Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Coke Left A Better Taste In My Mouth! CPS Anyone?

Generally speaking I try to keep my children out of this but, trust me, today it's germane. Last May, my son qualified for an Illinois driving permit. It scared me to death that I'd have to teach my 15 year-old to drive. I'd taught my little brother to drive when he was 16 and that first driving lesson..... well, let's just say that it's forever etched in my mind. So I wasn't really relishing the opportunity to have to teach a 15 year-old. Just by the way, Dave turned out to be a great driver and Aron is ready to take his road test pending his 16th birthday.

So, Aron's driving, I can't believe it. It was sometime in the spring of 1994, I think it was April, that he first began to walk. That was pretty scary too. I remember coaxing him to let go of the coffee table and take the few steps toward me across the living room that would constitute his first solo. You should have seen the look on his face!

I quickly realized that his new-found mobility meant that I had to be a lot faster as a photographer. Add to that the fact that he wasn't very good at taking direction. I needed to adopt something new: auto-focus lenses.

I was a twenty-year Nikon user and they had this whizbang new auto-focus camera called the N90-S. I was ready to buy one and a couple of new auto-focus lenses to go with it. I was telling my friend Joe Berger about the plan and he said he thought I should take a serious look at Canon, first, because Berger thought Canon's auto-focus was faster than Nikon's and suggested I call them and borrow one for a test. I did a little digging around and came up with the phone number for Canon Professional Services (CPS), roughly akin to Nikon Professional Services (NPS) of which I'd been a member for years. I called both.

Nikon knew me pretty well already, so borrowing the N90-S and some lenses was easy. Canon didn't know me at all, and I was doubtful that I could get the loan, but after I explained what I wanted they sent me an EOS-A2 camera and three lenses to test against the comparable Nikon. I took everything out with me on a shoot and used them interchangeably, then looked at the results with a 16x loupe and..... Berger was right! Canon beat Nikon hands-down for lens quality, on focusing speed, on ease of use, Canon beat Nikon on features for the price. It's 15 years later and I'm still not used to mounting lenses in the other direction, but I'll get over it eventually.

Oh, I joined CPS immediately upon buying my Canons. You know, I had to replace everything when I made the switch. I don't want to tell you how much money I dropped at Ken Hansen's that first month, it still makes me want to vomit when I think about it (I'll get over that eventually, too), but suffice to say it was as sizable a chunk of change as it was a leap of faith.

Over time I've purchased an EOS-1 camera, two EOS-1N cameras, an EOS-A2, eleven EF lenses from 15mm to 300mm... mostly L series, a Rebel for the wife, then a couple of Sure-Shots. I was Canon all the way. And if I wanted sharper, more saturated color, all I had to do was buy different film, it cost the same six bucks. Then came digital. Then came the disappointment.

I love my EOS digital cameras. I use two EOS-5D bodies, constantly upgraded from several previous EOS digital cameras. I'd even buy a couple of EOS-1Ds Mark III cameras.... if they weren't eight grand a pop! Why not? Because digital is still evolving and I can get 21 megapixels from the 5D which is less than half the cost of the 1Ds, that's why. I'm also slightly miffed by the fact that every time they improve the resolution of the cameras I have to go out and buy new cameras to remain competitive, and they do that every 18 months. I've bought more new cameras (and flash cards, and bigger flash cards, computers, and faster computers, hard drives, more hard drives, even more hard drives, software, newer software) in the last five years than I did in the previous ten years. It's insane!!

Well, that's not the disappointment. I love my EOS digital cameras. I have so much more control with digital than I ever had with film. No, I'm not disappointed by the cameras. I'm disappointed by the company. Canon, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that to retain the CPS member benefits that I currently enjoy for free I need to upgrade all of my cameras and lenses to the latest, most expensive, models and pay a membership fee of a couple of hundred dollars. Why? The EOS-5D series cameras are not professional models, therefore I'm obviously not a professional. Really? I don't spend enough money on Canon already? Are they nuts?

The economy sucks, nobody's working as much as they were this time last year and what, we're all supposed to upgrade? Again??

The economy sucks, we're not working as much or making as much money as we were this time last year, and now Canon wants us to pay hundreds of dollars to remain members of their professional camera club, they want even more money? In this economy? Are they nuts?

Did I mention that I can remain a CPS member for free? Yes, I can, but I can't get the member benefits I've previously enjoyed, for that I have to fork-over another $300. For free I only get a worthless membership card. I'm not feeling the love here, Canon.

Let's see... why did I switch to Canon in the first place? Oh yeah, great products and superb support. Why do amateurs buy Canon? Because pros like me with the white lenses (their trademark) everywhere give Canon a big PR boost. Consumers pick Canon's point
and shoots because of the halo surrounding the professionals and their Canons. In one ill-timed, and otherwise bad move, Canon is tossing this marketing power out the window. This may be the biggest marketing gaffe since Coca-Cola introduced new Coke.

In the meantime, do you want to know where Canon can stick its free CPS membership? I'll tell you.


Blogger bennettk said...

I was wondering how long it would take for CPS (and eventually NPS) to figure out that they could charge for membership.

As far as I can tell, the $100/year membership is fine for me. The $500/year provides some big discounts on repair work, so if I were a sports shooter with 15 cameras, and two or three were always in the shop, I'd probably go for that.

Not sure about the ownership requirements. My 4-year-old 1D Mark 2 bodies were enough to "qualify." (Barely.) I thought the 5D bodies were enough, too, at least for the $100/year middle-of-the-road offer.

So, yeah, it sucks, but what are you going to do?

2:42 PM  
Anonymous Mark Bolster said...

Thanks for the words Joe. As a CPS member who membership has now expired, I'll take my chances.
You are right. This is not the 80's when equipment was used and then thrown out. There MUST be a ROI and it simply takes longer to recover costs these days.
I don't know if my equipment qualifies for a discount on CPS (I use the 1ds cameras) For what I do, I have NO logical reason to upgrade now. When I do it will be the latest 5D version. Just like I quit using the Flagship F-1 cameras when the T-90 came out. Better technology, reasonable cost and stuff I only needed on the camera. Guess Canon is scrambling for more money in this economy also. I think they are barking up the wrong tree.

8:28 AM  
Blogger dunnenuff said...

Hello Joe,

Yep, I'm out......ridiculous!!! And I might go back to Nikon.

Patrick Ray Dunn

2:12 PM  

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