PHOTOGRAPHY: Cheap Chinese Copies? Or, how to lose your customers.

November 10, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

This is a technical post, a kinda, what are the photographic big boys thinking? Commercial suicide?

Now, last year I blogged about letting competitors into your business domain by being damn stupid, not thinking about what the client needs or wants, not making the effort to satisfy them and thus opening the door to others.

Well that’s all very well if you are a little picture taking guy like me, we have other distractions going on, like life for example, but big corporations, those with long histories and lots to lose if they take their eye off the ball, are doing just that.

I am aiming this at the Canons and the Nikons of this world and I’ll get to them in a moment.

There is, however, one manufacturer who is doing it completely right, my beloved Fujifilm.

Let’s explore why and how we, as photographers, can replicate their success.

With the advent of digital cameras back in the mid 90’s, many manufacturers were forced to embrace this alien technology, a technology which would, without doubt, kill their core business, film. Out of the big four, Kodak, Agfa, Konica and Fuji Photo Film (as was), only the latter truly embraced it, I know that for fact, I was that man, it was me, sorry.

The result, Fujifilm is the only one still standing. Agfa and Konica went first, but the biggest loser was Kodak, it was a good two years before the then CEO, George Fisher realised that film would be no more, let’s launch a digital camera, he finally grimaced. Two years later they did just that! In technological, computer terms, that’s a whopping 14 years behind.

During those early years, and possibly still to this day, all consumer digital cameras had very little profit attracted to them, an average figure was possibly around £3-4, add to this, the giant electronic corporations such as Sony and Samsung entering the photographic market with their massive advertising spends, and Fujifilm had to reinvent their camera range, others didn’t, and the X-Series was born.

There is so much buzz around these cameras which seems not to be dissipating anytime soon, and this is not a review of their capabilities, there a close on a billion of those, however, the images you see here are all taken on an XT1 model.

So why are Fujifilm winning and what can we learn from them?

(1) the X-Series are robustly built and the quality is high. This is what people want.

(2) they are small and lightweight but pack a huge punch in turns of image quality. This is what people want.

(3) their design is from a bygone age which makes them beautiful to handle. This is what people want.

(4) the company’s camera service, literally, is second to none, giving immense confidence. This is what people want.

(5) the X-Series firmware is updated regularly based on feedback from actual, real, photographers. Everybody likes to be listened to.

The list is endless but what keeps coming back to me is ‘this is what people want’, and as a pro photographer, do you know what your clients want?

Can I just point out, the Fujifilm X-Series are NOT cheap chinese copies, but they are cheaper and produce better images than pretty much everything else I’ve seen, excluding the Phase One and Hasselblad medium format cameras, but they have that covered with the forthcoming GFX model.

Anyhow, this blog is titled Cheap Chinese Copies and it is leveled at an experience I had recently to illustrate how exactly to lose your clients.

Imagine this, a fashion shoot, a dark tunnel, a model, the already low light rapidly dropping. Two Nikon Speedlites on stands, one aggravated art director.

We start shooting, the Speedlites get to three shots, yes, three shots and overheat. They stop working for a good 5 minutes, to cool down.

Now these are £350 a piece these things and they overheat after three shots. Those technically minded will tell me that the power output was way too high, they weren’t, I can assure you.

Anyhow, we muddled through and eventually got the shots and most importantly the client has rebooked me half a dozen times since.

But here’s the point, Nikon have opened the door for a competitor to replace them. This is commercial suicide.

And replace them I have, gone are the Speedlites, in come the Yongnou equivalent, at, wait for it £56, yes £56 per piece.

The build quality is outstanding, and they’re wireless too, no more Pocketwizards needed to fire, no running back to the speedlight to turn it down a stop or two, I control the Yongnou from the camera mounted controller.

The knock on effect Mr Nikon! After 37 years with your products, you opened the door to your competitors, out go not only  the Speedlights, but also the Pocketwizards, and the £3000 D800’s too.

So please please you pro photographers, beware the Cheap Chinese Copies, they may just change your photographic life.

Photos here were taken using the Fujifilm XT1 and Yongnou wireless flashes.


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