How Mamiya America Corporation Turned a $3,800 APO Lens Into a Paperweight (at No Charge!)

Discussion in 'Medium Format' started by andre_noble|5, Mar 8, 2011.

  1. Hello Fellow Medium Format Photographers:
    You may find the following story amusing if not educational:
    Last year I purchased a brand new Mamiya RB 210 APO lens (which sold for $3,800 at B&H in early the 2000’s) for $600 from a Far East Asia source on EBay. Optically, the Mamiya RB 210 APO lens was spectacular: I tested the lens on tripod, mirror up on Agfa APX 100 developed in Microdol-X 1+3 at 68F. The negatives revealed a lens that could resolve fine detail as well as my 35mm Nikon 105 VR Macro lens!
    There was a hint of early fungal growth – which I attribute to a humid storage in Asia – that was only visible upon close inspection. So I sent the lens into Mamiya America Corp in my home state of New York for service. My instructions were clear not to open the lens unless they felt assured that it’s optical performance would remain the same after reassembly.
    Peculiarly, they said many things upon receiving the lens: “Mamiya America Corp Service Dept. doesn’t clean fungus from lenses”, “the lens looks very clean to them”, “the lens had some internal dust” “Would I like them to clean the internal dust” (no).
    How could they not have seen the fungus? I wondered. Something seemed fishy.
    I received the lens back from them, and the fungus was indeed gone. (yes it was organic, fungus – don’t bother going there) There was evidence that the lens had been opened including internal dust that was not there before, and tool marks on a set of internal retaining rings that are not present on any of my other 20 odd brand new RB + RZ lenses.
    Fine, MAC told me a little white lie, but the fungus was gone, and they didn’t charge me. Great.
    When I finally had the chance to use the 210 APO lens again, Immediately noticed a lack of spectacular sharpness performance that was there before. So I did a thorough test of the 210 APO against a raft of my other brand new Mamiya RB telephoto lenses including the 180 KL, 250 KL, and 250 APO.
    The 210 APO was clearly optically inferior to all three – getting blown out the door by even the 180 KL!My Mamiya RB 210 APO lens in very clean now of fungus now, but extremely mediocre optically, and I am not happy.
    So last week I sent the lens back to MAC group with a gang of evidence including before and after transparencies and negatives and a complete recap of the above. I suggested that with the best of intentions either MAC group opened the lens and cleaned it, or sent me a different lens entirely and swapped the removable serial number sticker?
    MAC called me and at first said they will look into making things right, including possibly selling me a replacement 210 APO at discount. Then they called and said they don’t have any more 210 APO lenses, and are going to ship mine back and close the case. I received my original 210 APO lens back from MAC group today. It's the same jacked up lens they returned to me after opening it up.
    All’s well that ends well, but I am still waiting for my happy ending.
     
  2. So, you send them the lens for cleaning with the instruction not to open it? I don't get it. Besides, you purchased from some cheapo source, and complain about fungus?
     
  3. I think MAC is entitled not to provide service for a gray import. You would have a case against them only if they opened and cleaned the lens after they asked you if you wanted them to do this and you said no (if in fact that was the case). This chronology would be hard to prove. The pragmatic answer is to send the lens to an independent repair shop. Assuming the lack of sharpness is due to incorrect assembly, this would mean that for the $600 purchase price plus $200 or so to the repair person to clean and collimate the lens you would have a good lens for far less than the list price (or even the 40% of list price at which Mamiya cleared out its stocks of RB lenses a year or two ago).
     
  4. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    Moral of the story is "If it doesn't itch, don't scratch!"

    Sorry to hear they can't fix their own products anymore. I wonder if thay send em out or the janitor is now doing repairs for them?.. ya know with cut backs, scalling down for a better bottom line hawking electronic junk.

    I'll stick to my good old mechanical RB stuff. Non-C n C lenses anywday over any of the newer garbage they hype as better. As long as people are using the good old mechaioncals, I'll keep em on the road for ya.
     
  5. "I think MAC is entitled not to provide service for a gray import." I don't understand this statement, it is still a lens made by Mamiya, not an illegal clone. MAC has no obligation to treat it as a warranty item I guess, but if they refused to work on it, that would be a bit silly.
    Anyway, yes, find a good local--or nationally recognized--repair person and you will most likely get you lens back to its former self.
     
