LF Camera delivery HORROR stories!!!

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by dan_smith, May 2, 2002.

  1. I have been emailing people selling LF camera gear, especially the higher end gear, for about 3 years now asking "why is this camera for sale?" The answers are interesting with all the usual reasons one would sell a camera. One catagory though has me puzzled, frustrated and pissed off. That is the one of "This guy is a pathological liar" to "If I see him I will run over him", to "after waiting two years for the camera I lost interest in the format, bought something else & now it is for sale... unused & new in the box".
    In following up on some of these I have gotten stories (with info from cancelled checks & credit card billings so I know they are accurate) of cameras ordered, paid or in part or in full, that still take up to or over 2 years from the time the buyer was told "IT IS READY TO SHIP". Then, getting the camera & finding the whole front standard is for a different model.
    In my survey I found complaints centered around one specific camera maker. Way out of proportion to his market share which is larger than his competitors. Funny thing was that his competitors had NO complaints anywhere near what his were. NO complaints of lousy service, just small things and NO complaints of payment made & then being shined on with ever increasing delivery times.
    So, finding out "why people sell LF cameras" has become a compilation of "how one maker seems to be screwing his customers".
    Anyone can understand problems coming up and delays in shipping. Any business can have a screw up now & then. But to do this in an ongoing manner to so many has to be looked at more carefully. Even if the cameras are really nice, who can afford to pay for one, know they will wait a specified time because the cameras are basically hand made, and then find out that 8 weeks 'really means' 8 to 18 months?
    If you have faced these problems, how have you handled them? What was done & how long did it take? If you don't feel comfortable naming names, that is fine. If you want to name names but not on an open forum, feel free to email me with specifics... I have been in contact with the Attorney General of the State of the maker with the most complaints & they say they "are looking into it as others have complained". So, go ahead and say what you will as long as it is accurate & true.
    I understand there are two sides to every story. Ken Hough, of Deardorff restoration was getting some complaints so I contacted him directly & he has made an attempt to get the truth out. Enough personal problems to effect his business & those who complained are working it out. But a maker who does this over & over & over again, using payments for a year or more without delivery of goods... AFTER the promised delivery date? That is a horror story that no one who orders a camera should ever face & if it is happening maybe we can at least shine some light on the situation & prevent it happening to others.
    The LF community is a small one and most we know in it are honorable & reputable. But the few who trade on that & abuse the trust are causing problems for more than themselves. NO ONE should have a camera ordered & paid for and have to wait so long after promised delivery time that they lose interest in the format & put the camera up for sale simply because looking at it fills them with hate, frustration & the desire to run over the maker with a truck.
     
  2. None of this means anything unless we know who you are referring to.

    <p>

    Kevin
     
  3. We are talking about Ron Wisner. Specifically, I believe, with
    regard to special-order, usually larger, cameras.

    <p>

    I have nothing personal against him, he has never been discourteous
    in what he has said or in his manner. However, the wait times for his
    cameras (nearly a year for my 12X20) are SO out of proportion to what
    is promised (6 weeks, in my case) and the product so frequently
    unsatisfactory (the Linhof adapter board on mine leaked light,
    ruining a week's worth of pictures; then the bellows separated from
    the front standard, ruining another set; the paid-for and long-
    promised 11X14 reducing back has never been delivered after 18 mo of
    waiting: I doubt I will ever see it) that many people are
    understandably upset. I'm no lawyer, but it seems intuitively that
    fraud is in some ways being committed here. Certainly the shoddiness
    and broken promises ought to be discussed publicly on forums like
    this, whether legal recourse is ultimately available or not.

    <p>

    Again, I do not have anything personally against Wisner. I'm against
    the use of this forum for ad hominem attacks. However, I think that
    this problem is sufficiently ubiquitous, particularly with regard to
    the larger special order cameras which are increasingly of interest
    to readers here, that it deserves a public airing, and, perhaps best
    for all concerned, a public response from Mr. Wisner. Though of
    course, that is his choice.

    <p>

    I'm loving the 12X20 format, by the way, and enjoy using the camera
    now that I think I have most of the bugs worked out. Though I have
    no particular strong feelings left over about it now, I do not think
    in all fairness that I have been dealt with by RW in the way I would
    hope to be treated as a customer, and would be quite unlikely to buy
    from him again, which is too bad.

    <p>

    Nathan
     
  4. Old news! If only Fred Picker was around, what stories HE could tell
    about Ron. We early purchasers of Fred's Classic camera sure heard
    all this when Fred was trying to get Ron to honor his promises then,
    something he apparently never did, forcing Fred to make the cameras
    himself.

