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Warranties on Expensive Astro Cameras (Vent)

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#1 GeneralT001

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Posted 10 December 2019 - 11:00 PM

How is it that high end camera manufactures can get away with a 1yr warranty on a camera that can costs close to 10K? I'm having another (yet another) issue with my FLI ML16200, which required yet another shipping back to FLI and I will probably be out of pocket for the repair? The camera is 15 months old for petes sake! It seems a bit much for something that may have 100 hrs of actual use on it? I mean if the thing just shorts out on its own - why wouldn't the company bend over backwards to make it right? Or if the **** shutter won't close all the way or if yet another board needs replacing? What is the point of that warranty really? I mean for most people the camera will work fine for at least that first year.

 

This is a camera thats been babied and has only been used inside an observatory. Has FLI become less than a top tier camera maker and should I be expecting more from them. I am some what annoyed at this point. Let alone the repair costs but the shipping/insurance and time wasted on these repairs are significant.


 

#2 John Tucker

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Posted 10 December 2019 - 11:18 PM

Stuff like this helps. Its a small community of relative high-spenders.  Word gets around. 


 

#3 TOMDEY

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Posted 10 December 2019 - 11:34 PM

Just the nature of high-end stuff... cars, mounts, cameras, computers... We used lots of FLIs at work and kept spares so production wouldn't hiccough in the event one got dropped or whatever. Same thing with interferometers, laser-trackers... Always had backups, and even got some of our techs trained and certified to perform warranty maintenance in the field. Granted, at peak, we had three hundred interferometers, industrial environment, and all.

 

For avocational onesies, it's a different ballgame, and I sympathize. FLI is a good, responsive vendor, though. Just get in the queue and things will be fine.

 

They fixed a couple of my personal ones and they still are running fine... over a decade later!    Tom


 

#4 GeneralT001

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Posted 10 December 2019 - 11:37 PM

Yeah, well for 10K I can almost buy a car with a 5 yrs warranty.


 

#5 v3ngence

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 11:14 AM

Sorry for your trouble, I agree a 1 year warranty is concerning, even QHY and ZWO offer 2 year warranties!

We use a couple of QHY9S's at work to do near IR imaging. Our cameras are literally hard mounted in a dark room and nobody touches or moves them after setup.

Having worked with them extensively over the years, I now would never buy a camera with a mechanical shutter! They seem to use the cheapest little motor for the shutter, and it invariably stops working after a year or two.

After 2 or 3 full camera replacements, what I did was open up the cameras and actually physically tape the shutter open, and then increase the exposure time to drown out the extra exposure during the read out process.

It's a ridiculous solution to a problem that should never existed in the first place, but the images look good, and they have been working longer with the shutter taped open then any previous QHY9S's we have had!

 

20191022-165244.jpg


Edited by v3ngence, 11 December 2019 - 11:25 AM.

 

#6 GeneralT001

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Posted 12 December 2019 - 02:11 PM

I don't understand how keeping the shutter open and increasing exposure time works together..but I trust you on it smile.gif

 

According to FLI the shutter motor is indeed burnt out and "your shutter is seriously damaged"?? Not sure why the shutter would be damaged just because of a burnt out motor? But I have had those "lollipop" stars due to the shutter not closing properly for quite some time and I guess that might be part of the issue. Kinda bugs me that FLIs solution to this issue was to just send me instructions on how to take the camera apart and try and adjust the tensioning spring for the shutter - like I'm going to be comfortable fiddling around with this expensive camera?? They need to resolve the shutter issue as I am not the only one who has had this issue.

 

lollipops.jpg


 

#7 hungerford

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 02:15 AM

Very interesting point the 1 year warranty as in Europe the minimum warranty period for goods such as this is 2 years. I wonder hoe the company can explain this discrepancy between both countries.

interesting article about it.

https://www.theguard...oods-guaranteed


 

#8 Astrojedi

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 04:48 PM

Unacceptable issues imo for a $10k camera. You pay that kind of money for quality which is obviously missing here. Sounds like poor design and/or QC.


 

#9 rockstarbill

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 06:54 PM

My issue here is that this is the third problem you have run into with the same camera, of which you have already sent in for warranty repair once (now twice). At that point, I would think the onus is on the manufacturer to provide a working copy of the camera, as it is quite clear this one is a dud.


