Lens chipping by Rolland Elliott: a very bad experience


This web page is a little report on a rather bad experience I had with the The Nikon lens chipping service of Rolland Elliott. Before saying anything else, I have to stress the fact that this is my personal experience. Some people have been very happy with Rolland Elliott services, and I give you a few links of satisfied customers: Bjorn Rorslett, Bobj and a few Nikonians. More Nikonians discussions here, here and here. I have no reasons not to believe he can do a good work, but I will let you judge how my case went on...

In a Nikonians discussion some people were mentioning the sometime long delay to get your lens back, or the somewhat 'abrupt' communication style of Rolland Elliott. I must say immediately that this did not bother me, except for the delay in email communications when answers required to wait a week. But hey, this is Internet, not some express mail company. I can understand that. The lens even came back faster than I expected! Door to door, I was separated from my lens mount for less than a month (remember there are two overseas shipments included here...) Of course, given the results, I wish he had spent some more time on it...

The facts

In some complains about Rolland Elliott that you will find on the Internet, people are simply shouting at each other, with no evidence or detailed comments but certainly contradictions. I will not go that way, I prefer to concentrate on the facts, now that I've cooled a bit. I sent him the lens mount of my AIS 200 f/2 on April 2004, and received it back on May 2004. The lens was bought second hand in March, in perfect condition. The mount, among others, was perfect. And here is what I discovered when I opened the cardboard box...

  • Before opening the box, I could hear something moving in the package. Upon opening, the mount had been packed with very little foam (if any at all) and it could wander in the box almost freely. This contrasts with the package I had done: bubble plastic inside the mount, the outside too, and everything packed tightly with foam filling. I'm a bit disappointed, but this is just a starter...
  • Taking the mount in my hands, I quickly see that the cuts in the baffle are very approximative and done with a saw. A file would be much better for precision work, and indeed the portion removed is much larger than the contact block itself.
  • The next think that can't be missed is the state of the mount, particularly the black coated parts that go in the camera. A large dent is visible, other parts show strong wear and scratches. Ouch. [7][2] (pictures of the defects are grouped below and referred by brackets [])
  • Looking closer at the contact block, it is not properly aligned horizontally [5]. The misalignment of one of the screw-hole drilled into the mount is responsible: it is about 0.4mm off! If you've ever looked closely at a lens mount, you'll know this is really big.
  • The well of the aperture level seem to have been drilled [3]. This is quite a surprise: this mount didn't need that! The lever hole was just fine... Or maybe it's not my mount? Given the condition in which it is returned, I must say I'm still not 100% sure today that I received my mount. Maybe Rolland Elliott mixed up some parts, but this is not good anyway.
  • An adhesive tape is wrapped around the chip to both insulate it from the metallic parts of the lens but also to firmly fix it to the baffle. No problem of course, if the tape had not been cut at the location of the aperture well, after putting it on (this is confirmed by cutter streaks visible on the baffle). Now the tape is still OK on the other side of the chip, but near the aperture well it is only fixed on a width of 5mm. It did not take long to get loose...
  • At this point I'm at the office, without my cameras and I think this is going to be a bad day. But I haven't tested the mount yet so I'm waiting till the evening with the thing on my desk. Will it work??
  • At home I attach the mount to the lens and attach it to the camera. Auuugh! I hear some scratching noise, and it's difficult to insert the lens. I don't force anything, but go straight to my work table. There I discover that the little screw which is used to block the lens rotation is partially loose! [4][1] This screw is located 180deg from the contact block and as it is not fully screwed it prevents the lens from fitting in the camera. Nothing broken in the camera, whew. Closer inspection of the problem reveals that Rolland Elliott used a screw that is too long (mixing parts, again?). Even close inspection shows that the screw hole in the baffle part is obstructed, quite probably by a broken screw. I can't be sure about that, and since I did not check my mount in those small corners before sending it I can't blame anyone. But if Rolland Elliott had broken a screw, he should have used a smaller one (or, IMHO, even replace the mount). And if the hole was already blocked when he received the lens, he should not have mixed the parts.
  • So I manage to have the lens mounted on my camera and I switch the camera on. The dreaded 'F--' appears on the screen, indicating that the chip is not recognised by the camera. A little twist of the lens and a beautiful 'F 2' appears. A little twist of the lens and it disappears. That screams contact problem, and indeed the contact block is not only misaligned tangentially but also radially [6]! The offset is also in the .4mm range: either the contact block is just touching the female contacts of the body, or a slight twist disconnects everything. The kind of words I said then should not be written here...
  • Needless to say, I spent a good hour checking every aspect of the mount. One more thing I discovered is that the screw holes used to attach the mount to the lens contained metallic dust from drilling or grinding. How would you like some metallic dust in your lens?

