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Repairing a Nikkor Zoom Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

10 January 2023

If you read our exuberant piece titled Fixing a Nikkor Zoom, you know we suffered the same problem with two 18-200mm Nikkor zooms. Which is that the scene in the viewfinder hops up and back down before focusing.

Nikon Service. An itemized list of the work.

In that piece we tried to reason with the damn things, eliminating focus issues and concentrating on image stabilization while using incantations from the erudite forums on the Web to reset the zooms.

That sort of worked. But mainly didn't.

So we resorted to our last resort and sent the worst offender to Nikon for service. We thought we might learn something. Like what exactly (WTF in common parlance) was going on with these things.


The process for sending a product to Nikon for repair was surprisingly efficient. We can only attribute that to a desire on the part of the repair personnel to avoid as much aggravation as possible. Which is as noble a quest as any.

The Nikon Repair page actually offers three alternatives: Troubleshooting, Service & Repair and Factory Maintenance & Cleaning.

The first of those is diagnostic while the last is educational. The meat and potatoes is in the middle where you can log a repair request and get the ball the rolling.

There are five tabs in the Self Service Product Repair process: Product, Problem, Estimate, Accessories, Contact Data and Review & Submit. This makes eminent sense. Tell them what the product is, what the problem is and they'll give you a ballpark estimate. If that's affordable, you tell them what accessories you're shipping with it (lens caps, for example) plus who and where you are. You review the deal and submit it. They guarantee the work for 90 days.

You print out a shipping label with packing instructions and get busy with a box and tape.

You can track the repair on Nikon's site but we didn't bother.

We shipped our lens to Nikon in Southern California on Dec. 20 via UPS ground with a little extra insurance in case it was lost in the storms. It was returned to us on Jan. 5. Not bad considering two business days were holidays.


Included in the package with the lens was a very brief, line item description of what Nikon had done to our lens:


The adjustments and checks wouldn't themselves have resolved the issue. But replacing the Flexible Printed Circuit and the main board would have. The whole thing, plus return shipping came in just a bit under $300, about half what a new copy would have cost.


We took advantage of the service's email address to ask a few question about what exactly was wrong with the lens. And would continuing to operate it without the repair have somehow compromised optical quality.

Remember, we have another lens exhibiting the same symptoms so we were curious about whether it was worth it to send that one in as well or continue to use it in its hobbled state.

We were also concerned that this was some kind of design defect since it occurred to both copies.

Nikon replied, "The issue was caused by the VR FPC being cut and brush on main board not reading properly. As long as the lens is kept in good condition and not damaged there shouldn't be any future issues."

That was a little obscure to us, so we followed up with more precise questions and got a more precise answer:

The VR FPC (Flexible Printed Circuit) was cut, meaning the signal was not completed. This is effectively an electrical issue, same as the brush on the main board. This can be caused by a number of things, but given the recommendation by service is to keep the lens in good condition, it's likely just ensuring you regularly clean and maintain the lens. It's best to have a routine cleaning and maintenance every couple of years.

We've used both of these lenses regularly over 10 years, during which we've been very careful with them. The problem occurred spontaneously, not after any particular incident. There would be no user factor here.

But that data transmission problem isn's something incantations from the erudite forums on the Web would have fixed. Only a replacement cable and board could fix that.


We thought about this a moment and realized that almost every one of our autofocus lenses has failed. Both Olympus and Nikon (although not the lightly used Canon 18-55mm). It could just be that they do require routine maintenance to repair normal wear and tear on the ribbon cable.

None of our manual focus lenses without electronic interfaces (which are nearly 50 years old at this point) have ever required servicing. And are all still in regular use.

We're delighted to have our 18-200mm zoom back and behaving as expected. And we applaud Nikon's service department for its efficient order entry, prompt service and willingness to explain the details of the repair.

But we've learned to budget in a hefty percent of the cost of an electronic lens for maintenance.

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