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PocketWizard Plagued by Poor Sales, May Have Laid Off Almost Half Its Staff

Video thumbnail for vimeo video PocketWizard PlusX

We’re unfortunately accustomed to bad news in the photo industry. That’s not to say there’s not great news and exciting new products and a bright future ahead, all of those things are there too, but slumping sales and discontinued products are becoming all-too-common reports.

Case in point: it seems flash trigger king PocketWizard is struggling of late, with reports claiming that the company has had to lay off as many as 20 of its 50 employees due to low sales figures and increasing competition out of China.

The original report comes from the good people at Lighting Rumors, who cite an email by PocketWizard CEO Tim Neiley in which the head honcho admits that the company “has reduced staff” and announces the end of an 18-year relationship with consultancy firm Inovanti.

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Official details are slim, and there’s only so much one can assume from the words “has reduced staff,” but LR claims that competition from Chinese brands — which are becoming increasingly more reliable while remaining extremely cheap — has forced the company to fire “as many as 20 or more employees” over the course of two rounds of layoffs.

This is confirmed somewhat by LinkedIn profiles that reveal employees from every department ending employment in January and February. And while business the company is doing in the US is not slowing down (according to a statement by US distributor Mac Group) we can’t help but wonder what effect layoffs of this scale will have down the road.

And speaking of wondering what will happen, let us know what you think in the comments. Have you found yourself leaning towards the cheaper competition when it comes to investing in a triggering system? And how do you think PocketWizard should respond?

(via SLR Lounge)


Image credits: Photographs courtesy of PocketWizard


 
  • Banan Tarr

    I own, and love, a pair of the Plus X

  • Tristan Afre

    most people only buy a set of pocketwizards once. I’ve had my set of plusII’s for over five years and the only purchase I made since then was a used TT1. I really thought they were on to something with the plus X’s too…

  • Sean Lucky

    I still stick with all Pocketwizard, with the exception of using Profoto Air Remotes for higher sync speed. They’re great products and it’s quite amazing that I can still use an original Pocketwizard (20 years old) with a Plus III Transceiver, and they’ll communicate together. Would be a shame to see this company go downhill…

  • http://www.pcmag.com Jim Fisher

    I switched from generic triggers to the PlusX models. I wasn’t getting consistent results from the Impact-branded ones I had been using with an old set of Speedotron lights; sometimes they would work, more often they’d not. But the PocketWizards work every time, for me that’s worth the $300 for three transceivers. But I’m part of the problem–now that I have those, my needs will likely not make me a repeat customer.

  • http://www.clovenlife.com/ Aaron Lee Kafton

    although poorly named and not the best designed.. the cyber commander giving me full control of my Einsteins remotely was the deciding factor over PW for me.

  • Tim Henrion

    After almost 2 years PocketWizard can’t make their TTL triggers work with my 1DX. The Chinese can. Guess where my money goes?

  • Tristan Afre

    nothing says pro like chinese triggers on a 1Dx.

  • Peter “Pots”

    I hate to say this, but I needed a cheap radio trigger for a small job and really couldn’t justify spending more than several hundred dollars. I did buy Chinese and they did the job. Pocket Wizard, while an excellent product is over-priced for what you get. I wanted to buy American, but at a more reasonable dollar figure.

  • Chillywilson

    Well when you take $40 worth of electronics and sell it for hundreds of dollars you can expect this type of competition. I’ve never had an issue with my yongou’s, in fact i bring them out more than the wizards in case they might get damaged. I’m trying programing a arduino mini to knock off xbee’s so that it will give me fire control over 6 units and up to 300ft and cost only about $100

  • http://www.vincentmorretino.com/ fast eddie

    I have two Flex TT5s and a Plus X. As my strobe inventory grows, so will my PW inventory. Still a happy customer :)

  • Guest

    Well when you take 40 bucks worth of electronics and sell it for hundreds of
    dollars you can expect this type of competition. I’ve never had an issue
    with my yongou’s, in fact i bring them out more than the wizards in
    case they might get damaged. I’m trying programing a arduino mini to
    knock off xbee’s so that it will give me fire control over 6 units and
    up to 300ft and cost only about 100

  • Burnin Biomass

    I would still choose Pocket Wizards if I were shooting critical high end jobs.

    But I’d have to agree that the Chinese competition had to hurt them hard. I know people who have been using the cheaper versions for years and have not had problems (at least not any they admit to).

  • LeighMiller

    Absolutely use cheaper triggers from Asia. PW’s had the market early on and squandered it by keeping their prices high. $100+ for a dumb trigger is way too much. My Yongnuo 602′s cost me $50 for a set of two receivers and a transmitter. They still work no matter where I use them after 5 years of daily service.

  • worker88

    I’ve tried Chinese triggers a few times. Each generation making promises they couldn’t keep. Never again.

