How "tough" are Nikon lenses?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by nicholas_johnson|2, Jun 12, 2016.

  1. Random question, but I am new to Nikon and the system. I recently changed over from Canon, and bought a D810 and 14-24mm for
    landscape work. Today while shooting I slipped in the mud and the camera and lens hit my leg, with the lens taking most of the impact.
    The lens seems to still work fine, but it made me consider how tough these lenses are. Are the lenses tough enough to take light impacts
    like this? Is there anyway anything internal could have been shifted or moved from the impact, and how would I tell?

    Thanks in advance, happy to be a part of the Nikon family. Just want to make sure I didn't do any harm, and find out how tough they are.
  2. I would be surprised if the minor impact you seem to be describing damaged the lens. But the only way to know for sure is to take shots at different focal lengths using MF and AF and change the diaphragm and see what the results are. You should be able to determine if something is wrong.
    I can tell you that while the Nikon "pro lenses" are built well, they do not often survive a fall from one's hands to hard pavement. Done that too many times and the outcome has never once been good.
  3. I managed to drop my 6 month old (grey market) 24-120 f4 lens a few weeks ago about 3 feet onto pavement. At first the lens seemed fine, even the filter was ok other than having a small indentation in it. I continued shooting with the lens over the next few days. Later I loaded the images on my computer and noticed they were really out of focus and smeared other than in the center, something I didn't notice as I was shooting. It made me sick because the was really sharp before. I sent it off for an estimate and it ended up costing me $350 to fix.
  4. Eric, I took a few test shots using different focal lengths of the lens and all seems to be well. I definitely will be sure to take extra precaution next time round. It is easy to get caught up in the adventure, and forget to watch where you are walking at times. When I saw the lens bounce off of my knee my heart sank, thankfully it wasn't too hard. At least from what I remember.
    Mike, that sounds like a really bad day, sorry to hear it. I know what you mean though, I have been amazed with the results of the camera, and lenses, and the sharpness right out of the camera. If something happened to change that I would be pretty upset myself.
    Thank you for your input guys.
  5. Nikon pro-level lenses are pretty tough, although many believe that the older ones were tougher. I did have a 135mm f/2 AIs lens with a big dent in its metal hood, a result of damage from a previous owner, which worked perfectly.
    As others said, check the functioning of the lens, and hope it continues to work well.
  6. Hector - no argument about the older Nikkors, but those AIS lenses were not AF, did not have 30 elements and did not have VR. And they were made of metal. I agree they were built like tanks, but I know of no lens that bounced or bounces very well.
    As long as we are waxing nostalgic, I was always pretty sure I could drive nails with my F2's.
  7. When I fell, I had the neck strap on and the camera swung sideways into my leg, it was mostly the side of the barrel taking the impact and even then it was pretty light if I remember correctly. It happened so fast I barely had time to process what was happening.
  8. Only time I really destroyed a Nikon lens was when I smashed a DX 3.5-5.6/18-55mm )on a D70s) frontlens first on a tiled floor from about 4 feet high. Shattered the UV filter I had on it, and ruined the AF mechanism. The D70S however quite surprisingly didn't need any repairs ( I had expected some damage to the lens mount, must have been lucky).
    Second time I destroyed, or at least I thought I did, a lens was when I had used my 4/200-400 VR for years on a row shooting surf shore to sea, in the rain, and continuous salt water spray, without any kind of rain or spray cover (just cleaned the outside with a moist cloth when I came home afterwards). Noticed at some point that the VR started to halter, but since I wasn't using it anyway, just switched it of.
    When I finally decided to have it repaired (with an eye on a possible selling of the lens), the NPS service center disassembled it to make a price estimate.
    Projected price tag was way too much, so had it reassembled without repair. They however must have cleaned some of the, what I think, due to the salt water spray corroded electrical contacts, because when I got it back the VR was working correctly again (still don't use it though), so that turned out to be a cheap and unexpected repair (decided to keep the lens anyway).
    At later occasions did drop camera's with (big lenses) from a few feet high (not proud of it) on eg concrete floors, but at those (fortunately rare) occasion it were the bodies (D3, D800) that needed AF recalibrations, lenses didn't need repair/readjustment.
    Lightly banging lenses into people/doorposts/other cameras when they hang dangling from my shoulder during shoots is an inevitable risk that comes with carrying them that way, but personally never (apart from maybe a scratches in the paint) ran into any negative consequences of such incidents

