Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sigma 19mm DN – A sad story of a great lens felled by a double failure in barely 2 years that no one will warrant …

So I made a huge mistake when I bought the lovely pair of m4/3 Sigma lenses – the 19mm 2.8 and the 30mm 2.8. Terrifically sharp, fairly small, and smooth video performance. Decent lenses all around …

I purchased them both from B&H Photo in New York, the very best outlet for Canadian buyers who want good service and fast and cheap shipping. Accept no substitutes.

And then calamity struck … the 19mm would not start (these lenses have a funky mechanism that requires a special power-up sequence) on any of my m4/3 bodies. I tried them all and all the lens would do is click repeatedly on a slow cadence until the camera gave up and posted an error on the LCD screen.

I eventually thought that I should look into warranty service. The lens was barely 2 years old, which is a veritable new born for lenses, but that turned out to be a serious issue.

Canada has a 7 year warranty on current Sigma lenses, and may have been running the 10 year warranty at the time I purchased this lens. This warranty is actually offered by the distributor – Gentec International – as there is no Canadian Sigma company. Gentec offers a long warranty because Sigma lenses are generally that good. However, they do not warrant lenses purchased in the USA, even though all Sigma lenses are manufactured in the same factory!

In the USA, there is actually an American Sigma company that offers the oh-so-confident warranty period of 1 year, for which I obviously do not qualify as my lens is older than that. I called BHPhoto and they confirmed that I was screwed by the short American warranty.

So … paper weight.

Well, not quite. I decided to send it to Gentec to get a repair estimate. They came back after a week or so with $176, which of course is not far off the retail price of $249.99, itself up 20 bucks in the last few months (thanks Sigma / Henry’s.) Sheesh. Too high a price for a repair to an obviously fragile lens that still would not have a proper warranty. I’d be a moron to spend that.

So I called Gentec back when I got the email in order to decline the repair and tell them to keep the piece of junk. The technician said hang on a minute and told me he would look at it again and get back to me in a day or so. I got busy for a few weeks and remembered it just a few days ago, after 3 or 4 weeks.

I called back and spoke to a guy who said he would get back to me in 15 minutes. That took a couple of days :-) … but he did call me yesterday. That conversation was fascinating …

He had tried really hard to push it through as a courtesy repair, and he almost got it done. But … there are two faults in this lens – the main board, which they had already replaced, and the AF motor, which was also not working. In fact, they think the AF motor is slowly ruining the main boards.

The AF motor pushed the cost above Gentec’s cost for the lens, at which point their rule kicked in and the courtesy repair was denied.

Note: The technician was the person putting all the effort in here. He did not say it this way, but clearly he saw that I was getting screwed for having bought a Japanese made lens in the USA instead of buying the same lens made in the same factory in Canada. When it came time for Gentec themselves to put up a little extra cash to create a happy customer (me), they balked at the cost. And here is the kicker – they spent some of that money on an overnight courier to ship me back the half-repaired lens. SIGH … I would have paid the shipping had they offered to repair the lens.

So: Sigma builds a fragile lens, which has almost no useful warranty in the USA and is not covered in Canada because Sigma does not even have a presence here. Gentec will not cover me because I had the temerity to spend my money in the USA. OK, I sort of get that. Their technician tries like crazy to do the right thing, but a very slight cost overrun on the repair nixes it, yet they spend money sending me the new main board and sending by courier over night. And I sit here with a lens that will actually start up on my GF3, but won’t AF reliably and will only shoot once in a while. And who knows how long that will last, because the technician says that the successful start up “comes and goes.”

I would call Sigma and their flexible / inflexible / sometimes nonexistent warranties a total mess here in North America …

My recommendation

Buy Sigma lenses in Canada for the much better warranty.

Or better yet buy another brand for the peace of mind that a lens should last longer then 2 years.

The final slap in the face was that they sent it back without the caps I had on it … sigh ….