Saturday, August 12, 2017

3 Months for a Warranty Repair? C'Mon Leica USA, You Can Do Better

The big blue Texas sky took up most of the composition, I forget exactly what I was taking a picture of, but if the Texas sky is involved in anyway, you can bet it's going to be a big part of the picture. I was doing a little "chimping" and noticed a speck of dust in the big blue sky of my photo. I immediately reached for the dust blower in my camera bag and gave the front of the lens a good once over. I snapped another photo of the sky, however, the speck of dust was still there.

The Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) features a fixed lens, which means, you cannot remove it or change it out for another. And a beautiful lens it is, Leica Vario-Summilux f/1.7, the problem however, arises when you get dust on the sensor (inside the camera) or inside the lens. There's really no way to fix it yourself, that's the band news. And, if you're in the USA, the camera has to be sent to Leica's official repair center in Allendale, NJ. The good news is, if you purchased the Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) instead of it's Panasonic twin, the Lumix LX100, you get a three year warranty instead of a one year warranty from Panasonic. A year can go by fast, I've already had my Leica D-Lux for about 18 months. the bottom line, the sensor cleaning would be covered by the warranty.

In addition, the hot shoe has been giving me trouble since I first bought the camera. The included flash has never worked. At first I thought it was the flash itself, so I bought a second flash but it too failed to fire when mounted. On the other hand, other brands of flashes did fire when mounted. With an f/1.7 lens, it's not often that I have occasion to employ the flash, in any event, I would prefer that everything work as it should on my cameras, therefore, I listed the hot shoe as inoperable on my repair request.

Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) Shown with flash, Leica Grip and Lens Hood

I had previously sent in my Leica for a warranty repair on the rear LCD screen, and I was extremely pleased with the speed and service I received. All emails were returned promptly, as was the camera. I had it back within 5 weeks. I was assuming that the same could be expected with this warranty repair. Sadly, that would not be the case.

I think it's important to give you the punch line now, before getting into the details of the return, communication, phone calls and emails. The camera works perfectly, and I am happy to have it back in my hands. This blog post is in no way meant to be a bash job on Leica. The camera is superb and has been repaired back to like new condition. That being said...

I sent my camera off to Leica's repair center on May 1st 2017 and I received a confirmation email on May 9th. 

Good day to you!

Thank you for sending your product to Leica Customer Care.

Please refer to attached confirmation of receipt for your reference.

We will inform you about the test results as soon as possible.

Should you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact

Thank you and have a great day.

Best Regards
Customer Care
Leica Camera INC.

Phone: (+1) 800-222-0118
Fax no.: (201) 995-1686

So far so good, they have my camera and will get back to me. So a month goes by and on June 6th I send an email asking for an update on the status, surely within a month they would know how long it will take to repair my camera and mail it back? I get no reply. Maybe they're busy. I sent a simply follow up three days later on the 9th, again asking for a status update. No reply.

On June 12th I get an email which confirms my repair and what needs to be done. Leica attaches a .pdf file which states what items you sent in and what needs to be done. In my case a sensor cleaning, auto focus adjustment and camera test. I figure maybe another 2-3 weeks for them to finish up right? Wrong.

I noticed a possible discrepancy in the repair note from Leica, there was no mention of the hot shoe. I sent a short email back asking that they make sure the hot shoe is also repaired. I received a response on the same day assuring me that the technicians would read my original repair note and requests. All is still well and on schedule.

I waited another month before sending my next email request for a status update. On July 8th I wrote:

When can I expect my camera repair to be completed and returned to me?

Currently, it's been 8 weeks since you receiced it.

Thanks, I appreciate your time and effort!

Felix Mena

I received no reply. And waited two more weeks before again sending an email for a status update, this time on July 21st. Again, I received no reply.

I am certainly no expert when it comes to customer service, but I do think I know enough that replying to customer emails should be on the list of things that you just do. Or am I crazy? I don't expect special service, but to not receive a reply is simply inexcusable, in my opinion. I mean, that's someone's job right? Return customer service emails, especially when they concern items that are already in repair.

I decided that to take the next logical step and place a phone call to their customer service department. I spoke to the central operator, even though I selected the customer service option when promoted by the automated operator, so I had to ask the central operator to be transferred to the customer service department for repairs and warranty service, which no one answered. I left a message but never got a return phone call.

I called again the next day and left another message, again, no return phone call. A week later, on my third phone call attempt, I actually spoke to a real person who said she would call me back because the technicians were on their lunch break. But she never called me back. Finally, on my 4th phone call, the customer service rep I spoke to was able to tell me (after she spoke to the technicians) that my camera was repaired and that it would be mailed back to me the next day. Strange, that once I finally talk to someone on the phone, that my camera is suddenly ready to be shipped back to me. My greatest curiosity is this: How long was my camera simply sitting on a shelf some where?

Before I conclude this blog post, I also want to comment about something, and perhaps I am being a bit too meticulous, but I think the tone of someone's voice, especially when dealing with customers, is a very important detail. The few people I spoke to at Leica all sounded completely lethargic, as if they had no interest in what they were doing, or who they were talking to. They sounded half asleep, or as if I was disturbing them. It was really awful and sad in a way.

After three months of waiting, being patient while my emails went unanswered and my phone messages unreturned, my camera was back in my hands. It works like it was brand new and I'm happy to be shooting photos with it again. Of the 18 months since I purchased the camera, it's been at the Leica repair center for a total of five months. Something just doesn't seem right about that. But alas, that's the way it goes some times. I kind of expected a little bit more from a brand like Leica.

