Nikon Service Advisory for the 200-500mm/f5.6

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by shuncheung, Oct 6, 2015.

  1. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    This is the link to Nikon Europe's English site:
    This is their description of the problem:
    We have confirmed that with autofocus shooting using the AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens, autofocus may sometimes become disabled and focus operation switches to manual focus* when the zoom ring on the lens is rotated while the camera's shutter-release button is pressed halfway, or the camera's AF-ON button is held down.

    Firmware in lenses with a serial number of 2008365 or higher have already been updated.​
    And Nikon needs to update the firmware on the lens. The problem is that Nikon is not yet able to let the user update the firmware on a lens, as they can do on digital camera bodies. I think it should be possible to do so via a camera. However, at this point, it means shipping the lens back to Nikon for firmware update.

    Please keep in mind that those are European serial numbers. Nikon USA's versions seem to have a serial number that starts with a 6.
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Finally I managed to find Nikon USA's web page on this matter. Instead of service advisory, Nikon USA specifies the way it actually is, a firmware upgrade:
    A firmware/software upgrade should have been something trivial. We have them on our Microsoft Windows PC almost on a weekly basis. Sigma is wise enough to develop a dock to upgrade their firmware on their lenses, as Sigma doesn't control the camera side (other than those Sigma DSLRs that almost nobody buys) and therefore cannot insert a memory card to transfer the firmware.
    Unfortunately, Nikon has not released the technology to transfer the firmware via their DSLR bodies to their lenses. Therefore, a simple firmware upgrade means you need to ship the lens back to Nikon, making something trivial a lot more complicated and costly. Recall that the 300mm/f4 PF needed a firmware upgrade to correct an VR issue earlier this year, and it involved a lot more hassle than necessary.
    Just imagine you need to ship your PC to Microsoft every week or two for software patches. It doesn't make any sense. Nikon really needs to update themselves to 2015 technology.
    My 200-500mm/f5.6 is on the affected list, but since I haven't seen any problems, I am going to wait.
  3. I wonder if Nikon would still ship any affected lenses to camera shops or retrofit that f/w fix beforehand. There are a lot more of these back ordered than on a store shelf or in customer's hands. Maybe that's why it's taking so long. Also, besides user installed f/w fixes (would be wonderful), perhaps Nikon needs to strengthen its QC testing before release.
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Now that everybody knows that my day job is computer software, updates are extremely common. I would imagine that Nikon is wise enough to update the firmware on all lenses that have not gone out yet. I recall that way back around year 2000, before we had user-upgradable camera firmware, once some Nikon tech had to pay B&H a visit and update all firmware on some Coolpix model before B&H would ship them out.
    The thing is that this may not be the last time Nikon needs to update the firmware on the 200-500mm lens or for that matter any lens. If every time it means shipping the lens back to Nikon, we are talking about some extreme inefficiency. Sigma came up with the dock a couple of years ago, Nikon is simply behind the curve in this high-tech era.
  5. I was in high tech for my career as well, but am sometimes a bit slow on realizations. My 1st Nikon tele was one of the old MF jobs... just gears, metal and glass. Then AF came along, AF-S, VR ... all super cool, almost magical when thinking back to those more primitive (but incredibly sharp) lenses of yesteryear ... but with the added issue of firmware and those inevitable updates. :) I'm figuring I'll be waiting awhile before B&H finally ships the one I ordered. It's such a perfect fit my my wildlife travel needs, and the price so attractive, that I will wait patiently ... and hope the tech finds his way over to B&H as often as it takes to get the job done. Thanks for the heads up Shun. Knowledge is good!
  6. The weird thing is, Nikon did manage to make firmwares for flashes end-user upgradable since the SB900/SB700, so somehow they did see the light there. (yeah, bad pun)
  7. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    First of all, this morning I took the 200-500 out to a local refuge, trying to reproduce the problem, which is supposed to be losing AF when you zoom while half pressing the shutter release button down. I tried that on two different bodies (D800E and D7200) and a few different AF models. So far I have not been able to cause this problem even on purpose.

