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Wednesday, 25 May 2016


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Reminds me why I really need to get out of Nikon, yeah. They've gotten just too evil. Keeping track of receipts for lenses I bought in, say, 1982 is not a reasonable requirement for being allowed to buy service (for warranty coverage it's a more reasonable requirement).

[Not sure, but I think the proscription is more about digital cameras and more recent AF lenses, so your 1982 equipment might be safe. You might need to peruse the articles from 2012 that I linked (I just skimmed them). --Mike]

It seems Nikon has soften their stance a bit. They will not service a grey market camera but they are now offering parts for select cameras to third-party repair shops.


The Nikon parts issue is another one where the details are maddeningly thorny, and it's easy to come to grief with seemingly simple language.

It is not true that Nikon USA has stopped selling parts to all independent repair shops. What is true is that Nikon USA will now only sell parts to Nikon Authorized Repair Stations. There are about 19 of these, last time I counted.

They are all independent repair shops -- i.e. they are not owned or operated by Nikon. They are independent businesses. But they have spent the money (on Nikon-provided repair equipment) and time (on Nikon-provided training) to gain status as official Nikon Authorized Repair Stations.

As far as I know, they are free to repair any product they want to. I have never heard anyone claim that Nikon USA tries to discourage them from repairing gray products or products of unknown provenance. And I don't think Nikon USA could do that legally, anyway, even if they wanted to.

You can find a list of these shops on Nikon USA's web site here: https://www.nikonusa.com/en/service-and-support/nikon-authorized-repair-list.page

p.s. On a side note: the Authorized Repair Stations can provide in-warranty service on many Nikon products -- i.e. they bill Nikon for your repair, instead of billing you.

In 2008, I bought a grey market Nikon D700 off of eBay using a "Bing" sales promotion that netted me $800 off the current asking price. An offer too good to refuse, I thought, knowing some but not all of the risks.

...and it turned out fine, not that I'm inclined to recommend it to anyone else. I encountered problems with the camera's shutter mechanism more than 3 years after purchase, and I took it to a local (NYC) authorized Nikon repair center. They had problems sourcing the part because of the earthquake/tsunami damage incurred at Nikon's Sendai facility that made the D700 shutter mechanism, so it was out of commission for longer than I'd bargained for. But they fixed it good as new with the part, that I only now know I'd not have been able to get only a year later.

Now I'm older, wiser, and with Fuji, whose stance on these things is a complete unknown to me. So I keep by the straight and narrow.

Except that I bought my x100s second hand and have no idea what I'll do if it ever needs service, as a craigslist sale leaves no legal receipt.

Which, I guess, means that the straight and narrow includes getting the original sales receipt when you buy secondhand.

Really, if there's a greater public service in talking about these things it might be that you should dedicate a small part of your camera bag to including the original receipt for everything in it. Anywhere you have your camera gear is a place where you might need that receipt, after all.

While I think the advice presented is basically sound, I have a few practical issues with it. Custom officials may say that receipts should be kept on you, but in practice it's a significant enough annoyance that I don't know anyone who would go through it. One would not need to restrict it to cameras, every item of some value would need a receipt and even for cameras who bothers with receipts for a basic item that cost a couple of hundred as new in the last decade?

The second thing is that I think that Nikon's position is overly aggressive. Sure manufacturers want to limit warranty and be specific about what gets warranty and what does not, but out of warranty it would seem reasonable to repair items for the actual costs; repairs are a business after all. This is especially true for the Nikon system, where lenses and bodies might be quite old but still work; it doesn't seem to make sense to limit the business of independent repair shops either as after all, costs can be recouped with the sale of parts and instructions.

[Discussion of the ins and outs of out-of-warranty Nikon gray market equipment repair is beyond the scope of this post. As I say, it's a very complicated issue that would require me to do a lot of research to present accurately. The best I can do is to refer you to the three linked articles. --Mike]

"*Which you should do anyway to avoid possible problems with Customs."

