I’m not overly precious about the gear I use. I use what I like and use what I need; in other words, if it gets the job done I’m not opposed to giving it a shot. Sometimes that’s a Sony a7R II and sometimes it’s my (now busted) Zenza Bronica ETR-S shooting 120 film. At the start of the pandemic I got the opportunity to review the (at the time) recently available Fujifilm X-Pro 3 and then everything shut.
Just before July 4th, I had to send my GX85 in for servicing. For some reason, the shutter blades locked and left the camera in a perpetual loop asking I power down and restart. After some initial problems logging my repair request in, I was able to move forward and even got a response and quote back fairly quickly. Here’s how it all went down.
The Quote Process
After shipping my camera to Panasonic’s repair center in Texas, I awaited to hear something back. Given the fact that it was sent close to a holiday, I didn’t stress when I did not hear back within that first week. I was just happy knowing that the camera was on it’s way and would (hopefully) soon be repaired.
A week after having originally sent the camera, I still had not heard back. I began worrying that I didn’t send it to the correct facility or worse yet, that USPS may have lost it somewhere. After verifying that the package indeed went to the correct location, I checked the Panasonic website – my repair order was marked as canceled. No other information was available. I immediately hit the “Chat Now” button from the Service Request page, as prompted by a pop-up, in hopes that I could get some info on now canceled service order. Various redirecting from the chat representatives and a phone call later, I found out the status of my camera – it was received and sent to the repair facility awaiting a quote number and amount; which is represented in their system as a canceled service order.
Totally not confusing at all. (Yes, that is sarcasm.)
Quoted and Waiting
It’s now mid-July, I’ve finally received the service quote – a reasonable amount just south of $400. So I quickly filled out my credit card info and approved up to the quoted amount. The previous breakdowns in communication prompted me to follow up regularly (one email a week after receiving acknowledgement of signed quote); I was not going to lose track of this new service order. For two weeks the camera sat awaiting a second authorization – the PDF document I had previously emailed was apparently missing information. I will own this one and say that I may not have properly saved the info using Preview (Mac OS’s PDF viewer/editor for you PC people) but having the order hold without contacting the customer falls squarely on Panasonic. It required a third call to Panasonic Customer Care and once squared away I was given some good news, the repair would only cost $225 plus the labor fee ($100). The initial tech’s diagnosis was that the camera only needed a new shutter unit and bracket but the image sensor was undamaged – great news indeed.
The good news would not continue into the following week. The first email I’ve received from Panasonic’s service department was one notifying me that they would need a revised authorization for over $600 in repairs or cancel the order and pay diagnostic and labor fees. A month and a half after having started the process, what I was assured would be a simple and reasonably priced fix became a complicated far more expensive repair that involved replacing the camera’s sensor unit and various other parts.
The End of the Road
At $600 I had to make a decision – sink more money on this camera or cut my loses and try to off-load some of the lenses I’ve picked up for this format. After some deliberation, I had to cut my losses. I asked Panasonic to cancel the order and return the unit. Two bills and some change later, I received my busted camera.
A few things to keep in mind: The GX85 is not a professional body and would not qualify for professional repair service. I was not expecting any kind of white glove service for this repair. I bought this camera at a discount – sales are your friend – but $600+ would’ve been like me buying this unit twice. When the camera was received, the unit powered back on but it still would fail POST about every 3rd or so time it was powered on. After some tinkering and coaching from a fellow DIYer, I managed to have the shutter blades work though there are some focusing issues when shooting video, mostly when using tracking AF.
In the GX85 Panasonic made a very capable entry-level mirrorless camera that can hold its own doing some professional work (and if you go back and read my previous post on the GX85, you’ll know that by no means would I make this my primary camera for commissioned shoots) but the repair service leaves much to be desired. I would strongly recommend that anyone sending their camera in for repair be mindful of the somewhat convoluted ticketing process and the lack of response once the repair process has begun. If this post makes its way in front of the powers that be at Panasonic, I hope you guys can make note of my experience and make some changes that will make this a more seamless process.