    To some degree I think Nikon is over-reacting a bit now after the D600 dust/oil fiasco. Earlier this year I think that D750 recall wasn't totally necessary and was going to ignore it.
    Sigma came up with the USB Dock essentially out of necessity, since their reverse engineering of Canon, Nikon ... protocol is never perfect and therefore need to fix problem somewhat often. As far as I can tell, Nikon has never needed to update their firmware in lenses until the 300mm/f4 PF VR issue earlier this year. And in that case a simple firmware upgrade became a recall and a lot of us remember Dan Brown went through a lot of trouble:
    I would imagine that the engineers at Nikon are smart enough to know that updating lens firmware via the cameras is now a must have feature. Hopefully that will be available on the new bodies from 2016. For now, I am going to hold off the firmware upgrade as I don't find it necessary. With some luck, maybe next year I'll be able to upgrade it from home. :)
  8. The AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens, autofocus may sometimes become disabled and focus operation switches to manual focus* when the zoom ring on the lens is rotated while the camera's shutter-release button is pressed halfway, or the camera's AF-ON button is held down.​
    The mystery has cleared. Now I realize that my first feel of the autofocus of this lens was accurate, and I had posted about it on my initial test. I believe that was exactly what I was doing while trying to close focus on the tip of a purple cone-flower. The tricky keyword was "sometimes" - it seemed to work, then not working very well, then worked again, etc. And I attributed it to other variables such as the relatively dim lighting and probably my D800 which had been serviced by Nikon on the focus problem.

    On my subsequent try a few days ago, the autofocus seemed OK, and I posted about it to correct my first impression.
    I am sending my lens back today.
  9. Shun, it appears my lens was affected and yours is not. The fact that they inserted the word "sometimes" in the problem description is unsettling.
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I wouldn't necessarily say my 200-500mm is not affected. Nikon is not very forthcoming about how to reproduce this problem. Maybe the settings I am using are not triggering this problem.
    Concerning the service advisory, since my lens appears to be working fine, I'll wait a bit until the dust settles. A couple of months ago I met a person whose D750 is affected by both recalls. He sent it back to Nikon for repair as soon as he saw the first recall and needed to send it for a second time a few months later.
    I'll wait a few months to see whether other user may find different issues or not. As I mentioned before, if you are an early adapter to a product, be it a Nikon lens or brand new car model ..., there will always be some chances for glitches. Today's products are complex and sometimes it takes a large number of actual users to discover those strange cases.
  11. Based on serial #, my lens appears to be on the affected list as well but I have not seen the problem in normal use. I have not tried to purposely recreate the issue by repeatedly zooming while pressing the shutter button halfway or pressing AF ON. If I do experience it extensively in the future and/or another service advisory comes up, then I may send in my lens for a firmware upgrade.
  12. Sigma came up with the USB Dock essentially out of necessity, since their reverse engineering of Canon, Nikon ... protocol is never perfect and therefore need to fix problem somewhat often.​
    That may be true - but it also means they have much more tunable AF fine tuning than Nikon offer in their bodies (which is just as well, for some of the lens behaviour I've seen). I wouldn't say they've got it right, though - taking the lens off the camera and putting it on again while trying to do focus tests is painful, especially when wandering around trying to do infinite focus distance tests. If Nikon decide to offer this route (and not just build better AF tuning into the camera), I hope they'll consider just putting an environmentally-protected micro-USB port on the lens so you can do updates while the lens is attached to the camera - or, as Shun suggested, just let the camera flash the lens directly, although that's probably going to be less convenient for those with older bodies.
  13. It is possible that the so-called "firmware" upgrade also requires a circuit board to be replaced inside the lens. This is what some users of the 300 PF report Nikon service had to do to fix the VR. So perhaps even Nikon can't do the required changes without opening the lens up. Of course, I don't know if this particular firmware upgrade on the 200-500 is like the one in the 300 PF.
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    As Wouter pointed out earlier, starting from the SB-900 flash, Nikon has the capability to upgrade the firmware inside the SB-900 through the camera body. Recall that Nikon introduced the SB-900 on July 1, 2008, simultaneously with the D700.
    This is Nikon's description from 2008. Back then, the D3 and D700 were "current" DSLRs:

    The latest firmware can be downloaded from our website to a memory card and SB-900 firmware updated while mounted on a Nikon digital-SLR camera with the memory card inserted.​
    Now some 7 years later, if changing the firmware for lens in 2015 means physically replacing some memory chip inside the lens, that would be a really retarded design. If that is indeed the case, I sure hope that Nikon will come up with something better soon.

    Concerning Sigma, their situation is different as Sigma is limited by not having cooperation from the camera body side, and they also need to deal with different brands of camera bodies. Therefore, it makes sense for Sigma to build the capability inside the lens only.