 

#10 GeneralT001

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 07:42 PM

Heres hoping. I, personally, would like to see that camera inspected throughout - from A to Z - every component on its boards - every parameter. I would also hope that they do not plan on billing me for repairs (heres hoping again). As well, given what this camera has already gone through and the expectation that it will be thoroughly diagnosed - it should be returned to me as a new camera with a fresh 1 yr warranty. Is that asking too much?


 

#11 Swanny

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Posted 13 December 2019 - 09:15 PM

My issue here is that this is the third problem you have run into with the same camera, of which you have already sent in for warranty repair once (now twice). At that point, I would think the onus is on the manufacturer to provide a working copy of the camera, as it is quite clear this one is a dud.


I agree with Rockstar. I had issues with a QHY and received a new camera eventually when it kept crapping out. That is what should happen here.
 

#12 OldManSky

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Posted 14 December 2019 - 03:02 PM

Yeah, well for 10K I can almost buy a car with a 5 yrs warranty.

Yes, except...the warranty only covers manufacturing defects, and doesn't cover anything related to wear & tear, etc.  So if your tranny craps out after 3 years due to wear on the gears, and that's just how it wears, and isn't a manufacturing defect, you're still on the hook for the repairs.

 

And that's something that's important to note about warranties:  they pretty much only ever cover manufacturing defects.  They don't cover anything else.  So if the camera was "at spec" when it left the factory, but even "normal use" in cold temps and with dew/moisture affecting it after 15 months causing something to fail, the warranty isn't going to cover it.  Warranties are for manufacturing defects, not for things wearing out or failing because of normal use.

 

Should FLI (or any other camera maker) do their best to insure that parts/electronics DON'T fail over time during normal use?  Of course they should.  They often do, but sometimes stuff still wears out/has problems.  Should they do their best to cover those kinds of repairs to keep customers happy?  Of course they should.  But the warranty isn't involved in that case, since they're not manufacturing defects...customer service is.  And, like cars, the high-priced, more "finely tuned" stuff tends to wear out faster and need more maintenance/fixing, even though such things aren't covered by the warranty.  It seems to be the cost of ownership of high-performance stuff.


 

#13 rockstarbill

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Posted 14 December 2019 - 03:24 PM

Yes, except...the warranty only covers manufacturing defects, and doesn't cover anything related to wear & tear, etc.  So if your tranny craps out after 3 years due to wear on the gears, and that's just how it wears, and isn't a manufacturing defect, you're still on the hook for the repairs.

 

And that's something that's important to note about warranties:  they pretty much only ever cover manufacturing defects.  They don't cover anything else.  So if the camera was "at spec" when it left the factory, but even "normal use" in cold temps and with dew/moisture affecting it after 15 months causing something to fail, the warranty isn't going to cover it.  Warranties are for manufacturing defects, not for things wearing out or failing because of normal use.

 

Should FLI (or any other camera maker) do their best to insure that parts/electronics DON'T fail over time during normal use?  Of course they should.  They often do, but sometimes stuff still wears out/has problems.  Should they do their best to cover those kinds of repairs to keep customers happy?  Of course they should.  But the warranty isn't involved in that case, since they're not manufacturing defects...customer service is.  And, like cars, the high-priced, more "finely tuned" stuff tends to wear out faster and need more maintenance/fixing, even though such things aren't covered by the warranty.  It seems to be the cost of ownership of high-performance stuff.

He has already sent this camera back though for critical faults, unrelated to "normal use". The shutter motor burning out this quickly is not a fault of the user either. This car analogy here just does not fit what the OP's experience has been. A Lemon Law case is more like it.


 

#14 rgsalinger

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Posted 14 December 2019 - 05:45 PM

The thing about FLI cameras is that you pay a lot of money compared to other brands and then you expect that it will work better and last longer. In this case, there is clearly something wrong. I would expect that FLI will not charge to fix it. I'll eat my hat if they do. (I have a lot of chocolate hats for that purpose.)

 

At the same time I think I'd be doing a full inspection of my observatory if my camera broke 3 times in 15 months. I've had my share of broken cameras - SBIG, QHY, ZWO all have crapped out in me at one time or another. Each time I tried to make sure that it was simply a bad camera and now low voltage (measured under load) or water/humidity damage or (gasp) rodents/insects.

 

Since these failures are apparently all different then maybe it's just a busted camera. I think I'd also ask for a replacement.

 

Rgrds-Ross


 

#15 GeneralT001

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Posted 14 December 2019 - 08:03 PM

The thing about FLI cameras is that you pay a lot of money compared to other brands and then you expect that it will work better and last longer. In this case, there is clearly something wrong. I would expect that FLI will not charge to fix it. I'll eat my hat if they do. (I have a lot of chocolate hats for that purpose.)

 

At the same time I think I'd be doing a full inspection of my observatory if my camera broke 3 times in 15 months. I've had my share of broken cameras - SBIG, QHY, ZWO all have crapped out in me at one time or another. Each time I tried to make sure that it was simply a bad camera and now low voltage (measured under load) or water/humidity damage or (gasp) rodents/insects.

 

Since these failures are apparently all different then maybe it's just a busted camera. I think I'd also ask for a replacement.

 

Rgrds-Ross

I understand your thoughts.

 

But, as I noted, its only been in an observatory, never outside unprotected. It is a dome observatory and I have never had any dew inside the dome...which is amazing since I am in the PNW!! As well, I may have about 100 hrs of use on the camera...not exactly putting it through its paces so to speak :)


 

#16 rockstarbill

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Posted 14 December 2019 - 08:30 PM

I understand your thoughts.

 

But, as I noted, its only been in an observatory, never outside unprotected. It is a dome observatory and I have never had any dew inside the dome...which is amazing since I am in the PNW!! As well, I may have about 100 hrs of use on the camera...not exactly putting it through its paces so to speak smile.gif

Can confirm, he is in the PNW (not far from me as the bird flies) and weather has been horrid since he got it. There is no way he over-used the camera. 


 

#17 jhayes_tucson

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 12:45 AM

I can understand the frustration over stuff like this; however, I had a completely different experience when I sent my ML16803 in for a checkup after I suspected problems with it.  FLI bent over backwards to test it and in the end they replaced a board just to make 100% sure that there wasn't a problem.  I had to pay a very reasonable fee for their service along with the shipping but I went away feeling like the service was well done and that I was treated fairly.  I hope that your experience isn't caused by any changes in their service department since I had my camera serviced.  You are right; these are expensive cameras and it's reasonable to expect world class support--along with a 2-year warranty policy.

 

As for shutters, I agree that physical shutters can be problematic since they are mechanical devices.  There are some distinct advantages to having a camera with a mechanical shutter, but there's no doubt that at some point the shutter will fail.  One nice thing about the FLI design is that the shutter is pretty easy to replace when it fails.  They spec a long lifetime shutter so if yours has failed after light use, that's simply bad luck.

 

John


 

#18 GeneralT001

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 01:39 AM

I can understand the frustration over stuff like this; however, I had a completely different experience when I sent my ML16803 in for a checkup after I suspected problems with it.  FLI bent over backwards to test it and in the end they replaced a board just to make 100% sure that there wasn't a problem.  I had to pay a very reasonable fee for their service along with the shipping but I went away feeling like the service was well done and that I was treated fairly.  I hope that your experience isn't caused by any changes in their service department since I had my camera serviced.  You are right; these are expensive cameras and it's reasonable to expect world class support--along with a 2-year warranty policy.

 

As for shutters, I agree that physical shutters can be problematic since they are mechanical devices.  There are some distinct advantages to having a camera with a mechanical shutter, but there's no doubt that at some point the shutter will fail.  One nice thing about the FLI design is that the shutter is pretty easy to replace when it fails.  They spec a long lifetime shutter so if yours has failed after light use, that's simply bad luck.

 

John

I wish my problems were suspected (and I do have some suspicions about the quality of the images that the camera was producing regardless of the actual physical failures of the camera). I can see where a charge would be reasonable in your case as the decision to change the board appears to have been an option and not a necessity - I'd have done the same thing as I find it hard to tolerate that nagging suspicion that something isn't 100%, when it comes to imaging. I am hopeful that FLI will go over this camera with a fine tooth comb and return it to me "as new" with their sincerest apologies and best wishes. So far, from my experiences dealing with them, I have no reason to expect anything else.


 

#19 bortle2

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 09:01 AM

I had a completely different experience when I sent my ML16803 in for a checkup after I suspected problems with it.  FLI bent over backwards to test it and in the end they replaced a board just to make 100% sure that there wasn't a problem.

