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Photography Consumer’s Bill of Rights

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In 1962, then President Kennedy presented to the U. S. Congress a Consumer’s Bill of Rights. The second and third points of this Bill are as follows:

(2) The right to be informed–to be protected against fraudulent, deceitful, or grossly misleading information, advertising, labeling, or other practices, and to be given the facts he needs to make an informed choice.

(3) The right to choose–to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of products and services at competitive prices;

I decided to be a bit more specific and develop a Photography Consumer’s Bill of Rights. I’m sure I missed some things. Please feel free to add your suggestions as comments.

To any manufacturer who might read this: I know you’re thinking that only a small fraction of camera buyers really worry about these things, that the majority doesn’t particularly care. That may be true. But remember, that ‘majority ‘ of whom you speak will probably ask one of us which brand to buy.

The Photography Consumer’s Bill of Rights

1. We have a right to be treated as intelligent beings.

Telling us your product will “empower us to shatter creative barriers and become more involved in the action while experiencing the joy of using classic craftsmanship” is simply announcing that you think we are really stupid. Anyone who is swayed by the stuff you are shoveling isn’t going to remain in what you consider ‘an attractive financial demographic’ for very long.

2. We have a right to factual information.

If a new product has a problem let us know. We will bitch about it online for a day or two, then move on. If you don’t let us know, we will question it online for months. Your choice.

Tell us an item’s weak points (every item has them) on the front end. Knowing the weak points lets us work around them. We are photographers. That’s what we do.

Provide us information like field curvature at various focusing distances, distortion, flare tendencies, and focus shift. We will take better pictures that make other people want to buy your equipment.

3. We have a right to not be lied to.

When everyone on the planet knows your camera has an issue, but everyone who works for your company states there is no issue, you are lying.

4. We have a right to know how things work.

Knowing how a tool works on the front end allows us to choose it and use it better. If we actually knew the accuracy limits of, or effects of lighting changes on your AF system, for example, we’d be less likely to constantly wonder if our camera’s AF system was defective.

5. We have a right to know our equipment is working properly.

Telling us our lens is “in spec” when it’s taking horrible pictures is not reassuring; your credibility is already shaky. Send us the actual test results along with the standards you use to make that determination (if there are any). Even the neighborhood mechanic shows me the computer tracing when I think my car is running rough.

6. We have a right to timely repairs.

I doesn’t take three weeks to replace my cars engine; why should it take 3 weeks for a dented filter ring to be replaced? I really don’t care if you want to ship it across the border where labor is cheaper. I’ve seen what you charge me for labor. That should cover U. S. minimum wage just fine.

7. We have a right to warranties that are honored.

If you tell me my unmarked, barely used item has impact damage then the burden of proof should be on you, not me. And yes, you should have to prove it.

8. We have a right to buy parts to do simple repairs ourselves.

Anyone can replace a bent filter ring or broken battery door in 10 minutes. When you want me to pay a $160 repair fee, $30 shipping, and be without my equipment for weeks for this, you’re telling me you think I’m stupid.  Again.

9. We have a right to choose our own repair technician.

When you create a repair monopoly by not selling parts, we realize it’s because you dread comparison.

 

To any photography consumer: Only we can enforce such a thing, and we can only do it by voting with our wallets and purchasing from manufacturers who come closest to being consumer friendly. Of course the next time something just amazingly awesome gets released I’ll probably buy it, even if it’s from one of the ‘noncompliant’ manufacturers. But when I have a close decision between a couple of brands, I’m going with the more consumer friendly brand every time.

I don’t see any reason to make a list of my opinions regarding which companies are the best and worst; they’re just my opinions. But feel free to comment on which companies you think are the most (or least) consumer friendly. The opinion of all of us is way more meaningful than the opinion of any one of us.

