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I've been blogging about testing and taking apart camera equipment for almost a decade. Lensrentals.com has many thousand lenses these days, and they all get used frequently. When you have lots of lenses and they get used frequently, stuff gets inside them.
Usually the stuff that gets inside is dust. Our repair techs open up and clean dust out of more than 100 lenses a week. Not because the dust matters a bit in a photograph; it doesn't. But because people still seem to think it does. People also, for reasons I can't understand, seem to think that weather sealed lenses are less likely to get dust in them than non-weather sealed lenses. I'm not sure why they think this, but they do.
Sometimes the stuff that gets inside them is interesting and we get to blog about it. We found a spider, complete with web, inside a lens once and yesterday we got to add a new item to our 'found inside lenses' collection; a nice, fat, fly. And not just a fly inside a lens, but one way down deep inside a weather sealed lens. So deep that it took 4 hours of work to get it out.
The lens in question was a Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS that returned from rental looking quite normal with the renter taking equally normal photos.
Nothing unusual looking about this lens on its return.
We get to do some fun things through our testing company, Olaf Optical Testing. A lot of it I can't talk about but sometimes we get a project that we can share. One of these came up recently when Matt Leeg asked us if we were interested in testing and cleaning an Angenieux 25mm f/0.95 lens that was probably a backup lens for the NASA Ranger missions sent to the moon in the 1960s. We thought about it for between 0.1 and 0.125 seconds and said, yeah, we could probably do that.
This post won't help your photography one little bit, nor will it help you with choosing your next lens, or even show you how to fix anything. But for me, it's a fascinating glimpse into some history from a period I admire -- at least from a technology and engineering standpoint. Today we whine about cameras only having 24 megapixels, lenses that only autofocus with 95% accuracy, WiFi access that only allows us to transmit a few hundred kilobits per second.
We've become fans of the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD lens since we first tested it optically, but we haven't really been inside of one yet. It's not that we weren't curious. We've just been trying to get through the week before and after Memorial Day, typically one of the busier times of the year for the repair department, so we haven't had time.
But we had two copies show up in the repair department with a jammed zoom mechanism. A peek under the zoom rubber didn't show any obvious problems. So we needed to open them up and see what was wrong, and thought we'd take some pictures along the way. This is a rather different looking lens and we were curious if it was different inside too.
All photos copyright Roger Cicala and Lensrentals.com, 2015
Come visit us at Cine Gear Expo at Paramount Studios in Hollywood June 5th - 6th! We'll be at Booth #302. Be sure to stop by and play with the latest gear, and enter to win an iPad Air 2 or a $250 gift certificate. We'll also be giving out a special Cine Gear discount to visitors - $250 off an order of $750 or more.
On May 7th, our customer service manager, Sharon Perez, passed away unexpectedly. Sharon was a wonderful friend and co-worker for the past 4 1/2 years. She was an integral part of our Lensrentals family and she will be sorely missed by all of us.
Out of respect for our friend Sharon, and to allow her co-workers to attend her memorial service, our customer service department will be closing at 12:00 PM CT today. If you need our assistance, please call us before this time. We will have staff monitoring email throughout the afternoon but our response times will be slower than normal.
I want to give credit to Canon for so quickly handling the problem we first reported with some T6 sensors. We announced the problem on April 30th, and within 10 days Canon had determined which cameras were affected (those with Serial Numbers beginning with "01 or "02") and issued a product alert.
Let me add that most cameras in the affected SN range do NOT have the problem. Some cameras have a mark in the battery door that identifies them as not possibly affected.
Credit for image, Canon, USA. http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/support/consumer?pageKeyCode=prdAdvDetail&docId=0901e02480f0bcb2
Even if your camera does NOT have this mark, it still probably isn't affected. If you lock up the mirror for sensor cleaning you can look and see if you have one of 'those' sensors. If you aren't sure, Canon will check for you at no cost and correct the problem without charge, although it will take them a bit of time to get a solution ramped up.