    <p>

    It is certainly ironic that two prominent LF individuals, Ron W. and
    Ken H. find themselves with such negative public relations at the
    same time.
     
  5. it's to bad it takes alot of good work to trust in some ones
    reputation but just tell the truth it takes a while to fix a camera
    don't ask for payment when you still have to wait 18 mos for your
    deardoff what hurt me the most was the images i did not make
    waitng for my camera and it is personal .
     
  6. I have a Wisner 8x10 and I bought it used and at quite a bargain. It
    works fine and maybe the guy before me tuned it up. Whatever! I think
    the point here is that anytime you pay for something in advance the
    person who gets the money is satisfied and you are not. I have had
    some good conclusions to EBAY buys and some DISASTERS!!! I have
    decided to go back to the old way of doing bisiness that goes all the
    way back to the begining of time and that is "you show me yours and
    I"ll show you mine". To avoid this you just have to do business face
    to face and see the actual goods before you buy!! If you buy on EBAY
    then pay the price that allows for all possible repairs and taht
    means cheap. Buy a lense and allow for a shutter rebuild. Buy a
    camera and figure it is broken or misaligned etc.... And do not pay
    in advance.I often wonder who the foolish vendor on EBAY would be to
    send the goods in advance of payment? Yet those vendors want us to
    send the money in advance of inspection and in advance of shipping.
    Here in Ontario a person(?) was convicted of fraud because he sold a
    non existent nikon f4 and shipped rocks, five times!!!! I have tried
    to buy from local dealers(Henrys) EBAY lisiting and wanted to inspect
    beore payment, I was downstairs and the item was one floor above and
    they said pay before you see it, yet the other store items we to be
    insepcted befoe paid for and I was told that was the way of EBAY!!
    Imagine buying a suit and paying beore trying it on. The EBAY
    technique o auction and apy nad maybe getting what you paid for is
    ridiculous and EBAY does not insure anything!!! Well that's my RANT,
    i thank you for enduring it but frankly we just have to stick to
    sensible business tactics and not let our dreams and desires run our
    wallets. Remember there is no"last deal" there is a new deal every
    day and maybe a better deal tomorrow!
     
  7. I've bought items from Ebay with no proplems what so ever. A little
    bit of trust is however need.

    <p>

    Wisner, and buying things from him (direct) is a lil different. Add
    at least a year to the times he gives you and you might be nearer the
    date, and then it might never turn up, (like the 4x5 reducing back
    for my 8x10 pocket expedition)I got rid of the camera as it was so
    loose on the front standard that it was a complete and utter joke!

    <p>

    Nuff said.. All I need to do now is change the pic on the bio page!

    <p>

    Thank god for Arca Swiss!
    www.nigelturnerphotography.com
     
  8. I am a bit confused. Is this the same Dan Smith that recently voiced
    complete incompatibility with a Wisner 5x7? As a working photographer
    that has clearly immersed imself in the "tools of his trade" at the
    various workshops and with other professionals I find it odd that
    someone as connected to the industry as you would not have discovered
    your personal distaste for a Wisner (as expressed by your recent
    posting to avail yourself of the 5x7) only to go down that path with
    a larger format. Had you no really no indications of the significant
    delays and lack of customer service with Wisner or are you just
    venting frustration? Ever from the perimeter it was readily apparent
    that irrespective of what was bantered around about delivery dates,
    the overwhelming majority of large format users were was keenly aware
    of this situation. Gordon Hutchings article about the convertable
    lenses 5 years ago made no bones about a one to two year delivery
    time and considerable patience required. As to the apparent lack of
    quality control, I am dumbfounded. I agree that this is unheard of in
    a normal business venue. What disturbs me most is the apparent lack
    of care in insuring that his reputation stays intact. Customer
    service is the first corporate part to hemmorage and without new
    customers, (this is a word of mouth business if I ever saw one) his
    business will detiorate to a point where cash flow versus expenses
    will not pass the rate of return test for the bank and it will be
    time to listen to the fat lady sing. Really sad.

    <p>

    My only hope is that Keith Canham writes his Mission Statement in
    large bold letters and place this banner above the entrance to his
    shop and read it every day he comes to work as those that forget
    history are condemmed to repeat it. Look at the post about the demise
    of Deardorf as there are lessons in business every day.

    <p>

    Hope it all works out for you and you can get back to making
    photographs very soon. Be Well.
     
  9. My experience is similar to Mr. Congdon's. Ordered a Wisner
    ULF camera, promised in 6 months, delivered in 10 months,
    required to pay in full in advance. There were 4 defects in the
    camera when delivered that Mr. Wisner promised to repair but
    one year later has not done so. Buyer beware.
     
