Lens Tragedy in Vermont

As I prepare to shoot an event tomorrow without the benefit of my trusty Fujinon 18-135mm zoom, I thought this might be a good time to remind everyone to exercise caution when handling your gear in the field. This applies to professionals and amateur shutter bugs alike.

Back in May, my wife and I were vacationing up in New England. We stopped in a small Vermont town so we could walk around and take some photos. As I grabbed my camera bag - a smaller backpack I like to use for trips - and pulled it from the back seat of the car, I realized too late that something was wrong. The main compartment flipped open and my zoom lens tumbled down onto asphalt with the impact of a million suns exploding. (It's a slight exaggeration, but such was the effect on my nerves.)

Photo taken immediately after dropping my lens. The cosmetic damage was minor, but focusing problems began appearing soon after.

No glass elements were damaged, but I noticed immediately that the little plastic aperture switch on this otherwise metal lens was banged up. It would slide between positions, but with a lot of resistance. At first everything else seemed OK. But over the next few months I noticed that the focus point wouldn't move on command at random times. I put up with this quirk for a while, but after my last big event realized this could become a problem at a very inopportune moment. I can't afford to miss critical shots because faulty gear lets me down.

Several weeks ago, I packed my sick lens carefully and shipped it to a repair shop in New York. After a delay due to parts availability, I finally got a call this Monday that the lens was ready to ship. The total cost of repairs: $238, not including my initial shipping and insurance. As it's a $900 lens, getting it repaired was a no-brainer. I use this lens a great deal for travel and event photography. The repair shop is an authorized Fujifilm repair center, so I'm optimistic that it will return to me in good working order.

The point of this cautionary tale is simply this: Never leave an unzipped (or unlatched) camera bag closed. If you're at all like me, you'll forget that the bag is not secured in a moment of excitement, and the end result could make for a very costly accident. It may also mean that you find yourself without the lens you want at the worst possible time.