Here in Canada take your camera gear, with your original receipts with you to any Canada Customs office, where they will issue a Y38-1 card (Documentation of Goods for Temporary Exportation) See "<http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/publications/dm-md/d2/d2-6-5-eng.html>"

This will ensure no uneasy questions are asked upon your return from foreign countries including the uSA.

Nikon in the UK is very inconsistent in this matter - to be polite.

Nikon's draconian US practices won't work here in Oz. They can refuse warranty repair as that's a function of the importer. However they can't refuse repair at all if it is a product they would normally service. Thankfully we have laws to stop that happening and a consumer affairs office who will make it happen. I've not tested it with camera but certainly have with other products.

In Oz Olympus and Canon are very good. Leica is OK but very very slow and their service agent isn't the best here.


I never thought I'd miss the way Joe Ehrenreich ran things when he owned Nikon in the USA. On the one hand Customs would make you grind off the nikon name on equipment if you brought it in without receipts, but if you walked into an EPOI repair station you would get repairs no questions asked, sometimes while you waited, and sometimes for free.

After Nikon bought out EPOI and set up Nikon USA they won't even sell spare parts.

At least they aren't as bad as Porsche.

I'm just gonna' keep whispering in the wilderness here:

@ Wes: It seems Nikon has soften their stance a bit.

Their stance and policy has not changed. What changed is that even the authorized repair stations could not get parts or equipment to repair some (not all) of the newest camera models, but now Nikon is supplying the stuff needed to repair those models, as those models get older. As new models continue to roll out, and once-new models become no-longer-new, that cycle will probably continue to play out.

@ David Dyer-Bennet> Reminds me why I really need to get out of Nikon, yeah. They've gotten just too evil. Keeping track of receipts for lenses I bought in, say, 1982 is not a reasonable requirement for being allowed to buy service

Nikon USA hasn't actually changed; somehow they were managing to conceal their true nature from you. Nikon USA's policy on gray market repairs goes back to the early 1980s, probably longer. You always needed your receipt.

If you are a US citizen, you can stop in a US Customs office for a form to list the serial numbers of cameras and lenses you will take out of the country and have it signed by a customs agent. No proof of purchase required (you must have the equipment with you) and the form only needs be updated if you add equipment. I've never had US Customs ask for proof of prior ownership of my equipment when returning to the US, however.

Some history and thoughts.

Many years ago when I was younger and working at a job I wasn't happy in, I had an opportunity to buy a camera shop from a guy I'd known since HS. He was retiring (about the age I am now). I really wanted to do it until he told me he wasn't making money on cameras because the chain and drug stores were starting to carry the cameras most consumers wanted and because they could buy in volume, they could sell those cameras for less than his cost. He carried a few new cameras and listed them at the higher prices he needed and told customers that he was selling service along with the actual camera (sound familiar?). He could offer advice and instruction that made the higher price worth it. Mostly the cameras sat the shelf and his main business was B&W processing which had to be done after hours because he couldn't afford a clerk to tend the store while he processed film. He was grossing about $10K (this was in the '70s) about the time the 800# dealers were starting to kill the local shops. I saw the handwriting on the wall and reluctantly passed. The guy who did buy the business ended up bankrupt. Neither of us foresaw digital.

Nikon isn't the first to be sticklers about proof of purchase. I once bought a used Pentax and wrote the US importer asking if I could get a copy of the user manual. They denied my request because they said if they said if they supplied manuals without proof of sale by a US dealer, people would buy overseas models cheaper and then request an English manual. I pointed out that the camera was used and no longer in production but that made no difference to them. That kind of turned me off Pentax and I switched to Canon.

