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Old Mar 15, 2010, 3:54 AM   #1
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Default Camera and Lens Quality Control?

Camera and Lens Quality Control?

Several years ago, I would pick up my camera, put on a lens, start taking photos and not think twice about the outcome. The responsibility was mine to produce the goods and if I didn't it was usually my fault. Well, more and more, those days are over. I am so overwhelmed with complaints by users of camera gear around the world expressing their dissatisfaction with the quality of their lenses and camera's that a new phenomena is occurring called the "Fear of Fotography" syndrome.

In the past I never feared using my gear. But that has also changed. I have had several QC problems that have effected me in a way I never thought possible and that is the "Fear of Fotography" syndrome. Will my images be in focus? Will my lens auto focus mechanism fail? Will my camera die? etc.

There is nothing more frustrating then having your assistant say to you while shooting, "what is wrong with the lens, it is making strange noises…" and I respond "Frigging thing isn't focussing…" or "It is taking too long to focus!"

I'll keep this short and sweet. Manufacturers of camera gear, get your shit together and make the stuff work before loading it on the public and us professionals who depend on your gear for our livelihood.

Nuff Said…

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Old Mar 15, 2010, 8:07 AM   #2
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Cameras have certainly gotten more complicated over the years, and that certainly has an impact on a user's satisfaction, but sometimes it's not just the manufacturers who are at fault. There also "OE" and "RTFM", a couple more "syndromes" for you. The last camera that everybody liked was the Kodak Instamatic, but it wasn't very good, it was just hard to make a mistake with.
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Old Mar 15, 2010, 8:00 PM   #3
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I think it is the "Wal*Mart" effect - lots of folks are looking for something cheap, and they are finding it -cheap.

Electronic stuff has got cheaper following something like Moore's law, but that really doesn't apply as easily to mechanical stuff like lenses, shutters, swtiches. So you can find lenses at about the same dollar price as 30-50 years ago when just about every other non electronic thing has gone up a whole bunch.

Guess what: they ain't as good even though they have several extra bells & whistles.
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Old Mar 15, 2010, 8:20 PM   #4
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I blame Statistical Process Control. While it provides a statistically good chance you will get a good example, it has also replaced real Quality Control, so the odds of a bad example getting shipped have also increased.

brian

edit: Should have said: While it provides a statistically better chance of making a good lens.
Since QC is now done on a sample basis instead of 100% inspection, more of the duds get shipped to customers than sent back for rework before they leave the plant.

Last edited by VTphotog; Mar 16, 2010 at 7:56 AM.
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Old Mar 15, 2010, 9:46 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VTphotog View Post
... While it provides a statistically good chance you will get a good example, ... the odds of a bad example getting shipped have also increased.
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Old Mar 16, 2010, 3:16 AM   #6
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Also I think in the days of film, people had neither the tools, the time nor the inclination to do the kind of pixel-peeping that is now so common, because it's so effortless.

I saw a link on TOP I think where Joel Myerowitz is saying how his scanned 8x10 negatives with modern Epson printers are producing colours and detail he had no idea ever existed in them, and were absolutely not visible in his earlier darkroom prints.

Photoshop shows us effortlessly what we used to need a microscope to see.

Also I read a post on an internet forum which really made me think (you can all stop laughing!). It was to the effect that "modern lenses are designed on the edge of disaster"; now this was in particular reference to the Canon 50mm f1.2 L lens, but I think the same principle may apply quite widely. In order to optimise the lens performance the computer models are creating designs which the factories cannot make in sufficiently large quantities, QC has to be really really good. Although the 50 L is now very good you had to be really lucky to get a good copy in the first 3 years of manufacture. And that kind of QC is very expensive - this is why Leica lenses cost so much, not because their designers are any better than Canon or Nikon, but because their quality control and manufacturing processes are so much tighter. A corollary is that they cannot produce the lenses in very high volumes and they cannot produce them nearly as cheaply.

But with the computer tools that the average enthusiast now has access to we are finding that we need better and better equipment to satisfy us.

Fortunately, as a hobbyist I am very happy with A4 sized prints for display and Blurb books. So I can live with poor copies of lenses that wouldn't be good enough for A2 prints.
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Old Mar 16, 2010, 5:00 AM   #7
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Leica and Zeiss are able to make (some) lenses better than Canon and Nikon because they're less willing to make compromises. (... and the reverse is also true, though the compromises may be different.) That's part QA and part QC. And if Canon wanted to make more 50/1.2 lenses, they could just tool up and train up for it, which is also part QA and part QC. And they could do it without compromising quality.

Just because the lines of communication are better than they were 10 years ago doesn't mean more things are failing; it means more people are hearing about the failures. This reminds me of the popular myth that people's behaviors become more irrational when the moon is full. It's not true, but every time something odd happens and somebody speculates that the moon must be full, that's what we remember, not if moon actually was full or not. The lines of communication perpetuate, accentuate and spread the myth, as is also the case with the subject we're discussing. With more and better tools, QA and QC have actually gotten better over the years, but when one item in a million fails, the story goes viral, accompanied by the inevitable exaggerations, and everybody in the world finds out about it, sometimes hearing the same story over and over, each time distorted so that it's unrecognizable, and everyone thinks it's a separate story.

