The Broken Camera Story

Old 5D before the mirror fell off
Old 5D before the mirror fell off

I mentioned in an earlier post about having broken my camera while in Nova Scotia.  Here’s the story.

We were driving around the Grand Pre’ valley late one afternoon, doing some sightseeing in the beautiful light that was so common there.  Driving down a country road, Kathy – the eagle-eyed eagle spotter – spotted this bald eagle perched atop a telephone pole.  I slowed way down to see if I could get a place to pull off, but there were ditches on both sides of the road, and the road was lined with rows of corn, so there was not a lot of choice.

Fortunately, I chanced upon a tractor path that I was able to back into, which gave Bill on the passenger side of the van a good shot out the window.  My camera, of course, was in the back of the van.  Keeping the van between me and the eagle, I was able to work my way around the back, open the door without causing too much of a fuss, and assemble my 70-200 and 2X teleconverter.  He was still a long way off, but that was all I had.

5D Mark III after swapping cameras
5D Mark III after swapping cameras

I’m not sure why I decided to put my old 5D on this lens setup.  I was probably thinking that I didn’t need to use 22 megapixels on what would probably amount to a bunch of sleepy eagle photos, and that 12 megapixels would be plenty.  I just don’t remember.  So, by my count I had taken 34 sleepy eagle photos, he was just sitting there, posing and looking cool.  He would occasionally turn his head to one side or another, but that was about it.  Zzzzzz….

Who turned out the lights? This frame is when the mirror fell of
Who turned out the lights? This frame is when the mirror fell of

On the 35th frame, the camera made a strange clunking sound.  It sounded like the shutter was still open, since I didn’t hear the mirror return to its usual position.  The camera sounded like I had used mirror lockup, just a lot louder.  I turned the camera off, and the mirror – or at least the mirror mechanism – finally came back down.  Looking through the viewfinder it was immediately apparent what happened, but I wasn’t exactly sure why or what was going to happen next.  The mirror had become separated from the mirror-holder-thingie that it attaches to.

The eagle took pity on me and gave me time to swap camera bodies
The eagle took pity on me and gave me time to swap camera bodies

Kathy and our friends up front were still marveling at the eagle and our amazing fortune to find it with such a great place to watch, and I was standing in back of the van saying, “umm, guys?  My camera just broke.”  Fortunately I had the presence of mind to pull off the old body and put my new one on.  Of course all the time I knew the eagle was going to fly off while I didn’t have a working camera in my hands.  Fortunately, he was kind enough to wait for me, and allowed me to get another dozen or so shots off before he flew off.  And I got a couple of decent flight photos.  No prize-winners, but considering the circumstances, not too shabby.

The eagle took pity on me and gave me time to swap camera bodies
The eagle took pity on me and gave me time to swap camera bodies

After I returned home, I packaged the camera up and sent it off to Canon Professional Services for evaluation.  A few days later I received an e-mail stating that they are going to repair the camera at no charge, calling it an “in-warranty repair.”  A friend of mine asked me if it was covered for a period of time or a number of shutter actuations.  I told him that it was covered under an “ain’t suppose to happen” warranty.  I’m still waiting for it to come back, but I expect it shortly.

So that’s the story of the broken camera.  Hopefully there will be a happy ending in a few days.

The eagle took pity on me and gave me time to swap camera bodies
The eagle took pity on me and gave me time to swap camera bodies

14 thoughts on “The Broken Camera Story”

  1. An interesting story about a mixed bag of good and bad timing. Still very nice shots. I hope your camera comes back good as ever. Well, better, actually.

    1. Thanks, Anita. I’m looking forward to getting it back. It may not be worth a lot in dollars, but it’s an old friend. By my best estimate I’ve “only” put about 30,000 frames on it, so it should have plenty left. A lot like me! 🙂

      1. I hope you are as fortunate as I was with my 20D. The shutter button died at about 11 months and two weeks and Canon replaced it. About three months ago, I finally decided to let it go. Felt I couldn’t keep every camera-some had to go. The new owner is very happy and the old 20D is still going strong.

        1. I’ve still got my 20D but it doesn’t live in my camera bag any more. I decided to hang on to it as a relic. Although it’s fun to throw a Holga lens on it and bump the ISO to 3200 just for kicks. That reminds me, I need to do that again…. 🙂

  2. Canon might give your camera a decent tune up while they have it and it may even be better than new when you get it back. Great shots, by the way.

    1. I wondered about that, Ken. In fact, the whole process was relatively painless, to the point where I may send more of my gear in to be checked. I had never done that before. A friend of mine has cleaned my cameras, and I generally clean my own lenses. But they will do a lot more than I can do. Might be worth it! Glad you like the photos, too.

  3. What a great ending to the story, Tom, and some nice pictures to boot! I’m glad to hear that you’re covered under that “Ain’t supposed to happen” warranty. 30k actuations should be about 1/5 of the life. Good for Canon. Good for you!

  4. I know only too well, the clunking and grating sounds that come out of a breaking/broken camera but I am sure you will still get many more years out of your camera when it comes back from repairs.

    The last shot is excellent by the way.

  5. I can just imagine the feeling of hearing that sound. We get so tuned into what the normal sounds are like for our cameras. That would certainly be one of those ‘uh-oh’ moments. Great that Canon is taken care of it. I don’t think I have heard of a mirror falling off before, but I suppose it is logical it could be a point of failure being one of the few moving parts.

    1. The 5D has had a clunky shutter sound since the beginning. I remember that as being one of the most frequent comments when that camera first came out. I never owned a Mark II, but the Mark III has a much more – can’t describe it actually – “efficient” sound? It sounds more mechanically precise than the old 5D. I always characterized the original 5D as “this is the first time we’ve put a big honkin’ sensor and mirror in a small camera so it’s kinda noisy.” Probably wholly inaccurate but that’s how I felt about it then, and still do today!

      But after hearing the “right” sound for several thousand frames, it was pretty obvious something was wrong when that thing broke, that’s for sure!

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