How many times do you return a lens?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by johnvanatta, Jul 16, 2017.

  1. johnvanatta

    johnvanatta Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    220
    Aug 5, 2014
    Oakland, CA
    Here's the story so far. I bought a new PL 8-18 from a 3rd party seller on Amazon. I was generally happy with the performance, but a few of my test shots kept nagging at me. Something was not quite right. With careful testing I was able to narrow the issue down to a bit of a surprise: at 9mm the focal plane tilts sideways, closer on the right and further on the left. It's basically fine at 8mm and 10mm, but at 9mm it's shot-ruining in close focus, and enough to marginally degrade the edges at infinity.

    Okay, case closed! File a return request and buy a new one. The new one arrived a day or two later, before I had packed up the original.

    I did a close focus test and yay, the focal plane was level at 9mm. Then I did some distance tests and hrmm. I'd just spent hours testing the first copy, so I was getting very familiar with the scene, and it didn't look quite as good. I could swear those edges were worse.

    After more careful testing of the two head to head, I determined the second was slightly worse across the frame at every focal length. At 9mm, where the first was weakest, it was a tossup between them. But at 8mm, 10mm, and 14mm (I mostly want this for ultrawide, <12mm, shots), especially wide open, the replacement is distinctly worse. Now I know why some people are saying the corners are soft.

    As it stands, I'd rather take the devil I know, and keep the original, and just be very careful in how I use it at 9mm. Or I can try much luck and get a third copy.

    On one hand, I'm aware that no zoom is going to be perfect, and I feel like I'm chasing a dragon here. With two samples flawed (at least relatively) in ways I can detect, I'm not very confident getting a third will change anything. And I'm definitely getting sick of taking careful test shots out my window.

    On the other hand, do I really knowingly keep a brand new, $1100 lens with a clear defect, even if the defect is only in a narrow part of the zoom range? It was bad enough I was willing to return it the first time, before the replacement showed up. Could I resell it later in good conscience? And life is too short for bad glass.
     
  2. Underwater

    Underwater Mu-43 Regular

    187
    Jun 1, 2014
    Eugene, Oregon
    Paul
    I'd try again with a third copy, as you'll never trust it if you keep it. My second copy of the 8-18 was much better at every focal length, and believe you me- I was much more thorough in testing it than I was with the first copy. I'm glad I went through the hassle...
     
  3. JonVdG

    JonVdG Mu-43 Regular

    33
    Feb 2, 2016
    Colorado, USA
    Jon
    Indeed, life is too short for bad glass, especially with that much financial investment. Like you, I've returned lenses that had optical issues, and I've felt somewhat bad about it. I don't want to take advantage of the seller or the manufacturer. On the other hand, I'm not asking for perfection. I know my lens testing is always more brutal than what I'll see in real world shooting so if the edges of the frame look pretty good in my tests, I'll keep the lens because like you, I know the next sample could be worse. You would think in 2017 that there wouldn't be so much sample variability but it's still out there, much as it was with my legacy glass from the 1980's.

    I try to do my testing immediately so that I can return it because I can't in good conscience sell it to another photographer later. For ultra wide lenses like the one you're using, it can be more of a fight to get a good copy because they are more difficult to manufacture. My suggestion is to consider your final product and decide if the lack of sharpness is acceptable. For example, if you're primarily shooting on the street in low light and making small prints, it might not matter.
     
  4. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Personally, If I get 2 bad lenses in a row, I just return for a refund and write the lens model off as undesirable.
     
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  5. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    These new Panasonic Leica high end lenses have rapidly earned themselves a very unenviable reputation for major issues with copy variation. If I'm paying $1000+ for a lens then I consider this unacceptable. Right now I'm sticking with my old Panasonic 7-14. It has horrible flare in some circumstances but it has no decentring issues. I'd love to replace it with the 8-18 but I've read too many stories like this to take the chance right now.
     
  6. kwalsh

    kwalsh Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    812
    Mar 3, 2012
    Baltimore, MD
    For any expensive zoom I still expect one extreme corner to be slightly softer than the others, especially wide open. Rare for any lens to be absolutely symmetric in performance.

    I do, however, expect the mid points of the edges to be essentially indistinguishable though. If there is noticeable asymmetry at the edges I'm not happy.

    I've only had to exchange a few lenses and all but once the second try was acceptable. After two tries I'd typically give up on a lens. For the 8-18 though where we know there are lots of "bad copies" I might try a third. Or give up for now and try a few months later when QC has hopefully improved.
     
  7. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    I've always held Panasonic in high regard for its manufacturing prowess - against that expectation, this lens QA issue is all the more disappointing.
     
  8. maflynn

    maflynn Mu-43 Regular

    99
    May 7, 2012
    i wouldn't resell it to someone, if the lens is not defect free - that's just me.
     
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  9. JamesD172

    JamesD172 Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    481
    Aug 18, 2016
    James Dolezal
    While the 8-18 has certainly earned a poor reputation for significant copy variation, this isn't an issue with Panasonic alone. I've had many lemons from both Oly and Panny - two 25/1.8s, one 15/1.7, and most recently, a 12-40/2.8. I'm really bummed about the 12-40... it's a marvelous lens. But after getting home from my first trip out testing it, I discovered that every shot at 12mm and f/2.8 is hazy at the right 1/3 of the frame. Back it goes... :(
     
  10. dirtdevil

    dirtdevil Mu-43 Veteran

    229
    Apr 9, 2017
    Could this be the fact that some of you people have ordered through let's say Amazon and you might have received a demo unit (that could've been manipulated, dropped, etc) instead of a real untouched "brand new" in the box item?
     
