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There's a firestorm running through the community of independent camera repair technicians after Nikon sent a letter to them on Monday. Signed by Arnold H. Kamen, vice president of operations and customer service for Nikon Inc., the letter tells independent repair facilities that the company will no longer supply parts to anyone but officially authorized repair facilities. That stated reason is "the technology underlying today's cameras is more complex than it has ever been, and in view of the specialization of technology as well as the specialized tools that are now necessary to perform repairs on this complex equipment..."
But the total ban on sales of parts to independents has nothing to do with technology or training or even the quality of repairs. Few real repairs require sophisticated software, hardware or training. If those things were required for installation of specific parts, it would make sense to restrict only those, not every screw and spring in the inventory, including old parts for less technical cameras.
While you might think that only a factory or Authorized Repair Facility can provide great repair, you would be wrong. Most repairs going to the factory are subbed out, some even going across the border. Some repairs are good and some repairs are shoddy -- on both sides of the fence. (Check http://www.contacthelp.com/directory/Shopping/Electronics/Nikon?ListingID=48 among others and read for yourself. Reports from the Better Business Bureau suggest Nikon's record on repairs handled through its own facility are not as good as most independent technicians.)
No, this is not quality control. The real story here is this is clearly restraint of trade. Nikon has been squeezing independents for years with increasingly poor parts service, poor communication, and long backorders.
But what does this mean for people on the NikonRepair Yahoo Group? It means access to repair parts will become more restricted. Access to local or nearby repair facilities will become problematic at best. If you are a professional relying on your Nikon equipment, you might not be able to get fast repairs from your reliable local independent photo technician. Some of those independent technicians who have been repairing cameras successfully for decades through changing technology might not be able to overcome this challenge to their business. It probably means more expensive repair parts. By comparison, Canon does not have this policy and does a much better job of supplying independent repair facilities with the parts they need. Are Canon cameras so much less technical and easy to repair compared to Nikon? I think not.
Members of the Society of Photo Technologists (www.spt.info), which has represented independent camera repair shops for 50 years, are asking everyone who has anything to do with Nikon to urge the company to rethink this new policy. You can write to: Arnold H. Kamen, Nikon Inc., 1300 Walt Whitman Road, Melville, NY 11747-3064. You can phone 631-547-4200. For all of Nikon's talk about high tech, they don't provide a corporate email address on their website (www.nikonusa.com).
I've been an avid Nikon user as a hobbyist and published professional since the 1970s. I can remember when you weren't a pro unless you used a Nikon. I can also remember great customer service for repairs and parts; of course, some of that dates back to the old EPOI days. I've been doing AI modifications since the 1980s. Those modifications don't require any parts, so I likely won't be affected personally by this, but with my longtime loyalty to the brand, it saddens me that Nikon is taking this path. I hear many repairmen urging regular Nikon customers to switch to Canon. Nikon just isn't what it used to be.