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Context

I've been skimming LensRental and related websites and I see most all modern lens are extremely complicated, intricate, expensive but they work, mostly. I see that with a7rII, there is an insane amount of parts in it just to make it work and take shots.

However for my old Spiratone 400mm f6.3 lens, it's easy to unscrew and view the parts directly for cleaning/modification.

Question

Camera/lens manufacturers have a lot on their plate to make photographers happy, and some of us have jobs. I can't see user-repairability being high on their priority list when designing the final product. Was repairability ever a high priority (even back in the day when lenses and cameras were much simpler) or is the manufacturers' apathy a consequence of this simplicity.

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Ease of repair is neither one of the major marketing buzzwords nor is it a feature most customers are looking for. Therefore it ranks way below features that often negatively affect ease of repair, for example: compact size, low weight, design, silent fast AF, in-lens stabilization and possibly even reliability. Also manufacturing cost has to be low to keep the margin high and the product price competitive.
That it is harder to repair a recent lens is due to advances in technology. Ease of repair was not a focus back then either for similar reasons as noted above and limitations in material and manufacturing technology among others.

But society is changing too and sadly is getting used to wasteful shorter product life cycles. Countercultures like repair cafes or (to a longer extend) sustainable engineering, cradle-to-cradle etc. exist, but still represent a minority. Also a repaired item means a lost sale for companies which usually focus on revenue. Due to advancing technology it can actually be easier now to repair especially older lenses or cameras: Certain parts can be 3D printed (up to a camera on its own) and specialized devices can "print" metallic or flexible structures (additive manufacturing).

  • Is it always a lost sale? You could also buy used, having the same effect no? – unsignedzero Dec 16 '15 at 18:30
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Memories: You mentioned the good old days, when cameras were mechanical instead of electronic. There were several camera repair shops in larger cities. A little like blacksmith shops, they could do anything, and usually had great reputations. In the late 1960s, I had a Nikon F and it offered special scratch-less metal film cartridges for reloadable film. The knob to open the camera back also opened and closed that cartridge in the camera. That knob finally stripped. I'm not sure there was any concept of sending it to the manufacturer for repair (there was only an American import company EPOI, which Nikon later bought to be NikonUSA in 1981). But a local shop in Houston turned a new shaft on a lathe, and made it like new, maybe better than new, at a surprisingly low price... I think I remember $12. It stunned me, even then.

Those shops are gone now.

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