The pictures:

Damaged mount, take 1 Damaged mount, take 2
Damaged mount, take 3 Damaged mount, take 4
Damaged mount, take 5 Damaged mount, take 6
Damaged mount, take 7 Damaged mount, take 8
Damaged mount, take 9

IIRC, that's all the problems I found on this mount. I think you will agree that I having a bad time here. But wait! Don't go! This is not over yet. I check my VISA account and discover that 105USD have been withdrawn by Rolland Elliott. The price advertised on his website was USD80 + USD15 for shipping, so what's going on? Here's the answer from Rolland Elliott, verbatim:

> Hi Rolland,
> you took $105 from my visa card, which is $10 over the
> normal price ($80 + $15 int shipping). I'd like to know
> why.

my prices are now $100 per lens.

Sorry, Rolland

Can you believe this?? I could not imagine receiving an answer like that. You can check his website, the price is still USD 80 now (July 2004). He could have sent me the money back if it was a recent change (that nobody is aware of), but no. No excuses, nothing. I wrote the official price in the letter sent with the lens mount, so VISA accepted my file and will check the transaction. Since the price of the shipping was USD5, I am expecting USD20 from Rolland Elliott. I'm not a dreamer though, but maybe VISA can help me? I wonder where will Rolland Elliott find something from me accepting a deal at 105USD...

I tried to propose a few things to Rolland Elliott, for example that he send me a new mount for my 200 f/2, so that I can do the transformation myself. The answer was 'too expensive' (which might be the case). He proposed me to send back the mount to re-align it, but I clearly did not want him to touch it anymore. Since no agreement could be found I filed the case to VISA to get back as much as I can. The lens was sent to Nikon to install a new mount (this is probably the most expensive way but at least I'll be able to sell the lens 10 years from now without a significant depreciation).


This page is written as a warning to people who plan to send something to Rolland Elliott. What I learned is:

  • Rolland Elliott did not do a good job.
  • Rolland Elliott could not give me any acceptable answer on the damage done to the mount.
  • Rolland Elliott is not reliable.
  • Rolland Elliott does not care about you.
  • Rolland Elliott does care about money, in a strange way.

I'm not saying ''don't go to him''. He's still the only one offering this, so if you really need it (like me) it's your only choice. But before doing it, think twice.

Some people have been happy with his services.

I'm definitely not.


I have received by the mail a replacement mount from Rolland. The mount is not the normal mount for the 200/2. Instead, it is a mount from a yet-to-be-defined AF lens since there is a hole for the mechanical AF in it. The black barrel has been cut to fit a 200/2 but a little bit too much as there is no place to firmly place the chip on it. This mount poses two serious problems with the 200/2:

  • the inner barrel is not profile appropriately: there should have been some 'ears' in to avoid vignetting.
  • the mounting flange is too thick (about .5mm), which results in an impossibility to focus at infinity. The flange indeed behaves like a .5mm extension tube...

So, as much as one can appreciate the commercial gesture of Rolland Elliott, it is not solving any technical issue that I have.

Update 2004/09

The rear mount and baffle were replaced by Nikon for an undisclosed large amount.

Update 2005/03

I now enjoy my 200 f/2 with the D2H, which does not require any chipping.

Update 2005/06

I recently noted that the price has increased to $115 per lens conversion, almost a 50 percent increase compared to a year ago...

