There's a firestorm running through the community of independent camera repair technicians after Nikon Inc. sent a letter to them on Monday, January 16, 2012, notifying them that the company will no longer supply repair parts to anyone except 23 Nikon authorized repair facilities (NARS), after July 13, 2012. The stated reason is "the technology underlying today's cameras is more complex than it has ever been, and in view of the specialization of technology as well as the specialized tools that are now necessary to perform repairs on this complex equipment..." Nikon states that they will not sell parts directly to consumers, either, so if you need a rubber grip, a battery door or a rubber zoom ring, your access to these simple parts will be restricted. (Update: Nikon retail dealers received the same notice on February 1, 2012)
The total ban on sales of parts to independent repair technicians or consumers has nothing to do with technology, training or even the quality of repairs. Few repairs require specialized software, specialized tools or specialized training that are out of the scope of knowledge that trained, qualified independent repair professionals already have. If specialized software, tools or knowledge were required for the installation of specific parts, it would make sense to restrict only those, not every screw and spring in the inventory.
While you might think that only a factory service center or NARS can provide competent repair, you would be wrong. Most repairs going to Nikon's factory service center are sub-contracted out, some even going across the border to Mexico. Some repairs are good and some repairs are shoddy -- on both sides of the fence. (Check http://www.contacthelp.com/directory/Shopping/Electronics/Nikon?ListingID=48 among others and read for yourself. Reports from the Better Business Bureau suggest Nikon's record on repairs handled through its own facility are not as good as most independent technicians. http://www.la.bbb.org/business-reviews/Commercial-Products-Manufacturer/Nikon-Inc-in-El-Segundo-CA-25750 )
No, this is not quality control. The real story here is restraint of trade. Nikon has been squeezing independents for years with increasingly poor parts service, poor communication, and long backorders.
What does the restriction of parts availability mean for Nikon equipment owners? If you happen to live near one of the 23 Nikon authorized repair facilities (NARS) throughout the United States, you're in luck. But what about the majority who are not near a NARS facility? What about the others who use a local qualified repair professional of their choice? It means access to repairs will become problematic, at best. It means consumer choice and convenience in accessing repair will be reduced. If you are a professional relying on your Nikon equipment, you might not be able to obtain fast repairs from your reliable local independent photo technician. Repairs may be more costly since competition in the field of aftermarket service is reduced. It also means that the value of used equipment may be reduced.
By comparison, Canon does not have this policy and does an excellent job of supplying independent repair facilities with the parts they need for fast repairs. Are Canon cameras so much less technical and easy to repair compared to Nikon? No, they are not.
Members of the Society of Photo-Technologists ( www.spt.info ), which has represented independent camera repair shops for more than 50 years, are asking everyone who has any interest in Nikon to urge the company to rethink this new policy.
In addition to signing this petition, please send a note to the president of Nikon Inc, Mr. Yasuyuki Okamoto, 1300 Walt Whitman Road, Melville, NY 11747-3064, letting him know that restricting parts availability to a select group of 24 Nikon authorized repair stations is bad for customer service, bad for customer good-will, and bad for business in general. You can also phone Nikon at 631-547-4200 during regular business hours to voice your opinion.