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Reader Experience and Concerns: Sony Service and Reliability

Get Sony Alpha A7R II and Sony FE lens B&H Photo.

Another horror story about Sony’s idea of customer service. See the May blog post with other Sony horror stories.

K S writes:

I’m writing to you about a current experience with Sony and Precision Camera. I contacted the former due to failed parts on my camera. Unlike other users who’ve had to pay out of pockets, my protection plan was a wise decision (I never really cared to test how these camera and lens manufacturers define as ‘weather sealing’). After having sent in my body (Sony A99) on the 17th of June to PC, I had to pull teeth to get answers from people. Documents I sent and authorizations for repair were ignored/went unheeded for up to 3 days. I expected to have it completed by the 4th of July weekend, but the lady on the phone suggested I borrow someone’s camera after leaving me a voice mail saying it’ll probably be done by the 4th of July.

What’s worse is that I had a customer service rep hang up on me today after telling me that they had to have Sony manufacture spare parts for them and ship them from overseas to complete my repair (I think that any competent manufacturer keeps parts around for repairs when their cameras are still serviceable). Her estimated date of arrival for the parts is July 24th before the repair process starts. Total time from receiving equipment to starting repairs? Upwards of 30 days. Repairs are another 5-10 business days and there’s no overnight or two-day shipping.

I’m not someone who makes a full time living off my camera body so I’m not a top tier customer, but contracting repairs out to a group (who I think) look worse than amateurs makes no sense. Innovate on the products, but keep the support pipelines fed and active. I think Sony might not be able to keep up its momentum if it ignores the support infrastructure. The latest update after a 20 minute call with Sony support about half an hour ago is that they’ll escalate the issue and have customer relations reach out to me in 24-48 hours.

As much as I love your coverage of, and dislike hearing the precise and accurate criticism of Sony, for the A7 line and beyond, I think Sony is setting itself up for failure. Innovation paired with adequate support might be their only way out and I hope you continue your honest coverage to bring some perspective into how Sony is neglecting to do what it should to keep itself relevant and active. Take care.

DIGLLOYD: What a noxious approach by Sony. Every customer deserves good service, but ultimately every customer can vote with the wallet: support those companies that deliver a product, not just a gadget in a box.

This sort of stuff makes me unhappy about supporting Sony (buying Sony products), a point I made back in December in On Sony; nothing has changed. But while I don’t really want to buy any Sony products given Sony’s behavior (including a very unpleasant experience back when I was reporting on Sony A7R shutter vibration), I am going to buy the Sony A7R II because it is very popular and covering such things is my business. And, as long the camera works properly, it looks to be a fine camera (albeit with the various flaws I’ve pointed out more than a few times). But I dread having to get it serviced.

Recently, I sent a Canon lens in for adjustment. I got prompt and courteous professional treatment, and while my unusual position in the industry may have made it go faster, I’ve generally heard very positive things from pros about Canon’s professional services group (CPS) —Canon “gets” it.

Alex R writes:

These kinds of issues with Sony service aren’t unique to the US either. Up until early this year I worked for and managed a camera store in New Zealand. A large part of my job was dealing with, chasing up and unfortunately often fighting with repair agents to get customer cameras repaired promptly and properly.

We sold a lot of Sony hardware and therefore had quite a number of repairs (not saying Sony cameras fail more than Canon/Nikon, simply digital cameras in general have a reasonably high rate of issues) and parts supply to a third party repair agent (who also ran their own camera store to boot—conflict of interest perhaps?) who would often have to wait weeks/months for parts to come from overseas. Any number of times cameras would come back DOA from repair or with some other issues.

Having said that, Fujifilm stuff was far worse, after dealing with their product I now to take their “handmade in Japan” to mean avoid at all cost, though their superzoom compacts were often even worse. Any number of their cameras came with problems out of the box, ranging from DOA to crooked LCD panels to one particular customer who in the space of a fortnight went through an XE-2, then I think 2 X-T1s before actually getting one that didn’t have substantial amounts of debris of some description under the UV/IR filter on the sensor. Personally, I had an X10 compact have its lens replaced 2 or 3 times before they could fit one that wasn’t dodgy.

Canon’s service centre was far from excellent but at least generally competent and with clear procedure, log repairs online, select your automatic proceed cost threshold, explain to customers clearly the process and the decline fees etc. and generally parts availability is not an issue. Plus at least Canon offers CPS which seems well worth it if you have a stack of gear and you use it frequently. Hell, even if nothing goes wrong you get more than your money’s worth in sensor/camera cleans.

Before brands like Sony and Fuji think they can seriously court the pro market they really need better standards of service globally. I know they make a huge deal about making “pro grade” gear to appeal to wealthy amateurs and weekend warriors but the vast majority of pros I know keep shooting Canon (mostly) and Nikon because they’re the only brands making real pro gear with some attempt at pro support.

Still, looking forward to your A7R II report, might just pick one up if it’s any good once Sony’s butchered the price/resale value with a million cash back and instant rebate offers…

DIGLLOYD: Yikes.

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