My Sigma Service Experience

When we make purchases, we all tend to spend a lot of time concerned about the price of acquisition and the buying experience.  When I get a car, I interview the Service Department because I will see those folks for years and more often that the sales professional.  Our camera equipment follows the same pattern.  Quality of service is critically important.

In September 2012, I purchased a Sigma 120-300/2.8 DG OS telephoto zoom.  It gets limited use due to size, weight and use case, but when used, it's usually in harsher conditions such as climbing through brush, hiking through woods, standing in cold arenas, shooting in humid or damp conditions and more than once getting rained on.  The lens has performed wonderfully.  It's sharp, the AF is quick, quicker I think than on the Sports or Contemporary lenses that replaced it, and when I use the lens with a monopod or a tripod, I can offset the size and weight and be very satisfied with my images.

I recently noticed a clacking noise in the lens.  I loaned the lens to my friend Rico Forlini, who is an incredibly talented wildlife photographer and he loved the lens, but was not so enamoured of the clacking noise.  As this was new to my experience, I did some searches online and there were reports that in some lenses, in some conditions, the Optical Stabilizer would struggle doing a reset.  So I dug up the invoice and took the lens in for service.

I was immediately thankful that I live just outside of Toronto, so I was able to get the lens to the service centre at Gentech International with a 45 minute drive.  I know that had I sent the lens in through a local retailer, turnaround would be 6-8 weeks.  For my use cases, that length of time is untenable.  Thus, I feel for folks who do not have ready access to the authorized service centre.

The Sigma lens came with a 7 year non-transferable warranty.  This is a huge benefit to the original buyer, because while one can, and might choose to, purchase extended warranties from a retailer, the length of warranty provided by the manufacturer negated the need for this extra expense for me.  Nikon Canada offers a 5 year warranty on lenses.  Canon, well I'll just leave their warranty model lying in the mud where it originates.

I arrived at Gentech International and was pleased to discover when I entered that I did not need to go around back, or through the dock area to find service.  The very pleasant lady at reception directed me to a brightly lit service reception just off the lobby.  There I was served immediately by a friendly and helpful chap by name of Greg Rickey.  If the spelling of his name is incorrect, that's my fault and I apologize.

Greg took the time to check the lens over, and consulted with another service professional.  I liked immediately that they acknowledged the problem, and were straight up in saying while rare, they had seen it before and that I should have no worries about them making things right.  I was advised that normal turnaround would be 5-10 business days and that they would call as soon as the lens was ready for pickup.  More good news as I expected not to have to call and chase the status.

To my profound surprise, I received a voicemail the very next day that my lens was available for pickup.  My initial reaction was "wow, did they actually do anything?  Is this a mistake?"  I missed the  opportunity to collect the lens that day, so planned to pick it up on the next business day.

Upon arriving at Gentec's service counter, I was served quickly and a quiet and professional fellow produced my lens.  He proffered a camera body to mount it on and it was immediately clear that the clacking noise was gone.  The documentation informed me that they had completely rebuilt the optical stabilization system.  The lens focused quickly and the stabilization was evident at 300mm and short distances when used indoors.  

One of the concerns that buyers will often have with third party products is the quality of experience over the lifetime of the product.  I can say that I have owned many Sigma offerings in my time as a photographer and have yet to come to regret a purchase.  Like many of us, I have bought and sold gear over time and in all the time with Sigma, this is the first time I have ever needed service, and I have to say that a two day turnaround on a large and complex lens is excellent.  

A big shoutout to Gentec International in Markham Ontario for great service and fast response.