e18 lens error

In a box on a shelf sits 3 cameras. An Ensign Ful Vue, a Brownie and a Canon Canonet. Combined age about 120 years, all still functioning, In another box sits 3 state of the art digital cameras, all Canon, combined age about 8 years, all broken.

To lose one camera, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose 3 looks like carelessness.

I was under the impression digital was going to make photography cheaper. After spending over £1300 in 6 years suddenly I'm not so sure. I reckon £1300 would get me a classic 35mm camera and enough film to keep me going for 6 years. It might get me as many results as well, without the endless crud I seem to accumulate with a digital.

Before digital I'd gotten totally out of the habit of using the camera. I enjoyed it but simply hadn't the money to really indulge in it. Over the years the SLR got used less and less. Then I bought a IXUS V3. Not only a beautiful thing to hold but it was a self contained unit. It took the picture, developed it and showed you the result in an instant… I was off, click click click click. An orgy of photography ensued. Rain on the window. The accumulated lint in the tumble dryer. Cut carrots. The underneath of my fingernails. Tarmac. A blade of grass. The inside of a toilet roll tube. Tinfoil. It was only a matter of time before Magnum came calling!

After 2 years up popped E18 on the display. Lens refused to go back in. Camera was out of warranty and was too expensive to get fixed, besides, I'd out grown it. I wanted to shoot RAW, get more pixels and a faster, wider lens. I splurged another £400 on a S70. What a camera! RAW files. Incredible wide lens. Snap mode. Another orgy of photography. Each lunchtime was spent with the camera. Each break was spent processing, editing and uploading. I was on a real roll for about 18 months then… E18 - Lens Error. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, “To lose one camera, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”.

The problem is, I wasn't careless, I look after my gear. The carelessness is Canon's fault, for building equipment that simply can't last. If you're going to install a silly 6x zoom lens, then develop motors that won't burn out/clog up in 18 months. Do that or stop fitting ridiculous zoom lenses in the first place. So I was in quandry, to buy another camera, another Canon or not. The G9 came out shortly afterwards. I saw the silly, big, fragile looking zoom lens but the camera did look solid. Some nice features. Well built. Nice ISO dial on top. It had no competitor. I thought I'd give them one last try only this time I had a sure fire plan.

I bought a Lensmate and grip. The lensmate was attached to the camera 24/7 so the lens would have 100% protection. I fitted a lens cap to the lensmate. I bought a couple of Crumpler bags. 1 bag for the camera and a larger bag to hold that. The sort of photographs I was taking by this stage were all street. This means that I wasn't using any zoom at all, simply getting as close as I could to the subject. I was also using snap mode, which meant that the lens wasn't even autofocusing! The only action the camera had to perform was pop the lens out, open the shutter and retract again. What could possibly go wrong?

E18 Lens Error! That's what could go wrong. Only it seems Canon have dropped the E18 as it has now become synonymous with Canon. It seems if you own a compact Canon, chances are you're going to be introduced at some stage. (Did I mention that the automatic lens covers scraped the front of my lens as well, there's me thing they were supposed to protect it?)

So here I am, yet again, no camera and more than a tad miffed! Only this time Canon has competitors. A lot of competitors. Most have now cottoned on to the fact that an old style rangefinders with interchangable lenses have huge appeal. The 4/3 system is starting to gain momentum and even Leica seem to be lowering the bar slightly, albeit with a zoomer.

So, for now, I'm afraid it's good bye Canon. It's been interesting, sometimes rewarding but ultimately expensive, frustrating and disappointing.

Update: Christmas '09: I sent the cameras back to Canon. The fixed the G9 E18 error and replaced the scratched lens. FREE! as a "goodwill gesture"! It'll keep me going for another while.