Roger's Corner

Photography Consumer’s Bill of Rights

Published June 23, 2013

In 1962, then President Kennedy presented to the U. S. Congress a Consumer’s Bill of Rights. The second and third points of this Bill are as follows:

(2) The right to be informed–to be protected against fraudulent, deceitful, or grossly misleading information, advertising, labeling, or other practices, and to be given the facts he needs to make an informed choice.

(3) The right to choose–to be assured, wherever possible, access to a variety of products and services at competitive prices;

I decided to be a bit more specific and develop a Photography Consumer’s Bill of Rights. I’m sure I missed some things. Please feel free to add your suggestions as comments.

To any manufacturer who might read this: I know you’re thinking that only a small fraction of camera buyers really worry about these things, that the majority doesn’t particularly care. That may be true. But remember, that ‘majority ‘ of whom you speak will probably ask one of us which brand to buy.

The Photography Consumer’s Bill of Rights

1. We have a right to be treated as intelligent beings.

Telling us your product will “empower us to shatter creative barriers and become more involved in the action while experiencing the joy of using classic craftsmanship” is simply announcing that you think we are really stupid. Anyone who is swayed by the stuff you are shoveling isn’t going to remain in what you consider ‘an attractive financial demographic’ for very long.

2. We have a right to factual information.

If a new product has a problem let us know. We will bitch about it online for a day or two, then move on. If you don’t let us know, we will question it online for months. Your choice.

Tell us an item’s weak points (every item has them) on the front end. Knowing the weak points lets us work around them. We are photographers. That’s what we do.

Provide us information like field curvature at various focusing distances, distortion, flare tendencies, and focus shift. We will take better pictures that make other people want to buy your equipment.

3. We have a right to not be lied to.

When everyone on the planet knows your camera has an issue, but everyone who works for your company states there is no issue, you are lying.

4. We have a right to know how things work.

Knowing how a tool works on the front end allows us to choose it and use it better. If we actually knew the accuracy limits of, or effects of lighting changes on your AF system, for example, we’d be less likely to constantly wonder if our camera’s AF system was defective.

5. We have a right to know our equipment is working properly.

Telling us our lens is “in spec” when it’s taking horrible pictures is not reassuring; your credibility is already shaky. Send us the actual test results along with the standards you use to make that determination (if there are any). Even the neighborhood mechanic shows me the computer tracing when I think my car is running rough.

6. We have a right to timely repairs.

I doesn’t take three weeks to replace my cars engine; why should it take 3 weeks for a dented filter ring to be replaced? I really don’t care if you want to ship it across the border where labor is cheaper. I’ve seen what you charge me for labor. That should cover U. S. minimum wage just fine.

7. We have a right to warranties that are honored.

If you tell me my unmarked, barely used item has impact damage then the burden of proof should be on you, not me. And yes, you should have to prove it.

8. We have a right to buy parts to do simple repairs ourselves.

Anyone can replace a bent filter ring or broken battery door in 10 minutes. When you want me to pay a $160 repair fee, $30 shipping, and be without my equipment for weeks for this, you’re telling me you think I’m stupid.  Again.

9. We have a right to choose our own repair technician.

When you create a repair monopoly by not selling parts, we realize it’s because you dread comparison.


To any photography consumer: Only we can enforce such a thing, and we can only do it by voting with our wallets and purchasing from manufacturers who come closest to being consumer friendly. Of course the next time something just amazingly awesome gets released I’ll probably buy it, even if it’s from one of the ‘noncompliant’ manufacturers. But when I have a close decision between a couple of brands, I’m going with the more consumer friendly brand every time.

I don’t see any reason to make a list of my opinions regarding which companies are the best and worst; they’re just my opinions. But feel free to comment on which companies you think are the most (or least) consumer friendly. The opinion of all of us is way more meaningful than the opinion of any one of us.


Roger Cicala

June, 2013

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Roger's Corner
  • mike

    I agree about repairs….after spending over $10.000 on Canon gear you would think I would be offered free shipping and quick repairs. Nope.

  • Zak McKracken

    About the issue with battery doors and such:
    Wouldn’t it be possible these days to 3D-scan and print at least some of the smaller more trivial plastic components? Canon wants xx$ for a viewfinder frame (mine broke), and since then I’m without one and will stay thus. No way will I pay monopoly prices.
    A company like Lensrentals might just be able to afford a decent scanner and 3D-printer to make some replacement parts themselves.

  • Max

    Love the list but we know the reality. They’ll make less than perfect products and we’ll keep buying them. (except the Zeiss 135 APO) perhaps the most perfect lens I’ve ever seen.

  • Roger,

    I like the premise, but:

    1. We have a right to be treated as intelligent beings.

    If we acted as such, we then would have the right to expect truth in advertising. Example: Look at the number of middle-aged men driving convertibles, working on that stage 3 sunburn in their brand new Corvette cruising the Applebee’s parking lot(s) of America…

    2. We have a right to factual information.

    Manufacturing processes dictate units with failed engineering, component capability and assembly process failures be let into the field. If not, the marketing cycle to generate buzz on the new product will long be a memory by the time said product has ‘passed’ any advance product performance testing.

