Oh, Noooooooo! I Dropped My Nikon F6!

A few days before Christmas, I dropped my Nikon F6 on the hard laminate floor of the studio. Actually, the strap slipped through the adjustment buckle. I had the strap around my neck, but was not holding onto the camera. I’m a big believer in neck straps because I am obsessive about not dropping a camera. Disappointingly, it was a Nikon strap and it wasn’t stitched. It’s one of those heavy elastic straps that is easy on your neck.

Upon examination, it looked like the camera body was okay and that the only damage was to the attached 24-120mm f/4G lens which had the zoom ring knocked out of position. Focusing, vibration reduction, and aperture all seemed to be working fine and I was able to manipulate the zoom through its entire range without any obvious impairment.

Damaged 24-120mm Nikkor f4/G lens. Zoom ring loose and out of position.

Sending the lens to Nikon for repair

I went to the Nikon website and filled out the self-service repair submittal form where they give you an estimate based on how you describe the problem. Since I dropped the lens, the estimate was for $493 which is not unreasonable as an average for a $1100 lens that’s been dropped. They explain, of course, that it could cost more in which case they’ll request further approval before doing the repair.

I shipped the lens via UPS on December 22nd. Since I insured the shipment, they required that I drive 15 miles to drop the parcel off at their main facility rather than any of the many UPS drop-off places scattered around town. I would have foregone the insurance if they mentioned that detail before I completed the entire online process including payment by credit card. It also never occurred to me that they wouldn’t have normal business hours, especially right before Christmas, so I went there before lunch only to find out that they’re only open from 2-4 PM. Thankfully, a guy sweeping the parking lot took me to the back office where they accepted my parcel. Yay! Thanks, UPS.

As shipped. Note UPS shipping label as well as the Nikon shipping label. UPS removed the hazmat sticker.

The lens arrived at Nikon on December 27th and they sent me an acknowledgement on January 2nd. Two weeks later there was a charge on my credit card for $326, so I logged in and checked the repair status and the website had a UPS tracking number listed. Oddly, they don’t email status info, a final invoice, or tracking information. They apparently just expect that, if you want that information, you’ll log in and check it yourself periodically.

Lens comes back from Nikon

On the bright side, I got the lens back one month, to the day, after they received it. The box was pretty beat up, but the lens was padded with two layers of thick sturdy bubble wrap and there was no visible damage to the lens. So, the saga has come to a happy ending, although I have not yet run a roll of film through the camera and lens to test it.

Lens was came back from Nikon with no visible damage despite the box being beat up.
Lens wrapped in bubble wrap on return trip. Maybe the same bubble wrap I used to ship it to them.
Paperwork described what was repaired and what functions were tested as well as a QC checklist.
Camera with repaired lens attached.

I think I saw on their website that normal turnaround is 5 days for repair which seems extraordinary. I was very pleased to get the lens back in a mere month which included the New Years holiday. When I sent my F2 off for repair a few years ago, it was gone for 11 months. When I sent a Rolleiflex lens off for repair in 2022 it was also gone for 11 months. Film camera repairs are no trivial matter anymore. Shops are backlogged, parts are scarce, and experienced film repair technicians are retiring (or worse).

Who really repaired my lens?

Interestingly, the UPS info listed “Nikon/Camtech Svcs” as the shipper so I am assuming that the repair work was contracted out to John Hermanson who is an Olympus guru and a one time Nikon service technician. The Nikon repair center address (Jericho, NY), Nikon USA Headquarters (Melville, NY) listed on the invoice, Camtech Svcs (Huntington, NY), and the UPS facility that picked up the package (Uniondale, NY) are all within a few miles of each other on Long Island.

About that camera strap…

Immediately after I dropped it, I checked all the straps on my cameras to see which of them are vulnerable to having the strap come loose from the adjustment buckle. The strap that came with the Rolleiflex Hy6 is the only other strap I have that does not have the strap stitched to the buckle. The OP/TECH strap that I use on my Hasselblad is stitched, as is the strap that came with the Leica M-A. My Ape cases also have stitched straps, although I had to stitch the strap on the oldest Ape case myself. I have since also stitched the strap on the Hy6 as well as the Nikon strap that started this whole chain of events. I hand-stitched them with doubled tough polyester thread and coated the stitching with epoxy to ensure the stitching would never fail.

Strap made secured to the buckle with stitching covered on both sides with JB Weld epoxy.

I did consider replacing the straps with newer ones, but I wasn’t very impressed with what’s out there today. Most stitched straps were very long, apparently to double as a neck and shoulder strap and I just didn’t like the fasteners or the general configuration. I just like the straps I already have,

Lesson to be learned

Check your camera straps and don’t drop your camera. It’s a little embarrassing that I let this happen to me, especially after having been so concerned about the strap on my Ape camera cases a couple years ago.