Hands-on at Canon’s new “Experience Center” in Southern California
posted Monday, November 10, 2014 at 11:28 PM EDT
Have you ever wondered what the view was like through a $14,000 800mm f/5.6 super-telephoto? How about a $45,000 30-300mm Cinema lens? If you're anywhere near Costa Mesa, CA, now's your chance to find out!
We recently toured Canon's new "Experience Center" in Southern California, and came away drooling over the gear on display, and impressed (again) with Canon's service operation.
As a gear geek, the "lens tree" is what first caught my eye; a display case containing every lens Canon currently manufactures, including their full line of Cine lenses. These are all available for trying-out in-house, paired with whatever body you'd like to use them with. They can't be taken off-premises, but if you want to get a sense for the build quality and handling of a Canon lens, or check out how good its IS is, this is the place for it.
While the gear geek in me lusted after the incredible hardware on display and available for hands-on fiddling, the service operation here is arguably more important to current Canon owners. Canon's always been proud of their strong customer-service orientation, with all phone support and repair for the U.S. market being handled within U.S. borders. (You can read about my earlier tour of their main service and support facility in Newport News, VA, for a look inside that facility.) When you call Canon's service and support number in the US, the person on the other end of the line will be a fellow American. It turns out they'll often end up being a photographer themselves: Canon execs noted that a lot of photographers enjoy the steady income and benefits that come with their customer-service jobs, as a nice base while they're building their photography careers. And of course, who better to help other photographers than people who are photographers themselves?
We unfortunately weren't allowed to take any photos inside the facility, but it was pretty impressive. I'd been expecting it to be some sort of a "service lite" setup, but the only difference between this location and the main facility in Newport News, VA was scale: The technicians in Costa Mesa are capable of adjusting and repairing any of Canon's photo products entirely in-house.
The Costa Mesa facility currently handles 70-100 repairs per day, with 17 technicians, slated to expand to a staff of 36 techs plus 6 supervisors. Canon makes a big point of their turnaround for repairs, and justifiably so. In-house turnaround for repairs averages about two days, while the the average time from receiving an item for repair and shipping it back out again is 4.5 days. (The extra 2.5 days accounts for the average time required to contact customers with estimates and receive authorization back.)