  • Todd

    I don’t think everyone’s buying cheap Chinese knock-off radio triggers, but one of the many newcomer competitors in the space. Compared to 5 years ago, there’s plenty of top-brands brands selling great radio trigger products now, including nearly every company who makes lights: CyberSyncs from AlienBee/PaulBuff, ProFoto, Elinchrome SkyPorts, RadioPoppers, etc…

  • Michael Comeau

    PW could get its technology into camera bodies and collect licensing fees instead of focusing so much on hardware.

    It’s easier said then done, because manufacturers want to push their own wireless systems, but how cool would it be to have a real, universal radio flash trigger built in to the camera? And of course, it would make standalone PW’s and flash units with built-in PW way more appealing.

  • http://www.bidebo.se/ Joakim Bidebo

    Own the Youngnuo rf-602 and it as worked flawless for couple of years now even tho I often just use it to trigger the camera instead of using it to trigger external flashes.

  • Alex Minkin

    part of the problem of a nearly perfect product. I’ve added more pocketwizards, but never had to replace any.

  • http://www.mscottbrauer.com/ Scott B.

    I had bad experience with a few of the different Chinese knock-offs, and then I found Calumet’s wireless flash triggers. They’re substantially cheaper than Pocket Wizards and, I’ve found, just as reliable.

  • Shaju Joseph

    I use Cactus for all my needs and they do the job best way possible for fraction of PW cost. Always wished to have the PWs, but the cost is never justified. I don’t fear of losing my Cactus too, because they are so affordable!

  • Bahram Khani

    no it

  • David Vaughn

    Which Chinese triggers did you buy that cost you several hundred $$? I bought 4 Yongnuo brand TTL/HSS triggers for 150 bucks. :P

    They’re not as durable as the PocketWizards, but they’re so much more aesthetically and ergonomically pleasing. Plus, they’re all transceivers.

  • Brian Zuzulock

    A pro makes use of equipment but the use of equipment does not make a pro. Who cares what trigger is used if it gets the job done?

  • Peter “Pots”

    I didn’t really clarify my comments. I bought 4 Yonguos. I meant that the wizards pricing was for approx. 2 vs 4 Chinese.

  • kyle

    tristan has been told. Nice reply Brian. +1

  • edwedwww

    well it´s simple: TOO EXPENSIVE for what it offers.

  • https://twitter.com/adamhowardcross Adam Cross

    maybe they should lower their prices to compete with China, then they would be able to sell more units to the amateurs and semi-pros who are looking for professional quality at affordable prices, no one really wants to spend pocket change on cheap Chinese alternatives but they have no choice when companies like Pocket Wizard seek to keep things as high priced as possible.

  • KIJJ

    nothing says “moron” more then brand bragging…..

  • Andy Umbo

    My Micro Sync stuff really dropped in price over what I originally paid. I always liked the Pocket Wizard stuff but it was too, too much. Maybe they’ll drop the cost a little.

  • Boris Nienke

    I own 4 PwII and after years i’ve upgraded the system with 2 PwX.
    See, that’s the big advantage with Pw – Everything is compatible and you extend your Setup after years and years.

    YongNuo for example is way cheaper but also slower, very reliable but as much as the Pw and if you need some new triggers after some years, chances are, that the new ones are not compatible with your old ones (see RF602 vs. RF603 for example).

    So you have to think about what you really want and what you need. Currently i don’t like to have the risk to buy a completely new system after some years only because one trigger is broken. One new trigger from Pw might be way cheaper than buying 6+ triggers from YongNuo or other competitors.

    But if i wouldn’t make money with photography i would prefer the cheaper YongNuo. Good enough and better for a hobby budget

  • Mike Dupris

    I recently bought five TT5s, two tt1s and two ac3s. Something as good as they are will be bought or invested in so I am not worried about the support vanishing. Many other industry manufacturers like the company so I feel the brand has lots of positive support and will remain. –at least I tell myself this ;)

  • Noah

    There is nothing that can compare to the FlexTT5 or MultiMAX tranceivers. Yes, PW needs to rethink their strategy for competing with Chinese junk. But so do most Western companies (and consumers).

  • BuckCash

    PW’s have always been more expensive than they were worth, in my opinion

    There’s simply not that much in secret-sauce-technology or physical parts involved in radio triggers to justify the dollar amounts they charged, which is why the Chinese are now kicking out competitive, reliable units at a fraction of the cost.

    I considered moving to PW’s several times over the years, but could never find a really good, solid, technical reason that I needed to do it. My only interest is results, not name-brand-prestige or gear-snobbery or allegiance to times past, when there were fewer reliable options.

    The YN units I’ve been using for the past few years have been rock-solid performers for me and haven’t failed me a single time, which is all I ask for.

    Canon and Nikon’s way too expensive speedlights are headed down the same road. I already sold mine and replaced them with Chinese versions at less than a quarter of the price, and they’ve been working just fine for me for more than 2 years.