  6. MAC has no obligation to treat it as a warranty item I guess, but if they refused to work on it, that would be a bit silly.​
    Nikon USA will not repair a gray market item even if you offer to pay for it. Silly but true.
    Mamiya USA is the one company I have heard of that aggressively tries to block "illegal" imports. They may seize shipments at customs even if you legally bought it in Japan and you're bringing it back in your luggage.
    http://www.mamiya-usa.com/about-us-gray-market-trade-mark-warning.html
     
  7. Mamiya USA is the one company I have heard of that aggressively tries to block "illegal" imports. They may seize shipments at customs even if you legally bought it in Japan and you're bringing it back in your luggage.
    I could imagine MAC acting against traders trying to import Mamiya goods, since this might well be a breach of MAC's exclusive rights to sell in the USA, but I would be astounded if they have the right to seize single items which are the private property of individuals.
     
  8. I've never liked those serial number stickers on Mamiya lenses. I want to be able to identify a lens in cases like this or maybe even trace a stolen lens.
     
  9. John, BTW the 250 APO is definitely superior to the 250 KL non APO version
     
  10. Unless US law is different from UK law, I think that Mamiya had a duty to attend to the lens properly when they had it in their charge.
    If you can PROVE that the performance of the lens is now inferior, and that they did work on it, then it seems to me that they are responsible and you have a case against them. Unless, of course, they provided you with something that excluded their liability when you sent it to them. I would have thought that unlikely.
     
  11. You have two options: Sue Mamiya or send it to another repair facility. I would send it back to the factory in Japan explaining what MAC did to it. At this point you have nothing to loose.
    Also, I would call Focal Point and see what they say.
    Good luck!
     
  12. You have two options: Sue Mamiya or send it to another repair facility. I would send it back to the factory in Japan explaining what MAC did to it. At this point you have nothing to loose.
    Also, I would call Focal Point and see what they say.
    Good luck!
     
  13. I talked to John at Focal Point at length. I may send it to him in month of May as he is swamped now. Going to run from $75 to as much as a few hundred dollars for him to open lens up and try to re-seat elements, and there is no guarantees. Having seen what this 210 APO and my 250 APO lens can do, I am definitely interested in getting a 210 APO for my RZ, and even replacing this 210 RB APO!
     
  14. I never read the part about you shooting with this lens before sending it in for service, and verifying it was a stellar performer...?
     
  15. David, I shot the lens before sending it to MAC on Agfa APX @ 50 ASA developed in 1+3 Microdaol-X. I shot it beside a 127 KL and 150sf. The 127 KL and 150SF (f8 and f11) were surprisingly good performers in their own right, but the 210 APO was in a league all it's own.

    I realize some people want to believe the fairy tale that you can have a precision optic like this opened by a third party and re-assembled to factory tolerances and performance. However even Nikon, and other lens experts have told me that such precision service is rare. One nuetral expert told me that of all the majot manufacturers, only Canon still has decent high skilled lens technicians nowadays.
     
  16. I realize some people want to believe the fairy tale that you can have a precision optic like this opened by a third party and re-assembled to factory tolerances and performance.
    I cannot comment on US service facilities, since I am in the UK, but in general manufacturers' service departments will be trained and equipped to deal with problems that occur with relatively new equipment, particularly equipment under warranty. They will not necessarily be skilled at dealing with problems that usually occur when lenses are 30+ years old. I generally take the attitude that extensive optical repair is not cost-effective except wth very rare or valuable lenses but I have had good results with Russian f1.5 50mm Jupiter lenses, whcih are known for their good glass but sloppy assembly, and certain unusual LF lenses, which I sent to an independent repair shop. An ideal choice would be a workshop that overhauls motion picture camera lenses, which are very complex and take a hell of a beating on film sets.
     
  17. David makes good points. However, is not the key issue whether MAC should have tinkered with the lens at all if they were not capable of dealing with it properly?
     
  18. Since John is swamped at the time, why not send it to Japan? Given the circumstances, they might just fix it for free.
     
  19. Anthony: (or anyone else) I just may do that: By the way, how does one send it to Mamiya Japan?
     
  20. I probably owe Mamiya America an apology. I did more shooting with my beloved RB 210 APO lens and it seems excellent optically, and of course there is no signs of the fungus that mamiya America cleaned for me for free..
    It sometimes hard to be objective about lens performnace - sometimes one has to sit back and evaluate a lens over time in the real world.
    So Mamiya America actually cleaned this non MAC, imported lens for me for FREE, and I was not grateful.
    My apologies, Mamiya. And thank you.
     
  21. To avoid any filmflatness-troubles i have bought an rb 70mm back with vaccum for my new rz67.
     
  22. Hi Andre, would you be so kind as to compare and contrast the image quality of 210mm KL APO vs the 250mm KL APO? Thank you!
     

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