What can you do when your camera fails? Pro manufacturers offer member services for repairs and loans.
By Theano Nikitas
Few professions are more equipment-dependent than photography. Yet regardless of how well you maintain your gear, things can go wrong. In addition to back-up equipment, you should carry the number of the nearest photo rental service. If you’re a professional photographer, there are some other solutions not only for emergencies, but for year-round peace of mind.
We spoke with three of the major camera manufacturers about their programs and services for full-time professionals. It might the perfect time to check them out. If you are a PPA member who has opted in to receive the $15,000 of equipment insurance from PhotoCare, that policy would serve as a secondary policy to these plans and could be used to assist with additional expenses related to covered losses.
Image courtesy of Canon Professional Services
The recently revamped Canon Professional Services (CPS) is a three-tier program, beginning with a no-cost entry level. The program is now based on a point system that, according to CPS, is more pro-centered than the earlier program. Each piece of professional gear is assigned a number of CPS points, which cumulatively determine the photographer’s tier of coverage. Qualifying gear includes a long list of camera bodies, lenses, camcorders, flash, wireless transmitters, battery grips and the new PIXMA Pro 1 printer. Most of the EOS line of camera bodies qualify, from the EOS-1Ds Mark III (10 points) through and models such as the 60D (4 points) and older bodies. Lenses and extenders range from 2 to 16 points, with accessories like wireless transmitters at 1 to 2 points each. You’ll find the list of qualifying equipment on the CPS website, along with a list of products that qualify for repair.
Free membership at the Silver level requires 10 CPS points. Benefits include a CPS website profile and program info, CPS ID card and PIN, event support, 24/7 phone support via exclusive member hotline, and repair turnaround of three to five days.
Gold membership, which CPS Program Manager Joe DeLora says has the most value for the average photographer, requires 20 CPS points and an annual membership fee of $100. In addition to the perks above, Gold members get an EF lens workbook, a rear/body cap set, a camera strap, a discount on Canon Live Learning workshops, tradeshow services (Canon sponsors a CPS lounge with clean and check services at PhotoPlus, Imaging USA, WPPI and other events), an equipment evaluation loan (a try-before-you-buy service) and product loans, three-day repair turnaround, two free clean and checks, a 30-percent discount on repairs, and free return shipping.
For the ultimate in service and even faster turnaround, CPS offers the Platinum level, for a minimum of 50 points and an annual membership fee of $500. That includes a gift, priority equipment evaluation loan, two-day repair turnaround, a service loaner, six free clean and checks, a 60 percent discount on repairs, and free round-trip, expedited shipping.
The event support benefit is particularly valuable for photographers who cover events such as U.S. Open golf tournaments, Indianapolis 500 races, NASCAR, and the Iditarod, where CPS technical consults, clean and checks and loan equipment are available to Gold and Platinum members. Says DeLora, "We're an insurance policy for pros. If an editor sends a photographer to the Super Bowl, the editor doesn't want to hear that he didn't get the shot" because of equipment problems.
CPS is available in a number of countries outside of the U.S.A.
Image courtesy of Canon Professional Services
Membership in Nikon Professional Services (NPS) is free for full-time professional photographers who meet certain criteria. They must own at least two professional camera bodies and three professional Nikkor or DX Nikkor lenses. Qualifying camera bodies include D3/X/S, D2HS/XS, D700, D300/S and even the F6 AF 35mm SLR, and the D2H, D2X, D200 and D7000 are accepted as backup bodies. In all, some 155 lenses qualify as well.
To apply, write to Nikon Professional services on your company letterhead describing your photographic work, and request an application. You need to be sponsored by a current NPS member, who will verify that you're a full-time photographer, and you must furnish tear sheets of work published in the last 12 months.
