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28-APR-2009 Robert Burke

$1800 Nikon Vs. a Brick

My $1,800 Nikon D300 recently died without warning. It experienced a complete power failure
during an exposure that left the aperture stopped down and the mirror locked up. The shutter
remained closed.

The on-board battery showed about a 3/4 charge when I began shooting. Replacing the battery
with a fully-charged battery and using the two-button "green dot" reset had no effect. There
was no error message on the LCD. Power-wise, the camera is completely dead.

The camera has the latest firmware, is only a year-and-a-half old, and has had less than 3,100
exposures run through it. The camera has never had any problem until now, with this complete
power failure. One moment it was working fine, the next it hung in mid-exposure and was as dead
as a doornail and useless.

Very, very thankfully I purchased an extended warranty from Nikon. I came very close to not
doing so, thinking that there was little chance of something going wrong with my $1,800 camera.
Now, of course, the purchase of that $169.99 extended warranty is very comforting indeed!


Despite the extended warranty, I can't profess much joy at having to send the thing in for
service, or with having the problem in the first place. I realize that from time to time problems
occur with consumer electronics, but I expected better from Nikon.

Of course, it's not just Nikon. I read the photography forums and although most users report
no problems with their equipment, problems do crop up here and there. For example, under certain
conditions there were focusing problems with Canon's elite EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds MkIII cameras, as
well documented by pro photographer Rob Galbraith, and those suckers will set you back anywhere
from $4,000 to $7,000 dollars, respectively--bodies only!


Regardless of all that, I thought I'd compare my dead-as-a-doornail Nikon to a brick, because
they do have some things in common.

For example, both my dead Nikon and the brick are completely worthless for taking photographs.
The brick was not designed for such purposes, and the Nikon apparently wasn't designed well
enough. On the plus side, either one could be used as an effective door stop, although the
brick is somewhat superior in this regard because it weighs twice as much as the Nikon
(1.640 Kg vs. .820 Kg).

Unlike the Nikon, however, the brick didn't come with any bad pixels, and cost 1,800% less.
The brick will also hold up for many, many years, certainly longer than I shall be alive.
The Nikon? Apparently not so much.

I will update this entry when my D300 comes back from my heroes at the Nikon Service Center.

***** UPDATE 16 JUNE 2009 *****

The repaired camera arrived today after 23 business days at the Nikon Service Center (not including holidays, weekends, or days in transit during shipping). According to online status checks, most of that time it was waiting on repair parts.

Fortunately I have a back-up camera (a D60) or I would have missed hundreds of Spring flower photos during this time. It's also fortunate, as explained previously, that I purchased an extended warranty, or this could have been a very expensive repair!

I expected the Service Center to replace a circuit board but they did quite a bit more than that. Here's the complete list of parts that were replaced.


They also adjusted the focusing mechanism, automatic exposure operation, etc., cleaned the sensor, and cleaned and checked the camera. So at this point I feel like I have an almost-brand new camera!

It's good to have the D300 back and of course I had to pop off a few shots right away! All seems well.

One note of concern about the way the return was handled. It came UPS Ground, with NO SIGNATURE REQUIRED, which means it was simply left sitting on the front porch in full view of the street. That's a concern because in my own experience UPS has a "prove it's my problem" attitude about claims.

Nikon D60
1/60s f/11.0 at 52.0mm iso400 full exif

other sizes: small medium original auto
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