Friday, July 11, 2014

My "Brand New" 6-year-old Camera!

A couple weeks ago my venerable Canon XSi camera "blew up"!  I was taking a series of images of our back-yard cereus cactus blooming, and right around Midnight, after I went to bed, it stopped working, giving the mysterious message "error 99".  Looking at the last few frames, it worked fine till the last 3 exposures, then the image shown at left.  Even though it caught a Sphynx moth, it appears one of the shutter blades detached and blocked part of the sensor when the flash went off.  The error 99 is a general error that says something is wrong...  The Interweb has a few suggestions, trying a different lens, battery or memory card, but with the above image and performing the advice having no effect on getting the errors, it was obviously a shutter issue.

Now I've loved this XSi!  I got it just before our wedding in June of 2008.  After a couple years of using the Canon 20Da, I loved the HUGE 3" display screen and "live view" that the 20Ds lacked.  I literally brought tears to my eyes when first using it!  It has likely taken over 95% of the images on this blog...  Fortunately, I live all of about 2 miles from Tucson Camera Repair.  While they specialize in Nikon gear, I've used them to work on a couple lenses before and they always seemed reasonable - plus you gotta support the local businesses, especially specialized ones like this.  To make sure it wasn't something simple, I paid the $45 for them to take it apart and provide an estimate - the good part is that the fee is applied towards any repairs eventually made.  The news was not unexpected - it needed a new shutter assembly...  The part was $90 and it as $125 for the labor. 

Now a friend of mine bought a nearly new version of this camera for $200 at a local pawn shop over a year, and Ebay prices for a used XSi is even less, so I was a little torn about paying for the repair.  Plus, I had just received the new T3 from my sister-in-law's estate, but the more I used it (the T3), the more I appreciated the ole' XSi.  Even though it lacks the high ISOs, low noise and video capabilities of new cameras (the XSi was about the last DSLR without video), I decided to pay the $170 (plus the estimate fee) to get it fixed, which also included a thorough cleaning and going-over.  Since the shutter is the only mechanical part of the camera, it will effectively be a "new" camera.  I picked it up today, and got the old shutter assembly to play with.  It certainly doesn't look broken, but I was amazed that most of the assembly looks to be injection molded plastic except for the shutter blades.  I asked the shop how many shutter cycles it had, and I've taken 67,382 exposures with the camera in those 6 years!  How does that compare to other cameras?  Canon says to expect 100,000 shutter cycles from the XSi, but "real-life users report an average of 42,800 XSi shutter cycles to failure.  So I'm in the midrange somewhere - check the lists for the predictions for your own camera of choice... 

So I'm back with the XSi.  One of my nieces was asking about entry-level DSLRs and we're presenting the T3 to her.  Melinda still has her T1i for backup use, and of course, the nearly 10 year old 20Da still works fine too, so we're plenty covered for cameras!  Someday in the not-too-distant future, it would be nice to upgrade to a full-frame sensor (matching the 24X36mm format of 35mm film).  In the meantime, enjoy the enclosed video of ultra-slow-motion views of a modern camera shutter operating - it is not a gentle operation!  It seems amazing that with the obvious stress of bouncing mirrors and vibrating shutter blades that they will last for many years and hundreds of thousands of cycles!  Skip the advertisement, but do watch the video...

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