 

Roger Cicala

Lensrentals.com

June, 2013

35 Responses to “Photography Consumer’s Bill of Rights”

Siegfried said:

8. We have a right to buy parts to do any repairs ourselves.
Anyone has a right to replace a bent filter ring or a broken battery door or a stained sensor in 10 minutes. Or in two weeks. Or in two months and finally fail in putting the things back on. We have the right for the DIY service and maintenance, as well as the right to fail at DIY service and maintenance attempts. You have a right to charge extra when fixing up a failed DIY service attempt of ours. For the extra fee to be applied you yet have to prove it was the failed DIY service/maintenance attempt, see Chapter #7.
When you want us to pay a $160 repair fee for the bent filter ring, $30 shipping (VAT not included in initial quotes), and be without my equipment for weeks for this, you telling us you think we’re stupid. Again. If you think we all are not physically inclined to be able to re-joint flexible PCBs or tighten up bolt-joints with specified torque, you treat every one of us as a dumb-ass botchy handless hillbilly. Even if we are the hillbillies, we do not like to be treated as hillbillies.

Roger,
you appear to have received another batch of new equipment of the N brand and you are not quite happy with this batch, aren’t you? Ok-ok, just kidding.
Please let me know whether you also count citizens of Mordor and if we can sign the proposed Photography Consumer’s Bill of Rights. No problem if it’s US-only thing, I’ll just keep my fingers x’d for ya.

Yours,
Zig

Jon T said:

Splendid idea and agree with your proposals. I’d also add -

Environmental sealing – a fit and practical definition of ‘wet weather protection’, ‘dust proof’ etc

A statement on any camera lens corrections/enhancement that are baked into the RAW file – I’d like to believe I’m paying for optical quality and not computer processing/algorithms.

John Tharp said:

Thanks Roger; you hit all of the points quite well. No doubt there’ll be a rep or two puckering up when reading through your Bill of Rights!

LensRentals Employee

Roger Cicala said:

Zig,

I definitely would say they have the right to charge extra for our botched service attempts. I’m 100% in favor of that. If I open it up I void the warranty. Fine.

But a battery door? I remove that every time I put a grip on a camera. What’s their reason for not selling that part? Or the card door that is replaced by removing 2 screws? And I can put 3-step instructions in each spare filter ring for them: peel up sticky, take out the screws, swap rings, replace screws and sticky”. That covers 95% of all lenses.

Actually I’m not having trouble with Nikon these days. We’ve found Nikon non-USA is much easier to work with, and well worth the overseas shipping.

John Seidel said:

A year ago, my wife and I both had Canon cameras. Mine was okay, hers had problems from the beginning. We has sent it to Canon with a clear written description of the problems, plural, and I started with a long conversation via telephone before sending it in. Canon returned it having done nothing to correct any of the problems. Canon said all was well. It wasn’t. I now have a Sony and I bought my wife a Panasonic. She loves the Panasonic. Other than slower than expected startup time and no viewfinder, my Sony is much better than the three Canons I have owned. Presumably, Canons’ upper end cameras are also higher quality. But I feel that, regardless of price, a camera, or any item, should do what it is designed to do. We give up features for lower prices, not functionality. So long, Canon.

Michael Steinbach said:

YES! And Yes eight more times! Please let at least one Nikon big wig read this and have it set in. Then have them fire the WI area rep for be a do nothing, useless waste of a paycheck.

Ron said:

My current, recent experience with the Canon Service Center was phenomenal.

I have a 5D3, took it on vacation with me last month, camera got damaged during transit on the plane (checked baggage). Told canon this outright, the multi-controller pad was plainly ripped off.

Sent it to the Canon California center (I’m a US citizen in Japan) with no proof of warranty (it’s in, I bought it last july), though they requested proof in case the warranty would be used. I didn’t think that would be a warranty repair.

Got the email back from them saying it will be fixed under warrenty and I should have it back sometime this week. Cost me 52 bucks for the USPS insured priority mailing.

I’ll take that any day.

R. Edelman said:

I have had excellent service in the past from Canon in Irvine, California.
Of course, your advice about not patronizing companies with poor service also pertains to other products. For example, after spending several thousands of dollars purchasing Toshiba computers for my office, they lost me as a customer because of a $65 hard drive that was dead on arrival. It was impossible to get through to customer service.
Whereas a defective camera is not likely to kill you, a defective motor vehicle can. In the past, over 200 people died because of failures of under-engineered Firestone tires that were installed on Ford Explorers. Ford and Firestone knew about the problem and tried to hide it from the customers, until too many people were being killed and injured for the problem to be kept secret any longer. More recently, Jeep reluctantly recalled vehicles because of the risk of fuel tank fires, but only after being threatened with a lawsuit by the U.S. government. In contrast, Tesla showed its integrity by being proactive and transparent in a recent recall of some of its cars because of defective rear seat latches.
Staying away from a camera company because of poor customer service may help to avoid inconvenience and frustration. Staying away from a car or truck company because of poor customer service might save your life.