  10. I own my own retail business and it really boils down to this... you
    either care for your customers or you don't.The best way in my
    opinion to do business is to be upfront, try your absolute best, and
    if you cant meet the deadlines that you promise....give the money
    back, even if it is a loss to the business.People understand and
    appreaciate honesty in business...maybe being more patient for a
    unaccounted for delay that can't be helped.
     
  11. Who cares if Ron does like what you say? Your are talking about
    customers' actual experiences. If a LF company provides bad customer
    service let's hope they get boycotted. Maybe they will have time to
    fix their poorly built cameras and finish backed order cameras. If a
    company is not run on honesty, integrity and high standards than why
    is it in business? I don't know why you need to protect Wisner, Dan.
    You are being way too nice. I hope more potential Wisner customers
    see this post. When we buy something from a camera company we aren't
    buying just the product, we are buying customer support. Only by
    complaining about Wisner's business practises will any changes happen.
     
  12. My Wisner Technical Field 4x5 is 7 years old. The camera works fine,
    but the finish looks very crude. The levels and the trim around the
    levels are very crooked looking. I have sent a couple of e-mails
    asking if they would replace the levels if I should break them. I
    would like to remove them and install them so they are actually
    level. I have had no response. I like my camera, but if I had to
    replace it, I'd probably look elsewhere. Customer service does
    matter.
     
  13. One wonders why these camera makers don't model themselves after
    instrument makers and other kinds of craftspeople who do similar kinds
    of work.

    <p>

    Most have at least an eight month waiting list for a new instrument.
    I know a violin maker who has a three-year waiting list, and he says
    that up front. Great instrument makers, like luthier Greg Smallman,
    sometimes have twenty-year waiting lists. Some makers ask for a
    deposit, but those who know that they will sell an instrument even if
    it goes unclaimed by the original purchaser don't always require it
    and they may refund deposits for customers who back out.

    <p>

    For repair work, I like the model my brass repairman uses (I play the
    trombone). He has a waiting list, but he doesn't put your instrument
    on the shelf until he gets to it. He puts you on his calendar, so you
    can continue to play your horn (if it is playable) and bring it in
    when he's ready to do the work, and he can turn most repairs around
    the same day as long as it doesn't involve something like lacquer
    drying or sending parts out for replating.
     
  14. For anyone considering a new Phillips product, my experiences were
    extremely pleasant. I have purchased both a 4x5 and Compact II
    8x10. In each case, Dick provided an estimated lead time (which was
    met), and did not ask for a deposit. He also stated that there would
    be no obligation if I changed my mind. Apparently Dick operates on
    the same basis as those musical instrument makers David described.
    It would hard to imagine a better arrangement for prospective buyers,
    and the innovative cameras Phillips offers are unavailable
    elsewhere. By the way, my only connnection to R.H. Phillips & Sons
    is as a satisfied customer.
     
