warranty/grey market

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I just received a private e-mail in response to my Badger Graphic question. This e-mailer has brought to my attention that Badger Graphic sells grey market lenses. I'm purchasing a Rodenstock lens. How important is a USA warranty, and what are your opinions on grey market lenses. Thanks.

-- Raven (mtand13@netreach.net), February 23, 2000


I don't want to get off on a rant, but...

I used to be a great opponent of "grey" market photography equipment. I still think it is best to buy through the official importer IF that importer adds appropriate value for any additional costs.

Of late, my views are changing as I see more and more US importers adding no apparent value, and charging substantial premiums over prices available in the rest of the world.

The term "grey" market was clearly coined to imply some less than honorable aspect to alternate importers and to impute some moral superiority to designated importers. I take some offense at that rhetorical device.

Let me offer a particular case. The Schneider 110XL was marketed in the US for well over $2200 while it was available in Europe for about $1600. As much as I respect Schneider's US operation, full color adds in magazines and hoky contests with bullets and feathers aren't worth $600 to me. Nor is the possiblity of a future repair to a Copal 1 shutter worth $600 since I can buy two new shutters for that price. What other "repair" might Schneider offer? If I dent the filter ring, or scratch the coatings, they are not going to repair these under warranty. Let repair costs support repair facilities. Independent camera repair shops don't underwrite their costs through added surcharges on new equipment. The price of this lens has lately fallen in the US, but fallen overseas as well, so there remains a substantial differential.

For many Rodenstock lenses, the price differentials are much lower, and HP Marketing and Bob Solomon have been supporters of LF for years in this country. On the other hand, I hear many dealers telling me they cannot stock Rodenstock optics because they can't get the lens from HP Marketing as cheap as B&H is selling it. And some Rodenstock lenses are still available overseas for much less than in the U.S. A case in point is the 55mm Apo-Grandagon, which can be had from Europe, including duty, for less than $1000 while selling in the U.S. for nearly $1300.

A US distributor that stocks equipment and provides service is worth something. On the other hand, companies like Badger Graphics provide at least as much expertise and stocking as many importers, and still manage to pass on savings. And for many of us, the dealer provides more added value than the distributor. As an example of this, I will pick on Arca-Swiss. They make a wonderful product but over the years their US importers have done a horrible job marketing a fine product line. Expensive esoteric equipment like this is not going to be stocked by most dealers. On the other hand, before I plop down $3000 for a camera, I want to be able to see one. Rod, at Photomark, and Jeff at Badger are the only places in the US where you can easily see this equipment. I called the US distributor, and was told that they couldn't show me anything in Chicago, to call Rod. So what value do they add? They should get off their butts and go on the road with a van full of the stuff. Both Rod and Jeff are "official" dealers of Arca Swiss, so this isn't really a "grey" market issue, but here again it is a few dealers that are doing the job that the US importer claims to need extra dollars to accomplish.

The world is moving toward one market place. I can order lenses from Robert White in Britain and pay the duty myself. Is this more or less moral than buying from an alternative importer? But the first lesson of free market economics is that purchasing is not primarily a moral decision, nor should it be.

I don't have answers to all of these dilemmas. But it is clear that US importers must either provide substantially more value-added or bring their prices in line with the rest of the world if we are to buy from them.

A related question is why a separate US importer is needed. Schneider and Rodenstock should be able to afford to operate their own US offices, given the percentage of their sales that orginate here. And they shouldn't need to charge US customers any more than customers in Europe or Japan. It's not my responsibility to make sure that Schneider has nice office space in New York. It is Schneider's responsiblity to provide whatever is needed to market their product effectively in this country.

I am sure that Bob Solomon and others will have differing views and I would like to hear about issues that I may have oversimplified. On the other hand, I cannot believe that 20-50% price differentials are either justifiable or sustainable in a world with DHL and the Internet. As a personal matter, I can and do still pay up to about a 10% premium for "officially" imported equipment. The more likely the equipment is to need support or service, the more premium I am willing to pay. But in 30 years of large format photography, I have never needed service on a LF lens or shutter so "lifetime" warranties aren't worth much here!

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (gkroeger@trinity.edu), February 23, 2000.

I don't know what dealers you refer to but I can assure you that any dealer in the U.S. can sell Rodenstock lenses at the same price as B&H does to the end consumer just like any dealer can also sell at the same price any other dealer in the U.S. can sell any Rodenstock lens that carrys our warranty.

if a dealer claims that he can't then he:

1: Does not support the line 2: Has not checked to see what the lens would cost him.

As to sales offices in the U.S. Rodenstock has several factory subsidiaries in the U.S..

But none are involved in the sale of lenses to camera stores. That is our responsibility.

Schneider only has a factory subsidiary in the U.S. They do not have a distributor.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), February 23, 2000.

That would explain why you can buy a Schneider 72/5.6 XL lens from Robert White in the U.K., WITH the center filter, for less than the cost of the lens alone at B&H.

-- John Costo (mahler@lvcm.com), February 23, 2000.

