By now I daresay a number of readers may have already seen the article on the net published by the head of the Three Legged Thing company in England in defence of the prices that his firm charges. I found it an interesting thing to read, and if you have not encountered it, a bit of googling should deliver it to your screen.
If you’ve not time, it briefly details the expenses and difficulties of producing a product designed in Europe through the agency of Chinese factories. He’s been criticized for the cost of a new L-bracket compared to others on the market, and his detractors have taunted him that it can be done much more cheaply by other firms.
Taunting is foolish, because it either calls similar behaviour back on the first party, or worse: a cogent explanation of the facts. This is what the Three Legged man did – he detailed the process of contracting and manufacture and then showed some ways that other firms may flout laws and engage in immoral behaviour to copy items.
I have no doubt that he is correct about the copying – I saw it in the camera trade in a a number of items – tripods being one of the easiest things to back-engineer and copy. I suspect it also is rife in the making of small lights and studio strobes. For that matter, with the small studio kits that were being sold in Australia, they may not have been copies – just poorly designed and marginally engineered. They were a worrisome thing to sell, as you never knew if something would work out of the box.
He’s gotten a little moralistic in some of the message, and possibly scored some passive-aggressive points, but overall the message of getting what you pay for in quality and longevity is spot-on. It won’t convince the dyed-in-the-wool cheapjohns and is irrelevant for tiny basic items, but does apply further up the equipment chain.
I must also come to the defence of some Chinese firms that don’t copy – but design for themselves. Some of their designs may be naff, but some are brilliant. I have examples of both of these in my collection – from the same firm of Weifeng. They make lots of goods, but the objects I took home were examples of camera bags. Made in khaki-coloured nylon and sporting brass-coloured plastic buckles and fasteners, they are intended for quasi camping or adventure shooting.
One is a vest that looks like a Chinese soldier’s battle webbing – complete with loops for sub-machine gun magazines or stick grenades. I would not dare wear it anywhere in public for fear of being taken for a terrorist.
The other is a simple shoulder-mounted sling bag that has been cut to ride from the right shoulder to the left hip and opens up to accommodate a mirror-less system or a small DSLR. It is so well-cut and well-made as to be the most comfortable camera bag I own. I use it for car shows where I need to carry flash, lenses, and camera body over a long day, and do not have to endure the stares of the photographically sophisticated. I noted some time ago that Weifeng make Gladstone bag sorts of cases, but as they did not take off in Australia ( the examples I have are abandoned sales samples ) I cannot find one. Pity, because I bet they would be beauties.