Choosing a SLR camera is not an easy decision for most. Usually you’ll be influenced by your peers or some online review. The two big brands are Canon and Nikon, with both brands having tremendous support, probably in equal numbers, equally vociferous.
A few years ago I decided to upgrade from my Sony H1, a reliable and excellent camera in its day, and was faced with the difficult choice between the two camera giants. Everyone I knew had a Canon. They all raved about how excellent their cameras were and in all honesty the pictures I saw were all good. So, how did I wind up buying Nikon you ask?
If you walk into a camera shop the sheer number of options is overwhelming. Online reviews are never quite as objective as maybe they should be. So how do you make the choice?
My friend Mark, a long time photographer and electronics salesman played a big part. He took the time to let me handle all the bodies in my price range. I don’t know why but you know when you’ve got the right camera body in your hands, it just feels right. Pro body cameras are great if you can afford them but in all honesty most of us don’t need them and there’s good value in some of the cheaper bodies.
When you buy anything new you hardly ever think of the back-up service. You just don’t expect new things to break down or fail. But I’m getting ahead of myself so let’s wind back the clock a bit.
I walked out of the electronics store with a Nikon D90 and a kit lens. Between us, this is probably the best kit lens I’ve ever seen, we take it with us every time we go to events, it’s an incredibly versatile lens, it is the 18-105. We still have this camera, shooting on average 3000 images a month. To say I love this camera is an understatement. The Nikon D90 is an incredible camera, it may be dated in terms of technology but everything it does, with the exception of video, it does brilliantly.
The opportunity to buy a newer body came along in May this year and I decided to move up to the D7000. A camera that had rave reviews everywhere. Canon users were in awe. And for 2 months my D7000 produced some incredible images. I was a little disappointed when Nikon deemed it a non-pro body but I wasn’t prepared to spend any more, this camera can do everything and more than I will ever ask of it.
We departed for Durban as guests of DHL on the African leg of Manchester United’s pre-season tour. I foolishly left the D90 behind because I was flying back to Johannesburg after a drifting event on the Sunday and wanted to limit my luggage weight. Everything went well at the football but during the drifting event I discovered frequent black smudges on the shots. I used the camera’s sensor cleaner in the hope of getting rid of the annoying marks. I cannot explain what happened next but the camera displayed an error message and refused to take another photo.
During the flight I was both angry and frustrated with the camera failure and mailed Matt Laubscher at Nikon as soon as I got home. Matt was also the person who was tasked with informing me that D7000’s aren’t pro bodies. On his request I brought the camera in to the service centre in Midrand. He was as surprised when I explained how the camera had suddenly just refused to work. The camera was booked in as a priority case on the Tuesday and ready for collection on the Friday for my next sports event. I picked up the repaired unit with a brand new shutter ring, the old one had partially disintegrated causing the black flecks and later the failure.
Anxious to get back on the horse before we went to our first downhill skating event, I went to Kyalami with Dirk Vale who had been invited to drive a Reynolds by Fantastic Racing. It felt good to get 400 shots off. Confidence in the equipment restored, batteries charged, we went off to the Rock Raceway for another drift event. I wonder if that’s the problem. The camera wouldn’t turn on when it came time to shoot.
In the car on the way home I’m cursing my luck. Cursing the camera. Cursing everything. In the end sanity prevails and I email Matt again, I’m sure he just loves coming to work to be greeted by my emails. I know I wouldn’t.
You might think this is when I regret buying Nikon. I was still having breakfast on the Monday, when the phone buzzed. I picked up the phone to read Matt’s email which had just come through but before I could, it rang and I answered.
Christa Moreira, Nikon Customer Care Manager, was on the line and asked me to bring the faulty unit in again. I wanted to tell her I was fed up with the camera. I wanted to say I was angry and it had spoilt my last 3 events. Among the 100 other frenzied things I wanted to say, I heard the words “we will replace the unit”.
There are no sweeter words when you’ve just spent close on 12k and something breaks to hear the supplier say, we’ll replace it with a brand new one, no questions, no conditions. And to boot, we’ll give you a loan unit to take on holiday and use in the period until your brand new unit arrives. That my friends is customer service worth taking notice of. This attention to the customer is the reason we will always buy Nikon and always recommend Nikon.
Photography is an expensive hobby but the hidden value is in customer service and should not be overlooked when purchasing your SLR. Choose wisely, you might need that extra bit of service.