    That said, I think the old AI/Ai-S lenses (and the old film bodies like FE and F2) can stand more punishment then the newer DSLR's and AF/AFS lenses.
  9. There are two kinds of toughness in lenses to think about. While there is some discussion about "plastic" lenses being cheap, the polycarbonate lens mount will take a greater impact before breaking than a metal mount will before bending. When I first started shooting professionally with Nikons (back in the '60), I chose them because they were tough. That doesn't mean they didn't require periodic maintenance, but I never had to replace a lens because I broke it (I tried hard to do that at times).
    I do think the gear today, for the most part, is tougher than in the past. However, because of the electronics, there is more to fail -- much more. As Paul points out above, environmental risks that come with salt water and salt spray can be hard on any equipment. Anyone who operates any equipment on salt water will tell you that. Just because your cameral or lens is tough doesn't mean you should not carefully care for it as you would any serious equipment. The better you treat it the better it will treat you.
  10. The fixed hood on the 14-24 will absorb some impacts quite well (mine has a tiny chunk out of it). Someone opened an airline overhead bin without paying attention and mine dropped out - but fortunately in its carry bag with polystyrene padding; other than mild concern about field curvature, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. My Pentax 645 also fell out, not padded with anything, but fortunately my head broke its fall...

    For a shortish lens like a 14-24 I'd not be scared of it whacking your leg, other than that it hurts. I get a bit nervous when something the length of a 70-200 swings around, mostly because it's a big cantilever and the mount might shear (which it's designed to do in case of impact, as the cheapest repair), particularly if it hits something relatively solid like my knee; fortunately I have a large padded area at camera strap height, and my own biggest risk is that I might scratch the screen protector on my work security pass, if I'm wearing both. Drop a lens on a solid floor and I'd be more worried; drop it on concrete and I'd worry more. Fortunately the only lens I've dropped from significant height while bare was a 50mm f/1.8, and - like a mouse falling off a building - that's light enough that it's not carrying much kinetic energy. If a lens falls on the floor on its own, a hood is a good impact absorber - though possibly not on the older 24-70, for which I believe the hood is attached to the zoom mechanism rather than the outer barrel (but I could be wrong).

    Fortunately I've never come close to dropping a big supertele. I'm most worried that I may have put more force than intended on the mount when using one - even though I'm not actively trying to lift, say, a 200 f/2 by the mount.

    There are, however, rumours that older D800s might have a frame that's particularly prone to cracking if the camera is dropped. I believe they redesigned it in later ones - I'm mostly going off an obscure Thom Hogan report, however. I believe mine was fine.
  11. There are, however, rumours that older D800s might have a frame that's particularly prone to cracking if the camera is dropped. I believe they redesigned it in later ones - I'm mostly going off an obscure Thom Hogan report, however. I believe mine was fine.

    There's a lengthy discussion at Nikongear ( the 'new' site from Bjorn Roslett) on the differences in built quality of the old D800 and latest D5 vs the D810, D500,3633.0.html
    The whole discussion boils down to the mirror housing onto which the lens mount ring is attached.
    On the D800 (and D5) that's made of metal, where on e.g. the D810 and D500 it's made of (high grade) plastic.
    While the latter is more flexible and less prone to permanent deformation after some kind of impact, that on the other hand also makes it more vulnerable to having the lens mount torn off completely in case of severe impact
    (just recapping the discusssion in a nutshell, I personally have no opinion, nor fortunately had any experience with this particular subject)
  12. Ah, thanks Paul. (I really should subscribe to Bjørn's new site.) I'd been known to lift my 200 f/2 slightly by the camera in order to get it far enough out of the case that I could actually grip the strap (the case isn't really designed for letting the lens out). Not sure I'd tried that with the D810, and I knew the warning in the manual, but now I'll definitely make sure I don't do it!

