USA service of Gray-Market lenses : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

If the title of this posting is misleading I'm sorry, but I needed some kind of header. In a post of several weeks ago Michael Klayman of Schneider Optics was taken to task for Schneider USA's refusal to honor Schneider's "worldwide" warranty. As far as I know only Canon will honor that warranty in the USA for their equipment - so Schneider is not alone. From what I understand Schneider USA is solely self-supporting. They are required to buy their lenses from Schneider Germany at the same prices as the European distributors must pay. But unlike the European distributors they receive no support in marketing or advertising the products - it comes out of their pockets. I'm not defending their practices in any way, since I buy all of my lenses directly from Europe I've obviously weighed the cost/benefit and made my decision. But it should not go unsaid as to some of the contributing factors involved in the disparate pricing. I remember when Einrich(sp?) Optical imported Nikon gear in the 70's and we were charged prices which were double those that were paid in Japan - this was probably the beginning of the "parallel import" business. Today Schneider USA and Mamiya USA are just the most visible practicioners of this higher pricing - but ultimately the manufacturer is to blame. If they would establish a worldwide advertising budget, and support their products in the USA, I expect that much of this pricing differential would disappear. If I am in error on these points, and someone has more accurate information, please contribute to this post. Also of interest is the shrinking market of LF gear. Even though the volume goes down many of the fixed overhead costs do not. I've included serial numbers from Schneider's site. Note the drop from 500,000 units per year from 1957-1965 vs. the ~30,000 units per year now. Seems that LF gear is rapidly following Buggy Whips.

Serial Number Date 
5,000,000 February 1957 
6,000,000 May 1959 
7,000,000 February 1961 
8,000,000 March 1963 
8,500,000 February 1964 
9,000,000 February 1965 
9,500,000 September 1965 

14,540,000 January 1995 14,560,000 April 1995 14,590,000 January 1996 14,600,000 April 1996 14,620,000 November 1996 14,730,000 April 2000

-- Wayne DeWitt (, October 28, 2001


"Blame" is a pretty harsh word for corporate decisions making and the associated world of global economics. Schneider knows exactly what they are doing and if their USA counterpart can't meet thier financial objectives, maybe they need new leadership and a new marketing strategy. For a start (when in troubled economic times - its get back to basics) how about if they initiated a policy to charge a reasonable fee to repair any non-USA warranty Schneider lens and started to treat customers like they wanted to stay in business in the USA? Ironically, I have seen companies turn away business because they have overpriced labor costs and would rather grind away at marginal profitability hoping that next year will be better than bite the bullet and get lean to compete. And the economy is very weak and probably getting weaker before it gets better that will force Schneiders hand shortly. If Schneider USA counterpart closed their doors, it would spawn a whole new breed of independent service providers that would fill the void admirably and life will go on.

I think that you answered your own question. Get your buggy whip while you can.

-- Michael Kadillak (, October 28, 2001.

I don't see the "Lifetime Limited Warranty" offered by Schneider as being particularly valuable. First of all, if a LF lens and shutter perform correctly upon testing just after purchase, the probability of some sort of failure is very low. The most likely item to develop a problem is the shutter and any competent camera repair person should be able to fix a Copal shutter. Once I purchased a grey-market lens that had a problem upon arrival--the speed setting ring of the Copal shutter was extremely stiff and difficult to turn. I returned the lens to the retailer and received a replacement.

Second, the Schneider "Lifetime Limited Warranty" is pretty limited. Free repair is for "any lens which is found to be defective in material or workmanship" and excludes "misuse, abuse, alteration, negligence or accident". Decades ago the cement between optical elements would sometimes fail. This is probably less likely now, and it doesn't seem like much else of the lens, as distinct from the shutter, is likely to fail. Further, the warranty on the shutter is only for one year. This is by far the most likely part to need work after a few decades and the warranty won't apply to it--so much for a "lifetime" warranty.

The quotations are from the warranty card I received several years ago with a Schneider USA distributed lens.

-- Michael Briggs (, October 28, 2001.

Mike - Why do you think Schneider USA has a "Lifetime Warranty"? It's because it doesn't cost them anything! :-) Maybe "Pet Rocks" would be a hot item again if they were marketed with "Lifetime Warranties". I could imagine being told "Sorry the warranty no longer applies - your rock has expired". Monty Python could have done something with that.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, October 28, 2001.

Eric Idle: "And now for something completely different- a pet rock with a lifetime warranty. Please note that the warranty does not apply if your rock is from the cretaceous or earlier, quarried overseas, or if you chose not to wear pants on every other tuesday of the month, barring accidental purchase of a dead parrot."

-- David Munson (, October 29, 2001.

Reminds me of when I bought this used car a long time ago. When I was about to drive it away, I asked the guy if the air conditioning worked. He said,'hey it works great, just don't turn it on when it gets hot'.

-- Jonathan Brewer (, October 29, 2001.

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