Anyone care about cameras?

The 7D camera sent back from the Canon repair center — with the battery door still off.

The 7D camera sent back from the Canon repair center — with the battery door still off.

BY CLAYTON PETTERSON  |  It seems traditional photography is going the way of the horse and buggy. Eastman Kodak is laying people off and discontinuing the production of cellulose acetate film, the product heavily associated with the Kodak name. We know Polaroid has suffered the same demise. Well, what about the Canon camera? My guess is it’s starting to free fall into the same pile of obsolete products.

I came to this conclusion, not from reading some consumer report, but from my own experience dealing with the equipment.

I had spent more than I thought I should have for a zoom lens for my top-of-the-line, 7D Canon camera. I had finally been able to move up to one of the “big boys” in the camera world. After several months, the lens started not focusing properly. Following Canon’s instruction, I sent it for repair to the New Jersey Canon service center. Sadly for me, I had not spent the extra money for the extended warranty. After all, I had used an inexpensive Pentax camera and lens for years without problem. I figured, What could go wrong with the lens? Well, I learned, it cost almost as much to repair the lens as buy a new one.

My old Pentax camera seemed almost indestructible. Over the years, I had really put it to the test. It had few moving mechanical parts, and it would take a hard crack with a hammer to damage the metal body. The digital camera is different. A few bumps and knocks and it will stop working. My 7D did suffer a hard bump, which caused the plastic door holding in the battery to fall off, and the camera would not turn on. This complete failure of equipment was an emergency situation for me.

The 7D was my main camera and, in three weeks, I was off to Europe for a month-long tour showing my photographs and videos. Another part of my job was to document Jochen Auer’s Wildstyle and Tattoo Messe extravaganza.

I contacted the official Canon repair factory. No problem, they told me. I was assured if they got the camera right away I would get the camera back in five days. The 7D was still under warranty, so the repair’s cost was not a factor. I spent $34 for a FexEx overnight, and sent it in again. I checked the next day if they had the camera. I waited a week and a half. No word. I almost obsessively called the factory to find out the progress of the repair. No problem. Now, there were only five working days left to get the camera back into my hands. I got on the phone and pushed all the buttons. Turns out the camera had not made it past the first step toward repair, which is the intake center. No problem, they told me. The camera would be moved into the repair department and I would have it back in time. Again, I was calling and calling.

On the day of my departure, I was sweating. I had to be at the airport by 2 p.m. Relief. The camera arrived at 11 a.m. I opened the box, and there was a note on the camera saying I needed to charge the battery. I turned the camera over and the door was still broken off. I slipped a fully charged battery into the camera and it would not turn on. The repair note said they fixed a “focal problem” in the camera. What? How could they check the camera if it wouldn’t turn on?

This was a repair? I left the camera at home and was gone for a month.

Wildstyle and Tattoo Messe has continuous stage entertainment. The majority of the audience is under age 40. I noticed the youth were all using iPhones, cell phones and other computer devices to record the acts. Only a few young people had SLR cameras. Those over 40 tended to use what now seem like old-fashioned cameras.

Back in America, I called the factory. All I could get was people with a first, but no last, name. After heating up the water enough, I finally reached a service manager with a first and last name. I told him it’s my opinion the company must be in deep trouble if this is how they handle one of their prized, bragged-about products.

No! No! No! he responded.

Well, then, I said, how could this happen? He tried to reassure me that my experience was not typical of the factory’s work.

Send it back, he told me. Meanwhile, I had another shoot that was important to me. I would never get the camera back in time. And all they can offer is for me to send it back. No replacement in the meantime? Nothing?

How well can Canon cameras be selling if the largest percentage of the new market is no longer buying the SLR camera or Canon photo products? I think the company is in deep trouble. I sense a crash is coming.

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