I've been buying, selling and trading cameras (both used and new) for over 50 years (more buying than selling, I still have too many cameras). FWIW I've never owned a Nikon. I have owned or do own Voightlander, Graflex, Miranda, Pentax, Canon, Mamiya, Fuji, Olympus, Yashica, Wista and a few others but never a Nikon. The used cameras never had a warranty of course, and out of all the new ones I have bought (mostly licensed imports but some grey market) not one has ever failed in what was or would have been the warranty period had there been one. Of course, I'm not a working pro who is hard on gear. If I were, and was depending on my camera purchases to feed my family I'm sure I'd want the insurance of a well-backed warranty, but as it is, a failed camera is not a crisis to me. Besides, as I said, I have several others if one ever does fail and I've saved enough over the years on used and grey gear that if one did bail on me and an anal repair facility refused to fix it over lack of a sales slip, I could just buy another and still be ahead. I guess I'm playing the odds but my history demonstrates that the odds are with me when it comes to cameras without warranties. As always YMMV.

Having been stationed around the world back in my military days, my Nikon collection is 1/3 grey. Receipts? Good luck when one relocates every three years. Plus, based on past Nikon service in the past; I'd rather go on another deployment then deal with those @sshats. The ergonomics, color science, and the old 85mm f1.4 is the only reason I still use Nikon

Thanks for clarifying my question, Mike, at least to the extent possible. As long as your affiliate links are to authorized retailers of every brand they sell (caveat 1), and as long as they all comply with the approved retailing practices of every brand they sell (caveat 2), then it's not a grey market purchase for me to use them (the links) from outside USA. And I should have access to manufacturer/brand warranty and servicing and repair. Subject to caveats 1 and 2, on which I suppose you have no information.

P.S. I was shocked to read that (brand name deleted, but anyone really) would refuse to service or repair *for payment* a camera that was bought from an unauthorized retailer. That's punishing the victim IMHO.

And nobody mentioned '40 Shades of Grey '

[Maybe becuase it's 50? --Mike]

In my experience, Apple is similarly difficult to Nikon. Buy an Apple product in one part of the world, relocate to somewhere else and your new local Apple store will probably not be able to help you with repairs, either in warranty or out.

The main message here is avoid Nikon. Not only are they very inflexible on repair issues but they have recently had several QA problems on new cameras. Thom's website in his latest article describes them as a "company on the edge".

Several Hong Kong companies offer photo gear here in the UK at very good prices and offer to refund any VAT you may be charged. The one I've used has an office in Scotland. Before buying from them I checked all the web reviews I could find and they came out 100% positive with several people saying that they had received prompt VAT refunds.

In their case warranty claims are handled by their Scottish office. I'd have no hesitation in using them again.

Nikon seems to have had various issues over the years with service providers as well as retailers. I recall one major mail order/online retailer either dropped or threatened to drop Nikon products from their catalog at one point. Luckily, I've had no difficulties with repairs. When working, I used NPS (Nikon Professional Services) and, after retiring from photography as a profession, I've used other brands of equipment and I've had few repair requirements. Despite believing otherwise for years, electronic equipment as proven to be more reliable than mechanical equipment in my experience. In fact, since becoming a non-professional shooter, the only repairs I've required has been to the mechanical components of electronic cameras. Unlike my professional days when I gained the reputation of destroying equipment pretty often while on assignments, these days my cameras get treated gently.

Regardless of how justified Nikon may feel about their warranty and repair policy, it is causing a great deal of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) at a time when their sales are facing a steep decline. This is not to say that they should service gray market cameras under warranty, only that being perceived hostile to reasonable customer service and support is, IMO, not in their best interests.

Sounds like a good reason to buy Canon rather than Nikon.

@ Hugh Crawford: I never thought I'd miss the way Joe Ehrenreich ran things when he owned Nikon in the USA.

Again, just in the interests of trying to paint a full picture:

Nikon USA's gray market policies are not driven by the Japanese -- i.e. Nikon Japan, or Nikon Corp, as it is officially known. I don't know for sure that the policies go back to Joe Ehrenreich himself, but I do know for a 100% certainty that they were created by Ehrenreich's people. When I joined Nikon USA in 1989, every senior executive in the company was still an inherited Ehrenreich executive, and the policies were already old by then.