Stop and take a breath.
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Old Mar 17, 2010, 2:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VTphotog View Post
I blame Statistical Process Control. While it provides a statistically good chance you will get a good example, it has also replaced real Quality Control, so the odds of a bad example getting shipped have also increased.

brian

edit: Should have said: While it provides a statistically better chance of making a good lens.
Since QC is now done on a sample basis instead of 100% inspection, more of the duds get shipped to customers than sent back for rework before they leave the plant.
Think I'll jump in here. 100% inspection does not equal 0% defects as there is a measurable error rate for the inspection process, both false negatives and false positives. Actually a 100% inspection is a Statistical Quality Control with a large (100%) sample size. Statistical Process Control is a bit different. For example:

The required part dimension is 1.000" +/- .010" (this assumes that we have quality engineering as well, that is a 1.010" part and a .990" part will function every bit as well a 1.000 part.) If our process produces parts that have a mean dimension 1.000 and a standard deviation of .010" our process is producing approx. 35% bad parts. On the other hand if our process can produces parts with a mean dimension of 1.000" and a std. dev. of .0032" then we're producing slightly less that 0.5% bad parts.

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Old Mar 17, 2010, 3:29 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillDrew View Post
I think it is the "Wal*Mart" effect - lots of folks are looking for something cheap, and they are finding it -cheap.

Electronic stuff has got cheaper following something like Moore's law, but that really doesn't apply as easily to mechanical stuff like lenses, shutters, swtiches. So you can find lenses at about the same dollar price as 30-50 years ago when just about every other non electronic thing has gone up a whole bunch.

Guess what: they ain't as good even though they have several extra bells & whistles.
I have to agree with you about Wal Mart pushing cheap cameras. Never seen such a variety of cheap cameras in one setting. Where else can you buy food, a LCD TV, and a camera at the same location? Plus there photo techs have very limited knowledge when it comes to cameras. There are a few good buys, but you have to know what you are looking for.

It was a different enviroment during the film days. Photography was considered to be an expensive hobby. Camera, film, development, and printing costs kept a lot of people away. There was no internet, no flickr, or forums such as this. Your selection of cameras was pretty limited compared to the variety today. Never heard of Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, or Sanyo back in the film days. The digital age brought in a lot of your average consumers to the photography world. It is funny, but about 50% of the people who buy cameras at my location, do not care about quality. They want something cheap or like the camera because of its color. Rest assured that all camera companies are aware of this fact. Quality is not as important as the almighty dollar.
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Old Mar 17, 2010, 4:22 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Ancientritual View Post
I have to agree with you about Wal Mart pushing cheap cameras. Never seen such a variety of cheap cameras in one setting. Where else can you buy food, a LCD TV, and a camera at the same location? Plus there photo techs have very limited knowledge when it comes to cameras. There are a few good buys, but you have to know what you are looking for.

It was a different enviroment during the film days. Photography was considered to be an expensive hobby. Camera, film, development, and printing costs kept a lot of people away. There was no internet, no flickr, or forums such as this. Your selection of cameras was pretty limited compared to the variety today. Never heard of Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, or Sanyo back in the film days. The digital age brought in a lot of your average consumers to the photography world. It is funny, but about 50% of the people who buy cameras at my location, do not care about quality. They want something cheap or like the camera because of its color. Rest assured that all camera companies are aware of this fact. Quality is not as important as the almighty dollar.
I am leaving the quote intact and referencing Paripatetics quote because they both need to be classified as "Good Old Days" fuzzies where we remember the good and forget the bad. I started learning photography in the late '60 and actually used cameras marketed from the mid-'50s through the late seventies. This included "high-end" P&S cameras and interchangeable lens cameras in formats from 1/2 frame 35mm through medium format. The '80s were spent with video tape and the '90s with 35mm auto-exposure/focus P&Ss and switched to digital cameras in this last decade. Most current tiny sensor (1/2.5) P&S superzoom cameras today will produce a better 8x10 at ISO 400 (lower noise/sharper) than a 35mm SLR load with Hi-Speed Ektachrome pushed to ASA 400 (there were no color negative ASA 400 films at the time). That same tiny sensor camera will beat a mid-'90s 35mm P$S loaded with Ektacolor 400 (been there, done that). Even APS-C and 4/3 DLSRs will beat film SLR using the emulsions available in the '70 producing 11x14 prints.

I'm not denying that a good photographer today, using modern emulsions can't produce good photos with '70-'90s SLRs but today's DSLRs but a good photographer produces good result regardless. However the modern DSLR will produce those results with less "fiddling" with the equipment and over a wider range of conditions. Likewise the modern digital P&S will equal or beat the 35mm P&Ss of the '90s on both IQ and ease of use.

I was there in the "good old days" and my memory hasn't failed.

A. C.

Last edited by ac.smith; Mar 17, 2010 at 4:30 PM.
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