Rolling photographic equipment damaged by a solar eclipse

Panasonic 20mm f / 1.7 with eclipse-damaged diaphragm

Recently we had a bright and dazzling show in the USA in which one could observe a total solar eclipse in a large part of the country. It was the first eclipse, which took place on the continental part of the USA since 1979, which caused the people excitement and desire to capture this natural phenomenon with the help of the best possible photographic equipment.

But along with such excitement, an entire car of warnings goes hand in hand. Such an event could easily damage your camera, lenses and eyes - if you do not have suitable protection. When we borrowed equipment from us before this event, we warned everyone that it was necessary to observe it with the help of suitable eye protection, and also to apply a solar filter for lenses to protect their elements and camera matrix.

But, despite the warnings, we still expected that some of the equipment would be returned to us in a damaged and destroyed form. Judging by our posts, you will be interested to know why and how our equipment was broken - but do not take this post as a criticism of our wonderful customer base. Everything happens - for this we have a repair department. Well, we are more pleased than upset. We did not know what to expect from the eclipse, and were delighted with how small a piece of equipment returned to us damaged.

How to burn your camera during an eclipse

Molten matrix

The most frequent damage we have encountered is matrices destroyed by heat. At a blog post, we warned everyone that the lenses needed to purchase a solar filter, and also sent all emails and flyers with explanations about what needs to be done to adequately protect the equipment. But not everyone likes to follow the rules, and as a result we have got quite a few destroyed sensors. To my surprise, this kind of breakdown turned out to be more visual than I expected. Everything can be seen in the photo below.

Heat destroyed camera shutter

Under the shutter is visible additional damage to the matrix

Damage is visible to the naked eye.

Mirror damage

In the photo above, apparently, you can see the result of shooting in Live View mode, when the composition is visible on the screen - instead of shooting through the viewfinder with the risk of damaging the eyes. However, people who did not use this mode were likely to experience damage to the camera's mirror. Such damage occurred less frequently, but we still got one camera with a sun-damaged mirror case.

Mirror Damage at Nikon D500 Camera

Damage to the iris diaphragm

Another common problem is damage to the iris diaphragm due to the heat and brightness of a solar eclipse. This mechanism changes the amount of light passing into the camera, or, more simply, adjusts the aperture. The aperture usually consists of 8–12 pieces of black plastic or metal that are exposed to heat. In one case, below, the client used a plug-in [drop-in] filter to protect the camera from damage. He, of course, defended the camera - but did not protect the diaphragm, which was destroyed.

Panasonic 20mm f / 1.7 with a damaged diaphragm

Externally, the 600mm lens looks fine. But a quick inspection reveals that the aperture system has been destroyed.

Shooting a Canon 600mm f / 4L IS II USM damaged diaphragm from a different angle

She, partially disassembled

Damage to the aperture of the Canon 600mm f / 4L IS II USM

Neutral Filter Damage

In the folder with unexpected damage you can put a case of damage to the built-in neutral filter system [ND filter] in one of our movie cameras. Most cameras have a built-in neutral filter that travels in front of the sensor, which allows you to adjust the aperture and shutter speed according to the frame rate and shooting style. However, a common misconception is that a neutral filter can protect the camera from heat and light when shooting a solar eclipse. It cannot - and as a result, its damage is similar to damage to the matrix.

Canon C300 Mark II with built-in filter damage

In general, we were surprised at how little equipment was returned to us in a damaged condition. And in these cases, we were pleasantly surprised by how well the clients were aware of their guilt and were ready to repair the damage. Unfortunately, since we warned about such damage in advance, our insurance program does not cover them.

These are just a few examples of the damaged equipment we received, and we hope that this article will serve as a warning to all those who are already preparing for the next eclipse in 2024.


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