How often do you get your cameras, lenses or lights cleaned and serviced professionally? Every six months? Annually? Every other year? When things go wrong? Sadly, for most professional photographers it is the last one – when the kit goes wrong and needs to be fixed. Almost all of them get their cars service every ten thousand miles or when the service warning light comes on. Over half will get their central heating boilers checked and cleaned every once in a while but their cameras, the equipment on which their livelihood depends seems to get overlooked.
“My lenses are soft, I’m switching to the other brand” is a cry we have heard regularly over the last coupe of years but is it that one major manufacturer has suddenly started to make bad lenses or is it that the daily wear and tear on even the toughest kit starts to have an effect on image quality?
If the fall off is gradual enough we don’t notice. A lens might go from “wow” through “acceptable” to “oh dear” in twenty stages over thirty months and still we only seek the help of a technician when it gets to “oops”.
Modern camera chips are capable of resolving every bit if detail that our lenses can deliver. A camera such as a Canon EOS5D MkII will show up every glitch and flaw in a lens’ performance in ways that film or smaller chipped cameras never could. It will also show up tiny errors in focusing that would have gone unnoticed in times gone by.
One of my cameras celebrates it’s third birthday next week and it will go away for it’s third service a week or two later. It isn’t particularly cheap but it is a bargain when you think how much I rely on that camera to perform on a daily basis. I have a nine-year old lens that has been to either Fixation orCanon CPS six times to get this or that checked and another seven-year old lens that has made five service trips.
I have always loved the line from “Only Fools and Horses” where Trigger the road sweeper says proudly that he has had the same broom for years but that it has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles. I don’t think that camera maintenance is quite that easy but the concept should apply.
Professional kit is closer to high performance cars and needs to be treated with a bit of TLC every once in a while.