Tim Ashton said:

Roger Cicala.
The photographers friend:D

Thorbard said:

As far as weather sealing goes, it would be as simple as listing the IP rating of each component.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ip_rating

It would really help understand what “weather sealing” and “dust sealing” really mean.

Jack Tomlinson said:

It’s interesting that you draw the comparison to the neighborhood mechanic. Neighborhood mechanics will provide you with a clear explanation of what they are going to do and how much it will cost you. They’ll also give you your parts back. Doctors won’t. Camera Companies won’t.

Apparently, we live in a world where auto mechanics have more integrity than Doctors and Camera Manufacturers. Who woulda thought?

Ben said:

Never mind the courtesy rental I get when I take my car in for a service.

Chris said:

Hi Roger,

Brilliant article, I think I might just email the manufacturer of my camera the link, as there is quite a lot in there that’s relevant.

As for your list of best to worst, I bet regular readers could guess pretty close to it.

Chris

HomoSapiensWannaBe said:

Well said, Roger. Touche’ Nikon!

I would add: Have open pricing promotions with bodies, lenses and accessories that don’t just benefit those switching systems who also have enough money up front to buy several lenses at once.

Mike said:

Great stuff Roger (as always). Let’s be honest, most of our gear comes from Japanese manufacturers. I lived in Japan for a few years and the attitude there is ‘we know better’. Unfortunately, the Japanese only think one way, and if the gaijin don’t like it, it’s their problem, not the Japanese. Consumer rights will get no traction with Japanese companies….

Edward said:

Great article, Roger! Really agree with #6 as I sent out a slightly front focusing Sigma 35mm f/1.4 on warranty (Yes, the oh so revered superlens which just so happened to be the first Sigma lens I’ve ever had an issue with) and I have yet to receive it, 3 months later. I sent it out from the store I purchased it from, and all they could tell me was that Sigma was “waiting on parts” to fix a front focus issue.

KyleSTL said:

As someone with 4 cameras and 1 lens currently disassembled in my office, I am in full support of #8, and would like to ammend it by saying manufacturer’s should be required to maintain electronic versions of exploded diagrams and service manuals forever to provide to customers for a fee (not sure I’ll be able to ever reassemble the Nikkor 35-70mm f/2.8D that I fixed – see Siegfried’s comment above).

Aaron said:

I’ll sign on to this Roger! And I definitely agree about the parts and service monopoly. Although I’ll probably stick with the CPS and Canon Servicing, simple & easy to replace parts SHOULD able to be gotten by consumers, and having local mom & pop (as well as local chains) should be able to get all of the parts as well. The labor charges are pretty extreme, although for some repairs I imagine they do need better skilled people. But when I can go to my local store and they’ll probably charge me half or less for labor and get it back to me in a couple of hours…that’s what I want to see.

derek said:

Roger is the most open minded and most helping person in this photo industry.
Thanks for your being here to help us and always amazing articles you post here.
Great work and many of us really appreciate your hard work, thank you very much , sir.

NancyP said:

Jack Tomlinson, do you really WANT your doctor to give back your “parts”? The organ is fixed (pickled) in stinky and toxic formalin. How about just the nice clean photograph of said organ?

john robison said:

One of the comforts of 30~40 year old cameras and lenses is that I no longer worry about poor company performance. Guess if I was buying new stuff this would matter but for me it is a moot point.

I don’t think the offenders will change, they may go out of business, but not change.

Bill GM said:

Perfectly written! You cannot imagine how frustrated I was with a certain camera company that I will not name (Canon). Spent thousand of dollars and many hours trying to get even one digital body to function as advertized. I was told time and again by service center that all was well with cameras. I just did not use it correctly. Wish I could get my money back. And the lost time.

Kurt Roeckx said:

Under point 2 I would also like to see:
- All regional sites show the same information
- What is in the box. For instance does the lens include a hood.