    For Nikon, technically, they can let the user fine tune AF at different focual lengths for zooms and also at different focusing distances. Just take the 200-500mm zoom as an example, if you fine tune at 200mm, 300mm, 400mm, and 500mm as well as focusing to (1) closest, (2) Mid distance, and (3) infinity, all of a sudden you need to fine tune at 4x3 = 12 different setting combinations. I wonder how many people have that find of patience, especially if one has 3, 4 different camera bodies. The effort literally multiplies.

    P.S. Recall that Nikon started shipping the 200-500mm in Asia around September 5:
    I would imagine that Nikon wasn't aware of this issue by September 17 when they started shipping this lens in large numbers in Europe and North America as otherwise they should have postponed the shipment. Overall, from then to coming up with a firmware fix and posting the service advisory on October 6, Nikon is very quick (less than 3 weeks). I kind of doubt that they could manufacture or just program a bunch of replacement IC chips so quickly. This really should have been an user-upgradable feature.
  15. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Over on DPReview, Bill Ferris posted about how he reproduced the problem:
    I'll make another attempt to reproduce the problem. However, since the is merely a minor issue, I would suggest let others send their lenses back to Nikon for firmware upgrade; we'll see how long the trun-around time is and how effective the fix is. Unless you have some important shoot in a month, I think it pays to wait 2, 3 weeks.
  16. I ordered a 200-500 from B&H on Sept 30 and will be interested to see if I receive it before Christmas. These sorts of things will really slow down a product pipeline. The last 20 years of my career was spent doing CPU validation (ensuring correct functionality, basically trying to find fault at any level with a part), which is as critical as any other stage in product development. Historically, a CPU would receive 1+ year of validation performed by an entire department.
    I'm not trying to jump all over Nikon, but it is a bit bewildering to see 2 such cool new lenses offered (300 f/4 VR, 200-500) only to be mired in seemingly simple to detect QC issues immediately out of the gate.
    There, I'm done ... now to wait patiently. :)
  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Greg, that is the big difference between hardware and software. Microsoft software is notorious to be of poor quality, but they grow to be the biggest software company on earth and makes Bill Gates a huge fortune. With the internet, it is now easy to push fixes to the customers' computer. People may think Apple has a great reputation, but if you track the recent release of iOS9:
    1. iOS9 was introduced on September 16.
    2. Apple released 9.0.1 on September 23.
    3. 9.0.2 on September 30
    Essentially Apple needs to release a patch every week in the early stages, including some potential security issue. However, as an iPhone, iPad user, you simply download the new firmware via wifi and reboot. It takes 5, 10 minutes or so and is quite painless.
    Nikon's problem is that a software/firmware patch which should have been very simple requires the procedure of a hardware fix, shipping the entire lens back to Nikon and let a technician to fix it. Even though Nikon pays for shipping, it is very annoying to the customer and costly for Nikon.
    I am less familiar with the VR problem on the 300mm PF, but as far as I know not everybody experienced that problem and you merely lose a couple of stops of VR on D8xx bodies at some shutter speeds. The lens is still functional. What is not good in that case was that it took Nikon a couple of months to come up with a fix. My initial concern was that PF was new technology to Nikon and decided to wait. That decision paid off but for a totally different reason. PF turns out to be fine, but the problem is VR.
    Concerning the 200-500mm AF issue, it is subtle. I still haven't been able to produce it on purpose. For two weeks there was essentially no complaint on various forums until Nikon publishes a service advisory.
    Clearly the 200-500mm is a major bargain for those who want a long tele. It looks like Nikon is making it in large numbers. I think as soon as Nikon updates the firmware on the current inventory, they will ship them quickly. There maybe some initial shortage, but I don't think the wait will be too long.
    What I don't want to see is that if Nikon discovers another firmware bug and needs to fix it, and all the lenses in the field will have to go back to Nikon again. That kind of inefficiency is insane in 2015.
  18. My 200-500 order from B&H has finally shipped yesterday. Just thought I would post that for anyone else who may have an order pending. My order was entered on 9-30 and shipped 10-21.
  19. My 200-500 order from B&H has finally shipped yesterday. Just thought I would post that for anyone else who may have an order pending. My order was entered on 9-30 and shipped 10-21.​
    Mine was ordered from B&H on Oct 8, and was shipped Oct 21. It'll get to me on Oct 26 when I'm out of town for a week :(
    Fortunately my wife will be home on Monday.

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