Actually, We sell both USA and our import lenses. I always try to give both prices. You choose which to buy. P.S. There are more than one "official" importer for both Schneider and Rodenstock lenses here in the USA.

-- Jeff (info@badgergraphic.com), February 23, 2000.

Glenn, you did an excellent job with the above post. I try to support USA importers, however after I have considered what type of service I actually get from them, I recently change my mind...... I now have to fully agree with Glenn.

A recent experience with a member of the HP Marketing sales staff who was very rude and arrogant has now convinced me for good, their is no reason to pay for their rediculous mark ups for this type of customer bashing. I will no longer buy any Rodenstock products through HP. It's hard to beleive you can get better customer service from strangers half way around the world, but it's surely true.

Oh, and by the way, the price differential on the Rodenstock 55mm discussed above is actually much greater, it's approx. $1,200 through HP's USA distributors vs. $875 from USA grey importer...and the grey importer actually appreciates and respects his customers. Tough decision....

-- Bill Glickman (bglick@pclv.com), February 24, 2000.

Life is a 2 way street Bill.

"A recent experience with a member of the HP Marketing sales staff who was very rude and arrogant has now convinced me for good, their is no reason to pay for their rediculous mark ups for this type of customer bashing. I will no longer buy any Rodenstock products through HP. It's hard to beleive you can get better customer service from strangers half way around the world, but it's surely true. "

You made some incorrect assuptions about MTF charts stating that they are as low as 20 lines per millimeter. We asked for your address and at our expense sent you a detailed catalog on Rodenstock Optical that was over 1 inch thick with detailed graphs, charts, listings as well as a folder from Rodenstock that detailed how MTF is computed and that your assuption about 20 lines per mm actually is 40 line pairs per mm.

Additionally you could not see how a loupe focused critically on a flat detailed surface (like the face on a piece of currency) would need to be re-focused to maintain its critical focus when a piece of glass was placed on the bill and the loupe was placed on the glass.

We had several phone conversations about that and offered to show you at PMA and even brought a piece of glass to demonstrate just for you how this happens.

However as we have discussed you did not bother to stop and ask me even though we were at the show for 4 days in your hometown.

I don't know what you call service but that catalog was expensive, shipping it was not free and you never even thanked us for sending you far more than you expected. All you did was complain that you didn't get another piece of literature.

Perhaps what you are trying to say is that customer service ends when they don't agree with your theorys and good customer service means that we agree to your theories even when they

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), February 24, 2000.

I dont hesitate to go for the best price. My experience is the same as Glenns, as I have never had any problems with lenses or shutters, and most of my shutters are over 40 years old. The secret, I believe, is to keep using them. Most shutter problems Ive seen are the result of long storage. LF lenses are fairly simple machines, actually, compared to todays 35mm camera bodies. The world IS getting smaller, and marketing is changing.

-- Ron Shaw (shaw9@llnl.gov), February 24, 2000.

I certainly go for a grey when the price difference from an USA is big. As Glenn says, I could not believe when I first saw the huge price difference of Schneider Super Symmar XL lenses a year ago at Robert White site. That made me angry. Why should we be buying USA warranty lenses in this case? Clearly not. I'm sure schneider knew this from the beginning but never changed the price difference between US and European sources. But thanks to some of US dealers who're aware of this issue, we now can get about the same price for grey as European sources. I definetely support these US dealers. Thanks Jeff. I guess Schneider USA still thinks all US customers buy USA warranty lenses from US dealers.

-- Masayoshi Hayashi (mhayashi@phys.ufl.edu), February 24, 2000.

Bob S, I was trying to protect you by not mentioning your name, but now everyone knows it was you! After years of reading Bob S wars with users on this forum, I promised myself, I would never get involved in one, its just not my nature. It appears you do have a special talent Bob, you can make the most lame people like myself stand up and defend ourselves. This forum is an excellent source of users trying to help one another, its not suppose to start written attacks. Go back through the threads a few years Bob, it is quite obvious these wars always involve you and many different user.Bob, did you ever stop to think, this can not be coincidence? Hmmmm  I am starting too see a pattern here and also now understand why history continues to repeat itself.

I would like to address your false accusations. I never did make an incorrect assumption about MTF charts. I simply felt their was some confusion in the way this matter was presented in one of your posts. I wanted clarification. You sent me Rodenstock literature and it confirmed my understanding of such, a line pair equals a black line and a white space, usually the paper itself, not 2 black (or dark) lines. However, you found this clarification very offensive, and hence your arrogant behavior in your email response. I thank you very much for the big binder you sent showing how the factory in Germany makes lenses, in addition the facilities lay out? It was very helpful, excuse me for not formally showing appreciation for such effort. Bob, I would be much appreciative of mutual respect, but I now realize this is asking too much from your customers

As for the loupe experiment you discussed, I am amazed you would mention this, it proves what everyone has said about you all along you are a prima donna and therefore..BOB CAN NEVER BE WRONG, HE IS PERFECT! For the clarity of others who may be reading this, Bob S explained that a loupe must be foccussed on the frosty side of the gg. To accomplish this, he recommend taking the lens off your view camera and putting a bright light bulb by the lens opening. Then place your loupe on the gg and adjust its focus until the grain is in focus. You mentioned in a post, if you do not perform this task, your focus will be off by the thickness of the gg. Anyone can go check the threads to read this.