Membership gets you access to an 800 number linked to dedicated NPS staffers. Says Bill Pekala, Nikon general manager of professional and technical services, Nikon will "pull out all the stops" to helps its members. "If [the first person] can't answer the question, the member is moved up to tier 2, and then to the next step" to accomplish whatever needs to be done. There are also seven tech reps around the country whose primary job is to take care of NPS members. If the rep can't find a workable solution, says Pekala, he'll personally take over, even if it takes calling a Nikon engineer in Tokyo.
Expedited repair service is another benefit, with a guarantee of return in 10 days or less. On average, Nikon makes the repair in less than three days. To streamline the process, members should include a filled-out form that's available online with the equipment. You can specify the maximum amount you will authorize to pay for the repairs, or request an estimate.
Says Pekala, if you're shooting and something goes wrong, call the hotline. If you need to send in the camera for repair, Nikon will provide a loaner of equal or better quality, and attempt to do so overnight, before your camera even reaches the shop. You keep the loaner until you get your repaired product is returned.
Nikon sets up shop at about 60 events a year--the Triple Crown, major golf tournaments, major news events, college football, Baltimore Grand Prix and shuttle launches, to name a few. NPS sets up loan and repair centers and, depending on the venue's requirements, will make services available for non-Nikon shooters, too. "Sometimes in order to be on premises, we have to treat credentialed photographers the same as NPS members," says Pekala. They'll do blow-off cleaning on Canon equipment, but not wet cleaning, as they do for NPS members. While the loan conditions are more tightly controlled, it's not out of the question for a Canon shooter to try out Nikon equipment at an event.
Of course, NPS brings its staff of repair techs to trade shows as well, including Imaging USA and PhotoPlus. They'll set up a room for NPS members as a venue for clean and checks (bring your NPS member card). You might even get a glimpse at the latest Nikon equipment. NPS is available in some 30 countries. For a calendar of NPS-covered events, go to nps.nikonimaging.com/event_support.
Olympus Global Professional Service (OGPS) features many of the benefits offered by Canon and Nikon. There's no fee to become a member, but to qualify, photographers must be full-time working professionals who derive at least 80 percent of their income through photography. Of course, you have to own Olympus pro gear, such as the E-5 and Super High Grade Zuiko Digital lenses.
To join, you fill out an application that's available online, and include the serial numbers of equipment you own. You must mail it to the company along with a letter on your company letterhead requesting OGPS membership, proof of your membership in other professional photographic organizations and a list of clients or professional references. The package must also include tear sheets or links to published work.
Members have access to a dedicated toll-free technical support hotline and priority access to an E-System specialist.
Olympus doesn't specify turnaround for repairs, but OGPS members do get priority. There's no discount for repairs on equipment that's out of warranty. In some circumstances, Olympus offers an equipment loan while the member's gear is being repaired. Olympus also makes loans for equipment evaluation, although, only with deposit charged to the member's credit card.
Members have access to service in countries outside the U.S.A.
Behind the Scenes
I recently visited Canon’s Service and Support facility in Chesapeake, Va., for a first-hand look at the CPS headquarters. From the darkened lens room, where lenses are tested for focus accuracy, to the aisles of equipment ready to ship at the request of Gold and Platinum members, the facility and staff were impressive.
In the lens room, precision tracks line the floor to ensure that a lens can be tested at its optimal distance, special AF charts hang on the walls, and software that identifies anomalies is in use. That’s only one aspect of the lens testing done during focus and alignment fixes.
Image courtesy of Canon Professional Services
A similar process is done on camera bodies, using charts (each AF system has a specialized chart) and software to assess and correct AF function. The camera’s exposure, color, shutter and other mechanics are also evaluated. Basically, anything the factory can do can be done at the Canon Service and Support facility.
As we toured the facility, I observed technicians working intently disassembling cameras and lenses for cleaning and repair. At one table where a technician was repairing a telephoto lens with sand damage, I was amazed at how all the tiny screws and parts were perfectly organized and ready to be reassembled when the repairs were completed. —T.N.