We got a pre-release set of Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 G OSS Macro lenses in for preliminary testing last week, and I was kind of excited about this lens for a couple of reasons. First it simply gives me a nice short telephoto prime option that has been lacking in the lineup (although the Zeiss 85mm Batis lens will be coming along fairly soon). Second, it gives me a true macro lens at the focal length I prefer.
Image Courtesy Sony, USA
I hoped that the combination of a good macro lens with the A7r sensor would turn out to be a winner. We used our Imatest lab to compare Sony 90mm f/2.8 G OSS lenses mounted to Sony A7r cameras, and compared them with Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS Macro lenses shot on Canon 5DIII cameras in our Imatest lab. (For those who are curious, we can't test Sony E mount lenses on an optical bench because the electromagnetic focus system requires electrical power to operate. Until we do some really geeky, overly complex engineering modifications, the optical bench isn't an option for Sony E mount lenses.) It would have been nice to also compare with a Nikon D810 and Nikon 105 f/2.8 Micro lens, I know, but our time is limited.
Overview of the 90mm f/2.8 G OSS
First of all, if you're used to Sony E mount lenses being smaller than their SLR counterparts, you'll need to get over that. The 90mm lens is very similar in size to the Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS and other SLR macro lenses in this focal range.
Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS on 5D III (left) and Sony 90mm f/2.8 on A7r (right). Lens rentals.com, 2015
If you'd like the numbers for comparison, I've put them in a table.
Sony 90mm f/2.8 OSS
Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L
Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR
Filter size (mm)
Min. Focus Dist. (in.)
The Sony is a bit more expensive, but that's not unusual for a new release. Otherwise they are pretty similar in specifications.
We tested these in our Imatest lab but at two different focusing distances and with two different charts. Remember, the higher resolution of the A7r camera will make the system resolution higher. My thinking when making this comparison was if the Sony lens wasn't up to the standards of the Canon (which is arguably the best macro lens in this focus range), then the Canon system would be close to the Sony, despite the higher resolution of the Sony camera.
Our first test was using a standard Imatest setup shot at a distance of about 20 feet.
Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L
Sony 90mm f/2.8 G OSS
4 Corner avg.
We then repeated the tests, using a high-resolution, back lit chart made by Imatest specifically for testing macro lenses. The focusing distance was now just under 2 feet. This doesn't give us quite full 1:1 macro working distance, but it's pretty close.
Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L
Sony 90mm f/2.8 G OSS
4 Corner avg.
At both focusing distances the Sony system is clearly out resolving the Canon system. We would expect that, to some degree, given the higher resolution Sony sensor. But the difference was, quite frankly, surprising to me. It would seem to indicate the new Sony 90mm Macro lens performs at least as well as the Canon 100mm f/2.8 IS L, from a resolution standpoint, anyway.
Please don't take this out of context. These are simply Imatest MTF50 numbers. By that standard the new Sony 90mm f/2.8 G OSS Macro seems to be a superb addition to the E mount lineup, and the lens on an A7r should provide superb resolution. We'll have to look at more in-depth, hands on reviews to see how it actually performs in the field, what the bokeh looks like, how well the OSS performs and a host of other factors to decide how great (or not) the lens performs in the real world. But these preliminary results look very good.
NOTE: As of May 8th, Canon has issued a recall of affected units. My hat is off to them for superb Customer Care. I didn't dream it could be done this quickly.
Every once in a while we notice something, because of the large quantities of cameras and lenses we buy, that we think people should be aware of. This particular issue won't affect our renters; we've sent the affected cameras back. It may not affect very many people at all, since this is from a relatively small sample size. But I still think it worth mentioning.
The bottom line is that 4 of the Canon T6s and 2 of the T6i cameras we received had to be sent back because of a defect in the sensor stack (the layers of filter glass over the sensor). This is out about 10 copies of each; the others were absolutely perfect.
The affected cameras all had a dramatic pattern that at first we thought was oil or dust on top of the sensor glass.
Affected Canon T6s sensor, Lensrentals.com 2015
But when the techs couldn't clean the 'dust' off, they alerted us. Closer examination with a 10X microscope show the spots are inside, within the stack and under the top layer of glass. I would assume it's a defect in the adhesives used to put the layers of glass together, but I don't know for certain. One person has suggested there may have been dust on the glass when the adhesive was applied, which seems logical, but again, I have no real knowledge of how it happens.
