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lens longevity

DouglasMorley 8 30 1 Canada
26 Feb 2013 6:50PM
I've been reading elsewhere that many if not all Nikkor lenses are now made using lead free solder. I imagine this to be because of the pollution lobby's insistence. The result would appear to be that after about ten years lenses break down and their lives are over.

The advice that we as photographers are given is that although cameras may be updated regularly (about every 2 years), lenses should go on and on, especially the pro spec ones. Personally I have some excellent Nikkor AF glass of pre D type and D type way over 10 years old and of high quality which are very solidly made with very little by way of plastic components. These lenses show no signs of any deterioration.

I was considering a new 24-85mm G Type Nikkor which is highly rated. However, if it's going to collapse on me in ten years time, I can't quite see the point.

Views anyone?

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thewilliam 9 6.1k
26 Feb 2013 11:19PM
Lead and tin are used in solder for sound metallurgical reasons and "lead-free" seems to be very much second-best. Unfortunately, nothing is permanent in thios world and we have to accept that our working tools will wear out.

Zeiss re-formulated many of their lenses so as to exclude lead-bearing glasses. What the environmentalists don't seem to realise is that lead was dug up from the ground in the first place and landfill is merely returning it to its original home. Glass is one of the most inert substances known to science and the lead is well and truly locked up within its structure so I shall continue to drink from lead crystal glass.
DouglasMorley 8 30 1 Canada
27 Feb 2013 1:05AM
Interesting comments. They tent to support in my mind at least, that 'old' isn't necessarily worse than new, only that 'new' is often simply well masked and heavily reliant on being itself replaced because of it's throw away value. Your mentioning of lead can in so many other ways be applied the other 'evil' substances of this world.
Nigel_NZ 12 26 New Zealand
27 Feb 2013 8:23AM
Hi Douglas & thewilliam, lead in glass maybe locked up, but if you are fortunate enough to have some strong alcoholic spirits secreted within a fine lead crystal decanter for any length of time the alcohol can leach the lead into solution, so best drink it quick so as to minimise contact time, as for the longevitity of lead in lenses, seems this is another way of mining money from the man on the street, Nigel.
strawman 14 22.1k 16 United Kingdom
27 Feb 2013 8:47AM
I think there is more than a little scare mongering going on here. yes lead has been removed from the solder that results in a stronger, but more brittle joint, so really it depends upon the design, use and storage of the item whether this is important in the life of the item or not. If it is just simple solder fatigue failure you can re-flow the joint and bring it back to life.

It has an impact at the end of life, yes lead came from the ground but we dug it up. So if you dispose of it then it has to make its way back into the ground and so can pollute land etc as it makes its way back. Also there is the issue of exposing workers to lead. Lead exists naturally, but stick it in a living creatures food and you can make them very ill.

To be honest most modern lenses have electronics inside them, and what is the lifespan of the packaged silicon. Not surprisingly after 10 years there is a decent chance that a percentage of the silicon will have failed. It will depend upon how well the parts were made and the design margin plus storage conditions.

So is this a big issue, not really.

Oh and as a PS, I have tested Leaded and Non-Leaded products and have seen cases where the use of lead free soldering increases product life.
oldblokeh 7 1.2k United Kingdom
27 Feb 2013 8:57AM
Industry research on lead-free solder joint reliability shows that lead-free is in many ways superior to traditional tin/lead. Only where pure tin is used for tinning is there a problem with the formation of tin whiskers. There's a lot of misinformation put about, mainly due to industry resistance to spending a bit of money making the changes. FWIW the European ROHS regulations have been in place since 2006.

Quote: What the environmentalists don't seem to realise is that lead was dug up from the ground in the first place and landfill is merely returning it to its original home.

That's a bit like saying that that it's OK to dispose of strychnine in in your local river. After all, it's only made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen and they are already in air and water. Metallic lead, either as an alloy or pure metal, is a very different kttle of fish than galena (lead sulphide ore) when it comes to environmental danger.
27 Feb 2013 9:13AM
Lead is a highly toxic substance and downplaying its toxicity is misguided. The problem isnít the products themselves (unless you snack on PCBs), but what happens to them when their useful lives are over. As is so often the case, this environmental problem is dumped Ė literally Ė on developing countries by the rich, while the rich protest at the slight inconvenience of lead-free solder.

I suspect these families donít care much about tin whiskers.

In large doses lead causes acute poisoning. Environmentalists didnít make this up: even in antiquity it was known that lead was a poison. Much more recently, toxicologists learned that low-level, long-duration exposure also causes harm, though of a different kind. Itís largely the latter harm that moved us to get rid of leaded petrol, paint (lead poisoning wasnít called painterís colic for nothing), and water pipes, and which informs the aggressive polices in China, Europe, and elsewhere to remove lead from consumer goods.

That you donít get lead poisoning from crystal glasses is a red herring. Youíre not ingesting the glass, I hope!

I think lead-free solder should be the least of your concerns when considering a new camera lens. Lenses like the AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 G ED VR are flimsy things held together with adhesives, filled with electromechanical devices that will in all likelihood fail before a solder joint goes. If you want an all-metal prime lens with little to go wrong, Zeiss and others still make them Ė†at the price youíd expect. All-singing, all-dancing $500 autofocus zooms with stabilisation are not going to last forever, which is disappointing but unrelated to environmental conspiracies.
javam 13 1.1k 19 United Kingdom
27 Feb 2013 1:18PM
Toxicity aside, is the life of the lens really over? I would have thought it still came down to cost of repair over replacement.

Will depend on if the lens is in or out of production of course, but when I slipped backwards into a river and drowned my sigma EX 100-300. I was charged less than £45 for a clean, PCB replacement, calibration and return postage, or to look at it another way, less than 7% of what I paid for the lens. If I had to pay that every 10 years to keep it in top condition, it does not seem that unreasonable as a 'servicing' cost.

Another way to look at it - if you have not had your moneys worth from the lens in 10 years of ownership, you probably should not have bought it in the first place.

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