People Pitch In to Help Photographer After $12K Lens Shattered by Baseball

A sports photographer whose $12,000 camera lens was shattered by a 104 MPH baseball will have his gear restored after an outpouring of support by the public and an act of generosity by Sony.

Photographer Jim Rassol was shooting the Major League Baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins on Saturday, June 24th, when a first-inning foul ball flew straight into his Sony 400mm f/2.8 lens at high velocity, completely shattering the front element.

As a freelance photographer working with extremely tight margins, the gear wasn’t insured, meaning the freak accident resulted in a total loss for Rassol.

A closer view into the shattered lens. Photo: Jim Rassol.

Good Samaritans to the Rescue

After hearing of what happened, a group of fellow photojournalists and friends of the photographer launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help him get back on his feet.

“A freak accident! Jim Rassol has worked every day grinding out mostly sports assignments for wire services after leaving the South Florida Sun Sentinel,” South Florida Sun Sentinel senior photographer Joseph Cavaretta wrote on the GoFundMe page. “As a freelancer he has to supply his own equipment including computer and software. That barely leaves any profit, definitely not enough for insurance.

“A big part of that investment is long glass to cover sports. A line drive at the Marlins game right into the front of his Sony 400 2.8 is a huge set back. Myself as several of his other photojournalist colleagues are trying to help him replace this essential item.”

Thousands of dollars were quickly raised from people who saw or heard what happened and who wanted to pitch in to help, but it was unclear whether the campaign would be able to raise the $12,000 needed to replace the destroyed lens with a new one.

A screenshot of the GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign set up to help Rassol.

Luckily for Rassol, however, the viral incident also caught the attention of Sony, and Sony decided to step in and help make Rassol whole again as well. Sony is accepting whatever was raised thus far ($7,363 on GoFundMe) as a discounted fee for making the lens like new again.

“Basically we (Sony) have discounted the repair so it will be done with whatever the GoFundMe was at, sending him an immediate 400 GM as a loaner for as long as the repair takes, and a free year of Pro Support,” a Sony representative tells PetaPixel.

The Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS is popular with sports photographers and has a retail price of $11,998.

Rassol says he has been blown away by so many friends and strangers chipping in to help him.

“I want to sincerely thank each and every person who donated to help me get my lens fixed,” the photographer writes in a statement posted to the GoFundMe. “Sony is going ahead with the repairs for the amount in the Go Fund Me fundraiser and they are giving me a free year of my current membership to Sony Pro Support.

“Sony has been remarkable in this process. Usually, you only see this kind of outpouring of support when you lose someone. It’s so humbling to see how much people care about you.”

“This means the world to me, thank you!” Rassol adds in a Tweet.