  15. Dear Dan,
    Several of my friends have directed me to your post. I am
    happy to answer any and all questions and address problems where they
    exist. I do wonder why you didn't call me, as you apparently did Ken
    Hough.
    I will first and foremost admit, right here in public, that
    there is some truth to what you say about slow deliveries of certain
    cameras. When legitimate criticism is offered, there is no sense
    getting defensive and denying it.
    I wonder if you realize how big our market share is, and how
    many cameras we ship every year. The number is in the many
    hundreds. Never the less, this is a small company. It is a
    monumental job to manage this kind of business, with the high amount
    of hands-on craftsmanship that is required to build a fine wooden
    camera. And we ship cameras day after day all over the world without
    a problem or complaint. We have a filing cabinet full of letters
    full of praise and appreciation for what we do here.
    Since I went in to business almost twenty years ago, the
    demand for our product has grown and grown, more than I ever
    anticipated.
    There is a reason for that. We make a fine product. We are
    constantly pushing the envelope, building cameras and other products
    no one else is building, and meeting the requests of photographers
    world wide. In the last three years we have introduced five new
    models, all to satisfy requests from our customers. Our entire
    product line is now even distributed by Polaroid Japan. Do you know
    how picky the Japanese consumer is?
    Special orders do take time. I almost never turn down a
    special request. My undeniable fault is underestimating how long
    some projects with take. I take all of the blame for that. But
    consider all of the custom work we offer, including different
    finishes, different hardware, even hardware finishes that we have
    introduced, along with the more than thirty separate cameras that we
    build, and you might begin to get a sense of my job here.
    You will forgive me, I hope, if I take issue with some of
    your narrative. I am not accusing you of any malice, just errors in
    facts.
    I have only delivered three 12x20 cameras in person in my
    life. First, one for an instructor in the Salt Lake area (you know
    who I mean), second, one for a Mr. Weems at the same workshop a year
    later, and third, a Mr. Cahn in New York last month. No ground glass
    back has every fallen off such a camera and broken in my presence.
    The first camera mentioned was used for a group photo several days
    after delivery (with about 30 witnesses), and that picture was in
    View Camera Magazine the next month. The locks on that camera and
    every 12x20 are standard and designed for that camera. The quotes
    you attributed to me were never uttered.
    I do recall hearing that a glass had broken on that camera,
    and I believe the owner may have called me for a replacement. As for
    any work done on the camera, it was and is under warranty, and all he
    had to do was call if there were any problems.
    Speaking of the warranty, we have a very liberal warranty.
    It is a lifetime warranty. If there is a problem, we will fix it.
    This warranty protects the customer, but it also protects the
    company. We WANT to fix your camera if there is a problem. This is,
    indeed, part of how we maintain our reputation. But you have to let
    us fix it.
    Mr. Turner (of this string) knows this well. I went in
    person to his hotel room in Las Vegas on the way back from Death
    Valley to make an adjustment to his camera. He said he loved his
    camera. He place his order for the camera on Nov. 4th of 1998. It
    was delivered on January 22, 1999. That's about seven weeks, or a
    typical delivery for us. On August 8th of 2000 after using the
    camera for a year and a half, he wrote me the following email:
    "HI Ron, hope this finds you fit and well and business is
    booming. Just like to let you know that the 8x10 Pocket Expedition
    that I purchased from you back in January 1999 is doing me proud.
    I've never been as fortunate to use such a user friendly Large Format
    Camera". The upper case is his.
    In September of '99 he apparently dropped his camera. Our
    records show that it was repaired and returned to him in a couple of
    days. We did that because he is an instructor and needs his camera.
    He sent the camera to us early this year for a repair, this
    time under warranty. We returned it in under two weeks. Not once in
    the three years he owned the camera did he mention a loose front
    standard. If he had, we would have fixed it. Nigel, I do apologize
    for not getting you a reducing back faster.
    When Nathan (also of this string) had a light leak, I helped
    him find it. Apparently the nylon adapters which are made for us by
    another manufacturer (you would all know them buy name) was making
    them too fast, and the plastic was shrinking. We made a new lens-
    board-adapter for Nathan and over-nighted it to his office for a trip
    he was taking with the camera. I drove it to the UPS terminal
    myself, as our UPS driver had already been to the factory. It had to
    be there the next day.
    Nathan, as you were receiving your lens board adapter by UPS
    red in time for your trip, did you really believe you would not
    receive your reducing back? It was finished this week just as I said
    it would be, and you can have a tracking number on Monday. I hope
    the lens board adapter is working well for you.
    Stewart, do accept my apologies. I will certainly address
    your problems. If I recall, they were minor, but it doesn't matter.
    It's my fault for not following up. Thanks for letting me know about
    Clark.
    Wes Carroll, send us the camera. We will check/ replace the
    spirit levels for you. It's under warranty. If you really don't
    like the finish, we'll fix that too. And by the way, the camera is
    eight years old, because you bought it in June of '94.
    When I got back from delivering two 20x24 systems in Japan in
    February, I was very frustrated by some of the issues mentioned
    here. The company had grown so fast that managing certain things was
    getting difficult. I might get thirty cherry 4x5 backs when what I
    needed was cherry main beds. Things were falling through the
    cracks. My desire is always to serve the customer as well as
    possible, not just to produce the best camera. We had a major
    shakeup here at the factory. I fired some people, promoted others
    and streamlined things overall. There is closer control over
    production, and better scheduling. I am happy with the results so
    far, but there is more to do.
    The bottom line is we do some things very well, but we are
    not perfect. I am the first to admit it. The vast majority of our
    customers are well taken care of and a large number of them have more
    than one of our cameras. But we always want to improve. If you
    have a problem, call me.

    <p>

    Ron Wisner
    Wisner Company, Inc.
    800-848-0448
     
  16. I just noticed the following mistake in my first post:

    <p>

    "He place his order for the camera on Nov. 4th of 1998. It was
    delivered on January 22, 1999. That's about seven weeks, or a typical
    delivery for us."

    <p>

    Obviously, the delivery took 11 weeks, not 7. A bit longer than
    normal for an 8x10.
     
  17. I'd just like to take this opportunity to say that I have been a bit
    OTT in my view that about Wisner Cameras being a complete and utter
    joke.. so my apologies to you there Ron. I was very happy with my
    camera until I realized the problem mentioned below which did make
    the camera difficult to use under MY circumstances.

