Sony Service Is the Worst


THE BACKGROUND: I have been a Canon user all my life (since age 10). I recently bought my first Sony, the a7s, in 2014, and I’ve loved having the smaller mirrorless camera with its awesome features like wifi and silent shooting. But now, my lens has broken in the same exact way four times in a row, and Sony has been a nightmare to deal with through the entire process. I am not paid by Sony or Canon. These opinions are all my own.

My Sony 35mm/2.8 lens first started malfunctioning in April 2015. Normally when shooting on silent mode, the camera is completely silent– no focusing noise, no shutter click. But it began making a whirring noise as if it were trying to autofocus. The whirring became worse and worse until it was constant any time the camera was on– whether you were trying to take a photo or not. Focusing was inconsistent. Eventually, you could see that the whole lens was vibrating visibly, leaving wavy lines and wavy focus in photos. No problem, I thought. I bought the lens and camera in July, 2014. Everything was still under warranty.

Malfunctioning Sony 35mm/2.8 lens
Note all the lines of the building, especially on the edges of the frame. They’re supposed to be straight. The lens is vibrating so badly that they look wavy. Plus, the focus goes in and out with the waves.

FIRST TIME, APRIL: I paid for shipping to send it to Precision Repair Center, which Sony contracts out to in Connecticut. Problem 1: Sony does not have its own repair center. It contracts everything to Precision Repair Center, and they treat the center very much as a contractor and not as part of Sony, exerting little to no influence over what the repair center does or how quickly it does it. I was also traveling that week, so I was without my camera until I returned. 15 days in total. Problem 2: Turnaround time is 7-10 business days, plus 2-3 day shipping. I would later find that there are no good ways to expedite this. Alas, I’ve been spoiled by Canon Professional Services, which turns around within 2-4 days. But even if I concede 7-10 business days to be an acceptable turnaround the first time, it really becomes ridiculous by the third time you’re trying to get the same problem fixed.

Anyway, When I got it back, it seemed to be better. So I brought it to Chicago with me.

SECOND TIME, MAY: A few days into my Chicago trip, it started having the same issue. I called Sony service again on May 13 and requested that they send me a shipping label this time, since I shouldn’t have to pay for shipping on an issue that was their fault. Problem 3: Sony acts like everything is sorted into impermeable departments. They said it would take up to 4 days to get the shipping label. This is an automated label that takes 30 seconds to produce on, but it was going to take up to 4 days because Sony tasks a different department with creating the labels. I asked for that and for the repair to be expedited, since I would soon be traveling to Europe and wanted the camera in time for that trip. In order to get anything expedited, I had to talk to customer service. Problem 4: In order to talk to customer service, I had to wait for them to call me back in 24-48 hours. This was consistent throughout every single interaction with Sony. There was literally no way for me to just call or be transferred to them. Ridiculous already, but it gets better. Customer service did not call me until 4 days later on Sunday morning while I was at a wedding, and I missed the call. I called back, and I was told oh, in order for them to call back, I would have to wait another 24-48 hours. They waited another 3 days to call back. In the end, a week already having lapsed, customer service simply called Precision Camera to ask them to expedite the repair, and even after “expediting,” I was still without my lens for 14 days. I also asked if they could provide a temporary lens while mine was out of service. Problem 5: Sony has no loaner program. They cannot loan you a lens, even if yours is out of service four times in four months and it’s still under warranty.

THIRD TIME, JUNE: I was traveling in Europe with the Sony as my only camera, a risk for sure, because you can guess what happens next. After a week, it became apparent that the issue was not fixed at all. My goal was to get them to just replace the lens instead of having me send it in again, since they were clearly not fixing the problem. Again I was told that in order to talk to customer service about escalating the problem, I had to wait for them to call me in 24-48 hours, but of course I had no international phone access while I was gone, so I demanded an email address to contact them instead. They denied having a customer service email address, but I was persistent enough that they caved and gave it to me. Long story short, they would not replace it and said I still had to send it in to the repair center and let them see if they could repair it. (Spoiler: They thought they could, again. They did not actually, again.) I preemptively told the customer service rep that this had to be the last time I was sending it in, because otherwise this could go on infinitely. She said something to appease me, but you’ll see that this was not the end of it.

FOURTH TIME, SEPTEMBER: Of course I sent it in and they “repaired” it only to have the lens break again for the fourth time. This time, I repeated what I said to the other rep, that I was refusing to send it in for repair again, because they’ve already demonstrated their incompetence. Plus they had now run out the clock on my one-year warranty, but they still had to honor 90 days from the last repair. I called more than once and was told again and again that I would have to send it in, because Sony was unable to determine that the lens was not repairable; the repair center had to do that (again with Problem #1). I escalated, waited for customer service to call back, and finally, after the 3rd or 4th round of calls, someone finally decided that they weren’t going to make me send it in for repairs again. I had to sign an agreement, the terms of which I can’t share, but suffice it to say, I was sufficiently appeased and eagerly awaited the resolution. I wasn’t even going to write this blog post any more. But wait!

NOW, NOVEMBER: They still have not met their side of the agreement. I called them, they contacted me back later, and they basically said I should wait another two months. Great.

Cinque Terre, Italy | Anna Wu Travelogues Cinque Terre, Italy | Anna Wu Travelogues

Above, see the weird wavy effect the lens is having on the image. It’s in and out of focus as if freelensing. In the zoomed-in detail, you can see how different people on the same plane are inexplicably in and then out of focus.

The Vatican | Anna Wu Travelogues The Vatican | Anna Wu Travelogues

More wavy lines and weird focus seen above. You can especially see it at the top of the building, which was straight in real life.

What can I even say? There have been so many systematic failures in my dealings with Sony. This seems a timely issue, especially as photographers are often debating whether mirrorless cameras are now good enough to replace dSLRs. But Even as Sony and Fuji have been gaining ground with their new mirrorless cameras and Canon and Nikon have seen profits falter with their seemingly older, less agile camera departments, my experience with Sony has demonstrated quite clearly that they still haven’t quite figured out how to really serve the professional photography community. What good is your awesome latest and greatest technology if it doesn’t work, and the company that makes it seems virtually incapable of repairing it?

About Anna: I am a wedding photographer (Anna Wu Photography) and videographer (Seaglass Cinema) based in San Francisco but always running off on adventures all over the world. Come say hello on facebook or instagram.