More Updates on the Issues

Some updates on a few things:

Nikon’s response about Li-Ion1 battery performance is not very nuanced and certainly not customer friendly: “use the battery that came with the camera.” 

This isn’t an isolated response. I now have over a dozen captured instances of it. The batteries in question work perfectly well in every other Nikon DSLR; only the D500 seems to have issues with some of them. And that, too, is a bit damning for Nikon. I’m slowly collecting lot numbers of batteries with measured results across multiple Nikon bodies. The hypothesis so far:

  • Only D500’s have problems with these official Nikon batteries.
  • Only some lot numbers of the batteries produce highly unusual results with the D500 (though the results are all different from other cameras). 
  • QED: Nikon changed something in the D500 that now reveals that they had a battery issue with certain earlier lots.

So, Nikon, if you’re listening: you’re selling a Premium product at a Premium price to your best customers, and you’re acting as if there’s nothing wrong when hundreds of those folk certainly can see that there is. Outright denial is not the appropriate response. At a minimum “we’ll look into that” is an appropriate response. Update: Nikon recalled the Li-Ion1 batteries for D500 owners and will replace them with Li-Ion20 batteries.

Slowly but surely, Nikon keeps doing things that damage its brand credibility with customers. This is one of those things. 

But, I’ve noted before that I thought the D500 had a power-related issue of some sort. We’ve seen Nikon live at the hairy edge of instant power demand before (the DBS issues that started with the D300 and lived on for awhile until they were quietly fixed in firmware). So let’s see where those Li-Ion1 batteries lead us, shall we?

Remember that I wrote that the defective card error is triggered on the front edge of trying to display an image (e.g. image review, whether from automatic-after-shot review or your pressing the Playback button). So here’s a little test: take a card that’s generating such errors. Now, record the activations-until-error-thrown value. Do a lot of testing (1000s of shots). Okay, we now have a median value for how often the error comes up with the battery that came with the camera. 

Oh, sly Thom. You know what I did next: try a Li-Ion1 battery. Guess what? The median significantly lowered. So I’d say that my original assumption—that the card errors had a power component to them—has now been substantiated. I’m sure Nikon will keep pointing fingers at Lexar on this one. But this also explains why I now have reports of defective card errors from virtually every brand and type of XQD and UHS-II cards. They’re far more common on the UHS-II side, but I’ll bet if I got a dozen D500s and put them all to the test this is what I’d find: XQD cards have a higher activations-until-error-thrown value than UHS-II cards; Lexar 1000x and 2000x have lower activations-until-error-thrown values than other UHS-II cards. But all cards will eventually trigger an error.

Sigh. 

Meanwhile, we’ve found one significant issue with a popular lens, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 OS. 

If you mount this lens on the D500 (and a few other Nikon cameras, but not all), the CSM #C2 Standby Timer setting isn’t recognized correctly. Normally, that’s set to 6 seconds. So if you mount the lens and turn the camera on, the camera should be active for 6 seconds. Instead, with the 17-50mm f/2.8 the camera will be active for one minute and six seconds. 

What? 

According to Sigma: when power is applied to the lens the OS element is brought into a powered position that has a timeout of one minute. That stabilization is what is holding the camera active, though Sigma did not reveal through what means that was. Unfortunately, that timeout is not programmable. So if you’re using a 17-50mm f/2.8 OS on the D500, you’re going to get a long Standby Timer setting each time the lens OS gets powered. Sigma says they expect that the net effect is a reduction of maybe 100 images per battery charge. 

Astute readers will quickly realize that this intersects with what I wrote about VR locking a few months ago. According to Sigma, the OS element gets powered to position regardless of whether OS is turned on or off at the lens. So here we have an example of a lens that probably is parking the OS element for travel. 

I have to say that Sigma’s response, both to me and to a site visitor who posed the problem, was a lot better than Nikon’s “just use the battery that came with the camera.” Some people wonder why I’m so hard on Nikon at times. Well, this is one of those reasons: they’re trying to claim they’re a top, premium provider, and their customer service doesn’t live up to that. Indeed, these days Nikon’s typical response to a loyal customer tends to be “it’s your problem.” Meanwhile, a company that Nikon would rather not sell you a lens for your D500 is understanding, gives you a full explanation, apologizes to you, and tells you what the actual impact is likely to be on your shooting. 

One of those companies seems like it knows what it’s doing. The other seems like it doesn’t. Guess which one is Nikon?

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