    Welcome to the revolution.

  • FotoFink

    I really wanted to like the pocket wizards…. but the plus II’s are pricey for a dumb trigger, the Flex TT5 had issues with my 580EXII flash, and I never found them to be “Rock solid reliable”- they misfire as often as my cheap triggers do. On the other hand- the Yongnuo 622′s are reasonably priced, have worked as well or better than the pocket wizards for me, with no complicated wiring issues, or different sized batteries to stock. As I look around my life- there is very little that is electronic that is made in the USA- my tv, my phone, my cameras, my lenses, my computer…. why am I getting worked up over where my triggers are made? I’ll use the ones that work. My FlexTT5 and Plus II’s haven’t seen the light of day in years.

  • Scott Wuerch

    Any chance you can explain how the Yongnuo’s are slower? Sync speed is a camera function, not a trigger function. My cameras sync up to 1/200th of a second and I have had no problem with my RF-603 system syncing to my AB 800s or my SP3200s. Reliable as all get out and not as fugly as the PW triggers. I’m a happy Yongnuo customer. Had my 603′s for over two years without a single failure to fire…that wasn’t caused by the floor/camera interface.

  • Scott M

    I’ll stick to PW’s. Simply because the warranty is good. I was an unlucky one who got a pair of iffy plus x’s that started to die out on me about 6 months into ownership. Their uk distributors replaced them with no issues.

    Always had issues with Chinese products needing to be returned. The build quality still isn’t there and I am a believer that there should be good working conditions in all parts of a brand. China has yet to sell that to me

  • Boris Nienke

    sure: I see a lot of RF-602 / 603 on my Workshops and i had some of them myself for testing/using.
    My 5D is able to sync 1/200, most APS-C can sync up to 1/250. But in many if not most cases i see black bars when using the YongNuos with shorter sync-time than 1/160

    PW claims to be capable of 1/400 (i don’t have a medium format with between the lens shutter to test this) and i’m pretty sure, you cannot do that with RF-602/603

  • Boris Nienke

    and yes: 602/603 are very good for that price! I always recommend them as entry to mobile flash.
    But at my workshops (and with a private shooting by myself) i can see, that not all flashes will sync every time. If you have 4 flashes set up, sometimes 1 of them are not fireing. Depending on the location, distance, etc. I never had a single(!) problem with PW even over very long distances, thru walls etc.

  • Esprit

    There’s plenty that can compare. That’s the problem.

  • Lauren

    I don’t have much sympathies for accessory companies that have trouble with sales, when they ignore brands like Pentax. At Pocket Wizard, go to their Cable Finder under Camera, and Pentax is not there unless you spell P-E-N-T-A-X as O-T-H-E-R. The world does not revolve around Canikony.

  • everardwilliams

    consistency of fire does

  • Bob

    Buy American. Period. Support American Innovation. Period. Why give your money to the Chinese? With so few choices to buy a USA made photo product, I will certainly stand by Pocket Wizard. The poor sap putting together those Chinese products is probably making a couple dollars a day.

  • http://www.brentmorales.com Brent Morales

    These chinese brands are nowhere as reliable. I have Plus II & Plus III sets. I buy what I trust will work right the first time, not what is cheapest.

  • Rob S

    Nothing says insecurity like judging equipment instead of judging output

  • Rob S

    Got 4 Cactus V5s for the cost of one PW. Dont have to be a rocket surgeon to figure that out.

  • outkasted

    Me thinks that with less important events and the Hi-iso of digital cameras many are foregoing Flash and using natural light, high ISO and fast lenses. I love shooting concerts with my PW’s but they are seasonal events

  • Rob S

    Never understood this when I was a 90′s Mac user and I dont understand it now as a Pentax shooter.

    I have money I want to spend but you treat me like an afterthought? Hmmm…maybe I will go over to Cactus who actually seeks out my business.

  • Booray Perry

    There is no doubt that they dropped the ball with the ttl triggers. I have 3 and they have been trouble since day one with my Canon gear. No-fires, pass-through not working, etc. I recently bought a set of Phottix TTL triggers and they have fired first time, every time I have used them.

    I have no problem paying for “name-brand” when they are backed by quality but they really hurt their reputation when they released a set of triggers for Canon flashes that weren’t reliable.

  • http://www.daniriot.com/ Dani Riot

    I love my PocketWizards… I hope they don’t disappear… :(

  • Noah

    For things like integration with Sekonic meters, adjusting power from the L-478, ControlTL compatibility with PCB Einstein including AC3, user adjustable HyperSync timing, integrated intervalometer, sequential triggering, mixing TTL triggers with manual triggers etc. etc. Chinese junk might “compare” for amateurs / weekend warriors, but for serious use PocketWizard is the ne plus ultra.