A while back I wrote my thoughts on the GX85. Unfortunately, since the last time I posted something on the GX85 it started having an issue where it’s stuck in some kind of startup loop requiring me to shut it down and then turn it back on (Error code: 1D10T). After some deliberation, I’ve decided to send it in for repair; this post will help chronicle the process. Spoiler alert: It’s annoying to say the least.
I’ve done some research on this issue and though nothing comes up specifically for the GX85, other cameras (mainly Panasonic’s line of superzoom point-and-shoot cameras) have had these issues. From what I’ve been able to dig up there’s a two-button combination that should bring the camera into a kind of maintenance mode but from there it gets murky. Rather than risk bricking my camera, I decided to send back to Panasonic for repair.
First, I strongly recommend that you register all your products (especially the pricier ones) with the manufacturer. Having all your info in before something goes wrong will help. Especially when you get to questions like “date of purchase.” In the event that this information isn’t readily available you can guesstimate when it was purchased but without proof of purchase your warranty may not be honored. This goes for every manufacturere and not exclusive to Panasonic.
I started the repair request process on my iPad fully aware that an iPad is not a full laptop but I had hoped that there would be a way to go back into an existing request after saving or entering the necessary information. I learned the hard way that this was not the case and all the information I had previously entered ended up on Panasonic servers with no way for me to update any of the previously entered data or to reprint a confirmation page (which is required when sending back the product). After getting some direction via their live chat option (two days later mind you), I had to go back and start a second repair request to make sure I print out a copy of the confirmation page.
Panasonic, please accept the following bit of constructive criticism: If a copy of the confirmation page is a requirement for any service order, make it available either by logging into your account or automatically sending it to the email you requested in the service order ticket. This should not be aside that a customer has to figure out or wait for regular working hours to have a rep explain this. Yes, I accept responsibility for not printing my confirmation the first go-round but sending an email should be standard. The package will be on its way to Panasonic tomorrow morning, hopefully this will be the only hiccup in getting my camera working again.
At this very moment if you walked into the nearest camera specialty store and walked around the latest gear for you to try, chances are you couldn’t walk a few feet without running into a really good camera. Whether it’s a Samsung NX3000, Olympus’s E-PL7, Canon’s T3i, or various other interchangeable lens camera systems, chances are that you’ll be able to produce quality images at a relatively inexpensive price-points.
So where does this leave us? Well, the old arguments about which camera system makes the best photographs are now by and large just a matter of personal preference and/or justification of spending lots, and lots, and lots of money in the gear you’ve chosen to buy into. Make no mistake, photography remains an expensive profession and even more expensive hobby once you get to a certain point but when you’re starting out there’s almost no wrong choice.
Getting started – Why there’s nothing wrong with the “kit lens”
You’ve done your homework and now you’re ready to make a big purchase – your first interchangeable lens camera. Whether you go DSLR (I’ll be explaining in another post why you shouldn’t) or one of the mirror-less cameras, if you base your purchasing decision solely on the opinions of Internet forums and your “almost pro” friends you’ll often hear that you shouldn’t buy the camera bundled with a cheap lens. They’ll often point you to a camera body and make a suggestion as to which “prime” lens to buy, but the truth is that even the kit lenses that many manufacturers have greatly improved the quality of their kit offerings.Make no mistake, a prime lens will give you better image quality than you’re typical kit lens, but if you’re just getting started the average kit lens on the market will be able to handle most situations. The kit will provide you with the flexibility of a zoom and the added benefit of knowing that you didn’t spend the additional money on a “good lens” in the event you have second thoughts.
Breaking the bank: buying the best body or splurging on a lens
Online debates often revolve around the latest and greatest camera bodies manufacturers can offer. Whether it’s the flagship Canon 5D Mark II, Samsung NX30, or Olympus OM-D E-M1, a flagship camera is almost certain to cost you a pretty penny. Often times a flagship camera body is usually sold as a body-only meaning you’ll be dropping even more coin on picking up a necessary lens. It’s a costly endeavor for sure but does it have to be? Not really.