It is also interesting to see that Rolland Elliott uses a 'very precise Dremell industrial drill that rotates at 30,000rpm'. It's very, very funny, because:

  • Dremel does not have any industrial or professional tool lineup
  • Dremel only sells handheld tools, which is probably the worst thing to use in this case and therefor explains a lot on the random accuracy of his work.
  • And last but not least, 30000 rpm is not exactly the speed you want when you drill in metal. The holes would be much cleaner at 10000 rpm, IMHO.

Update 2005/07

I received this email describing another bad deal with Rolland Elliott. Same problems, same incompetence from Rolland Elliott...

From: 	Andrew Kalman
To: 	Damien Douxchamps
Subject: 	Rolland Elliot's lack of a work ethic
Date: 	Mon, 18 Jul 2005 20:01:09 -0700  (Tue, 12:01 JST)

Hi Damien.

I came across your website today -- thought you might like to know my 
experience. You're welcome to add this (verbatim) to your site.

I should mention that all of the lenses I have were in mint or 
near-mint condition before sending them to Rolland for "chipping".

The first lens Rolland did for me was a factory-AI'd 80-200mm f/4.5. 
He did a fine job.

Then, I sent him two lenses at once -- 180mm f/2.8 ED (AI-S) and 
300mm f/4.5 IF-ED (AI). When I got them back, I knew there were 
problems right away. And he also failed to wrap them as well as when 
they left me. But that's another story.

In the case of the 300mm, not only did it (the chip) not work (you 
had to "jiggle" the lens to get it away from the dreaded "F--" 
message), but the inner "tube" that connects up to the rear lens 
flange was noticeably bent. And the lens-stop screw was no longer the 
correct one that was originally on the lens -- now it had a much 
smaller one that doesn't stop the lens properly. And the electrical 
contacts were clearly not mounted properly, due to an incorrect 
drilling of the screw holes in the mount. And he was using screws 
with fine threads (for metal) when in fact he should have been using 
Nikon's coarse-thread screws (for screwing into the plastic of the 
contact block) to hold the contact block to the lens flange.

In the case of the 180mm lens, the contact block's position was 
waaaaay off. Not a chance of it working.

I emailed him, pointing out these errors in detail, etc. His answers 
did not in any way instill confidence in me that he could make the 
lenses work as they should. He offered a "Send it back, I'll fix it" 
sort of thing. Nor did he offer any refunds, etc.

I thought about this for a while, and ultimately decided that sending 
them back to him was only another invitation for him to damage these 
lenses further. I no longer let him anywhere near my lenses.

This happened in August of 2003.

I get the impression that while he may mean well, I feel he does not 
have the tools nor the abilities of a competent machinist that are 
required to do this sort of work accurately, repeatably, and 
elegantly. I wish someone else were offering this service using Nikon 
parts. As a reasonably accomplished machinist with access to a 
complete, well-stocked machine shop, I can tell that his handiwork is 
not one of a machinist.

I recently managed to fix the 300mm lens. I straightened the huge 
dent in the inner "tube", and was able to locate the contacts 
properly. But it still wouldn't work. Eventually I realized that my 
lens (an AI lens) only stopped down to f/22, and the chip required 
that the lens stop down to f/32 before the camera body (in this case, 
an F5) would read the aperture correctly instead of "F--". I ended up 
modifying my lens (internally -- it's invisible from the outside) to 
stop down "an extra click" to f/32, and now it all works fine. But 
this mod entailed quite a bit of machining. So it's clear to me that 
he never even tested this lens, as it could not have worked at all on 
the AI version of my lens (but could have worked on the AI-S version, 
which stops down to f/32).

Since then I've also obtained a 200mm f/2 AI-S that had been chipped 
before I bought it. It was used by a pro, and the chipping on it is 
fine. I'm sure Roland did it, too, at some time in the past. So two 
of the conversions I own are fine, one is fine after I did a lot of 
work to fix it, and one will probably never be fine.

I certainly cannot recommend that anyone send their lenses to Rolland.
   Andrew E. Kalman, Ph.D.

Update 2005/12

More links to unhappy customers: