Random Rant #87

Time for another random rant. I'll stick to my main theme, though: camera designers don't use cameras

The other day I came across a forum post by someone who wanted to rant about Nikon's lens hoods. That poster believed that all lens hoods should have a lock mechanism on them. One of the responses down the thread ranted the opposite: that he "hated" Nikon's hood locks. 

Both viewpoints are valid, but they're both missing the point. 

The point is that Nikon's designers and engineers can't possibly be using their products in the field, otherwise neither of those users would be complaining. Some Nikon lens hoods don't lock and are easily dislodged or fall off in the heat of photographic battle. Others have a lock that is disguised in the same black as the hood, not easily found, is fiddly to use, and in a few cases, easy to break. Heck, Nikon's been using the same screw lock on their exotic lens hoods for decades despite having to fix and replace many of them, and the continued anger from users who find them problematic (some of these locks even tilt the hood awkwardly when tightened down). And let's not get started with what you have to do if you have a polarizing filter in place with the hood not allowing you to access it.

With the bayonet lens hoods that are most common these days, three variations seem to exist: (1) lock in place with a release button required to remove; (2) snap into place with a click; or (3) rotate until it stops and assume it's on. #3 variations tend to fall off or get askew very easily. #2 variations come in a variety of "snaps," with some engaging clearly, others far less so. And #1 versions vary in how well the release button can be found and used (and some locks are easily broken).

Also on my list regarding the lens hoods are the markings. Often they make no sense or are very difficult to see. In some cases, there are no alignment dots, or they're not painted. And if you're going to put an O marking on the hood, is it so difficult to make that an O> so that the user can see which way it unlocks? Not every camera user is using their camera every day like some of us pros, so they just might not have that "clockwise off" thing in their muscle memory.

And then there's this: yesterday I got the message that the lens I acquired eight months ago finally now has an available lens hood that has shipped and in stock (18-140mm f/3.5-6.3's HB-101). Apparently Nikon is fine with me getting less than optimal results for eight months while they figure out how to make a poor piece of plastic.

I should point out that the supplied lens hood for the Nikon 28-75mm f/2.8 doesn't have any of these faults I'm writing about, though the little white alignment dots can be difficult to see, and the O should be an O>. It snaps into place with certainty and doesn't dislodge, and it does have white markings I can see. Thus, it's clear that Nikon can make a decent lens hood and have it available day one when they want to, it's just that they don't want to most of the time.

Nikon isn't alone in this "didn't really put any effort into the lens hood" problem. A Laowa lens I'm reviewing comes with a lens hood. It's a #3 variation, and the hood has misaligned and fallen off multiple times in my testing. Something that even rudimentary testing should have told them would happen.

It's not like there's rocket science involved here. You'd think that if you can get it right once, you'd just get it right all the time. But, no, that's not what happens at all. Some Junior engineer given the task of creating two cents worth of plastic seems to think that their duty is to save a fraction of a cent, try something different, not check with users to see what works and what doesn't, and then doesn't get their assignment done in time to ship with the lens. Too much time at the Sake bar, I guess. 

I'm going to state it bluntly: if you want me to care about your brand, you need to care about my use of your product

Over the course of more than a decade (!), I've pointed out that Nikon camera owners were sampling, leaking, and switching to competitor brands. I've even measured that. In Nikon's case, their loss of unit volume easily exceeds 5% due to these three customer actions, and it partially explains why their market share has dropped from second to third in interchangeable lens cameras. The good news for Nikon is that their competitors manage to not get things completely right, either, otherwise Nikon would have lost even more customers.

And I'm just writing about lens hoods here! Heaven knows how long this rant would be if I extended it to all of the things that are similarly poor in our current cameras and lenses. The list would be endless, and I'd still be typing when I die...

So, camera makers listen up: many of the things you're getting wrong are so easily fixed that I have to believe that you just don't care. And if you don't care about those things, I have to wonder what else you don't care about. That doesn't make me a loyal customer. It makes me a paranoid customer with little allegiance. The Japanese companies are getting what they deserve: little loyalty and no urgent feeling that customers need to upgrade to discover what new things got botched or what old things weren't fixed. 

I have to think that if the folk designing and engineering camera products were actually using them, they wouldn't tolerate these simple and clear failures. 


Bonus: did anyone ever figure out in Japan that we don't need a different hood for every lens made? Apparently not. There's an unspoken implication that the hood that comes with a lens is the "best possible" hood in terms of shading the front element properly. I haven't actually found that to be true. What seems to be happening is that the designers simply run some sort of long-used generic calculation to come up with petal/barrel, and how much. Worse still, we have differing bayonets and bayonet sizes, so even if you could use hood #1 with lens #2, you can't. And the thought of an adjustable lens hood? Oh my, why would a user want that?

Okay, I'm foaming at the mouth now and need a break. /RANT OFF

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