Unless you’re a high-level enthusiasts or working professional, chances are that you will not be using all the features of a flagship camera. If you’re just getting started in the world of photography, consider picking up an entry-to-mid-level camera body and use the balance of your flagship budget on picking up an additional lens or two. If you choose to go this route you can easily pick up a great, fast prime lens that will serve you for a variety of uses. Best of all, learning to shoot with a prime lens will help you make the most out of an included kit lens or other zoom lens should you choose to pick one up at a later time. So before you’re swayed by all the bells and whistles of a flagship camera, find capable middle of the road camera body and consider getting the best lens your budget affords.
Finding your a camera that fits your style
Now that the secret is out and there’s no such thing as a bad camera these days, where does that leave you? Well if this generation of gear is indicative of what the future of photography may bring, then we’re all in for a great time. For seasoned pros or experienced hobbyists, great cameras will make it easier for them to create the images that they see in their mind’s eye. They’ll be able to capture the decisive moment with even more accuracy, capture landscapes with an even higher level of sharpness and clarity. For those who have recently caught the bug or may be just starting out, the improved processes in camera manufacturing and wide availability means that it’s even easier to get started. Though the learning curve may still be there, there’s never been a better time to find a camera that offers plenty of control to the photographer while still being technologically advanced enough to guide them as needed.
It’s a truly great time for photographers of all stripes; who knows maybe some day soon we’ll no longer be as concerned with what we’re shooting with and what we shoot.
At its most basic, photography is all about getting light to hit a sensor to produce an image. Whether that sensor is inside your smartphone or a $50k medium format camera you’re going to get some poor results if you don’t take the time to learn how to use your camera. Learn some basic photography language and how it applies to what you want to shoot. You’ll need to learn the difference between “primes” and “zooms.” How does your aperture setting affect your image; how about shutter speed? Don’t be afraid to RTFM but if you’re lazy like I can be, don’t be afraid to Google it before you start asking questions on your favorite blog or forum. Get the information you needed and then get out there and shoot.Over the last year I really started getting into HDR photography. I liked the way photographer Trey Ratcliffe approached his landscapes but I personally didn’t think it fit my style of shooting. I took in some of his tutorials on HDR processing and then experimented on my own photos. Some looked like clown vomit (as HDR processing can get ridiculous quickly) but some were good. Some were even great. I learned how to make the most out of bracketed shot functions on my NX300 and refined the process and the bracket depth on every subsequent camera I used after.
Experimentation wasn’t just limited to HDR photography either. After reading Ibarionex Pererllo’s “The Candid Frame on Street Photography” I took some of the notes he shared on Street Photography and applied them as practical setting changes on my cameras. From “..on Street Photography,” Perello states:
“With a high ISO setting and the lens aperture set to F/5.6, you can expect that you’ll have a fast enough shutter speed to counter camera shake as well as freeze the movement of your subject.”
After reading the book, I immediately made the necessary adjustments to my NX500’s custom setting (along with some personal preferences) and hit the streets ready to try to make some great photographs.
In case I haven’t beat this into your head enough, don’t spend too much time hand-wringing on camera manufacturers or camera settings with some random people online. That takes away from what will make you a better photographer – that’s the time you’ll spend out in the streets or in your home studio making photographs.
So which camera should I buy?
I said I would answer this question in the beginning so here’s the answer – go to a camera store, in the NYC-metro area I recommend you check out Adorama, B & H, or Unique Photo, and try out a couple of different models and form factors. Ask yourself what do I plan on shooting with this camera: will I just take a couple of snapshots during my vacation or do you have ambitions to take a photography class? Do I need full manual controls or will the camera sit on its auto function? The first thing you have to remember is that a camera is simply a tool; think of it as the paintbrush to your painting. It’s not the painting, just what you will use to create it.
So if you’re looking to up your photography game in 2016 or looking into purchasing a camera without a phone or text function, congrats! Dedicate some time into the craft and you’ll find that photography can truly be an eye-opening hobby that you will enjoy for a lifetime.