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06-14-2014, 06:47 AM   #1
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645D second shutter failure

Well, true to Murphy's Law, I'm about 4 days into a 3-week trip to Iceland and the shutter in my older 645D just failed. This is the 2nd shutter to pack it in with this body; I wrote here about the previous failure which happened when I was on a shoot in Arizona in the summer of 2012. At that time I didn't have a backup 645D which screwed up my plans on that shoot. Quick repair or replacement was not an option since only Japan can repair the shutter assembly and I couldn't track down a replacement body anywhere close to where I was working. So I limped along with lesser options and then sent the 645D for what turned out to be a 10-week trip to Japan for repair. "Fortunately" this time I do have a pair of D's, and both are with me; so hopefully I'll just proceed on this trip with the backup body and no further drama.

I reported the fIrst time around that the shutter failure happened around 50K actuations, which at the time I felt was strangely close to the specified shutter life rating. But that was just a guesstimate on the count. I've just gone back to check it and it's not as good as I thought -- exiftool reports the actuation count was 36,332 on the day the shutter failed. Pentax didn't reset or alter the shutter count after the repair as far as I can tell, and today the count is reading 65,222. So the 2nd shutter lasted less than 29,000 actuations.

This is a bit annoying. 50K actuations is a relatively short shutter life in digital terms, especially for somebody who shoots a lot of exposure brackets, stitch sets and focus stacks, which I do. Even so, compared to the actual shutter life I'm getting, I would be happy to actually hit 50K. The shutter repair cost was quoted to me at ~$1000 CDN last time around. The first one was replaced under warranty, so I guess I'll just have to be happy that my first shutter repair bill is coming at ~65K actuations which is past the 50K rated life.

Those of you with D's that are getting on in life, watch your shutter counts. I'd be curious to hear from anyone whose shutter is pushing well towards that 50K mark.

The redesigned shutter on the 645Z, uprated to a life expectancy of 100K actuations, would be reason alone to push me in that direction if I wasn't already so interested in the Z for other reasons...

06-14-2014, 10:26 AM   #2
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Ugh, that sucks! Aren't you leading a workshop during this time?

When handling the 645Z here in T.O. the Ricoh rep (Dan S., who knows his stuff) said the mirror and shutter were both redesigned to reduce impact (noise) and extend working life. We didn't have a D to compare to, but it definitely was a different feel. That said, I know you're hard on your shutters, like the rest of us HDR pano-nuts are.
06-14-2014, 11:08 AM   #3
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Pentax should have known better. The shutter actuations at failure you are seeing are pretty typical for their film medium format cameras. However, digital shooters are known for shooting more frames than film shooters. Pentax should have made a more robust shutter system. As it stands now, your D is not meeting your expectations. That is a quality assurance thing and quality begins at the design phase. I always carry two bodies.
06-14-2014, 11:50 AM   #4
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Yes, I am co-leading a tour for part of my time in Iceland, and my first priority is not personal shooting during that time. So that takes some of the pressure off. However I always bookend my own time before and/or after, and that's where my personal work happens, which means it happens during a more compressed time. I was really, really hoping the 645Z would come to market early enough to be available for this trip, but it wasn't so.

I know I'm hard on my shutter but I'm not that hard. It should be expected to last at least the rated life within normal usage parameters. 5 shot brackets, bursts that fill the buffer, etc. are all designed tolerances. So yes it is a design issue IMO, if I'm not just unlucky with a single lemon body. Given the otherwise stellar build quality of the D, I'm frankly a bit disappointed the shutter isn't proving to hold up. It's the only build issue I've had yet in 3.5 years of hard use. We'll see what happens with my backup body which is currently at 18,433 actuations. Based on the low water mark set by the other one, the backup might have as little as another 10K frames to go before failure. What's the saying? 3 times is enemy action...

I'm looking forward to putting the Z through its paces. But even if its redesigned shutter & mirror assembly truly is much improved, I won't be caught with only a single body again. I learned that in Arizona 2 years ago. Still, this is something I hope Ricoh management will address -- some kind of "professional services" offering for people who chose not to self-insure by having 2+ bodies, or who simply don't wish to have one of them being down for 10 weeks during servicing in Japan. Even with maintaining 2 bodies going forward, I'd consider paying some amount per year for a program that provided guaranteed loaner gear and/or fast-tracked repair service. My goal isn't to have gear of this level sitting in the shop for long stretches amounting to 10% of the time -- it will be 5 months out 47 counting this 2nd shutter failure, assuming repair #2 takes the same amount of time #1 did. If a factory repair could be done in less than 10 weeks and/or be mitigated with a loaner, it would take some of the annoyance level down.

#firstworldproblems, I know, but still...

06-14-2014, 12:02 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Royce Howland Quote
Even with maintaining 2 bodies going forward, I'd consider paying some amount per year for a program that provided guaranteed loaner gear and/or fast-tracked repair service.
This is pretty much a requirement for Ricoh to step up to in this market. It will be difficult given that I think Hoya was going to introduce this for the 645D, but didn't really get it off the ground.

I completely agree that your first failure was a lemon, and your second failure in same body points to either a design flaw in the shutter assembly of the 645D, or a production flaw in your particular camera. Neither is a very nice prospect to think about, and leaving a body in the car in Iceland is too painful to contemplate (unless you're in the Nordic mafia, I guess).
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