Pro support the next ‘must have’ for brands?

Fujifilm and Olympus have flagged the development of dedicated service and support programs for Australian professional photographers, solidifying both companies’ commitment to the high-end pro camera market.

A pair of Fujifilm UK technician hands at work. Source: Fujifilm UK

Fujifilm Australia has quietly flagged Fujifilm Professional Services, which will be available later in the year.

ProCounter then asked Olympus Australia marketing manager, Kristie Galea, whether Olympus had similar plans.

‘We are currently developing a pro support program. When details are available we will make an announcement,’ she responded.

Two years ago only the DSLR heavyweights, Canon and Nikon, offered an exclusive support program for Australian professional photographers.

But in the near future Fujifilm and Olympus will join Sony as the ‘mirrorless revolution’ camera companies offering pro support, a total of five manufacturers.

Pro support reaffirms the dramatic shift taking place in the professional and high-end camera market, as mirrorless technology – and those manufacturing it – move into contention.

All three manufacturers now have an impressive line-up of high-end cameras. But professional photographers rely on a robust and premium professional support program to cover them when technical issues arise. Offering a pro support program is crucial to reassuring buyers of premium products.

A pro investing thousands of dollars in gear shouldn’t be hand-balled off to some consumer-oriented offshore call centre, to then wait weeks for a repair.

Sony Australia learnt this the hard way in 2016.

A video rant by popular vlogger and photographer, Matt Granger, went viral after he complained about Sony’s poor consumer support service. He dealt with a Phillipines call centre, and repairs for his malfunctioning premium Alpha series camera took over a month.

Sony announced its Imaging Pro Support program a few days later.

Sony Imaging Pro Support
Sony and Canon have similar requirements and benefits for their pro support programs.

Sony Imaging Pro Support costs photographers $149 per year.

It’s available to Sony photographers who earn a majority of income from photography, and own two Alpha camera bodies – including a full-frame – and three G/G Master/Zeiss lenses.

Benefits of Sony Pro Imaging Support Program include:
– Dedicated phone line and email support manned by an Australia-based tech support team of digital imaging specialists;
– Expedited, three-day turnaround on repairs for products within the warranty period (excluding delivery time);
– Free shipping to and from the service centre;
– Twenty percent discount on parts and labour for out-of-warranty repairs;
– Emergency loan equipment if repairs take longer than three days, ‘or in special circumstances’;
– Two complimentary clean and maintenance checks each membership year.

At the time of launch, Sony Australia’s former head of digital imaging, Vivek Handoo, spoke with ProCounter.

‘We wanted to have it earlier but what we realised was that since the launch of the A7r Mark II and A7s Mark II last year, not only in Australia and New Zealand but across the globe, we saw a lot of professionals coming into our eco-system,’ he said. ‘…with these new products, it was our obligation to start it – that’s the least we can do for the professionals that use our eco-system.’

Sony has since elevated to higher grounds with the a9 and a7r III.

In the US Sony was known for having a slow turnaround times for repairs, however DPReview recently confirmed this has been fixed and American photographers are reporting a quick and communicative service.

Canon Professional Services
Canon Professional Services (CPS) program is divided into Silver ($75 per year) or Gold ($100 per year) membership.

The Gold membership is available to photographers who generate a majority of income through photography, own a 5D and 1D camera body and three L-series lenses.

Benefits of CPS Gold Program include:
– Five sensor cleans;
– Product loans (try before you buy);
– Service replacement loans;
– 30 percent discount of chargeable repairs;
– Approximately three-day turnaround on repairs;
– Postage paid one-way by Canon.

Silver membership, which requires two 5D bodies and two lenses, grants three cleans; a 20 percent discount on repairs; and a five-day turnaround, along with the other benefits above.’

Nikon Professional Services
Nikon Professional Services (NPS) is free for full-time professional photographers who own two or more professional camera bodies, and three or more NIKKOR lenses.

Benefits of NPS include:
– Priority repairs;
– Technical support and advice;
– Loan service for emergency use;
– Support at major sports and news events;
– Priority counter service;
– Pre-purchase product evaluation;
– Local and international repair service;
– Invitations to launches, seminars, and events.

Nikon deserves props for supplying a free service, which makes it stand out from the rest.

In the US, Nikon Pro Support has multiple levels of its free service, using a point system corresponding to the gear owned, which doesn’t exist in Australia.

Fujifilm Professional Services
Fujifilm Professional Services will be available to professional photographers who own a qualifying camera and lens system.

Details are scant. But benefits include an annual health check and clean by experts; quick turnaround on repairs; and complementary loan gear during reapair.

ProCounter asked for more details, but for now that’s all Fujifilm is willing to divulge!

For now, we’ll look at what Fujifilm USA offers through its GFX Professional Services launched in May last year.

For US$499 per year it grants a GFX-50s photographer with one GF lens a dedicated phone line; four clean-and-check services; two-day turnaround on repairs; 30 percent discount on non-warranty repairs; loan systems for equipment exceeding two days; and other perks like a dandy ‘swag bag’.

Fujifilm USA is offering a similar service to Canon, Sony and Nikon, but has set the price five times higher. Hopefully the Australian version will be more affordable!

Olympus Pro Advantage Program
Back in 2016, Olympus in the US began offering professional photographers a Pro Advantage Program.

For US$99.99 per year, photographers had access to fast-track repairs; free overnight shipping; complimentary equipment loans; two free clean and checks; a dedicated phone line; six month warranty extension; 15 percent discount on out-of-warranty repairs; and a welcome kit.

Photographers must own one body and two Pro and Premium lenses.

Feel free to share any experiences, good or bad, with Sony, Canon, or Nikon’s pro support program in our comments section below.

Gloves are off
Besides the Nikon D850, practically all the most innovative and hyped camera releases lately have been mirrorless bodies – with Sony kicking most of the goals.

Sony has expanded its lens range, previously a major criticism of its systems, and lens manufacturers like Sigma are designing more E-mount supported Art lenses. No less than nine at CP+ earlier this year!

Pressure is mounting on Canon and Nikon to release a high-end full-frame mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. They are in danger of being left behind, as DSLR sales reportedly drop while mirrorless sales move upward in trajectory.

Canon in Japan has addressed the grim reality, indicating it’s now willing to cannibalise its lions share of the DSLR market by taking mirrorless technology seriously.

Tech and photo media journalists are all over the ‘mirrorless vs DSLR’ debate this year.

‘Course ProCounter – always a step ahead – banged this drum late last year, with the article: Are DSLRs Yesterday’s technology?

There’s almost a sense of urgency for Canon and Nikon to release a mirrorless full-frame camera, as the topic takes centre stage.

A Petapixel readers’ poll, located at the bottom of an article titled, The Death of DSLRs is Near, asked respondents what they think the long-term future of digital cameras looks like.

Of the almost 8000 participants, 42 percent predict mirrorless technology will destroy the DSLR; 53 percent predict the two will coexist; and just under five percent believe the DSLR will defeat mirrorless cameras.

If that question was asked five years ago, the results would have likely been drastically skewed in a different direction.

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