For lenses:
- Internal focus or not
- Rotating front element or not
- MFT charts, including what each line really means
- Transmission
- Distortions
- Vignetting
- Aberration
- Spectral transmission curve

For camera’s:
- Raw is filtered or not, and which filter
- Expected shutter life time
- Shutter type (mechanical, which type of electronic)
- Filter specification (frequency) of the anti aliasing filter
- Spectral sensitivity of the different colors

I’m probably forgetting some things.

Steve Jacobs said:

Why don’t we doctors give the parts back? We have to send them all to the pathologist to see if they’re diseased. THat’s a rule that every hosptial follows.

I can’t imagine why anyone would want them anymay.

BigEater said:

I’m sure that the stateside staff of Canon and Nikon understand the problem and probably sit around moaning about it as much as we do. Unfortunately, corporate policies are made by people in a completely different mindspace and whose ideas of customer service are different from ours. Not better, not worse, just profoundly different. Someone needs to translate this into Japanese and send it to Fujio Mitarai and Makoto Kimura, the heads of Canon and Nikon respectively. Then we’ll see. If they keep this up the Koreans are going to eat their lunch just as they’re starting to do with cars and heavy equipment.

Omer Einav said:

Roger i read and enjoy your articles – i eagerly wait for new ones. you also run a great and honest business!
However you have data that is very valuable regarding service, build quality, performance vs spec etc.
you have a lot of power to just spell the facts as they are
Yes you may have to say things that the manufacturers will not like and it may become uneasy – however if you stay honest (as you always are) you will do a great service for all of us including the willing to listen manufacturers. so give us the plain facts on reliability, service and performance – this will go along way to help us all

Omer Einav said:

sorry for my comment, I have missed these reports – with this info in hand it is easier for us to decide how to spend our hard earned $
thanks for the great job you do!

Randy said:

Brilliant, Roger. Sounds like a love letter to Nikon USA. To this I would add “You do not have the right to refuse out-of-warranty service to a customer who purchased your product second-hand, not knowing it was gray market or originally sold overseas”. And further: “Since your products are frequently backordered in the USA while being readily available elsewhere, you agree that this is your fault and not the fault of someone trying to purchase your product”.

Tony said:

A good list, except point 1.
I want to know if the manufacturer thinks we are really stupid.

How will I know that the manufacturer thinks we are really stupid unless I can read that the product will “empower us to shatter creative barriers and become more involved in the action while experiencing the joy of using classic craftsmanship” ?

Ben Anderson said:

Roger,

I like the premise, but:

1. We have a right to be treated as intelligent beings.

If we acted as such, we then would have the right to expect truth in advertising. Example: Look at the number of middle-aged men driving convertibles, working on that stage 3 sunburn in their brand new Corvette cruising the Applebee’s parking lot(s) of America…

2. We have a right to factual information.

Manufacturing processes dictate units with failed engineering, component capability and assembly process failures be let into the field. If not, the marketing cycle to generate buzz on the new product will long be a memory by the time said product has ‘passed’ any advance product performance testing.

3. We have a right to not be lied to.
We have no right to be told the truth, hence the age-old ‘Caveat Emptor’ Manufacturer honesty only guarantees a ‘chance’ of customer loyalty re-purchasing. The minute a tech lowers his voice and tells you, “Yeah, we know about that oil problem w/the D700, and here is what you need to do to fix it…” then the manufacturer is open for a lawsuit. It is as simple as that. There is no requirement they tell the truth, not even in a courtroom. Manufacturing today, and I ‘speak from experience’ , is merely a matter of moving the greatest amount of product in the shortest time to fund the R&D (2 engineers finally sitting down at the drawing board to fix the known problems, add a few BS features and tell Marketing it is a ‘Revolutionary increase in usability, capability, and user interface’…

4. We have a right to know how things work.

You are entirely correct about this right. We have the right to set up our own testing jigs, methodology, blind correction model in a parallel environment and learn how our equipment works. For any camera manufacturer to state how their product works is just waiting for someone with deep resources to sue on grounds of ‘false advertising based on specification insufficiency’ If you haven’t noticed already, there is nothing you have asked for so far that the manufacturers cannot provide…it only boils down to a matter of can they AFFORD to provide what you seek.