John, I do not think your personal experience is relevant in the context of this thread. You are a high-profile figure in the world of astro-imaging, so I'm not surprised one bit FLI did bend over backwards to fix your camera. Question is, what is an average Joe to expect.

 

To illustrate... Regular photography market is undergoing massive contraction for more than three years now, and Nikon just announced it stops support of all 15 authorized repair centers in the US, leaving only two of their own. Nikon users' support hadn't been great lately, to say the least, now it might as well be total cr@p. Details can be found in Thom Hogan's article. Thom, personally, sees none of it; this is what he had to say:

 

I've had very good service from NikonUSA. They know who I am and how many of you read what I write: I'm pretty sure that my servicings get special handling within Melville.

 

I also remember that when the front of a Hasselblad lens owned by Michael Reichmann fell off (literally!) during Michael's trip to Africa, Hasselblad immediately flew a replacement there (yes, to Africa)! That lens BTW was less expensive then ML16200; a few grands. Now, not every photographer knew who Michael was (and when he passed away several years ago many guys at DPReview were asking why the hell are there threads about it and what's the big deal), but those who shot MF did. So yeah, while both Hasselblad's QA and service were pretty crappy already, they did bend over for MR. These days, they are a pale shadow of the company that sent their cameras to the Moon, a niche player owned by DJI (drone manufacturer).

 

Frankly, I do not even think that GeneralT001's eventual experience will be telling -- after this exposure at CN, as I bet FLI guys read CN. I would.

 

Finally, all these anecdotes aside, I was very surprised to learn FLI provides only one year of warranty period. This is not what I'd expect from a premium manufacturer, at all. Especially given that QHY and ZWO give two-year warranties (though QHY clarifies that Kodak/OnSemi sensors are covered by one year manufacturer's warranty, while Sony sensors are covered for two years; everything else in the camera, save USB cables, is subject to two-year warranty; I wasn't able to find details of ZWO warranty policy).


 

#20 jhayes_tucson

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 05:17 PM

John, I do not think your personal experience is relevant in the context of this thread. You are a high-profile figure in the world of astro-imaging, so I'm not surprised one bit FLI did bend over backwards to fix your camera. Question is, what is an average Joe to expect.

 

...

 

lol.gif lol.gif lol.gif

 

I wish!  I don't think that the folks at FLI know me from Adam.  I'm pretty sure that I'm just another schmuck on their customer list.  

 

Before I returned my camera, I sent them a fairly detailed analysis of the problem along with a list of things that I had done to test and isolate the problem.  They were unable to reproduce the problem but they bent over backwards to try to reproduce what I was seeing.  They even replaced a board just to make sure. The whole affair cost a lot of time (over two months,) but the costs were pretty reasonable.  In the end, I concluded that the problem may have been ultimately caused by my ZWO camera somehow interfering with the USB bus.

 

I share your concern about future support for these cameras.  This is a small market and I doubt that any of the companies are awash in profits so they probably can't provide significant resources to support.  In my companies, we provided both extended warranty options and service contracts for our products.  I wonder how may amateurs would buy-in to those kinds of options for high-end AP cameras?

 

John


 

#21 Jon Rista

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 09:46 PM

The thing about FLI cameras is that you pay a lot of money compared to other brands and then you expect that it will work better and last longer. In this case, there is clearly something wrong. I would expect that FLI will not charge to fix it. I'll eat my hat if they do. (I have a lot of chocolate hats for that purpose.)

 

At the same time I think I'd be doing a full inspection of my observatory if my camera broke 3 times in 15 months. I've had my share of broken cameras - SBIG, QHY, ZWO all have crapped out in me at one time or another. Each time I tried to make sure that it was simply a bad camera and now low voltage (measured under load) or water/humidity damage or (gasp) rodents/insects.

 

Since these failures are apparently all different then maybe it's just a busted camera. I think I'd also ask for a replacement.

 

Rgrds-Ross

I'm right here with Ross. Three failures in barely more than a year, and I would suspect more than just a manufacturing defect, especially if it was sent back once already.