Leica M6 (left) - Leica D-Lux (right)

Below are a few sample photos I took today. 
As you can see, this little camera is amazing, can't beat a Leica lens.
Even a Vario-Summilux

Friday, July 28, 2017

California Dreamin' - Photo Shoot

Scroll down for the photo gallery

California Dreamin'

I made a trip out to California recently to visit friends and opted to travel by train due to the low cost ($170 round trip from El Paso). I would be out there for a full week but only had one social obligation, which meant I would have plenty of free time to organize some photo shoots while I was out there.

Traveling by train instead of by car, meant however, that I was limited to how much photography equipment I could bring along. I had to travel light, and that mean being extremely selective about the gear I would be bringing and it all had to fit into my Sony camera bag.

Model: Sierra. Location: Salton Sea, California. Camera: Sony A7

My “go-to” camera for any important shoots is the Sony A7RII, that, along with my A99 and A7II are always at the top of my list, however, I could only bring one “full size” body on this trip, so the A7RII got the nod. I won’t be getting into the specs but let’s just say it’s a world class, professional mirrorless camera, on par with any other full-frame available today and let’s leave it at that.
I would be shooting all my video on this trip in 4K so that meant bringing my AX33 and RX100 IV. The AS100 Action Cam is also small and compact, all three of these cameras fit easily into my camera bag and didn’t take up much space, even collectively.

The four lenses I chose to bring I chose for their versatility and quality. The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 is probably my best portrait lens, in fact, it can hold its own against any comparable portrait lens on the market. The other three lenses are outstanding as well and I threw them in my bag due to their versatility. Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f/4, Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 and Sony G 70-200mm f/4. With these three lenses I can cover any focal range I might need from 16mm all the way up to 200mm. Even at f/4 all three lenses produce outstanding bokeh and subject separation.
I have been highly impressed with the Sony VCT-VPR1 tripod. It includes a remote control that plugs into your Sony cameras via multi cable and can control your shutter button and power zoom. It’s got a smooth head and it’s been my “go-to” tripod ever since I purchased it a couple month ago. The Manfrotto mini tripod is surprisingly sturdy for a small, compact, desktop-type tripod. I use it mostly with my compact cameras.

The final items in my camera bag were my external flashes. Normally, I prefer to use my Godox TT685’s with the Godox trigger but since I could not bring soft boxes and extra light stands, I opted for my Sony HVL20 and HVL32. They work well together with the HVL20 on my camera and the HVL32 off camera as a slave. Granted, this is not the ideal flash lighting set-up but my options were limited due to having to travel light.

I was fortunate enough to connect with two outstanding models in Kaylan and Sierra. Kaylan was a total amateur, in fact, the shoot we did together was her very first. She is gorgeous, tall, with a magnetic smile and is a one in a million natural beauty with an amicable personality to match. Sierra is a talented make-up artist and occasionally does some modeling. Both were a real pleasure to work with.

Temperatures were in the low to mid 120’s in the Coachella Valley that week. You read that right 120 degrees! So when I was discussing a photo shoot with Kaylan, I thought it might be nice to head to the beach to get away from the scorching temperatures and well, I was in California, why not shoot at the beach? Always one to kill two birds with one stone, I arranged to meet up with my lifelong friends, Reno and his wife Michelle. Reno and Michelle live near Santa Monica and Malibu beaches, minutes from where Kaylan and I would be shooting, the plan was to shoot near Santa Monica pier, take a short break, meet up and say hello to Reno and Michelle, then shoot at sunset in front of their condo at Malibu beach.

Fate intervened in our plans, but in a good way. Reno is the proud owner of a black, convertible Audi R8 V10 sports car. Long story short, the sky was overcast, so a sunset shoot was out of the question, however, Reno let us shoot with, and drive his Audi R8! This car is a dream, Kaylan and I really enjoyed getting to shoot with an amazing car like that, add the fact that Kaylan is super hot, it was a winning combination.

It’s a long, two hour drive back to the Coachella Valley from West Los Angeles, but Kaylan and I got to know each other well, we enjoyed working together and although we did not get to shoot again that week that I was out there, we do have tentative plans to shoot together again at some point in the future. She is really beautiful and has the potential to become a successful model should she ever choose to pursue it.

My second model, Sierra, and I would not have to option of shooting outside of the Coachella Valley, so the only options would be to shoot early in the morning and/or indoors. Much to her credit, Sierra was open to doing a sunrise photo shoot out at the Salton Sea. This meant, of course, waking up early enough so that she could do her hair and make-up and make the 45 minute drive to the location. I think she must have woken up around 3am to meet me where I was staying at 4:30am. A big thanks to Sierra for her efforts and I think the resulting images were well worth it.

We headed back to my friend Matt’s house for another hour or two of indoor shoots and overall I would say we got some great images but most importantly we had a fun time (whish is always my number one priority) and I was happy to make a couple of fantastic (and beautiful) new friends.
Special thanks to Matt for letting me crash and shoot at his house and to Reno again for letting us shoot and drive his Audi R8.

Enjoy the images everyone!

To see more of Sierra follow her on Instagram @

You can purchase any of the equipment mentioned in this post at the following links:

Sony LCSBP3 DSLR System Backpack with Laptop Storage -
Sony VCT-VPR1 Compact Remote Control Tripod -
Sony HVLF20M Flash -
Sony HVLF32M Flash -
Sony AX33 4K Video Camera -
Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens -
Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS Lens -
Sony 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar T FE OSS Lens -
Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar T FE F4 ZA OSS Lens -
Sony A7RII Full Frame Camera -
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV -
Sony AS100 Action Cam -
Sony RMLVR2 Live View Remote -
Manfrotto MTPIXI-RD PIXI Mini Tripod -