Demise of a lens

2009-01-18

in Daily updates, Photography, Toronto, Travel

The day after being re-united with my 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, I managed to break it into two pieces by accidentally smashing it into a wrought iron railing. Because of the Toronto snowfall, I was carrying my camera in ziploc bag. Due to the careless movement of my arm, a lens that I have used for years met what may be an untimely end.

I will investigate whether it is possible to have the two halves re-joined. If not, I will have to consider whether it is more sensible to replace the f/1.8 lens or buy the more expensive but more solidly constructed f/1.4 variant.

[Update: 29 January 2009] The word is back from the camera repair people. They estimate the chances of repairing the lens for less than the cost of a new lens at approximately zero. Also, it would take six to eight weeks. Eventually, I suppose I will buy a new 50mm lens.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Emily January 18, 2009 at 11:10 pm

R.I.P 50mm lens.

Maybe it will be resurrected, Jesus the Christ style.

I had a great weekend. Thanks. :)

Tom January 18, 2009 at 11:27 pm

If you had to break a lens, it was smart to choose Canon’s cheapest.

Tristan January 19, 2009 at 12:02 am

This is a very sad story.

Milan January 19, 2009 at 12:04 am

I think it might be possible to repair. It doesn’t look like anything is actually broken – the lens has just separated into two pieces.

Quite possibly, the low temperature facilitated that, by causing the internal element to contract a bit.

Milan January 19, 2009 at 12:06 am

This thread is discussing similar problems.

Milan January 19, 2009 at 10:39 am

A replacement f/1.8 would be $130 new at Henry’s.

The f/1.4 version would be $440.

Both are much cheaper on Amazon.com: 1.8 (US$86.48), 1.4 (US$329).

Hella Stella January 19, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Sadness!

Although it does give you an excuse to feed your addiction to camera equipment…

Milan January 19, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Stella,

This is the ‘broken windows’ fallacy debunked by Bastiat. I would be much better off having a working old 50mm lens and $90 – $450 towards new gear.

Milan January 19, 2009 at 3:04 pm

Adapted from Frédéric Bastiat’s final essay: “What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen,” published in 1850:

“Suppose that it will cost [one hundred dollars] to repair the damage. If you mean that the accident gives [one hundred dollars] worth of encouragement to the [camera repair] industry, I agree. I do not contest it in any way; your reasoning is correct. The [repair person] will come, do his job, receive [one hundred dollars], congratulate himself, and bless in his heart the careless child. That is what is seen.

But if, by way of deduction, you conclude, as happens only too often, that it is good to break [lenses], that it helps to circulate money, that it results in encouraging industry in general, I am obliged to cry out: That will never do! Your theory stops at what is seen. It does not take account of what is not seen.

It is not seen that, since our citizen has spent [one hundred dollars] for one thing, he will not be able to spend them for another. It is not seen that if he had not had a [lens] to replace, he would have replaced, for example, his worn-out shoes or added another book to his library. In brief, he would have put his [one hundred dollars] to some use or other for which he will not now have them.” (emphasis in original)

Litty January 19, 2009 at 11:57 pm

That’s a rotten turn of events.

For the next few weeks, I will be especially careful to click any interesting looking ads on your site.

Tristan January 20, 2009 at 12:13 am

About this “broken window” fallacy. Our entire economy is based on the production and consumption of crap – things that break quickly, which we get tired of, and which it might be argued we might be happier without the desire to have them. Things are designed to breakdown at a specific interval so someone can be paid to produce a new one. The easiest example of this is extended oil change intervals on cars and manafacturer’s decision not to include small partical partial by-pass oil filtration systems which could easily increase the life of automobiles by a massive amount.

Even the fact that you’re lens was made of plastic rather than the metal FD version of the lens is evidence that things are not made to last as long.

I don’t disagree that this is a fallacy, but if one is to disagree with it as economic policy, one has to reject the entire economy of credit based consumption of disposable goods.

BuddyRich January 20, 2009 at 6:57 am

Isn’t he sort of describing opportunity cost? Different uses for the same $100.

At least in this part:

“Suppose that it will cost [one hundred dollars] to repair the damage. If you mean that the accident gives [one hundred dollars] worth of encouragement to the [camera repair] industry, I agree. I do not contest it in any way; your reasoning is correct. The [repair person] will come, do his job, receive [one hundred dollars], congratulate himself, and bless in his heart the careless child. That is what is seen.

But if, by way of deduction, you conclude, as happens only too often, that it is good to break [lenses], that it helps to circulate money, that it results in encouraging industry in general, I am obliged to cry out: That will never do! Your theory stops at what is seen. It does not take account of what is not seen.

It is not seen that, since our citizen has spent [one hundred dollars] for one thing, he will not be able to spend them for another. It is not seen that if he had not had a [lens] to replace, he would have replaced, for example, his worn-out shoes or added another book to his library. In brief, he would have put his [one hundred dollars] to some use or other for which he will not now have them.” (emphasis in original)

Milan January 20, 2009 at 10:49 am

Tristan,

On the subject of the lens itself, I don’t think this is proof that it is shoddy. Getting smashed into an iron railing is a pretty high bar for lens durability. It is entirely possible that a metal lens would have been even more badly damaged, since the body would have transferred more of the force to the glass. With my 50mm lens, the glass is undamaged.

As for society as a whole, we are presented with many chances to buy quality merchandise. There is certainly a big market in cheap crap, but every one of us has the option to invest in goods that will last for many decades. Whether it makes sense to buy a Leica or a cheap Canon P&S depends on the economics of the choice, as well as your preferences.

If you read the first chapter of Bastiat’s essay, he takes the analysis beyond the individuals involved in the window breaking and considers the economy as a whole.

BuddyRich,

Opportunity cost is a related concept, I agree. Once the window is broken, if you decide to fix it, whatever you could have best used the money for otherwise is the opportunity cost.

Tristan January 20, 2009 at 1:25 pm

I don’t disagree that we are offered the chance to buy quality goods, I’m simply asserting that if everyone tommorow decided they were only going to buy quality goods the sky would fall – proving that crap is non-optional to sustaining our current economy.

If everyone chose to only buy quality goods, we would almost certainly have a labour surplus. It’s kind of funny, currently, to look back at the utopian Marxists (like Morris, not Marx), and although I hate them and ridicule them at every available opportunity, capitalism does seem to be producing the kind of labour surplus which they proposed could be used to build a society where everyone worked a lot less.

Milan January 20, 2009 at 1:38 pm

I don’t really agree with this evaluation. If people bought fewer, better-made things, labour would certainly be employed in different ways. That being said, it’s not clear that there would necessarily be more or less work to be done.

Some very high quality things are made in a very labour intensive way, while others (say, Toyota cars) are made with as little labour as possible.

The issue of the quantity and variety of labour demand is too complex to be understood through the durability or shoddiness of most consumer goods.

Milan January 28, 2009 at 8:24 pm
Milan May 30, 2009 at 3:49 pm

I replaced my 50mm lens today.

The new serial number is (21)51447372.

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