    3. We have a right to not be lied to.
    We have no right to be told the truth, hence the age-old ‘Caveat Emptor’ Manufacturer honesty only guarantees a ‘chance’ of customer loyalty re-purchasing. The minute a tech lowers his voice and tells you, “Yeah, we know about that oil problem w/the D700, and here is what you need to do to fix it…” then the manufacturer is open for a lawsuit. It is as simple as that. There is no requirement they tell the truth, not even in a courtroom. Manufacturing today, and I ‘speak from experience’ , is merely a matter of moving the greatest amount of product in the shortest time to fund the R&D (2 engineers finally sitting down at the drawing board to fix the known problems, add a few BS features and tell Marketing it is a ‘Revolutionary increase in usability, capability, and user interface’…

    4. We have a right to know how things work.

    You are entirely correct about this right. We have the right to set up our own testing jigs, methodology, blind correction model in a parallel environment and learn how our equipment works. For any camera manufacturer to state how their product works is just waiting for someone with deep resources to sue on grounds of ‘false advertising based on specification insufficiency’ If you haven’t noticed already, there is nothing you have asked for so far that the manufacturers cannot provide…it only boils down to a matter of can they AFFORD to provide what you seek.

    5. We have a right to know our equipment is working properly.

    ‘in-spec’ means ‘we don’t know’ because said specifications are in three different time-locked vaults (1/3 of the spec in each’ and 2 people have keys to their and one other of the vaults, and the third key was destroyed the second after it was made. Sending us the actual results would require someone to find the metal shavings and re-make that third key. Specifications on adjustment and such for a consumer product are at best currently +/- 8~10 to account for anything which mass-produced. There are little in the way of precision regulations for manufacturers. Take engine crankshafts for example: +/- .001~.0021 on rd journals are ‘norm’. High performance cranks? +/- .0001~.0015. Ten times as accurate. Hi-Perf crank costs $9K and is reground within 2 races. Imagine the cost of a red ring or gold label lens if it had tolerances that tight, and the backlash if said lens was dropped from 6-8″ onto a carpeted floor, or bag was manhandled by TSA and all of a sudden no longer focused, even manually.

    6. We have a right to timely repairs.

    Agree wholeheartedly. Been waiting for parts for my $|gma 28 f1.8M for 6 months…sad!

    7. We have a right to warranties that are honored.
    Research warranty law- It is not the manufacturer’s responsibility to prove we did. It is our responsibility to demonstrate we didn’t. When we unbox a product, depending on where you live, you have a set amount of time much shorter than the warranty period to identify any product deficiencies. But, what is a deficiency? The manufacturer has no published specifications because nobody can find the third key, and the tech service staff reads off the script that the manufacturer is unaware of any product deficiency, and their lawyer will argue, “Your honor, the class as a whole has failed to follow their own state’s warranty laws bu not alerting us to the alleged product deficiencies in the amount of time required by the statute, therefore we have no liability in the issue at hand, but as a matter of fairness we are willing to give the class a certificate which grants them a choice of either a 5% discount off the next $1300 lens they purchase of an Anniversary edition lens cover which fits the product in question in exchange for remaining a member of the class and relinquishing any option to pursue independent actions…

    8. We have a right to buy parts to do simple repairs ourselves. Refer to #9

    9. We have a right to choose our own repair technician.
    We certainly do have the right to choose our own guy! The manufacturer is not required to sell parts to any distributor, reseller or agent. by Federal law, all a manufacturer is required to do is maintain an inventory of parts to repair most common deficiencies of that product for a term of 7 years from the first date of the product’s release. The manufacturer is not required by law to sell those parts, only to have them on hand.

    As for which parts are necessary, and the specifications, and the other things you have asked for here..those are all slipped through the suggestion box slot in the door of Vault #3

    Purchasers in the US have little recourse against manufacturers. on the EU there are many more regulations requiring manufacturers to play a bit more squarely with the purchasing public.
    Rather than hounding the CEO’s of the the big 4 or 5, better results would be gained from writing your Congressman.

    The information I have provided are gleaned from years of working in a factory position for several manufacturers. It is tough to see loyal customers screwed. I have found that the smartest way to obtain satisfaction in larger purchases is to avoid the big initial push. Manufacturers do more product improvement through un-publicized updates to products as a matter of small test runs of a model in groups of 50-100 units to see if the claims go away or are exacerbated with the ‘new’ update. By the time a product is 60% through it’s life cycle and the number of claims has dropped to .1% of units made (NOT sold) the replacement model bearing the revision mark begins to be marketed. These numbers are not indicative of cameras and glass, but consumer products containing 100-1085 parts each. Everyone decries the Microsoft model of releasing flawed software and refining it complaint by complaint. It wasn’t Microsoft’s idea…it was Henry Ford’s.

    I liked your list, Roger, as doomed as it is merely by it being a part of Consumer Products. Hopefully people will truly, as you suggest, vote with their wallets. Unfortunately, our industry is jam-packed with photogs suffering with G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), so voter-fraud will remain rampant.

  • Tony

    A good list, except point 1.
    I want to know if the manufacturer thinks we are really stupid.

    How will I know that the manufacturer thinks we are really stupid unless I can read that the product will “empower us to shatter creative barriers and become more involved in the action while experiencing the joy of using classic craftsmanship” ?

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