Your most gut-wrenching story about your gear

A busted UV filter is cheaper to replace than the front element on my 17-35 mm zoom. This latest accident dented and tweaked the filter bad. Sometimes the damage can be so bad, you can’t even get the filter off.

When was the last time you heard that dreaded thud?

Until recently I’ve been super vigilant about my gear but the streak has ended.

The crappy strap on my Canon 40D slipped and the camera body and my wide angle zoom hit the tiled floor.

It’s a good thing the lens and the camera body survived unscathed.

Prior to this, I shattered a UV filter which was on my 50mm lens.

Just think, if I didn’t have one on. It would have been a $400 replacement.

I’ve never really baby’ed my equipment even back when I was working at the newspaper.

They provided the gear but I never, ever abused any of it.

Bottom line is, I’m the one who gets burned if I reach for it and it’s not working.

Not everyone has that attitude about gear.

Recently I saw how a former colleague of mine leave his camera with a 300mm f 2.8 lens out in the rain at a baseball game.

I looked at him. He mumbled something about  “Company gear..”

Before I arrived in the US, while I was still working with Singapore Airlines, I was in a shuttle bus which caught fire on its way to LAX.I started all over. That’s when I switched to Canon. Couldn’t bring myself to buy the same gear all over.

My entire Minolta system, 2 bodies and quite a few lenses were liquified.

So it’s your turn. I’m sure you have some stories to share. Post them under comments please.

I hope you’re not that cavalier about your equipment like this fellow. Thanks Stan Lim for sharing this picture.
Peter Phun Photography

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9 thoughts on “Your most gut-wrenching story about your gear”

  1. I was trying to carry too many things around my shoulder & my camera slipped & hit the pavement. Thank God for the filter. The glass shattered but stayed in the filter which was bent & I couldn’t remove it on location. I had to shoot with the broken glass. I was surprised that I was still able to get some decent shots and my assignment wasn’t a waste. There were some pretty interesting effects but I was able to do some post-processing to take care of much of it. I’m a firm believer in filters for all lenses (except my 50mm).

  2. Hi Jo,
    It’s always great to hear from you. Even after I get a piece of equipment home from repair, it still feels awful especially if it’s just cosmetic and there are scratches. We don’t want to admit but if we use our cameras that much, it is really an extension of ourselves and how we interact with our world.

    I’m sure digging out the old film camera on that occasion made you really think and be more methodical about how you set up your pictures that Christmas. Not a bad thing to do. When we ‘make’ so many images these days and not actually have anything physical just a bunch of 1’s and 0’s, we take the process for granted. Fast isn’t always better, look at the number of movies produced these days. 😛

  3. These stories make my heart thud. I dropped my camera and my favorite lens through sheer carelessness (I forget to zip the bag and when I picked it up the camera tumbled out). I live in India, seven hours from the nearest repair centre. My children were coming home for Christmas and I had been planning to document their every move. NOT. Instead, I had to resurrect my ancient film camera! It was a good experience in that it made me adopt a surgeon-like protocol: I am no longer allowed to leave my bag unzipped. I impose this IRON CLAD RULE on myself and have done so successfully now for three years.

    I can still hear that awful sound of camera hitting stone floor.

  4. Hi Hilary,
    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Not everyone needs to use a filter. It probably depends on each individual. If you don’t use a filter, then you should make sure to have the lens cap on the lens. Most folks, present company included, lose that lens cap within a week. That’s why I have a UV filter or something to protect the front element.
    I would also check those plastic tabs on the camera straps.They have been the cause of many accidents.

  5. Hi Paul,
    Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve been fortunate that the last newspaper I worked for provided all the gear. Even though they did that, I never abused gear. I would be the one in a world of hurt if I reached for a camera or lens and it failed me.

    I never had a film back open on me like that but I do know what you mean when you say ‘sick feeling’. Especially since you shot something like Spot News which can’t be done over.

    So I’m in the market for a 77mm UV filter now. Damn, they’re not cheap either. 🙁

  6. Jim,
    I have to remind myself it’s just gear and replaceable but isn’t that sound horrible? I don’t know what you paid for the 18-200, but I imagine it must have been a lot since the repair was a lot.

    As long as your D300 works, think of the scratches as character lines? I dropped a 400 f2.8 in the photo well of Dodger stadium once. I remember picking up the lens and looking through the viewfinder and seeing darkness. The entire helicoid broke off. Needless to say, I left early that evening. Thanks so much for sharing, Jim.

  7. So the lesson I’m getting as a non-professional is to use filters–if they don’t help my photography, they may protect my lenses from my clumsiness. Oh, and replace the plastic connectors that came with the factory strap. Thanks guys!

  8. I opened my car door and my camera came tumbling out. It was my 18-200mm lens landing on the hot asphalt face down on the glass with the weight of my D300 body pushing from its top. The glass itself was fine (I don’t use filters on my digital cameras), but the zoom mechanism was broken. $240 and six weeks in the shop before I got it back.

    Last week I was riding down the highway on my motorcycle at 70mph when I felt the strap on my D300 slipping. I clamped my arm down on the strap and grabbed it just as it hit the asphalt. It dragged for a second and I thought it had been ruined. I pulled over to check it and it just got scratched a bit on one corner. Still works fine.

  9. I’ve had a few bad incidences with my camera.

    First and foremost, though, Every paper I worked at required us to have our own gear. So I take great care of it.

    Worst one: With my F5 and 80-200. Following a report of a bank robbery at the ABC in Aspen, Colo., a writer and I headed to the scene. When we arrived, there were officers and deputies with AR-15s roaming the streets. I began shooting as 5 of them approached me and I knew I had a super good shot. As I neared the end of the film, I was walking back to the writer’s car and felt the camera strap (a Domke) begin slipping. I looked down just in time to see one of the loops fail and my camera crash to the ground with the back popping open.

    A sick feeling came over me as I saw the film being exposed to the full sun. I quickly grabbed the camera ans shut the door, rewound the film back into the cansiter, and put that roll into my pocket.

    Fortunately, I was able to save one frame of three of the officers, including the lead detective, for use on front page. Both camera and lens had to be sent to be fixed as the mounts were bent.

    This is only one, but there are so many more. LOL.

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