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Thursday, 26 May 2016

Comments

Fujifilm's support structure was one of the factors that influenced my decision to get an XT1 and some lenses. I sure hope that good service remains available if and when I need it. I have heard different reviews on the customer service at different Fuji service centers -- seems like the kind of service you get may depend not just on the company but also on your location and the people at the nearest official service center.

I wonder if you might comment on the various optional warranties that are often offered at the time of sale. There are manufacturers extended warranties and some offered by third parties. I have tended to avoid them as unnecessary extra costs. It's a gamble either way, but which gamble has better odds?

Speaking of which, I knew an e-comm photo manager that was trying to decide how to handle camera replacement, we literally burn cameras down like a cheap candle (I have one station that easily tops 150,000 shutter actuations a year). Her solution was to buy a third party camera repair warranty when she bought her cameras, and she was getting 2-3 new or rebuilt shutters for the life of the camera, for free! I'll bet those places don't offer those deals any more.

Mike, your original comments on gray market photographic equipment warranties is morphing into a discussion of consumerism mixed in with the problem of quality control by those who make and sell complex products.
Many of us in the western world will not buy a refrigerator or a vehicle without looking at the ratings in sites like Consumer Reports or Which. These organizations also rate cameras for features and reliability but the rate of introduction of new models clearly exceeds their ability to give more than cursory advice.
I am inclined to follow the advice given by Roger Cicala over at Lens Rentals, admittedly aimed at inconsistency between multiple examples of the same lens, when he stated that expensive equipment generally provides samples with less variation.

Opposite of a lemon? I'd say a peach or a cherry ...

Knock on wood, but I've never gotten a lemon camera. Sadly, a couple of my car purchases were lemons, but not to the point where they met some legal standard.

I lean "prosumer" when I buy cameras, so I'm OK with self-insuring. But, generally speaking, I'll buy from an authorized dealer just in case. I did buy a gray market Minolta Dynax 505si super once. Still works fine after 16 years!

A repair place based database (actually anything published that is similar) is not longer current the day it is published. So what may be applicable in the United States is not so in Canada, or Mexico. or Oz or in the EU countries or anywhere else for that matter.

And only Nikon Canada in Mississauga and Vancouver are able to repair the digital
devices with their name on it; didn't see anything else in a search here in Canada.
Know of one or two independent shops however they continue to service the older lenses and as well as the few remaining film cameras.
And for the film cameras, parts are obtained canabalizing parts from other devices to ensure the machine under repair can be repaired.

We are in a discard world Mike,'cause repairing same is no longer viable, for all too many reasons.

Isn't it the case that there is, in practice, a difference between the support & maintenance that's available to a working pro and the rest of us? Don't both Canon and Nikon have professional support organisations? That could muddy the water still further, perhaps - is it possible that something that an amateur/enthusiast wouldn't get serviced because of the way they'd bought it might get handled by the pro support organisations?

Per your comments about customers not thinking about service when making a buying decision. Interestingly, this is probably No 3 on my list of my top three requirements when making a camera purchasing decision.

As Lucas mentioned, I've had very good support from Fujifilm USA for repair to my X-Pro1, and my X-T1, which was sent in for the "light leak from the cable ports" failure mode. The X-Pro1 repair took about two weeks, but the X-T1 light leak "issue" was repaired and sent back within one day after it's arrival at Edison, NJ. I had it back home within the week; pretty impressive.

Getting my Olympus E-M5 repaired OTOH, was a MAJOR hassle, and it took two months for Oly to do a simple repair of replacing a scratched viewfinder glass.

Canon on the other hand, has provided excellent support for pros for years though CPS, with the caveat that they will not service bodies or lenses after a specific point in time. My Canon 1D MkII is not eligible for service, but my 1D MkII *N* still is...or, it was last time I checked. Same applies to EOS lenses, so check before sending these in for repair. The good thing is that Canon is very good providing clear information about what is eligible for service, and what is not.

BTW, Fujifilm will be implementing a CPS-like pro service capability in North America some time in the fall of 2016.

I regard optional warranties as a form of insurance. My late father taught me that a cardinal principal was 'never insure against a risk you can can afford to take'. The insurer has to make a profit, so by and large the insured parties lose out.

That's why, he said, governments (UK, anyway) don't insure the cars and buildings they own, but individuals and lesser organisations must.

So optional warranties are a tax on the poor, one of many such examples.

"Creampuff"?

Leica's Passport Warranty does still exist, at least in the US. The first lens I bought new from Leica had this warranty. I promptly put an older generation back cap on it, scratched the rear element badly, sent it in and got it back, after a while, in perfect condition. I also dropped an M9 on its nose with the lens focused for a close distance, so that it got scrunched. Sent it in, got it back, all fine. A lens I bought this yer still came with this warranty. It's nominally three years, but doesn't seem to expire.

I also had a good experience with Olympus, when I fell and smashed the LCD on an E-P5. It came back in better shape than I did. At no charge.

Might this all be a tempest in a teapot, at least for most of us?

