Upgrade Pathways

The clip above was produced by the folks at Zacuto, makers of premium cinematography gear. It’s meant to educate users on the product and market the company’s devices. Zacuto make fine equipment. I have one of their mounting kits for my video camera and think it is an example of outstanding craftsmanship. I also think their customer service is wonderful. Having said that, I’ve never received anything from them for free and am not “shilling” for them.

The optical finder in the video attaches to the back of your HD-DSLR camera to help with focusing. I’m two weeks into owning one of these camera and can speak from (limited) experience: it’s a bitch to focus on the fly without some form of assistance. I’ve been considering this finder for about a month. It glues onto the back of your camera, a design feature I’m not thrilled with but it is-what-it-is. I haven’t ordered it yet.

Last week Zacuto announced a re-designed finder that attaches with a mounting plate instead of adhesive. There are some other enhancements to the system too. The kit sells for $395. Not cheap. Rather expensive, in fact. I’m not sure the new design will meet my needs as they pertain to going on and off a tripod so I’m going to hold off and see what the reviews look like.

The announcement of this new product has triggered some buzz on web forums I visit. Namely, “How dare they release a new design after I just ordered one of the old versions?” It seems that some people expect a free upgrade path from old designs to new ones or, at the very least, a path with nominal cost to themselves. Zacuto is only one example. Similar cries went out from Canon 7D owners when the manufacturer released a lower priced DSLR earlier this month. “How could you release a new product when I just purchased an existing model?” Consider two things:

1) We want manufacturers to innovate new products quickly, particularly when companies are listening to consumers and re-designing products to meet consumers’ needs. Some users complained that the Zacuto finders fog up. So Zacuto added anti-fog juice or something to the new finder. Some people didn’t like gluing the finder onto their $1600 camera. The new design appears to address this. We, as a society, want this level of innovation.

2) “All sales final.” When you purchase something, you own it. It’s yours. Unless there is a manufacturing defect, you generally don’t get an indefinite amount of time to return it because you are dissatisfied with it. Likewise, if you buy something and two weeks later decide you’d rather have something else, the seller is usually not obligated to exchange the item. They do, because it’s good customer service, but they don’t have to. They are in the business of selling stuff, not exchanging stuff!

I speak from experience. I bought a Kindle about 3 weeks before the I-pad was announced. Last week, Amazon effectively obsoleted its own hardware when it announced it would support the I-pad. Should Amazon give me money back or credit toward the much cooler I-pad? I won’t hold my breath. Last spring I bought a 35mm adapter for my video camera. Four weeks later Canon announced the new crop of DSLRs would shoot video. I just bought one of those cameras and like it a lot more than the adapter. Should the adapter maker give me a refund? How about my car: a better model came out a week after I bought mine. Should Honda USA give me the newer model for a $500 upgrade fee?

We have to be reasonable as consumers of goods. You should expect that what you buy today may very well be on sale tomorrow or obsolete (in the case of my Kindle!) or even useless (remember 8 track cassettes?). Manufacturers are not our buddies or family. They really don’t owe us free upgrade paths or even an explanation why they changed designs or prices. They do so if it makes business sense but we should not expect or demand it.

By the way, the product that prompted this post isn’t even available yet! For all we know it could be awful, which would make all the tumult on the web forums moot. My guess is that it is excellent; however, it would be more reasonable to wait and see before complaining and asking for an upgrade.


About robertkerner

Educator, registered nurse, attorney, inquisitive mind
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3 Responses to Upgrade Pathways

  1. Mandy says:

    I love this post. Thanks for bringing this issue up as I am being slammed by emails right now regarding this! Well done and thanks for understanding!

  2. DC says:

    Makes sense, but I think all the rage is about the fact that the new finder is not really all that new. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s the original 3x viewfinder except it comes with a back & base plate, and a view finder cover..

    If you add up those parts it’s another $100 +.. so the customer who *just* purchased the view-finder are now looking at a total cost of just over $500 if they want to same bells and whistles.

    Asking for a straight trade-up is ridiculous (I agree), but offering existing customers a discounted upgrade to buy the additional parts is a smart move on Zacuto’s part.

    • robertkerner says:

      I agree and my post wasn’t directed solely at the Zacuto issue. It’s only the latest instance where people have used the web to vilify (ok, maybe that’s too strong!) a company for introducing new products so close together. And the finder seems to be an unusual catalyst for this discussion since they also introduced new hand held rigs, some of which look pretty similar to existing rigs which are more expensive. But what really caught me was the sense of entitlement over a product that no one has seen yet and may have not even be necessary if one is happy with their current configuration. I also agree with your last sentence: it’s make good sense from a customer service point of view to offer a pathway but not every manufacturer can afford to do this.

      Thanks for reading an replying.

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