I've been contemplating sending my Canon 40D + lenses in for cleaning & maintenance, and as luck would have it, one of the answers on a recent question recommends periodic maintenance to prolong the service life of a camera. As you can imagine, googling this turned up a range of opinions ranging from "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" to "service religiously every x months or y shots".

I'd like to get a better handle on the specific benefits of preventative service for DSLRs, including what, in addition to cleaning, is typically done during servicing. If you have any specific before & after experience with this sort of service ("they fixed stuff I didn't even know was broken" or "I swear I didn't have that problem before I sent my camera in"), that's great, too.

For purposes of this question, I'm talking about a Canon body, but I'd expect experiences with other brands to be pretty equivalent. I'd also expect similar experiences with servicing lenses to be relevant, especially if there's any benefit to sending lenses in with bodies.

  • +1 even if you gave me something else to worry about. I had somehow missed that answer and was living happily and sans souci... – Francesco Aug 10 '11 at 13:53
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    The manual that came with my car specifies quite clearly how often services are required and what has to be done. The manual that came with my camera says nothing on the subject, which leads me to believe routine servicing is unnecessary! – Matt Grum Aug 10 '11 at 14:27

I have never sent my camera in for Preventive Maintenance. I tend to prefer the 'if it ain't broken don't fix it' method of camera maintenance.

One item that needs constant maintenance is removing dust on the sensor. The 40D, with its sensor dust removal shaking is better than most, but eventually, it needs to be cleaned. From what I have read from others, often sending in to Canon results in no improvement in sensor cleaning, or it being worse. At one time it was conjectured that Canon merely blew air on the sensor as 'cleaning'. For this reason, I do not send in my camera for this service, but perform it myself using the easy, and safe Copper Hill method.

Cameras are generally built for their purpose, especially your 40D. The parts that typically 'wear out' are the shutter box mechanism, which, due to the complexity and expense, are rated for a certain expected life in number of shots. This life is not dependent on regular maintenance (you don't do oil changes etc).Some of Canon's cameras actually have a stated shutter life, but I don't think they published one for the 40D,though rumors suggest 100k shots. Whether yours will last longer is a roll of the dice, but sending your camera in won't extend the life. Given the replacement cost (~$300+), waiting for failure is the best policy.

If you have problems with achieving sharp focus with a lens, sending in the body and lens for calibration is highly recommended, and generally I have found much better focus performance as a result. Whether this is because they fixed something, or because it is psychological on my part is hard to tell, but I am satisfied.

While it is possible that, like cars, there are some internal service bulletins that would provide an unknown fix you didn't ask for, I suspect that those are to ensure that the camera does not come back to be fixed for that issue. I would prefer to wait for that issue to arise.

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    +1 Besides sensor cleaning (which I do myself) I can't see what they could possibly do that would constitute routine maintenance. The whole shutter assembly is a complete unit that's designed to be replaced not repaired, I imagine other moving parts are the same. – Matt Grum Aug 10 '11 at 14:26
  • Another suggestion that body + lens might be worthwhile, but body-only isn't. I think we've got a consensus at this point - thanks! – D. Lambert Aug 11 '11 at 15:20

I wouldn't worry about it. I expect to have to send my film Leicas, all older than me, to a technician every decade or so for some tender loving care and the odd drop of oil to keep them happy, but a digital SLR... meh; it will in all likelyhood be utterly outdated before anything actually wears out. For a professional photographer who puts 100,000+ photos through the camera every year, it may be a good idea. But not for Joe Consumer.

There is one possible benefit to sending in your full kit for adjustment and that is to have the technicians adjust the autofocus gizmos in body and lenses so that they are in agreement with each other. The body has manufacturing tolerances, each lens has manufacturing tolerances, and if the tolerances are at opposite ends of the allowed range...

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  • +1 for body + lenses option (one of the things I've considered). – D. Lambert Aug 11 '11 at 15:18

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