    Maybe the idea is that the mirror box could be replaced without completely replacing the shell? I'm not sure what "cracked" on D800s, but I could believe that when a rigid monocoque breaks because of an impact, repairing it basically involves a new camera. I did know the Df had large chunks of plastic, though - nothing wrong with that, except for all the people claiming that they liked the feel of a "metal camera". :)
  13. You should be fine. I've had camera bags/backpacks/briefcases fall out of the back of a SUV when I opened the tailgate -- anywhere from 3 to 5+ feet. D2x, D810 with various lenses attached. Never had a problem.
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The higher-end Nikon lenses are generally well built, e.g. the f2.8 zooms, the f4 super telephoto lenses (300mm and longer) .... However, lenses have glass elements (as well as plastic elements in some cases). If there is any direct impact on the glass, most likely there is some damage or chipping. In particular, the 14-24mm/f2.8 AF-S has a vulnerable, bulging front element.
  15. In particular, the 14-24mm/f2.8 AF-S has a vulnerable, bulging front element.​
    On that note... the 14-24's front element moves as you zoom it. I try to remember to leave mine zoomed to 24mm when it's not mounted, which retracts the front element as much as possible and gives it a little more protection. I can't remember if it's true of the 14-24, but there are also some lenses whose rear elements disappear like a gentleman's bits in the cold when you move the focus ring - which can be useful if you're trying not make sure you don't scratch them when you mount the lens. And there's general advice that turning off VR before you turn off the camera is a good thing - something I'm really bad at remembering to do.
  16. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Concerning the 14-24mm/f2.8 AF-S, I would keep the lens cap on as much as possible until you need to compose and capture images. That lens cap is a deep, oversized cap to accommodate the built-in, non-removable lens hood. If one travels with that lens, I would buy a second, spare lens hood. I have lost various front and rear lens caps. For a lens that vulnerable, I would always have a cap on when it is inside the camera bag.
  17. I have some Nikkor lenses that are over 45 years old, have gone from mountain peaks to seashore to Death Valley. The only one I ever managed to damage was a plastic mount that broke off from the metal lens mount under extraordinary pressure (color me stupid that day). Even Nikon's "cheap" lenses seem to "take a lickin' and keep on tickin'". Normal banging around doesn't seem to be an issue. I keep a UV filter on all lenses, except those with a very deeply recessed objective, or with protruding objectives, and those I keep capped when not in use.
  18. David underscores a great point. To make your equipment last --fight stupid!
  19. Basic rule, try not to bang any lens or camera around. It happens, but its not a good thing. And I wouldn't want to push my luck wondering how much more abuse the equipment can take. I think if you drop or bang your lens and it breaks, don't expect a "within tolerable limits" exemption from the manufacturer. BTW, you can get dropped while using insurance, not sure if after you've bought the lens, but at the time of purchase of new lenses and cameras, most of the big camera stores, i.e., B&H, Adorama, Samy's etc. carry those insurance policies. Not a bad way to protect a sizable investment in gear.
  20. Today while shooting I slipped in the mud and the camera and lens hit my leg, with the lens taking most of the impact.​
    Forget the camera and lens. They are fine. How is your leg?
  21. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    My assumption could be wrong, but if the OP's leg were really hurting, he probably wouldn't be thinking about how durable Nikon lenses are and starting this thread. :)
  22. I think if you don't bleed, you didn't hit the lens hard enough.
    Not just a little red, but blood dripping down.
    But you never really know, either way.
  23. Nikon, like everyone else has switched to making lenses that are either predominantly plastic or contain a fair amount of plastic in them. I was dumbfounded when I found out that Nikon was making some male bayonet mounts out of plastic. These lenses will not hold up to much in the way of punishment.
    All of my Nikkors are either AI or AIS manual focus. And there is no plastic in any of them. They will last forever.

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