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If a Panasonic Camera or Lens Needs Repair after the Warranty Expires, does Panasonic Refuse to Repair It? (UPDATED with comments)

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UPDATE 23 May 2018: I spoke with a Panasonic USA representative who assures me that Panasonic *does* repair lenses past the warranty period. Here is the statement from Panasonic USA:

First and most importantly, Panasonic Lumix repairs its lenses and cameras, whether they are within the warranty period or beyond it.

Certain lenses can only be serviced by our lens factory in Japan due to the equipment and expertise that is required. Any repair that deems the lens to be disassembled requires that mechanical and optical alignment need to be done. The time required time to disassemble, repair, reassemble and align the lens is a very manual process that can take several hours. A final decision as to if the lens can be repaired comes only after it’s been disassembled and evaluated. For these reasons, parts for the lens were never made available to 3rd party servicers who are not capable of servicing the lens.

For a professional photographer, time is money. The turnaround time to have a lens serviced in Japan was far too long, so from day one we decided that a lens received for qualified in warranty service would be replaced with a factory recertified lens. These lenses go through the factory assembly line and receive the same calibration and inspection as new units receive. Using this system our in-house turnaround in Texas is typically 2-3 days from delivery, often faster. In consideration of all of the above, an out of warranty repair may also be done by replacing the lens with a recertified lens.

DIGLLOYD: note that companies like Leica and Zeiss also cannot repair certain lenses in the USA; they have to go to Germany.

Knut K writes:

You mention that all your favorite ‎M4/3 lenses are Panasonic.

This might lead people to buy Panasonic lenses unaware of a very serious issue: Panasonic does NOT repair lenses outside warranty. They just don't bother (they are an electronics company and never have). There are many statements on the web concerning this, an example: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4283303.

I find this to be a very serious issue which should be mentioned whenever these lenses are recommended. This leaves a guaranteed lifetime of only.
- 3 years in the US (warranty time)
- 2 years in Europe and
- only 1 year in Canada

Canon, Nikon or Pentax offer a minimum 10 years of service after lens discontinuation.

Actually Pentax replaced the front lens of my K 2,5/200 in 2005 (the lens was produced in 1977 and discontinued in the 80ies).

Leica also offers a lifetime support at least for the mechanical parts (they will remake them) and still have a huge stock of old front lenses.

These are serious issues with Panasonic. Facts that cannot just be ignored.

DIGLLOYD: very serious, but I can’t take it as a corporate policy from an email or from a forum thread. I don’t know who at Panasonic USA could confirm or refute this claim, but if true it would make me very unwilling to buy my favorite Panasonic lenses.

Below, Roger Cicala’s comments (LensRentals.com).

The short answer to the question 'would repair keep me from buying a Panasonic lens' is it would keep me from buying an expensive Panasonic lens.

Since with my other gear I expect a repair to be $200 or more, I tend to think of $300 lenses as disposable outside of warranty. And there are some nice little $300 Panasonic lenses I'd buy. I wouldn't dream of investing $1200 in one, though.

To expand a bit: I spent some time looking into our Panasonic m43 repair history. This is on the basis of a couple of hundred repairs. It's only applicable to the U. S., of course, things are very different in different locations. The worst part of Panasonic's repair service is they charge a $75 to just look at the lens. Very often they then say it's unrepairable but that was $75. If it is unrepairable they'll offer to replace it with a refurbished lens for about the cost of a new lens. They also say a very large portion are unrepairable, much higher than other manufacturers.

Since we do in-house repairs we have a pretty good idea that these things are repairable (and often end up doing that repair ourselves if we can get parts). Basically if the repair is time consuming, or requires optical adjustment, it's not repairable and that will be $75, please. The summary words used by our factory service liaisons for interaction with Panasonic were 'chaos' and 'inconsistent'. It's very common to be told an item is being repaired, then to follow up weeks later and be told they were waiting on approval (even though we have email trail of approval being given weeks earlier) or can't be repaired or the parts are on hold etc. Most common is saying they can fix it followed by 'when the tech started the repair he found other problems that we can't fix'. The worst part is it's usually us calling about the lens when we hear about this; they often didn't call to tell us it was not repairable.

As an aside, we repair a lot of the non-repairable ones in-house if we have parts, which isn't often. Repair times are slow (weeks to a couple of months). Not the worst, but certainly in the worst third.

Costs are also all over the place. A simple filter ring replacement may be $90 on one lens and $270 on another. Quotes for the same repair on the same lens are different at different times. They basically cannot do any optical adjustments successfully, so there's no sense sending them a decentered lens to be fixed. I should note, though, that sometimes decentering isn't optical, it's because a mechanical part (helicoid, roller, etc) is broken and they can fix that.

Sometimes. I think the big question people are asking is can out of warranty items be repaired. I can't answer it from firsthand knowledge more accurately than sometimes, but not often. I can speculate, however: Panasonic is frequently out of this part or that and parts-holds are often months long. I assume that once a lens is no longer produced, there is not a back order of parts and Panasonic isn't big enough or busy enough to make stocking discontinued parts financially feasible; so once the parts they have are used up, they can't repair it anymore. Given that a lot of their parts are outsourced, I doubt they can order 5 or 10 of part xxxyyyy, and it's not worthwhile to order 1,000 of them for a discontinued lens.

DIGLLOYD: I think this is about as authoritative as it is going to get.

Bottom line is that I stick with saying that the Panasonic lenses I show above are my favorites for M4/3 (optically and to some extent, the build style), but none of them qualify for purchase, as I refused to deal with a company that won’t service a $1600 lens or $3000 lens after only 3 years. Even 5 years would be unacceptable. On the other hand, video producers might just deem it a cost of doing business.

Rainer U writes:

Many times I have read on your site complaints about the service and repair quality of camera companies. As a working professional photographer I strongly underline the importance of a good service, it is at least as important as the quality of the products.

In this context I must praise the Nikon Professional Service ( NPS ) at least here in Germany. They offer the best service of any company I have ever known: return time is in 99% of all cases five days; if it is only usual maintenance it is free of charge many times (even for old gear); if they are unsure about my issue or cannot reproduce it, they call me and inquire more details until the issue is solved. They are present at many big events, not only sports, with a team and do repairs and rent for free for the accredited photographers.

I know quite a few colleagues who switched to Nikon just because of that service level. I happily do without the latest bric-a-brac of camera or lens technology, if I cannot rely on them and/or the service deserts me.

DIGLLOYD: I agree. Canon is very good also, at least here in the USA, though it has been some time since I’ve personally verified that. Sony is working on it, but in a half-hearted way, excluding many customers.

Franklin K writes:

Another story, a French one, I own an iPhone 6s+, bought in September 2015. I recently noticed the battery level at 79%: time to change it. I went to an official Apple workshop. The phone was carefully examined by the receptionist. He said « come back at 6pm ». Time was 2. When I came back (22 miles each time), he said: « we didn’t touch to your phone because it has been previously opened ». A friend of mine is working at Apple Cork. I rang up and she confirmed. Appallingly.

DIGLLOYD: Apple has a similar trend now in making even pro machines non-repairable (iMac Pro is extremely difficult to work with, laptops are essentially sealed).

It is a fact that electronic goods are indeed very hard to repair as time goes on. Therefore this policy might be acceptable if a company put in place a suitable replacement program which is generous to customers. But as it stands, it represents a sea change in what quality means, at least to most companies these days.

When I pay a premium price for a product, I expect correspondingly high support and service.

A product is not just the good(s) bought, but the total support and service package as well. This is why Nikon and Canon 'rock'.

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