  11. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Sample shots please
     
  12. kwalsh

    kwalsh Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    812
    Mar 3, 2012
    Baltimore, MD
    Doesn't seem like it. Multiple people have ordered from B&H - including pre-orders that would in theory never have been touched by anyone. Bad copies coming from multiple vendors.

    It is really nothing new - more than one lens has had a bad introduction from a QC perspective from pretty much every camera manufacturer around. Here in m43 land there was the notorious 45-200 that had atrocious QC when introduced. The Oly 12/2 was awful when first introduced as well, one reputable tester went through 4 lenses before getting one that wasn't obviously de-centered! The 17/1.8 had issues as well, though not as bad as the 12/2. Usually after a few months things settle down and these early "problem" lenses seem to stabilize as far as QC goes.

    And again - any lens out there may come up with a defect no matter how mature the production line. They don't optically test every lens off the production line after all. But it is worth noting when a particular lens is having disproportionately more issues than usual. It seems the 8-18 is in that boat right now - always hard to tell for sure given small number of samples reported on forums.
     
  13. JamesD172

    JamesD172 Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    481
    Aug 18, 2016
    James Dolezal
    Two of my lemons were from Olympus (certified refurbished), one from Amazon (new), and one from eBay (new from Hong Kong).
     
  14. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    While I agree with the sentiment, I wonder about the practicality. What if you happen to have a far more discriminating eye than the average person, and so you notice details that other people wouldn't? Or, by contrast, what if you were to buy a used lens from someone who swore it gave them great results, but you were much pickier than them? Would you feel they were be dishonest?

    It's all a bit of a rabbit-hole. I don't have expectations that any lens will be perfect. I've never bought a lens new, however, so it's not like I've ever really had an opportunity to pixel peep and return my lenses.

    When I don't have anything interesting to shoot, I tend to get a bit obsessive with abstractions like sensor and lens quality. But then when I take a trip and have the opportunity to make some compelling images, I find that the ultimate quality distinctions tend to melt away into irrelevance. They never make or break the photo.
     
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  15. cptobvious

    cptobvious Mu-43 Veteran

    260
    Jan 8, 2013
    Sadly, quality control seems to have gone by the wayside in lens manufacturing as the brands are obsessively cost-cutting to try to stay in the black. A significant portion of the new or manufacturer-refurbished lenses I've bought in the past several years (I'd say a majority of the refurbished lenses) have had an optical or mechanical defect. Usually decentering is the problem and it happens in both the cheap lenses and the Olympus PRO/Panasonic Leica lenses I've tried.
     
  16. dirtdevil

    dirtdevil Mu-43 Veteran

    229
    Apr 9, 2017
    I have heard a couple of times that refurbished Olympus bodies or lenses have problems.
     
  17. kwalsh

    kwalsh Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    812
    Mar 3, 2012
    Baltimore, MD
    For awhile years back I had great luck with refurb lenses from Oly. I was operating under the assumption they probably had more quality inspection than "new" did as I know that is true for a variety of products from other vendors. And that seemed to match mine and other's experience - for awhile. Apparently a few years ago Oly refurbs were outsourced to a third party vendor and since then it seems to have been more problematic. Again - all this based on a small number of problems reported on forums so really hard to say for sure if the change to a new vendor has made things worse or not for sure.

    At least Oly refurb has a very generous return policy. Downside is if you return the refund can take a long time (sometimes 60 days I've heard).
     
  18. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    It seems quality control is extremely difficult for many of the brands these days. As sensor resolution increases ever further and the optical formulas get more and more sophisticated to compensate, it seems like it's a losing battle, despite significant leaps in the average prices for high end lenses.

    It certainly seems like recent Panasonic-Leica and Sony Zeiss examples are not exemplary in this respect. Canon lenses seem like they may be the best in terms of manufacturing consistency, but you pay for it. Nikon is all over the place, despite their new high-end zooms being among the most expensive options ever sold on the market ($2800 for the 70-200/2.8 E!). I have heard good things about Fuji lenses as far as QC goes, but since I find their X-Trans sensor output mushy, it ultimately doesn't matter to me how good the lens that goes in front is, I still won't like the results.
     
  19. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, USA
    On the plus side with mirrorless, since camera focusing is using CDAF, at least it's easier to rule out focusing issues. If a lens seems bad, it's most likely an issue with optics or the lens itself.
     
  20. Drdave944

    Drdave944 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Feb 2, 2012
    I get good and bad pictures with every lens. I doubt my ability to professionally evaluate each lens. I am sceptical of the assertion that someone's bad pictures are the result of having a "bad copy" just because they assert such a thing. Most likely it is because they are not such good photographers or they have a bad camera,or a poorly set camera or lens or are operating outside of the known parameters of the lens. There is far too much for paranoia in this area. Does anyone have any hard proof? I agree that there are poorly designed or quirky lenses. It is just that I always want to be convinced by evidence rather than assertions alone when I hear things that don't seem too likely. I have dropped lenses on the floor,fallen down on lenses,tripped over other photographers ,or the pavement and landed on the ground,but other than superficial scratches on the lens and broken lens caps and protectors,no ill effects in the lens have been noticed. They are made pretty tough.