My problem and its resolution
Even in the best samples, early buyers report that the image will jump to the side during some focusing actions, and that using the manual focus ring has the same effect. The front unit does not feel secure, and if you walk along, the lens emits a slightly clunking noise as if the barrels are able to move a bit. At least, this was the case with my first TWO samples. I returned the first lens to Warehousexpress – see below – and they sent my two replacements in error. This was fortunate, because the first one I opened had the same symptoms as the original. Since going to press with this report, I have been able to make some reassessment, on the basis of the third sample, which I opened after explaining the situation to Warehousexpress. This one proved totally different. The zoom mechanism was not lumpy in any way – dead smooth – and the AF actuation did not make the image twitch sideways in the finder. The zoom did not ‘lump into place’ at 80mm (my only way to describe this) and then resist zooming out without first requiring a millimetre of slack to be taken up, during which it put the image out of focus. This was what happened with both the first two lenses tried. The third one was perfect.
Since my purchase had taken a slight knock in transit, I suspected it was damaged initially. But a week of corresponding with other new buyers on Internet confirmed that varying levels of slop, focus shift when the zoom ring is touched, image position shift during focusing and poor response to manual focus occur with this rather expensive lens (RRP well over £500).
Two weeks into shooting, and the tolerances had got worse. It became impossible to zoom back from 80mm without the image going out of focus and needing a new AF-initiation, and the biting crispness I had observed in the first images was replaced at random by a visibly poor centering of the groups. This gives even a sharp image a slight directional quality. Warehouseexpress agreed immediately to take the lens back and provide a new replacement, also taking on board my comments about the packaging used, which surprised their operator. With six lenses due in and six on backorder, mine was not going to be immediate. I did not opt for a repair under warranty as I don’t believe any repair service is capable of returning a lens of this quality in precisely the same state as a perfect new one. These optics are too complex to centre, collimate and test in a repair environment.
This was the point at which I wrote this original article, and I don’t have the ability to hold a magazine back from the press for an indefinite time to recap my comments. The web, in truth, is a far superior medium for reviews because we can update findings and perhaps even change an opinion (sacrilege!). The printed article is fair to our Photoworld readers because it warns that a lens proved unsatisfactory and had to be sent back. What’s unfair is that it does not go on to record that one out of two replacements offered had identical faults. Of course, I am now happy. I have a lens which feels (and sounds when gently agitated like a developing tank!) perfect. Sony should not be happy; I reviewed a real purchased lens, not a loan sample. Had I been sent a loan sample, and found the fault, I would probably have reported it immediately and discussed the problem. But my readers don’t get that opportunity. Like me, they have recourse to their dealer first, and persuading some dealers over the counter that the faults I found were significant could be surprisingly hard. Warehouseexpress behaved explemplarily, and it only took them three days to send my replacement, despite the back order situation; also, they used just the same packaging method. As for their despatch system, I hope they use a good audit trail. Would you have kept the second lens and said nothing?
I prefer to avoid visits from Mr Plod...
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