Yes, I did question this Bob, because I never did this loupe adjustment, and my focus has never been off by the thickness of the gg. You described to me on the phone a test to perform. place a dollar bill under the loupe on a light box, and see it in focus. Then raise the loupe the thickness of the gg, or by putting a piece of glass the same thickness of the gg under the loupe and watch the dollar bill go out of focus. I performed your experiment, (with a dollar bill and a chrome) and the results you anticipated did not occur. I explained - I used a Toyo 3.6X View camera loupe, and when a piece of glass the same thickness of the gg was placed under the loupe the dollar bill stayed in focus I had to raise the loupe twice the thickness of the glass before the image became blurred. I explained this to you in great detail, your response was, you need to do use quality loupe, a Rodenstock (I assume your product line), then it will become obvious. To give you every benefit of the doubt, I performed the same experiment with 2 of my Rodenstock quality loupes with the same results! I had two others perform the same experiment, and we all got the same results. It appears modern high quality loupes, and those of lower quality (all but Rodenstock), have sufficient DOF to focus on the grain side of the gg without performing your light bulb exercise. I carefully presented this to you, and your response was, come to the PMA show, I will show you.  I did come to the show and visited your booth, you were very busy, I respected your need to sell product and did not interrupt you. I explained this to you twice, however you conveniently left this part of the story out of your post. Sorry Bob, I could not wait all day for you to perform an experiment that 3 of us already did with quality loupes and got the same result. I offered an out for you, saying maybe this was true of loupes of yesteryear, but you refused this and continued to defend your position. Geee what a surprise In case you have not noticed, I have not posted this information on this forum, in fear it would offended you in some waythat is why I emailed you off line, to avoid you being wrong in a public forum. I find it really hard to believe YOU would bring this up, now I was forced to demonstrate to others the possibility of you being wrong. Now look, you may have exposed the fact you are vulnerable to being wrong also could it be - you are human also? You mentioned in you last email that you do not have time to respond this anymore, thats strange, you sure found time to do it in a public forum at great length?

In conclusion Bob, try to bury the ax for once. If your goal is to win over customers, this is a very strange tactic to do so. In case you have not noticed, ITS NOT WORKING BOB! In addition, I would suggest that in all fairness to users of this forum, everyone should present information in an unbiased manner. If you have something to gain financially by your comments, please be fair, and mention this when appropriate. If not, maybe we should all chip in and offer this service when possible. I am sure you would not want to deceive anyone, would you Bob?

Bob, as a sales representative, you did an excellent job converting me over from supporting USA distribution to gray / import Rodenstock product only. Using this forum on a daily basis to support your sales is a potentially beneficial cause for you. We all know that Bob, so why dont you try to participate like the rest of the users and simply offer advise or ask questions, NOT START WARS or offer biased sales information without informing the poster of such. My initial thread only stated my experience with HP Marketing and did not attack you personally, I was honest and forthright. If you would like to continue this Bob, I suggest you move it off line to not interfere with users trying to help each other with LF photography. In all fairness Bob, I do respect your interest in this field and the times you offer advise that has no financial impact to your sales. I hope this post actually helps you understand what is really happening, and maybe we can go forward from here with a change in attitude. Truce?

-- Bill Glickman (bglick@pclv.com), February 24, 2000.

Gee Bill,

Then perhaps you could return the catalog so we can pass it on to someone else. You got the next to last one.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), February 24, 2000.

How does it go? "Ye shall know them by their deeds..." or something?

Anyway, more on topic, I have never been able to afford new glass. It would seem that when I can, buying gray market would be pretty much the same as buying used. Do gray markete dealers offer return/replacement if you're not happy within a specified amount of time?

-- Sean yates (yatescats@yahoo.com), February 25, 2000.

Sean: yes.

-- John Costo (mahler@lvcm.com), February 25, 2000.

Yes Bob, I will gladly mail back the catalog, just email me an address to mail it to .


-- Bill Glickman (bglick@pclv.com), February 25, 2000.

"Yes Bob, I will gladly mail back the catalog, just email me an address to mail it to . "

You can UPS or mail it back to us just like we sent everything you requested to you.

Customer service after all included in your case several fast mailings of literature and information. In many cases far more then you asked for.

-- Bob Salomon (bobsalomon@mindspring.com), February 25, 2000.

ENOUGH already!

-- John Costo (mahler@lvcm.com), February 25, 2000.

Oh come on!

Just let me get in the last word...Glen's answer is excellent and states my own feelings on the matter perfectly.

I starting to go out of my way to shop gray market.

-- Brian Yarvin (byarvin@mindspring.com), February 25, 2000.

Calumets price is $300.00 more with a Calumet lifetime warranty.

-- Raven (mtand13@netreach.net), February 25, 2000.

Sean, Yes we offer a 2 week return period plus a 1 year warranty on our import lenses.

-- Jeff (info@badgergraphic.com), February 25, 2000.

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