    <p>

    But during our many conversations over the years I did mention on
    more than one occasion about the front standard being 'somewhat
    loose' and that I was loosing many images due to this, mostly with
    the older and heavier Ilex shutters causing to much vibration on the
    front standard and panels, particularly on longer exposures. Your
    reply was to 'stop down..'

    <p>

    Also when I had the accident with the Camera, the incident occurred
    in mid August and I shipped the camera immediately, but it wasn't
    returned to me until the end of September or very early October,
    that's hardly two days.

    <p>

    As Ron himself has pointed out, some problems seem to be staff
    related, but my biggest beef was being told one thing one week and
    something completely different the next, and particularly when my
    living relied on the products I use.

    <p>

    The only reason I purchased the Arca Swiss was the need to also shoot
    in 5x4, but having waited for six months for the reducing back for my
    8x10 to arrive, which it never did I was somewhat faced with a
    choice, as there is no way on earth I can hump both a 5x4 and 8x10
    around the Colorado Plateau. Had the reducing back been delivered
    when promised I would still have the 8x10 PE and not had to have gone
    out and spent money on the Arca.

    <p>

    I still think Ron Wisner makes wonderful cameras, especially wooden
    ones where I feel he is the world leader but perhaps a bit more care
    in customer relationships and quality control wouldn't go amiss.

    <p>

    I personally shall still recommend Wisner Cameras to anybody
    interested in such items.

    <p>

    Nigel Turner.
     
  18. Nigel,

    <p>

    Thank you very much for your clarification. I can only go by the
    records in my file. Thank you also for your comments. In similar
    circumstances (regarding your front standard) I am now recommending
    the standard Expedition front standard when using heavy lenses. Some
    of our Pocket series are thus being shipped with simple front
    standards.

    <p>

    Best regards,
    Ron
     
  19. Dear Ron:
    As a small business owner myself, I was expecting more in your
    response to this post. While I have the utmost respect for your
    camera making enterprise both personally and professionally and truly
    empathize with your delima of trying to staying abreast of your
    growing market share, unless you are attempting to garner a
    sympathetic vote in a close election, it is meaningless. The core of
    this discussion once we leave the personal references on the
    sidelines is about a consumer desiring a product and associated
    product services and a business sequestering that very specific
    demand. You mentioned several components of this situation that is
    concurrently your niche and your nemesis. Small companies can shift
    gears and offer that "personal" touch that the large organizations
    simply cannot deal with. However, as the head man - the buck stops
    with you. As with running my company, the decision maker can do
    whatever he wants. Solving problems is part of the territory and is
    the substance that reaffirms the consuming public that you and not
    someone else should earn their business. While I have not purchased
    one of your cameras yet, I could be in the future. Having said that,
    what I would like to hear is what exactly you are doing to streamline
    your operations and customer service? This is one area that you
    simply cannot provide to much information about. Here is something
    that it took me a while to figure out. Even if the customer is wrong,
    their perception of the situation can quickly become reality as
    evidenced by the disparity in this dialog. But this really does not
    matter. Yes, I have taken the blame for situations that were not my
    fault in my business and accelerated the "solution" as soon as
    possible to distance myself from the funk. The reason for that is
    that over time, the funk will squeeze you and try to kill you and I
    enjoy what I do far to much to let that happen.

    <p>

    Suggestion: Don't sugar coat realistic turn around schedules. In fact
    I would add 20% to what you tell them as a goal to get it to them on
    time. If something unexpected happens that prevents you from meeting
    your schedule, have someone cpontact the customer and share the truth
    whatever it is. No one can fault you for this.

    <p>

    I desperately want your camera company to succeed for as long as you
    have the fire and passion for your craft. We as photographers need
    the venue to feel good about the future. All my best.
     
  20. Mike

    <p>

    Thank you for your thoughtful advice. I have received similar advice
    privately today and yesterday. I cannot dissagree with anything you
    have said. I have come to all of the same conclusions over the
    years, and this is why I made the changes that I did in February. It
    is all too easy to become mired by distractions, and if I have any
    other fault (doubtless I have many) it's that I have a hard time
    saying "no" to anyone. Saying "no" takes practice and discipline, and
    I am practicing this more and more.
    I am very passionate about photography or I wouldn't be doing this.
    I have been offered easier, more profitable jobs in the corporate
    world. But here I am, and here I intend to stay.
     
  21. Ron,

    <p>

    How much of your cameras are actually made in house and to your specs?

    <p>

    The reason I ask is from the comment you made in a previous thread,
    which seems somewhat strange.

    <p>

    "I might get thirty cherry 4x5 backs when what I needed was cherry
    main beds."

    <p>

    How come? How can this mistake happen if the parts are made and
    assembled on the premises.. or are they made elsewhere and put
    together in Marion?