The affected cameras all looked exactly the same, so I won't bore you with more images. It's quite easy to see, even without a sensor loupe, so don't make yourself crazy trying to find it on your camera; if it's there, you'll notice it. Actually it's easier to see without a sensor loupe. Angled light seems to show it up very clearly, lights shining directly down on the sensor not quite as much. The other cameras had no signs of this at all, so it was either a 'yes' or 'no' situation. We didn't see any cameras with just a few dots.
We took a number of images to see how much they would show up on an actual photograph. In wider aperture shots, as you'd expect, they don't show up at all. At about f/11 to f/16, taking pictures of sky, clouds, or a well-lit white wall, they do become apparent, but they aren't as bad as I would have expected.
They're also have a very different appearance than dust on the sensor does. These have have a ringed, or target appearance rather than the dark blob that sensor dust has. Below is a 100% crop from the corner of the camera with the sensor pictured above. Remember, this is an f/16 image of a clear sky. In a regular photograph at wider apertures I doubt you'd notice it.
f/16 sky image from affected camera. Lens rentals.com, 2015
Here's another image that is contrast boosted quite a bit, showing the bulls eye pattern a bit more clearly.
Contrast enhanced f/16 photo showing the pattern is very different than dust on the sensor. Lens rentals, 2015
All of the cameras we received had early serial numbers, and there is not going to be a direct serial number correlation with the problem. For example, we had 7 cameras in the SN 0220310007X range. Cameras with the last digit of 2 and 4 were affected, but 3 and 6 were not. That's not surprising, really, since sensors would be manufactured somewhere else and then placed into the camera during assembly.
I've talked to people at Canon about this issue and they are aggressively looking into it. It will take some time for them to figure out what the issue is, where it occurred, and what cameras might be affected. They're actively looking into the situation. They are NOT telling me, as some manufacturers do, that there is no problem.
My guess, and it's just a guess, is that a bad batch of sensors were made, quality control missed this, and they got put into cameras. How big is a batch? I have no clue. Maybe it's just a few hundred and we happened to get a lot (all of the cameras we've received have been pretty close in serial number). Maybe it's thousands. Time will tell and I'm comfortable the problem is being addressed.
Oh, and for those of you who want to bash Canon quality control over this, well it's appropriate, I won't stand in your way. But I can't because when I looked at these cameras myself the first time, I missed two of the ones with bad sensors. Like I mentioned earlier, direct light through a sensor loupe didn't reveal it nearly as well as an angled spot light did. It's possible the inspection of the sensors after assembly is done using a direct light, or some other automated equipment that isn't capable of seeing this.
So I'm not throwing any stones out of my glass house. And having dealt with many manufacturers concerning many issues over the years, I'm just pleased that this issue is being taken seriously and investigated immediately. That's not always the case.
In the meantime, check your new T6 when you get it, return it if you need to.
Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz
Addendum: I originally speculated that the problem might be in the adhesives used between layers of glass in the sensor stack. Several people, at least one of whom is an engineer in the industry, have emailed to tell me it appears much more likely this is a defect in the sputtering process used to coat the glass in the stack. Assuming this is the case, the problem would be visible immediately, it's not something that would show up later after originally appearing normal.
This past week, I had the unique opportunity to go to the National Association of Broadcasters' trade show, more commonly known as NAB. To say NAB is massive, is a gross understatement; with over 100 thousand people in attendance, and over 1 million square feet in booths and other showrooms, NAB is one of the largest expos and trade shows in Las Vegas. LensRentals was there to see all the new products as they were announced, as well as supply gear for Post Production World - an educational function held within the NAB trade show.
Given the size of NAB, it's nearly impossible to see everything this show has to offer. Hundreds of booths are placed within the Las Vegas Convention Center, making it incredibly easy to get overwhelmed, exhausted, and even lost at times. Even after a full 3 days of walking the showroom floor, I am convinced I missed a thing or two, and wasn't able to see everything that NAB has to offer. That said, here are some of the biggest and best products I noticed while walking NAB show room.