My late brother did some statistical analysis on the Consumer Reports frequency of repair data for cars. He said the the data, while accurate, had no meaning. The rates of failure were so low, that the differences between them weren't significant. He advised ignoring them.

From statistics to anecdotal data . . . I followed his advice. My 1995 convertible was on the CR do not buy list that year, for it's "terrible" repair record. At almost 21 years of age, it has been remarkably reliable and continues to please me. Not that it hasn't required repairs, but not often, nor particularly expensive.

Because of the CR warning, I bought an extended warranty, which did me no good at all.

For most of us, photo gear is not a great expense. For (all too?) many of us, gear is technically obsolete before failure. Many times, a failure may only speed up an inevitable upgrade, anyway.

As pointed out above, statistically, self insurance is always cheaper. The Fortune 500 company where I worked most of my life was almost entirely self-insured, even health insurance.

So if all of us here go ahead and buy 'dumb', maybe one or two a year will get stuck with an unexpected , but manageable, expense for repair, replacement or early upgrade. Over the course of a photographic lifetime, I'll bet we would all end up ahead.

Seems to me there are better ways to spend my time and energy than worrying about this part of life.

It occurs to me that TOP would be in the position to run a poll/survey on reliability and service - though it would take some work to analyse...
My recently purchased Leica V-Lux has a 'passport' giving 1 year comprehensive warranty and accidental damage plus 2 years further warranty - albeit for a premium over the Panasonic FZ version.

A few years ago my young daughter sheared off the strap lugs from my 25 year old Swarovski binoculars (by hammering them on the floor). I sent them back to the manufacturer who returned them with replaced parts, new casing and eyecup fully serviced etc - all with no charge! Pity they don't make cameras...

All service experience is, of course, highly localized. I have had excellent experiences with customer service from Nikon in Hong Kong. In fact, in Hong Kong, customer service from the Japanese and European manufacturers (such as Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Bosch, etc.) is generally pretty good, in contrast to after-sales service from retailers.

On the other hand, after-sales service from the same companies in Australia ranges from difficult to woeful. A prosumer Panasonic camcorder was never returned to me, for example (a violation of Australian law). Nikon in Australia is no worse than anyone else, but no better. One of the differences is that in HK the after-sales service centres are accessible in person, whereas in Australia they're hidden away in industrial areas, and generally deal with the consumer via electronic and physical mail. This dehumanisation of their customers may make a difference.

Of course, Australian and Hong Kong are tiny fish compared to the whale of North America, so Nikon need to get their act together in that market, post-haste.

A lot of credit cards include an extended warranty and B&H offers Square Trade (and I think another called drop and spill or something like that) There is a big catch though. They will only repair or replace up to the original purchase price. American Express cheerfully ( if getting an estimate first counts as cheerful ) covered parts and labor to repair my canon printer. The repair people then camped out in my apartment replacing stuff (two print heads at $450 a piece, a mother board, used about $800 in ink) until the bill got up to $3000 and I still had a dead printer. I bit the bullet and bought a new Canon printer because it's a very nice printer and I had just bought a lot of consumables. Turns out that the first time you power up the printer it writes its serial number to the print heads and you can never use them on another printer.

Thank you canon.

BTW, the big canon printers are marketed by a completely separate company from the camera people who seem to be a fairly reasonable bunch.

Back to the extended warranty thing. If you ever have one and your camera developes a mysterious intermittent malfunction, before you do anything else other than checking that you have all the paperwork, soak it in a bucket of saltwater. Or better yet a bucket of milk*. Otherwise you will find that the warranty covers repairs but does not guarantee that the camera is actually fixed.

*"yes I'll admit that getting a large format printer soaked in milk and seawater is a bit unusual but you really ought to come by the studio the next time we have a costume party, in two weeks the theme is 'when squid attack! ' "

Lensrentals used to publish a list of gear that broke and the turn around time for it to be fixed. This list I think changed Sigma, as it used to take month's to fix, amd then they became one of the better repair shops. However I haven't seen this published now for a number of years, and I know lens rentals fixes and takes apart a lot of their stuff.

One other thing to think about is the model release cycle. If a new model is released every year, is it cheaper to buy a new one or your model now on the used market (as it has been discounted), then get it fixed? This was the case for my Panasonic camcorder as it cost $120 just to look at it.

My best service experience is still with Leica, and that was without any passport service, and on a a 50+ year old camera that I'd bought second-hand and without documentation.

I'd lost the frame-line lever on one of my M3s. I emailed Leica to ask where I could get a replacement, they asked me for my address, and within 2 days I had a new one in the mail. They didn't ask for receipts or even serial numbers.

Now, this is obviously one of the cheapest parts you can find on any camera, but to me it indicates that the company has at least the intention of being accomodating, regardless of the origin or history of the camera.

I have a Crumpler bag which is now grandpa's ax - a lifetime warranty being honoured notwithstanding extensive wear and tear - and now I think the left hand buckle is original. As I recall the warranty also guaranteed the bag against a nuclear explosion if being worn at the time.