    <p>

    I was just wondering.
    Nigel Turner.
     
  22. A bit OT, but since Mr. Wisner will be reading this: A Wista camera,
    the name suggests collaboration between Wis ner and Ta chihara. Any
    substance to this? Please clarify, a response to my curiosity. Thanks
    for your time,

    <p>

    Hans B.
     
  23. Nigel and Hans

    <p>

    All woodwork of our cameras is made in-house. We can and often do
    make any or all hardware in-house as well. However, when volume
    reaches a certain level, such as in 4x5 camera parts, we will
    contract out such things as knobs and other cnc machined parts like
    struts and swing plates to local job shops. All parts are made to my
    drawings. All final assembly, fit and finish is done in our factory.
    All bellows are made in-house as well. If you would like to see some
    of this, you can see the factory in the factory tour on our website.

    <p>

    My reference to the production of the wrong part was about my
    woodworking department not paying attention to the inventory report,
    which is maintained in the computer, but still has to be looked at
    and coordinated with current open orders. This is some of the
    organizational improvements that I was referring to. Balancing
    inventory of some thirty camera models is important because it takes
    a certian minimum time to get through the entire cycle of the fifteen
    or so wooden parts for each camera. Obviously, we can't make just
    one part, we have to make thirty to fifty, or in some cases several
    hunderd of each major part to make the setup time efficient.

    <p>

    Ron Wisner
     
  24. Hans
    I meant to say that the name Wista, which is close to Wisner (co-
    incidentally) caused some problems when we worked out marketing in
    Japan. Even the katakana charactors (the Japanese phonetic alphabet
    used for Western words) were confusingly close to "Wista". We
    therefore decided to retain the English charactors of our name, since
    most Japanese can read English. Any connection between the names or
    the companies end there.
     
  25. Mr Wisner, I simply requested an answer when I contacted your
    company about repairing the levels in my camera. I am very capable
    of reinstalling them myself. I was asking if you would send me new
    levels if I broke these while removing them. They look as if they
    are very fragile. I find it annoying to have to use a seperate level
    when I have levels installed on the camera. Too bad a little care
    wasn't involved during the installation. I can live with the crude
    finish. I just don't think a product should be sent from the factory
    unless it has passed certain quality standards. A sloppy finish
    doesn't give a very good first impression. Apparently you needed to
    get rid of some people that weren't doing their jobs very well and
    hopefully you have some reliable people now. I don't feel it is
    neccessary to send in my camera for such a minor repair as
    reinstalling the levels. I can do it myself in less time than it
    would take packaging it to ship it you. My question still stands.
    Will you send me some new levels if I should break these while
    removing them?
    I don't think anyone here is trying to destroy your business. I
    admire you for your success. Whether it is your fault or not, you
    own the business and your employees should be doing their jobs. If
    they aren't, are they going to tell you? Do you have to be looking
    over their shoulder all the time to insure they are doing quality
    work? If they ignore our questions about problems, do we all have to
    call you personally to be sure we are heard? Maybe you just didn't
    know. If that is the circumstance, it is too bad it took a public
    forum for you to find out.
    I also have an opinion about no owner's manual for your cameras. I
    had absolutly no experience with a large format camera prior to
    buying a Wisner. I'd never touched one. The first thing I did was
    gouge the bellows when I opened it. An owner's manual, or at least
    some sort of warning would have been a big help. I sure I'm not the
    only person that has learned to use a large format camera completely
    on their own.
     
  26. Wes,

    <p>

    I am happy to send you the vials. We epoxy them in, so you will
    definitely break them taking them out. We use a big granite surface
    table that is carefully leveled with a precision machinists level to
    calibrate the levels. We put the respective camera part on the
    surfacen plate and keep the vials reading true while the epoxy
    hardens. Once in a while the level drifts while hardening, which is
    probably what happened in your case.

    <p>

    Regarding the finish, since you are the original owner, if you don't
    like the finish, we are happy to revarnish it for you. The offer
    stands. Our varnish is applied by hand and always has been. This
    means there will always be some variation. The machanical
    superiority and fifty year life expectancy of oil varnish makes this
    worth while. Even eight years later, as in your case, we can still
    apply a new coat. Polyurethane does not do well under thise
    circumstances. Our varnisher is excellent. You would like the
    results.
     
  27. Thank you Ron, I will take you up on the offer of replacing the
    vials. I will send you my address. I can live with the finish on the
    camera. I knew before ordering the camera that the finish was
    applied by brush and I didn't expect a perfect finish. I just
    expected better than I got. I bought the camera to use, not as an
    art object. I would not have been satisified with the workmanship if
    I'd done the work myself though and I wouldn't have expected to pass
    it off as acceptable to anyone else. I just seems to cheapen a fine
    camera if the finish looks sloppy. The varnish is lumpy and looks
    like it should have been strained before application. I'm assuming
    you saw a need to make some changes since you said you had fired
    some people.
    Thanks in advance for the new vials. I will enjoy using the camera
    more when I can rely on the levels.
     
