Equipment

Rental Camera Gear Destroyed by the Solar Eclipse of 2017

We recently had quite a spectacle in the United States, with a Solar Eclipse reaching totality throughout a large portion of the United States. Being that this was the first solar eclipse passing through the Continental US since 1979, excitement ran wild on capturing this natural event using the best camera gear available.

But with such excitement, came a treasure trove of warnings. Warnings that this event can easily damage your camera, your lens, and your eyes if you do not have the proper protection. With all of our rentals leading up to this event, we warned everyone to view the event with appropriate eyewear and to attach a solar filter to the end of their lenses to protect the lens elements and camera sensor.

 

But despite our warnings, we still expected gear to come back damaged and destroyed. And as evidence to our past posts of broken gear being disassembled and repaired, we figured you’d all want to see some of the gear that we got back and hear what went wrong. But please keep in mind, this post is for your entertainment, and not to be critical of our fantastic customer base. Things happen, and that’s why we have a repair department. And furthermore, we found this to be far more exciting than we were disappointed. With this being the first solar eclipse for Lensrentals, we didn’t know what to expect and were surprised with how little of our gear came back damaged. So without further ado, here are some of the pieces of equipment that we got back, destroyed by the Solar Eclipse of 2017.

Melted Sensors

The most common problem we’ve encountered with damage done by the eclipse was sensors being destroyed by the heat. We warned everyone in a blog post to buy a solar filter for your lens, and also sent out mass emails and fliers explaining what you need to adequately protect the equipment. But not everyone follows the rules, and as a result, we have quite a few destroyed sensors. To my personal surprise, this damage was far more visually apparent than I even expected, and the photos below really make it visible. 

Camera Damage Solar Eclipse

Burn damage through the shutter system of the camera.

Burning of the shutter system

Solar Eclipse Camera Damage

Under the shutter, you can see the additional damage on the sensor.

solar eclipse damaged camera system

Damage to the sensor is really apparent even through visual inspection.

 

Mirror Damage

The images above are likely created because people were shooting in Live View mode, allowing them to compose the image using the back of their screen, instead of risking damage to their eyes by looking through the viewfinder. However, those who didn’t use live view (and hopefully guess and checked instead of staring through the viewfinder), were more likely to face damage to their camera’s mirror. While this damage was far rarer, we did get one particular camera with a damaged mirror box caused by the sun.

Mirrorbox Photography damage from Eclipse

Damaged mirror on a Nikon D500 resulting from the eclipse.

 

Lens Iris Damage

Another common problem we’ve had sent back is the lens iris being destroyed from the heat and brightness of the solar eclipse. In short, the lens iris is the mechanic piece that changes the amount of light that enters the camera, or in simpler terms, the aperture adjustment. Apertures are usually made from 8-12 pieces of black plastic or metal and are susceptible to heat damage. In one particular case below, a customer used a drop in solar filter to protect the camera from being damaged by the eclipse. He was right, the camera was protected….but the lens iris was not protected, and was destroyed.

Camera Lens broken from eclipse

Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 with Iris Damage from the Eclipse.

Solar Eclipse Damaged Lens

From the outside, this 600mm looks fine. But quick inspection shows the aperture system is destroyed thanks to the eclipse.

Solar Eclipse Iris Damage

Another angle of the damaged iris of the Canon 600mm f/4L IS II USM

Solar Eclipse Damage to Camera

A partially disassembled image of the Canon 600mm from above.

ND System Damage

Filed under the unexpected, we also received a built in ND filter system damaged in one of our cinema camera systems. Most cinema cameras are equipped with a built in ND system that slides over the sensor, allowing them to adjust f-stop and shutter speeds to work better with their frame rate and shooting style. However, a common misconception is that an ND filter could properly protect the camera from the heat and light when shooting the solar eclipse. It doesn’t, and as a result, the damage is similar to that shown above with the sensors.

Damaged ND Filter from Eclipse

Canon C300 Mark II with a Damaged Built in ND Filter

 

Overall, we were really impressed with how few pieces of gear we got back damaged. And of the things returned, we were equally impressed with our customer-base, and their guilt and owning up to the damage. Unfortunately, these types of damage are considered neglect, as warnings were given out to customers before the solar eclipse. Our LensCap insurance plan, which can be added to rentals for a small nominal fee, does not protect from neglect but is an excellent tool for those who are worried about their rental and want to protect themselves from any accidental damage. This is just a few of the pieces of gear we’ve gotten back that have shown damage from the eclipse, and will hopefully serve as a warning to those who are already prepping for the next eclipse in 2024.

 

Author: Zach Sutton

I’m Zach and I’m the editor and a frequent writer here at Lensrentals.com. I’m also an editorial and portrait photographer in Los Angeles, CA, and offer educational workshops on photography and lighting all over North America.

Posted in Equipment
  • Well, I thought it was a rule don’t do anything a rental that you would not do with your camera.

  • Mischa Bachmann

    What I’d like to know now:
    WAS there a front-mounted solar filter for the 600mm lens available?
    Was the renting party expected to DIY one with duct tape and filter foil?
    Was he not charged with the repair cost because he used the filter that was designed for this lens?

  • Benz Oberst

    You should have ordered a load of cheapo solar filters and made them a mandatory $25 add-on for every rental that fell on eclipse day.

  • Rocketeers2001

    Nice job catching the Jets in the video!

    Have you seen the still photos where the ISS space station transited the sun about 20ish minutes after the eclipse started? Looks like a sunspot until you do a double take.

  • Rocketeers2001

    Yeah. I thought about that. Which is why I suggested the low number and also the push on vs threaded type filter. Threaded are much more expensive.

    There is no point taking up your storage spaces with unused filters for 7 years and then repeat storage until what, 2045 after that? Ug.

    If the lot would be in the hundreds maybe sell them at cost, no return, and the cardboard would be printed as an eclipse specific souvenir.

    Even then, spare parts for six damaged cameras, your in house repairs and customer paid repairs is a much simpler, efficient way to do it.

    I just look at that expensive equipment, wish I owned some and seeing the damage is painful! Lol.

    Thanks for the reply. Nice chatting with you. Best wishes for your business.

  • gavingreenwalt

    “You were very gentle in your criticism of those who ignored the warnings and damaged your gear. ”
    Well, the customers paid full rate for the repairs, so why would you be mad at someone who cost themselves money? 😀

  • Our rental insurance agreement doesn’t cover negligence. All those who damaged the gear shown in this post were required to pay additional repair costs.

  • Scott Lewis

    Easy tiger…

  • Richard Sanderson

    Here’s a screenshot that I darkened a bit, showing the two jets. Totality came out a little overexposed, unfortunately, but I made the video mainly for the sound track of all the screaming and excitement, which came out great!

  • Richard Sanderson
  • denim

    Thus the warnings on the Net not to do it that way.

  • denim

    Transit of Venus, 2012. I used RG film on a 70-300mm lens set at 300mm on a Nikon D90, so that’s effectively 450mm.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1a51e052a78c0d5dd1c3c91e2c7f208f79e94ed499571429f7d327eb38260745.jpg No damage to anything, and that’s with the full force of the sun. I had to BRIGHTEN it a lot.

  • denim

    Given companies that specialize in this kind of thing, your customers can plan ahead and buy solar filters or equivalent from them. Preferably as soon as they get the filters back in stock. They’ve got 7 years to prepare for the next one!

  • denim

    Maybe it can be fixed?

  • denim

    The trick is to use either an appropriate solar filter or something like RG film, which is what I used. Worked as well this time as it did during the transit of Venus in 2012. No issues.

  • Gale Hess

    Well I guess this confirms it. I just had a friend tell me someone they were near had a telescope and melted the eclipse viewing plastic glasses they were wearing. Yeah. They thought a telescope was a good idea. But anyway, I guess I believe now. It seemed quite possible in theory.

  • Rhoda
  • Rhoda

    This is what taking a picture thru a pair of eclipse glasses did to the glasses

  • Peter Tejera

    My D300s survived with just an ND10 and polarizer. The trick is to not use the lens wide open and avoid a large magnification. I used the enthusias 55mm-300 nikkor at f:16-f:18 with an iso varying from 100 to 400 to avoid too much light entering the system..i also kept the eye piece shuttered.

  • imsoupercereal

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

  • jy3

    Glad I listened to you and did not stack ND filters. Will use solar filter next time (totality 2024!)

  • Jon Meeker

    You pay insurance and a deposit whenever you rent gear, this is why. this is why rental houses were invented.

  • Jon Meeker

    Sure. BUT there may be an unforeseen circumstance that you are forced to deal with and take calculated risks, I.e. A stand storm, and shit still might break in a protective case. My whole point is the gear is made to be used. It’s not made to be coddled. If it takes destroying some gear over the course of a career I don’t think you’re losing that much WHEN ITS RENTED AND INSURED.

  • Jon Meeker

    Not your buddy’s camera down the street, or your bosses camera, no. A rented camera that you clearly paid for insurance and a deposit? You should definitely heed the warnings but we are talking gear that is owned by a rental house for use by pros, and is bought knowing it will be damaged at some point. Clearly this rental house wasn’t upset. Doesn’t that make my point clear?

  • sliceAndDice

    I’d like to see that video if you have is posted somewhere

  • sliceAndDice

    CHILL OUT. WE ALL KNOW WHAT THEY MEANT

  • sliceAndDice

    The guy that burned up the 600mm f/4 is probably having a bad week. $12,000 down the drain.

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    The damage to the 600mm iris is actually kind of beautiful.

  • Mark Lagrange

    Imagine what that would do for your eyeball

  • Care to share an example image? Sounds interesting.

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