Nikon's Japanese parent company was not a big fan of Nikon USA's gray market stance when I was at Nikon USA. The gray market itself was a significant point of contention and conflict between the two entities. Why doesn't Nikon Japan just order Nikon USA to change its policy? They could. But one of the major functions of a regional subsidiary is to handle region-specific decision-making. So there's always a give-and-take -- more so when the parent is a Japanese company that does not like to give explicit orders that it knows will anger the subsidiary and may hurt it financially.

All that said (and now I'm stepping into opinion territory), both branches of Nikon have, together, inadvertently danced themselves into a very customer unfriendly corner. It's stupid, and they should find another solution. That they have not, even after 40 years, is a significant black mark against them both. But they are not really alone -- thousands of companies in hundreds of industries have big problems handling gray market issues in a smart and customer-friendly way. If this were a blog about cars, or luxury watches, or even tractors (yes, tractors!), it would have similar gray market discussions from time to time.

I read somewhere at DPreview that Ricoh Pentax would for $50 accept a gray market lens or camera (with purchase receipt) to the USA warranty program. Sorry but can't find any link for this.

I don't want to go all point/counterpoint here, but just food for thought for those of you who are saying (in the comments) that the lesson here is "avoid Nikon".

We speak loosely of "Nikon" in these discussions. Actually, the specifically harsh anti-gray market repair policies at issue in this discussion are Nikon USA policies. No other Nikon subsidiary that I know of takes the same hard line on this. And Nikon Japan certainly does not. When I worked at Nikon USA, I many times saw Nikon Japan "request" that Nikon USA repair a gray market product as a courtesy for a customer who was savvy enough to write to Japan. Of course, these "requests" were never refused.

So if you are not likely to need Nikon USA to do a repair for you -- you don't live in the U.S., for example -- then your worries are about the same as owners of any other brand, as far as I know.

Also, remember this is just a gray market policy. If you don't own gray market gear, it's all moot. Hill of beans. Puff of smoke.

The luxury watch companies are playing the same dirty tricks in the attempt to maintain their profit margins (and watches, compared to cameras, have an obscene margin). An "authorized" watch purchased in USA comes with the official warranty. But gray-market versions often cost 10, 20, or 40% less. However, my watch mechanic told me that some of the majors refuse to sell parts for their recent products to independents. They are even getting (or have gotten) stinky about parts for 3-decade old product. The lesson: buy a $20 quartz and replace it every 2 years. To hell with the snooty "official" pretension of the luxury product

A couple of years ago my 20 year old Nikon 17-35 f/2.8 needed repairs. When KEH had to forward it to Nikon because they couldn't get parts, and the Nikon service center charged double what KEH would have charged to replace the autofocus motor, I sucked it up, got it repaired, paid, and when it came back, I sold all of my Nikon gear. I shoot Olympus now.

I really liked the gear, but their business practices are insane.

I understand Nikon USA may not supply parts for repair to unauthorized shops to repair gray market cameras.

But what's to prevent those same repair shops from just sourcing gray market parts from offshore Nikon entities?

It seems the policy overbalances from its original intent, and benefits offshore retailers and parts depots and, coupled with the draconian fixed retail prices, harms the retailer who really after all is the one face to face with the market every day.

30 and more years ago, a retailer was free to set his own price on Nikon gear.

He knew his costs, he knew the competition, he knew his customers. It was purely a business decision on what to charge. After all, the retailer was the one looking into the eyes of the customer day after day; he was the one winning or losing sales from the competition.

Now, Nikon has one set price for the entire country that retailers must charge. Because people in a the back room who don't actually sell to real customers every day know best.

The upshot is, prices are artificially set, and artificially set high. The consequence of this sets the stage for the proliferation of the gray market over the last few years, added, of course, to the free flow of information and commerce over the web.

Unintended consequences of Nikon USA's own management decisions. Because of course any customer would prefer to buy white market cameras. But the spread in what the local im porter declares the price shall be is just too much at odds with the reality of the world today.

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