5. We have a right to know our equipment is working properly.

‘in-spec’ means ‘we don’t know’ because said specifications are in three different time-locked vaults (1/3 of the spec in each’ and 2 people have keys to their and one other of the vaults, and the third key was destroyed the second after it was made. Sending us the actual results would require someone to find the metal shavings and re-make that third key. Specifications on adjustment and such for a consumer product are at best currently +/- 8~10 to account for anything which mass-produced. There are little in the way of precision regulations for manufacturers. Take engine crankshafts for example: +/- .001~.0021 on rd journals are ‘norm’. High performance cranks? +/- .0001~.0015. Ten times as accurate. Hi-Perf crank costs $9K and is reground within 2 races. Imagine the cost of a red ring or gold label lens if it had tolerances that tight, and the backlash if said lens was dropped from 6-8″ onto a carpeted floor, or bag was manhandled by TSA and all of a sudden no longer focused, even manually.

6. We have a right to timely repairs.

Agree wholeheartedly. Been waiting for parts for my $|gma 28 f1.8M for 6 months…sad!

7. We have a right to warranties that are honored.
Research warranty law- It is not the manufacturer’s responsibility to prove we did. It is our responsibility to demonstrate we didn’t. When we unbox a product, depending on where you live, you have a set amount of time much shorter than the warranty period to identify any product deficiencies. But, what is a deficiency? The manufacturer has no published specifications because nobody can find the third key, and the tech service staff reads off the script that the manufacturer is unaware of any product deficiency, and their lawyer will argue, “Your honor, the class as a whole has failed to follow their own state’s warranty laws bu not alerting us to the alleged product deficiencies in the amount of time required by the statute, therefore we have no liability in the issue at hand, but as a matter of fairness we are willing to give the class a certificate which grants them a choice of either a 5% discount off the next $1300 lens they purchase of an Anniversary edition lens cover which fits the product in question in exchange for remaining a member of the class and relinquishing any option to pursue independent actions…

8. We have a right to buy parts to do simple repairs ourselves. Refer to #9

9. We have a right to choose our own repair technician.
We certainly do have the right to choose our own guy! The manufacturer is not required to sell parts to any distributor, reseller or agent. by Federal law, all a manufacturer is required to do is maintain an inventory of parts to repair most common deficiencies of that product for a term of 7 years from the first date of the product’s release. The manufacturer is not required by law to sell those parts, only to have them on hand.

As for which parts are necessary, and the specifications, and the other things you have asked for here..those are all slipped through the suggestion box slot in the door of Vault #3

Purchasers in the US have little recourse against manufacturers. on the EU there are many more regulations requiring manufacturers to play a bit more squarely with the purchasing public.
Rather than hounding the CEO’s of the the big 4 or 5, better results would be gained from writing your Congressman.

The information I have provided are gleaned from years of working in a factory position for several manufacturers. It is tough to see loyal customers screwed. I have found that the smartest way to obtain satisfaction in larger purchases is to avoid the big initial push. Manufacturers do more product improvement through un-publicized updates to products as a matter of small test runs of a model in groups of 50-100 units to see if the claims go away or are exacerbated with the ‘new’ update. By the time a product is 60% through it’s life cycle and the number of claims has dropped to .1% of units made (NOT sold) the replacement model bearing the revision mark begins to be marketed. These numbers are not indicative of cameras and glass, but consumer products containing 100-1085 parts each. Everyone decries the Microsoft model of releasing flawed software and refining it complaint by complaint. It wasn’t Microsoft’s idea…it was Henry Ford’s.

I liked your list, Roger, as doomed as it is merely by it being a part of Consumer Products. Hopefully people will truly, as you suggest, vote with their wallets. Unfortunately, our industry is jam-packed with photogs suffering with G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), so voter-fraud will remain rampant.

Max said:

Love the list but we know the reality. They’ll make less than perfect products and we’ll keep buying them. (except the Zeiss 135 APO) perhaps the most perfect lens I’ve ever seen.

Zak McKracken said:

About the issue with battery doors and such:
Wouldn’t it be possible these days to 3D-scan and print at least some of the smaller more trivial plastic components? Canon wants xx$ for a viewfinder frame (mine broke), and since then I’m without one and will stay thus. No way will I pay monopoly prices.
A company like Lensrentals might just be able to afford a decent scanner and 3D-printer to make some replacement parts themselves.

mike said:

I agree about repairs….after spending over $10.000 on Canon gear you would think I would be offered free shipping and quick repairs. Nope.

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