Saturday, April 7, 2007

Camera Equipment: It was the best of times...

First the good news:
my Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 Di-II arrived yesterday. It is supposed to be a really good lens. The pic above (near my work) was taken with it.

I haven't shot much with it yet, but my impressions so far are:

  • It is heavy -- probably just need to get used to it.
  • The zoom is pretty stiff
  • The autofocus is really fast, but really noisy.
Above all, even though this is my first decent lens (i.e. it cost me more than $100) it really drives home the idea that the photographer takes the pictures, not the camera. The few shots I've taken have been pretty bad, but that's because the lighting was horrible, and I was too lazy to try a different composition. I'm going to shoot a little outside this afternoon, so we'll see how that goes.

And yes, now I can sell the Tamron 19-35mm f/3.5-4.5. Not a bad lens at all, and before I sell it I hope to do a quick comparison of the two lenses. What really makes the 17-50mm worth $300 more?

PS, I went with Cameta Camera to buy the lens (they sell through e-bay listings) because they had a slightly better price than B&H, no sales tax, yet still provided a USA warranty. Quite happy with their service.

Then, the bad news: my Canon 350D (Rebel XT)(Rebel XT) is sick. And since I saved $100 buying used from B&H, I have no warranty (B&H's 90 day warranty on used equipment ran out about a month ago).

There is something wrong with the compact flash connector. When I put in a CF card it will often flash a ERRCF (or error code 2) when it goes to write data to the flash. I expect that there is a broken connection (the pins look perfectly fine and unbent when I look in the slot).

This may be from damage I noticed when I got the camera -- the CF slot is a little bent up since someone obviously tried to ram a CF card in upside down (duh -- if it doesn't slide in, don't force it). When I got it three months ago, I decided I'd just ignore the damage since it was a used camera and it worked fine. Well, a few weeks ago, it started getting these errors, and they are occurring more and more often. I bought a new CF card (hoping it was just a crappy card) but it didn't help.

Obviously, if I had a warranty, I'd just go to Canon's web site and follow the links to find the closest factory certified digital EOS repair shop (appears to be Irvine, CA for me). But I have no warranty. So, looking online, I found a few places that fix it for $125+shipping or more (see Lezot Camera (also does eBay ads: search for repair rebel XT) and MCVR). But the camera cost only $400!

So, I've decided to do the repairs myself, or at least assess the damage myself. I fixed my old camera (Canon S110) when it got a little too sandy, so I might as well take a shot at my 350D. Honestly, I'm pretty experienced with electronics and surface mount soldering, and I work for free -- I'll just put that $125 towards a Canon 70-200mm f/4 :).

The main reason the cost of repair is so high is because the XT (and pretty much all digital cameras) are chock-full of circuit boards and you have to take a lot apart. But, if you know what to expect, you can reduce a lot of the danger. I found some good information on disassembling the 350D at Ash's Modified XT Page and LifePixel (both pages that describe IR filter removal, but lots of pictures). Also, a good index page is at Repair4Camera.

So, that being said, my wife has delayed me until after Easter to make sure we get decent pics of the kids. I'm hoping to document the disassembly and repair here.

[Update 5/07: I have yet to attempt the repair because the camera hasn't been getting any worse. I noticed a number of google hits on this page for people with broken XTs, so I added some useful links that helped me. Don't sue me if you break your camera by trying to fix it though! Remember to ground yourself!]

On another note: I'm realizing that one direction I'd like to take this blog in is equipment information. I figure it'd be a good way to help out some other people (I found ZERO information on the web about fixing the compact flash slot, yet tons of references to the fact that it breaks easily).


Anonymous said...

i have the same problem with my 350. Just picked it up second hand and it was working fine, filled up a full card. when i went to replace it with another card i keep getting CF error. the camera also won't accept the full card, says theres no images on it. very annoying! when i try to format the cards i get err 99.
it may be a damaged pin. is this really expensive to fix? is there anything else i can do. i've tried removing lens, recharging battery.

Sean said...

Yeah, it sounds like you've got a bent pin or worse. Take a look inside the slot and see if you see any pins bent over. You *may* be able to fix it with a sharp pointy object, but probably not. Replacing the slot isn't too bad, but still pretty expensive ($125ish).

Good luck!