Bowens bites the dust

It’s confirmed that UK light manufacturer, Bowens, has gone into liquidation. The company credited cheap rip-offs from Chinese manufacturers, innovation from competitors like Profoto, and changing buying behaviour of professional photographers.

The XMT 500 may be the final high-end lighting product from Bowens.

Competing Chinese manufacturers are a growing issue for western camera gear companies, and have contributed to the death of at least one long-standing brand.

While some Chinese manufacturers have ‘moved up the food chain’ to begin developing their own ranges, others sell reverse-engineered facsimiles for a fraction of the price.

Danny Lenihan, the CEO of innovative British-based tripod and accessory specialist, 3-Legged Thing, has experienced first hand products being ripped-off by Chinese manufacturers. He recently wrote an opinion piece highlighting how this process inhibits technological innovation.

It undermines the time and money spent designing a product, and is straight up intellectual property theft; the product is typically made using inferior materials, putting other gear at risk, and in factories where work conditions are unknown; and the low prices pressure existing brands to cut costs.

But it’s not just Chinese imitations that brought Bowens down. ‘Product innovations from competitors’ created lighting products the company could not match. Profoto, for instance, has a strong line of high-end lighting systems which are immensely popular among professional photographers.

And finally, the ‘changed buying behavior of professional photographers’. Its customers ‘are now only willing to invest in new equipment if the investment guarantees additional income,’ Bowens parent company, Calumet, told PDN.

The unfortunate news was first fed to blog DIYP, by an inside source. This was also verified by an anonymous source to photo news aggregate website Petapixel.

‘Yes, all UK staff (including China factory) were informed that the company is going into liquidation,’ they said. ‘We were aware the company was facing problems and have all been working long days to pull company through a hard time, but we never thought it would end.’

Bowens originated as a camera repair business in 1924. In the 1950s, having become a successful European repair company, it moved into producing electronic studio flash systems. From there on the brand was committed to studio flash and lighting.

The company claims to have created the first monobloc in 1963 by combining a studio flash with capacitors, control, and flash into a single unit.

In 2016 Bowens and Calumet were acquired by European investment company Aurelius for an undisclosed amount.

Signs of bad health were signalled last year when Bowens pulled out of The Photography Show, the UK’s largest photo industry trade show, at the eleventh hour.

In October 2016 Bowens announced two high-end monolight strobe systems under the Generation X banner.

CR Kennedy is Bowens Australian distributor.

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