Canon Professional Services Demystified
I’m often asked why I shoot with Canon gear. I mean after all, the differences between the prevailing professional DSLR camera systems (like Canon and Nikon as well as others) are really pretty small. With few exceptions, the one who has the best camera body is the one who has the latest model for sale. Camera bodies are like computers that way – the newest one is the best one, and wait six months (or less) and the other guy will release their latest and greatest. The real reason I stick with Canon is their glass – but that’s a topic for a separate article. However, Canon Professional Services (CPS) is no small part of why I’ve remained loyal to Canon DSLR technology for about 8 years. Many photographers have never heard of the CPS program, and those that have often don’t know much about this somewhat “under the radar” program that Canon offers. So I thought I’d write this article to share what I know about the program, having been a member for several years.
WHAT IS CANON PROFESSIONAL SERVICES?
In each major regional market which Canon does business in the world, Canon has a CPS organization to support professional photographers in those markets. So there’s a CPS organization for Canon Europe, Canon Japan, Canon Australia, etc. I belong to Canon Professional Services USA.
In terms of the actual services which CPS provides, the program works somewhat differently in each of the various regional programs. CPS USA has changed a bit over the years, so I think it’s worthwhile to look at the evolution of the program.
THE WAY IT USED TO BE
I’ve been a member of Canon Professional Services for about 5 years now. In terms of the services CPS USA provides, not much has changed over the years, but the admission program has changed quite a bit in recent years. When I first joined Canon CPS, the application process was quite arduous, and the requirements to be a member in CPS were very stringent. As memory serves, you had to have at least one camera body which Canon considered “professional” grade, and I believe you also had to have two pro-level lenses. When I first joined, I had the Canon 20D, which qualified. I also had the Canon 70-200L (non IS version). And I think I also had the Canon 17-40L. So I met Canon’s equipment qualifications. But in addition to the equipment qualifications, you had to prove you were a “pro” photographer, and the quality of your work was evaluated. With your application, you had to submit samples of your paid, “professional” work. Since I had been working for about a year as a freelance writer and photographer for a few magazines, I was able to submit samples of my work that had been published. But I was still biting my nails after sending off my application – would the quality of my worked be deemed worthy of acceptance into Canon Professional Services? A few weeks later, I received my membership card, and I was beaming with pride. No less than Canon Professional Services had judged my work worthy of inclusion in their elite organization – without a doubt, I was a professional photographer. I often showed my CPS card to people – I really was proud of the fact that I had been accepted into CPS.
Other than the personal pride and the membership card, there were some great benefits associated with being a CPS member. Firstly, you received priority service when you send Canon your camera equipment for service or repair, with expedited turn around times, and even “loaner” equipment available – a huge benefit which makes certain a Canon pro will never lose money because their equipment is being serviced or repaired. But the other huge benefit for me was the ability to order any piece of equipment in the Canon catalog for evaluation. Upon request, CPS would send you any body or lens in their catalog for “evaluation” for a period of 10 days. You simply pay the cost of shipping the equipment you order back to Canon after the evaluation. For me, this was the biggest benefit of the CPS program. Not only did it give me the opportunity to test drive Canon equipment before I purchased, it also meant I had access to lenses and bodies which I could use for special assignments that would pop up. I didn’t have to tie money up in expensive equipment which I wasn’t sure I’d use beyond 1 or 2 unique instances, and I didn’t have to do costly equipment rentals for unique, short-term needs either. I simply called CPS two weeks before the event, let them know what I needed, and they sent it. When I was done, I just paid the cost of shipping the equipment back to Canon. There was a limit on the number of times you can borrow the same piece of equipment (it’s an evaluation program, remember?), but it’s still a great feature of CPS.
THE CURRENT CANON CPS PROGRAM
Things went along swimmingly well for me as a CPS USA member until about the 2007 time frame. I recall receiving notification that the program was going to change. They were going to require members to renew annually (prior to that I think you were good for 3 years until you had to go through the application process again). Then a few months later when I had to renew, I received word that the program was actually being temporarily canceled and completely overhauled, which happened in 2009 I believe. Below is from the CPS USA website, and shows that the current version of the CPS program now has three different membership levels, and monetary costs associated with certain levels.
The first big shock for me was that there were now costs associated with the program – never in the past had Canon charged for membership in CPS. Canon had also changed the requirements for membership. No longer was there any requirement for you to submit any examples of your pro work. If you have the requisite amount of Canon pro equipment (which had gone up from years past) and the membership fee, Canon considers you a professional photographer. So the cost of admission had certainly gone up in more ways than one. While the costs associated the program didn’t necessarily bother me (see below), I feel the old CPS program had much more cachet than the current iteration. The new program in essence says, “we don’t care if you’ve ever used your camera to do anything, so long as you’ve spent enough money on Canon equipment.” Sure – you’re supposed to be a full-time professional photographer to join the program, but the only thing they actually check are the serial numbers of your equipment to verify ownership. I don’t feel any of the same sense of pride in accomplishment with my membership in the current program.
When I renewed my CPS membership, I had a Canon 40D, and a Canon 7D. the two bodies, along with the lenses I own, got me into the program. I joined at the Gold level ($100.00 per year). You get some pretty nifty goodies at that level, the program actually more than pays for itself. The Canon Professional Services camera neck strap they send you is very nice – much better than the stock neck strap which Canon includes with their DSLRs. They also send you an nice set of extra body and lens back caps – who can’t use an extra set of those? But they also send you certificates for two (2) free clean & checks which can be used on any Canon body or lens. And you get a 30% discount on Canon service work. Of course, the big benefit for me is the “Equipment Evaluation” service, which is also included at the Gold CPS membership level. At $100.00, the Gold membership is easy for me to justify. The $500.00 Platinum level would seem appropriate if you owned a photo studio, and employed several photographers which you also equipped – you’d have a lot of service needs which might give you the return on investment which would make the $500.00 membership fee make sense. But I don’t see myself needing that much service work done.
The biggest complaint I have with the CPS program is that there appear to be more benefits than what I’ve outlined above, but they’re not particularly well explained on the CPS website. I love this statement (direct quote from the CPS website): “Members can look to the CPS program for almost any need that presents itself.” Really? That certainly sounds all well and good…but what does that mean exactly? If you did through the FAQ’s on the CPS website, you eventually find some parameters and definitions to the various benefits. But I think they can do a better job helping members understand what the membership fees buy.
Canon CPS also provides some event support to CPS members at major events (Superbowl, Kentucky Derby…events of that caliber). Canon maintains a refreshment tent at events like this for CPS members, as well as on-site service and “loaner” equipment. Because of the kind of photo work I do, this isn’t a benefit I’ll use very often.
So there’s CPS in a nutshell. I still think it’s a fantastic program which, as a professional photographer, provides me much-needed support and puts Canon ahead of the pack as a manufacturer of choice for professional photographers. I have more than a few friends who shoot with Nikon equipment, and they give me plenty of “ribbing” about being a Canon guy. But the fact is, more professional photographers use Canon equipment and Canon CPS is just one of the (many) reasons why. For more information about the Canon CPS program, visit the Canon website in your global region. The Canon USA CPS website can be found by clicking here.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.