Confessions of a Camera Geek — Or Am I Taken for a Ride?

Must confess, I take above-average care of my gear. Don’t like unnecessary wear and tear. The lens is clean, dust is annoying, even the viewfinder eyepiece is cleaned now and then. The day I sell the camera the buyer gets good hardware. Doesn’t mean that I’m as obsessive in the field. The tools are here to be used and built that way. If the depreciation of looks and value is feasible, why not take good care of gear.

I pay good money for gear, in return I expect good quality that’s built to cope with heavy usage. Over time, signs of wear and tear are unavoidable, completely normal and add character. But what about a “geek supplier” underestimating a customer’s expectations? We geeks are willing to pay good money, sometimes we don’t overpricing for the sake of GAS a.k.a. gear acquisition syndrome. And they know it.

I recently ordered a nice fine leather bag. “Marked by superior craftsmanship and unparalleled attention to detail,” promises the company. Didn’t have the slightest doubt in my mind to get superior craftsmanship and unparalleled attention to detail when paying nearly $250 for a handcrafted bag made of Italian-tanned leather detailed with antique brass accents.

Appearance and reality ... Marketing makes things look perfect. Blame yourself if you expect too much.
Appearance and reality … Marketing makes things look perfect. Blame yourself if you expect too much.
Well the first bas had a crooked buckle. No questions asked, I get a replacement and FedEx shipping paid by the seller. Great service, as you’d expect from a premium company.

The bag is manufactured in the Dominican Republic. Even the best quality control can’t avoid a slip now and then. Don’t sweat it.

Second bag: the grayish film covering the leather is identified as “spue.” Thought it was some sort of fungus. Bag looks like coming straight from long and humid storage.

It’s a common condition, says the company, in some straight vegetable-tanned leathers with truly natural waxy finishes.

Well, a bit of treatment gets rid of most of it. And the half dozen rubber or glue lumps sticking to the padded interior take about an hour to get rid of. Tweezers and accurate trimming do the trick. At first, I don’t mind some sloppy stitching and unaligned finishing. Then I thought, heck I pay good money for this “superior craftsmanship and unparalleled attention to detail.”

And back it went, the second bag.

I obviously am a nitpicker — which is, unsurprisingly, confirmed by the company, telling me — after a team inspection — it was “clear that this bag and possibly all (our) products may not be the right fit for you (…) The concerns expressed on this bag are characteristics of a handcrafted product and are not defects or quality issues (…) We also understand that our products may not be for everyone.”

Fair enough. And do I still want the bag? Hell yes. It’s perfectly functional and I love the style! No, don’t want a refund. I want a bag and keep on believing in “superior craftsmanship and unparalleled attention to detail. This time, I pay for FedEx myself. Customer care is still very friendly. It’s no walk in the park to deal with wrong customer expectations.

Just got the third bag. Nice leather, no grayish film. The width on the left is 10 cm wide, on the right 8 cm wide. And the formerly always superiorly crafted interior (never mind the rubber/glue lumps) is crinkled. Well it’s handcrafted (which leather bag, BTW, isn’t?!). Should have stayed with the crooked buckle.

Hate to be negative. Have to be more positive. And less concerned about superficiality that’s of no use. Way too discerning.

The bag works perfectly fine. The camera fits perfectly well into the wider side, the narrower side takes the lens. Why bother. It’s obviously this handcrafted imperfection that’s “designed to complement your life and your style,” as the company advertises. Perfect life, perfect style, how ridiculous would that be.

We geeks are so predictable: we believe everything and put up with anything for the sake of gear. So in a way this bag of superior craftsmanship and unparalleled attention to detail, designed to complement my life and style, is educational: helping me overcome my weaker self. Hey, it’s not even $250. Plus plus shipping.

From geek to geek: felt yourself taken to the cleaners, lately?

  • Brad

    As Far as I am concerned, My money is not broken, why should the product be?

  • Andy Umbo

    ‘superior craftsmanship’ and ‘unparalleled attention to detail’ are non qualifiable advertising terms, i.e. there is no universally known and agreed upon scale for judging whether those statements are true; AND, after a 40 year career in advertising related fields, I can tell you that they’re the ‘tip-off’ for someone to know they will most certainly NOT get items that anyone would describe as such. There are certainly camera bags that cost that much and have a high level of craftsmanship, and they are known entities, so the only problem is finding one that fits your style and comfort and the equipment you want to carry.

    A consumer is only ‘taken for a ride’ if they are ignorant of how products are advertised, or buy completely on emotion. If you are a ‘Geek’ with ‘GSA’, you could certainly make the case that you are foolish to buy anything off the internet sight unseen. I only buy things from reputable dealers, and from brand name companies, non-gray market, on-line. Everything else, it has to be an ‘in-person’ purchase.

    • By now, Andy, I kind of like the bag’s “imperfections.” Furthermore it’s a lesson telling me loudly and clearly to not care that much about non-essential details. And depending on where you are it’s impossible to buy the desired item in-person. It’s a calculated risk worth taking when you think it’s something really worthwhile that otherwise is not available.