 

I would check power...poor quality power can sometimes wreak havoc on sensitive electronic components. I would also check moisture levels, especially if you use the camera near the coast (Nanaimo, BC is right on the coast as far as I can see). But double check your power. Look at the signal. Or have someone come out and check your power for you. Make sure you don't have really noisy power or something like that. I would also check for other power problems...over the years here I've seen more than a few threads about ground loops and the like that have caused people many a problem.

 

And I would check regardless of what FLI says in the long run. If they ultimately claim responsibility (which could be due to it actually being a product defect...but could also be due to this very thread and an attempt to safe face with the community), that does not necessarily mean that you do not potentially have an external problem. If you DO, and they DO send you a brand spankin new camera with another 1 year warranty...it ain't going to matter. If you've got a power problem or a ground loop or something, you could be burning out another shutter motor in 6 months... 


Edited by Jon Rista, 15 December 2019 - 09:47 PM.

 

#22 GeneralT001

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 01:23 AM

I'm right here with Ross. Three failures in barely more than a year, and I would suspect more than just a manufacturing defect, especially if it was sent back once already.

 

I would check power...poor quality power can sometimes wreak havoc on sensitive electronic components. I would also check moisture levels, especially if you use the camera near the coast (Nanaimo, BC is right on the coast as far as I can see). But double check your power. Look at the signal. Or have someone come out and check your power for you. Make sure you don't have really noisy power or something like that. I would also check for other power problems...over the years here I've seen more than a few threads about ground loops and the like that have caused people many a problem.

 

And I would check regardless of what FLI says in the long run. If they ultimately claim responsibility (which could be due to it actually being a product defect...but could also be due to this very thread and an attempt to safe face with the community), that does not necessarily mean that you do not potentially have an external problem. If you DO, and they DO send you a brand spankin new camera with another 1 year warranty...it ain't going to matter. If you've got a power problem or a ground loop or something, you could be burning out another shutter motor in 6 months... 

So what would you use to check the quality of the power...a simple volt meter??


 

#23 bugbit

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 02:03 AM

Something like this would be a great start.

 

 

https://www.amazon.c...a-search&sr=8-7

 

Once, my brothers house had a sketch connection on one of the hot leads and it ended up destroying all his electronic gear (tv,stereo,etc).


Edited by bugbit, 16 December 2019 - 02:06 AM.

 

#24 GeneralT001

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 02:21 AM

Something like this would be a great start.

 

 

https://www.amazon.c...a-search&sr=8-7

 

Once, my brothers house had a sketch connection on one of the hot leads and it ended up destroying all his electronic gear (tv,stereo,etc).

I do have one of those already. I was thinking more along the lines of a "line conditioner" type thing?


 

#25 bortle2

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Posted 16 December 2019 - 03:40 AM

I wonder how may amateurs would buy-in to those kinds of options for high-end AP cameras?

I might be one. It would depend upon how close a service outlet is to me though.

 

Three failures in barely more than a year, and I would suspect more than just a manufacturing defect, especially if it was sent back once already.

I'd agree that that's a possibility, but by no means a requirement. OP's camera could be malfunctioning as described because of a manufacturing defect alone; in fact, this would be my first guess.

 

I bought Canon 5D (original) a bit more than a year after it was released for some $3,300. A year and a half later it died -- just turned into a brick in the middle of the shoot. I handed it to Canon's service center, and they spent 2 months repairing it -- it was motherboard failure.

 

Lo and behold, it then died second time just few weeks past the 2-year warranty period... A second trip to the service center, and a revelation: due to either Canon policies or local legislation, warranty period extends for the duration of servicing! WOW, my 5D turned out to still be covered by warranty. Moreover, inspection (that took another week or so) revealed that the failure was the same as first time: motherboard failure. Second similar failure formally classifies as "can't be fixed" (again, no idea if it's Canon's policy or local legislation), so I also had an option to either get a replacement, or a full refund. 5D mark II was already announced, so I opted for the latter, and then bought 5Dm2 with the money I got for my broken 5D.

 

Moral of the story (for me, anyway): a) cameras do break because of manufacturing defects well after one year; b) you do not need to "help" it to break: I for one used Canon batteries, handled the camera well etc.; c) extended warranties may help customers tremendously, and they may be very costly for the manufacturer. But, all in all, I do consider two year warranty a must for any camera other than maybe a webcam.


Edited by bortle2, 16 December 2019 - 03:56 AM.

 


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