I note that it's been mentioned that one rarely sees the servicing of a camera as a decision point when buying new gear. Au-contraire...I was a Nikon user for 40 yrs and after two horrendous servicing incidents with a D5300 and Nikon UK I switched to Fuji.

What I do is quite simple: if I intend to buy photo gear from outside of my country, I first contact my country's representative of the brand to get a statement about warranty conditions. So I know what I am getting into.

What would be fascinating is some profile of what repairs are needed. Electronics are often DOA or work for a very long time... although I did own a CD player that gradually went mad as fungus grew on one of its pcbs. So as cameras and lenses become progressively more electronic, I suspect the profile of repairs will change: either simple (clean the contacts with alcohol and re-fit) or catastrophic (replace entire sub-module). For cheaper and more physically compact camers, it might mean replacing the entire camera.
As for insurance, the cook at my local pizza shop in Melbourne proudly showed me photos of his 8 motorcycles of the previous 5 years... all replaced by insurance after being destroyed in crashes. That's what you subsidize when you buy insurance :-(

For me the most frustrating problem is with "legacy equipment". You spend for pro level equipment which features among other things a promise of great durability. You use that equipment for a few years and when a repair is needed, no parts are available or the official repair center (I am looking at you Nikon, Epson and Apple) will not touch the device for fear of breaking something else that has no replacement parts available.

I am thinking specifically of a Nikon Coolscan 4000 film scanner, I wanted a cleaning and Nikon HQ in Melville Long Island wouldn't touch it.

The power tool brand I use (expensive, professional grade and worth it) maintains spare parts for any of their tools for a minimum of seven years after the tool is discontinued. With the life cycle of new equipment I can understand that maintaining inventory for products a few years old can be daunting but I remember when pro level bodies like the Nikon F3 cost $650. Nikon D810 about 4.5x that amount. Of course I used that F3 body for 20+ years, no problems.

Part of the purchase price for pro equipment should be pro level (time, parts availability and quality) service.

Plus One for Michael Perini. I'm managing a department right now that was set up before I got here, and they made a lot of assumptions based on personal bias rather than experience and research. One of the things they did was buy Nikon, where I would have bought Canon based on my technical experience, and repair needs.

With our corporate buying 'problems' (setting up accounts and pulling purchase orders for everything, generally no 'open' p.o.'s allowed); I find it extremely difficult to work direct with Nikon. We've already been it situations where we were waiting for revised estimates to change the purchase order amount, and they just sent our items back unrepaired! We finally started going through the local pro shop and just having them charge us whatever they want for the service of sending it to Nikon.

We've also blown up shutters from over-use (e-comm), had them repaired, and they come-back unfixed or with a different set of problems. We'll get some weird shutter vibration when they go that results in blurring images at around 1/30-1/60 (about where we shoot all the time), we'll have them sent back to Nikon, they'll come back with the same problem. Finally we just give up, (Thanks Nikon, is this the way you want to operate?) because it never gets fixed, and we write the body off. But what can we do, the repair facilities seem to not be able to get the job done.

I've decided to start testing and migrating Canon in as soon as we can, just for the repair fulfillment!

I own a Nikon myself, because at the time I bought, it seemed to have the specs I needed; but I've never been comfortable with it, and it never seems to have as repeatable output as the Canon stuff has had. I remember back when Nikon had a Chicago repair facility and I used to drop off and pick-up perfectly reworked and CLR'd, F's, F2's, F3's, Fm's, never a problem, now I can't even get them to rebuild a shutter correctly.

Sounds like we need a "Consumer Reports" for cameras. Of course they (CR) do at least some surveys that include camera repair data, but the sample might be small compared to a what a dedicated camera consumer organization could gather.

I've been impressed with how well my various automobile recalls have been handled over the years. Recently I've been getting urgent calls from Honda for a long sold Civic, telling me that not replacing the airbags could lead to fatalities.

Digital cameras fall into that "sort of durable good" category, items that might fall apart and be tossed in a few years, or might last for a decade or more. When Olympus switched to mirrorless they also closed their two U.S. company repair shops and now use Precision Camera Repair. They do all the work for Olympus and Pentax, and are certified to work on most of the other brands. Seems to be a lot of grumbling about them.

In my career I worked with a lot of very high end Zeiss equipment in another field. That taught me the respect for quality in their products generally so I saved up and bought a pair of their binoculars. About ten years later I made the mistake of packing my now old and well used Zeiss binoculars in a checked bag on a flight. They were well protected rolled in clothes I thought. However on arrival I found the optics were way out of alignment such that they were unusable.
I sent them to Zeiss Canada expecting a hefty repair bill. The repair was completed and returned free of charge. There was a letter with them stating that they should not have failed in that way despite being out of warranty, and most probably mistreated.
As a result of this plus their inherent optical and mechanical quality which was what originally attracted me to them I have bought several Zeiss lenses for my Sony A6300 and am very pleased with them. I just wish there was a 16-70mm F2.8 and perhaps a 200-400mm high quality APS-C lens for it made by them.

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