  28. Well, I'd like to give my experiences ordering from the Wisner company. Dan is not the only one who has had trouble dealing directly from the factory. I ordered a 16x20 camera in October of 2000, and, as of this writing, I am still waiting for Ron Wisner to finish the order. He is not an honest and trustworthy person to deal with. I have phoned him many times to find out about the progress of my order, only to be put off by his stall tactics. I am waiting for a replacement light trap for a film holder which is leaking. I also need a replacement ground glass, which was sent out from the factory defective. I have three film holders that I ordered over two years ago and paid for and have not yet received them.
    Ron will say one thing and do another. He is a very dishonest person to deal with. He will tell you that your items have already been shipped, but he will not give you any proof of it by providing you with shipping tracking numbers. So, you wait about two to three weeks, and when the items you have ordered have not yet arrived, he will tell you that they are on their way. It is simply not true. He told me that my camera equipment qould be ready about three months after I placed the order. It has been over two years and I am still waiting! Do not give him anything more than a 10% deposit on anything, and NEVER give him your credit card number. He will take full payment from you, and then you will end up waiting and waiting. I am not exaggerating. I have waited over two years and I still have not receieved everything I have ordered. If you really must buy a Wisner camera, buy one from a dealer who has it in stock. Do not buy directly from the factory. You will get burned like me and so many other people who have dealt with Ron Wisner. I hope that people realize that there are many large format camera manufacturers out there, and that many are as good or better than Wisners, in many respects. The service you will get from the Wisner company will be very poor. Ron is a sheister, who needs to be exposed for his unethical business practices. He does not deliver! You can never take the man at his word. He lies to his customers and he behaves like a scoundrel. Don't do business with him. If Ron looses even one sale as a result of this post, I will have some confort in the anxiety he has coused me over the past two years waiting for my camera equipment. I have lost a lot of money on potential sales, due to equipment which was not delivered as promised. Buyer beware!
     
  29. Last week I received my custom lightweight 12x20 camera from Wisner after an 18 ½ month wait. I experienced all the “stuff” that others talk about above, and would have as much right to whine and complain as anybody else.

    The purpose of this posting is not to complain about, nor to defend Ron Wisner. I want to lend a different perspective, and a dose of reality, to the discussion.

    Most of the trama I experienced during my wait for the camera was a direct result of reading this thread. Although I had spent a week at Ron’s Death Valley workshop, talked with his dealers, and talked with him by phone; reading this thread made me question my judgement and think that maybe I would be cheated. After reading this posting, I bought a plane ticket from California to the east cost to visit the Wisner factory (on short notice) to see first had what was going on with my camera.

    My worrying was for nothing. I now have a camera that weighs less than two thirds of what the standard 12x20 model weighs. It is solid, easy to use and will work with every lens I have from an extreme wide 5.5 inch to a 42 inch lens. The geared rear axis tilt is a big deal for me in terms of ease of use, especially on a big camera like this. Best of all it is light enough that I can take it more than 20 feet from the car, in spite of my arthritis.

    So here is the reality folks! There are three people in the world that make super large format cameras. That number is only likely to get smaller, not larger. We are practicing a dying art. If we expect people to support us with equipment and supplies, we need to support them (and some constructive criticism is supporting them). The each have their strengths and weaknesses, if any were perfect, they would not be dumb enough to be in this business. You need to pick the one that has the strengths that are most important to you, and has weeknesses that you can live with.

    Some Reality about Ron Wisner (this is my opinion only, not necessarily fact):

    The negatives:
    Ron will always over commit him self – If you tell him you need something in six months, he will tell you he can have it in three. You will get it in nine months. If you can't plan around this, find another source.
    Every fall the large format camera business is slow and Ron will do what ever he can to bring in cash to be able to pay his employees and keep the doors open. He will not cheat you, change your price once you order, or fail to deliver a quality product, but he may under estimate how long it will take to finish.
    Ron has a lot of projects going on at one time. You are competing for his attention, so you have to be patient, yet keep reminding him or your project will get pushed down the priority list.

