A Canon repair experience

As I mentioned previously, my Canon 580EX II speedlite hadn’t been working properly with my Canon EOS 5D DSLR since March of 2008. I’d set it in the hot shoe on top of the 5D, as usual, but it would cause the camera not to work at all. The 5D would give me a strange error message where it would display some random settings for the aperture and shutter speed, and the shutter button would not fire.

canon-580exii-speedlite

I tried turning the camera and speedlite on and off. I tried disconnecting and reconnecting the battery. I tried resetting the speedlite in the hot shoe, which sometimes did the trick. Finally, I gave in and sent it into Canon for repairs. That repair ended up costing me a little over $100 plus shipping. The Canon technicians wrote back on the receipt that they’d replaced some cracked part inside the speedlite. Since I never dropped the speedlite or banged it against anything, perhaps that part had been cracked from the get-go, who knows…

Once I got the speedlite back and tried it out, I realized the problem not only hadn’t gone away, but had gotten worse. Now my 5D refused to fire with the speedlite in the hot shoe no matter what lens I used. This was not good, but what puzzled me is that the 5D and 580EX II worked just fine when I used them with the Canon STE-2 wireless transmitter, which sits on the hot shoe and sends a radio signal directly to the speedlite. In other words, the speedlite and camera didn’t work when connected directly, but worked if connected through the wireless transmitter.

I contacted Canon a second time, and was transferred through to advanced support on that call. Once the tech asked me a few questions to pinpoint the problem, he told me this was a fairly common occurrence with the 5D and 580EX II. Apparently, the hot shoe insert for the 580EX II was made just a wee bit thinner than normal, and after normal use of the hot shoe on the 5D, the 580EX II will sometimes not make proper contact with the camera, and will cause it not to fire. That’s why the camera worked with the wireless transmitter, which has a thicker hot shoe insert.

He offered to send me a pre-paid shipping label so I could send both the camera and the speedlite in for repairs, which would now be covered under the previous charge for the repair of the speedlite, as a recurring issue. I sent them in, and when they came back, they both worked as they should, thank goodness. My 5D hot shoe wasn’t replaced though — it was likely just taken off the camera and tightened a bit, which means the problem could re-occur at some point in the future.

I have three bones to pick with Canon about this whole thing:

  1. Why didn’t they make the hot shoe insert for the 580EX II speedlite the right size from the get-go? Why do we, as Canon customers, have to go through this whole thing where we send them in for repairs when it’s not really our fault? I don’t think I’m the only one who’s had this problem. Why not issue a recall where either the hot shoe of the 5D is replaced or tightened, or the hot shoe insert of the 580EX II is replaced?
  2. Related to #1 above, why do we have to pay for this? If it’s a known issue, caused by faulty design, and it happens quite often through normal use of the camera and speedlite, why pay at all? I might be willing to put up with a token fee that covers shipping and handling, but I should not have to pay the regular repair fee for something that was designed to go wrong, so to speak.
  3. Why did my 580 EX II come back from the repairs with what looks like Coke stains on the catchlight panel (see photograph below)? I can only assume the tech that worked on it opened his soda can right next to my speedlite, stained it, and didn’t bother to clean it. I thought the conditions were supposed to be kept sterile in the labs. What’s up with that?

580EX II Speedlite with stains on catchlight

Keep this in mind if you have the same issue with your Canon DSLR. It may not be that the speedlite is defective, it could simply be that it’s not making proper contact with the hot shoe, in which case your options are as laid out above.


6 thoughts on “A Canon repair experience

  1. I have had issues with the 5D and the 580ex2. Mainly the 580ex2 to be honest and with it apparently being a common issue that Canon won’t acknowledge as a design flaw! They issued a repair notice on the 5d mirrors but won’t for the 580ex2 or the 5D hot-shoe either I presume. Really annoying, especially given the price of the products in the first place and then the cost to us as a consumer to repair the initial design flaws in them, and even then only temporarily but the looks of things.

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  2. Many thanks for this article. It seems I have exactly the same problem. I have even tried to fix the hot shoe by procedure as it is described at http://shimworld.wordpress.com/2008/02/28/speedlite-580ex-ii-hotshoe-fix/ (even I have bought precise PHILLIPS screws in this order, because I correctly guessed that DIY will be a cheaper solution then to ask the canon service) but no succes. After more detailed look on the hotshoe connection system I think the factual issue can be exactly the thicker hot shoe as you are describing it here. So I will try to do something with this DIY again.
    I like the canon a lot but it’s approach to this issue is very disappointing.

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  3. Definitely agree with you, Heather, but I shouldn’t have had to send it in twice to fix something that Canon already knows is a specific problem with this camera and the speedlite. And why make us pay for it? Seems wrong to me.

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  4. Have the same problem. It is the quick release system not tigtning up so the contacts do not work. I have solved this with a wedge I fashioned with parer and electrical tape I put between the camera and flash once the falsh is on. Very low tach but it works.. Quick release Bad design

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