We think that any quirk that costs you film is a serious quirk; and we found just such a quirk when using the VR lens with the F100. Walking through the rain forest in Puerto Rico and shooting birds (see next month’s issue) I had left vibration reduction turned on. This was my first real outing with the VR and I was pushing its limits with some of the bird shots to see what I’d get. After firing off the final frame of a roll I hit rewind and started fishing around in my camera bag for the next roll of film. When I didn’t hear the rewind motor anymore I popped the back – and too my horror I was looking at the film!
I tried rewind again. The motor didn’t sound normal and it started clicking long before the roll would have been rewound. I looked at the LCD on the top deck of the camera. “E” was flashing in the frame counter along with “0_ _” (the rewind indicator). The battery indicator still showed that there was plenty of juice. I switched to my backup body and pondered what shots had been lost and what might be wrong with the camera. I’d been caught in HEAVY rain the day before and was shooting in high humidity in the rain forest so I was thinking camera failure.
In a dark bathroom with a towel blocking any light from coming under the door I removed the film from the camera. After winding the film back into the canister and turning on the lights I mounted a lens to the F100 and turned it on. Everything looked and worked fine. I put in a sacrificial roll and fired through all 36 frames and hit rewind. When I popped the back the film had rewound without a hitch.
I headed back out. The first roll was fine. But when I rewound the second roll and popped the back – I was looking at film again! What I hadn’t noticed was that both times this happened I had the VR mounted on the camera. I saw the same flashing indicators. The battery indicator still showed a full charge. Out came the backup body and I resigned myself to the fact that the F100 was going to the service center at the end of the trip.
The next morning I went to into my camera bag and dug out the F100 manual. When traveling I always have more gear with me than I’ll carry at any one time. Being so familiar with the F100 I don’t bother to carry the manual with me. Under troubleshooting I found my set of blinking indicators and the following diagnosis: “Film stops midway due to low battery power. Replace the batteries and rewind the film again”.
Why some engineer decided that two cryptic flashing indicators was a better way to alert you to this condition than the existing battery light is beyond me. Fresh batteries and the F100 was back to it’s old self.
I sat down with Technical Editor Chuck McKern when I returned. He speculated that using the VR constantly is a real drain on the batteries. Evidently this depletes them enough that the rewind motor can’t draw enough current. So it stops mid-roll or doesn’t rewind at all. Why did the battery indicator still show positive and the camera still work with another lens attached? Evidently the batteries recovered enough to handle another roll of film, and Chuck speculated that if I hadn’t remounted the VR I would have soon gotten the expected low battery indicator. Using the VR again was enough of a drain to quickly pull down the weakened batteries causing the rewind failure again.
The solution. Know this cryptic set of indicators for what they are – a low battery indicator; and always keep spares in your bag if you’ll be using the vibration reduction heavily (something you should do anyway).