    The Positives:
    Ron is not a “good businessman” – If he ran his company using “good business” methods, he would not be in this business. Kodak operates like a business, hence does not support large format photographers. Kodak only offers sheet film as long as it provides incremental profit from production of x-ray film. When somebody develops a detector array large enough, or a way to focus the x-ray pattern on a small detector, Kodak will get out of the sheet film business.
    Ron will always return your phone calls and emails. He will tell you the truth, as he sees it (usually over optimistic, but let’s face it if he was not an optimist he would not stick with this business).
    Ron will make the camera you want, and it will do what you need it to do. It took 18 months to make my camera because he started over three times on the camera, and twice on the bellows. He won’t ship something until he is happy with it, and will gladly make any changes to it after he ships it to make you happy with it (you do have to tell him what you want but he listens willingly and is more than willing to make changes).

    We are lucky to have three fine manufacturers to chose to buy our very large format cameras from. They all have their positives and negatives. It is important to know what they are and decide what is important to you and what you can live with. My decision was based on several factors. I have never seen the lotus camera except on the internet, although they were responsive to me emails, Austria is just too far to jump on a plane and visit them. The international shipping, customs, etc. was just too much of a barrier should I need to return the camera for repairs or modifications. Canham was pleasant to talk with and I think he makes a good camera, but I had never seen one, and he did not want me to come to Arizona to his facility. He has a reputation for not committing to less than a year to build the camera, then delivering early, but I was not comfortable with his lack of flexibility. I knew Wisner’s reputation for missing delivery dates, and had some knowledge of him as a person, so knew he was an honest person and would deliver a quality product. I was willing to wait 18 months for a camera that I hope to still be enjoying 18 years from now.

    I would not personally recommend any one of these manufacturers over the other, but I am happy with my decision and if I were to do it over again, the only thing I would do differently is not have taken some of the comments in this thread so seriously.

    I hope this alternative prospective is useful to others who have ordered or will order a “really big” camera.

    Matthew
     
  30. I too just received my 12x20 from Ron Wisner and contrary to others experiences I accepted and signed for it UPS 6 months from the actual ordering date. This is my first LF camera bought new and I am very happy with it.Ron made it as light as possible at 18lbs but it needed a bit of tweaking and an addition of rear swing so we schedualed an appointment at his factory at his suggestion. Let me say I had a great time down there! My impression is that Ron and his employees are very proud of their cameras as well as being receptive to my needs and it was a cool thing to see all of them working in tandem to get this 12x20 exactly the way I wanted it. Ron was also in there doing the physical work too, he is not afraid to get his hands dirty. There is a equal balance of men and woman at the shop and some of the employees have been there for 15 to 20 years. That says a lot to me. While I was there they cut the metal parts right on the spot and ajusted and completed my camera vision totally. They spent more than 2 hours doing this in a fun and jovial atmosphere. His employeees made a point to speak with me on the qualities of wood (mahogony vs. cherry)as well as other things and the entire visit was first class, from the prints on the walls to the 20x24 camera in the entranceway. I felt very comfortable there. Ron and his employees made an extra effort to finish my camera to my satisfaction and I am appreaciative of this. Again, my experience with the Wisner co. was great.You just don't get better service than this today. If you are patient and willing to communicate your needs and even travel down to the factory to get everything done just right you might just get the ULF camera of your dreams!
     
  31. I have had a very similar negative experience both Wisner and
    Hough. What Ron Wisner fails to explain in his response is his
    habit of blatant lying. In January 2003 I sent my 12x20 in for
    repair when it fell off the tripod because the base plate tore off. A
    design flaw Wisner admitted. I also ordered a 12x20 vertical
    back to be made. I was told it was his slow season so he could
    have it done in a couple of months. He placed a deposit on my
    credit card. I got my repaired camera back in May and was told
    that the vertical back would be done the first week of June. For 2
    months Wisner told me that "it was done", "it was shipped", "did I
    get it yet?" He even went so far as to provide false tracking
    numbers. I gave him a deadline of August 1. Wisner said I
    would have it. I never got it. I canceled the order. I am still
    waiting for the refund. This has been the most unprofessional
    experience I have ever had with anyone in the photography
    business.

    Ken Hough told me it would be 8 months to rebuild my 11x14
    Deardorff. I started to call a year later. Heard next week or next
    month for 20 more months. Hough is almost forgivable because
    he does such exceptional work.

    I can see no reason to lie. Large format photographers by
    nature are a patient lot. But if you tell me I am getting my camera
    tomorrow you can bet I am planning on using it tomorrow.

    I can’t help but wonder if these men could do business with
    themselves?

    By the way the base plate tore off the 12x20 camera again. But
    luckily I had my hands on it.
     
  32. Hi Ron,

    The 8X10 complete package that I ordered back in 2000 was supposed to have included a Pentax V spot meter. It's 2007...almost 2008, am I ever going to get the meter?

    Thanks.

    Jason Kefover
     

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