cameras have always come back fine.  I’m referring to the way they interact with their customers (who have often, as in my case, paid them thousands of dollars for equipment).  Here’s what stands out to me:

  • When returning my D90, I sent it in a half-decent box with a good amount of padding.  I got it back in less-well padded box that was pretty clearly just whatever box happened to be lying around when they were done with the service.  Scrap paper was used for padding, and while overall it was packed OK, it was very odd to have my camera returned in such terrible looking packaging.  Considering they go with ostentatious gold boxes when you buy the camera, it’s strange that they put so little effort into what it looks like when you get it back.
  • If you’ve ever returned anything, you’re probably familiar with the process of getting an RMA number for the return. Nice companies will also give you a packing slip for free shipping when returning items to them. Not Nikon. You just get an address from the web site, and you’ve got to send your equipment in with a written description of the problem.
  • With my D90 return, there was no acknowledgement that they ever got the camera. When I called and asked about its status, the rep I talked to was friendly and helpful (and sounded like he was an actual technician that repaired the cameras), but when I asked if I could track the repair online he laughed and said “no way, we’re don’t have a budget for that kind of fancy stuff like they do in the U.S.!” I didn’t point out that there’s probably three-person start-ups that let you track issues online!
  • With my first D7000 return, I know they got it because they had no idea where it came from. I’m pretty sure I included a letter in the box, but they either didn’t find it or I hallucinated about including it. So they looked up my phone number on the box, and gave me a call to see why I sent them a nice new camera in a box.
  • With the second return, they’re clearly working on improving things. Because this time, 9 days after Canada Post indicated that the camera was delivered to them, they sent me an E-mail saying that they received a D7000.  Of course, it had no ETA for a fix, but it did provide me a link, http://www.nikon.ca/en/status, that I could use to check the status of the repair.
  • Did the tracking link work?  Of course not, or maybe I wouldn’t be writing this!  It just redirects you to the first page of the Nikon Canada website. I went through the whole site looking for a place to track my repair, but I couldn’t find any such thing.
  • It’s actually a miracle I even recognized the mail was from Nikon, as the mail was from CANIKONSERV.  At first glance, it seemed like something more related to Canon than to Nikon!
  • Having once sent a lens in for service in the U.S. (because I purchased it there, and the last thing Nikon wants to do is service a customer in the country where they live as opposed to where they bought the item), I also recognized and verified that the letter that they sent me in Canada is a carbon copy of the one used in the U.S., except that the U.S. letter has links that actually work.  I guess they have the budget down there for all this fancy technology!
  • As the repair was taking some time, I called up Nikon to see how it was going.  I asked when I’d have it back, they said that they had the camera but hadn’t started working on it yet and would send it back to me when they were done.  Uh, thanks? I then mentioned that I noticed a mark on the focusing screen when looking through the viewfinder.  They said if I scratched it, then it wasn’t covered by warranty.  I asked how I could possible scratch it since it’s deep inside the camera. Then they said if it was dust it’s not covered by warranty either. What?! They said they’d be cleaning the camera anyways so I should hope for the best.  How reassuring.  I ended the call amazed at the lack of basic competence in customer service.

Four weeks after my camera was delivered to them, and with no notification of any kind, my D7000 was unceremoniously returned, in an ugly box, packed with folded paper (I sent it in a perfectly sized box with padded foam, which they probably re-used to return someone else’s camera). I’d probably have been fuming if not for the fact that I had the D3 on hand during this period – though I doubt most of their other customers are so lucky!

At least all traces of the issue are gone, and the focusing screen is back to being perfectly clear too.  I just hope things stay this way, because I sure don’t ever want to return my camera to Nikon again!

 Posted by at 7:33 am

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